Thursday, January 13, 2011

Use Caution When Thawing Out Frozen Water Pipes

By Dean Hood

If you use caution and good judgment while thawing out a frozen water pipe, you can be back in business in a short while with no more problems to deal with. If you are careless, your water pipe problems are just beginning.
The first thing I want to caution you about is to never use a torch even though it may have a fire spreader attachment because this is the most common cause of pipe thawing related home fires. If you have a frozen pipe next to a gas pipe yo really should consider hiring a professional plumber for this job.
Locating the frozen pipe is a process of elimination. Check each faucet to find which one is not running. If none of them are running, it is probably the main line coming into your home or at the meter. Look for an area that is exposed to the cold air and if this section feels extremely cold, this will be your starting point. Here are some methods to thaw out frozen pipes:
  • Open a faucet closest to the frozen pipe for two reasons; while heating up the pipe, you could create steam and cause the pipe to burst if it doesn't have an escape, also an open faucet will start to run and you will know that you have found the problem.
  • Apply an electric heat tape to the frozen pipe and wait for it to thaw, this is a very slow but safe method to thaw the pipe and it reduces wear and tear on the pipe itself. Do not wrap the heat tape back over itself because this could cause the heat tape to overheat and start a fire.
  • Another very simple method is to wrap the pipe with several layers of cloth and pour hot water over it and repeat several times until the pipe is unfrozen.
  • If you have a heat lamp, place it about a foot away from the pipe and it will provide a slow thaw. Take caution with any use of an electrical appliance around moisture, make sure it is plugged in on dry ground and a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet is used.
  • A hand-operated hair dryer is safe but very slow. You want to continually wave it back and forth over the frozen section of the pipe in order to avoid damage to the pipe. Again, be sure to plug into a GFCI protected outlet and stand on dry ground.
Once you have broken the ice loose, let the water run for a while to completely clear the pipe and examine it for leaks. Now is the least costly and least time consuming occasion to repair a broken water pipe.
Now that you have learned the art of water pipe thawing, now you need to do some preventive work. Make sure your pipes are insulated with pipe insulation especially designed for this purpose.

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