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How to Thaw Frozen Pipes


Frozen pipes can be an unexpected hassle that most people won’t want to deal with. Not only are you without water at one or more faucet, but you run the risk of the pipe(s) cracking, metal or plastic.

The first thing you’ll want to do is open all faucets. If you have just one or two faucets that seem to be frozen, then it is safe to assume that the frozen area is just a section of pipe that has runs from the main line to that area. If this is the case, open only the affected faucets.

This is done for several reasons. First, opening the faucet may allow some water to move through the pipes, thawing the ice. This holds true especially for hot water. The second reason is the most important: it helps relieve pressure. As water freezes and thaws, it expands and contracts, causing a great deal of pressure within your pipes with can lead to them cracking or even bursting in some cases. The open faucet(s) creates a release for that pressure.

The next step is to try and located the frozen pipe. Start by searching for any exposed piping, especially next to any uninsulated foundation walls or exterior walls. Also look under sink and vanity cabinets as they can be shut off from room heat. Once you have found the affected area, shut off any new water from entering the pipe. There may be a shut off for that particular branch or you may need to shut off the main water supply. This is done to limit possible flooding should the pipe(s) already be cracked.

With all affect faucets open and the water supply shut off, we can now start the thawing process. There are many ways in which you can thaw the water inside the pipes. Possible remedies include:

• Use of hair dryers
• Use of heat lamps
• Electric heat tapes
• Space heaters or towels soaked in hot water.

Avoid use of torches or heat guns. They are a fire risk as well as they can heat the water too fast and too hot which would create steam, causing excess pressure which could lead to bursting pipes.

If the frozen pipes extend into the ground or a wall, keep warming the exposed pipe and the unexposed portion will eventually thaw.

Once defrosted, allow the water to run for a few minutes. Then turn off the faucet(s) and thoroughly inspect for any water leaks. Look for visible leaks and wetness for exposed pipes, and listen carefully for hissing sounds for pipes which run through floors and walls. If a leak is detected, shut off the water source and call a plumber immediately.

There are several things you can do to prevent frozen pipes:

• Apply electric-powered heating tape. This will keep the pipes warm as long they are plugged in.
• Use fiberglass or foam rubber insulation to cover all exposed pipes. Use tape to secure the insulation.
• Make sure all crawl spaces, windows and openings are secure to prevent drafts of freezing air from
  getting to pipes.
• Use a space heater or heat lamp of exposed pipes are concentrated in one small area.

Most of these items you can pick up at your local hardware store. Be sure to talk with an employee about potential fire hazards and which solution works best for your individual needs.

Keywords: water pipe, pipe insulation, water pipe insulation, frozen pipe, pipe thawing


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