How to Safely Thaw Water Pipes at Home
Frozen pipes and plumbing can be a problem and lead to bigger problems during frigid winter weather. They can rupture without you knowing it, let alone being ready for it. Frozen water lines mean you and your family are without water. Frozen pipes can crack and rupture, which will lead to a flood and very expensive repair work.
It is possible to thaw out frozen water pipes. It’s important to do it safely, though. Here are some suggestions for what to do if you’re faced with frozen pipes, including steps that might help stop the issue in the first place.
Locate the Frozen Pipe
Once you identify a freeze in your water line, you should act quickly to locate the frozen portion of the pipe. You want to thaw it before the pressure inside builds up and breaks the pipe or another component of your home’s plumbing. It’s good to know pipes in exterior walls, attics or basements are prone to freezing faster, especially if they are poorly insulated or uninsulated. Here’s how to try to thaw pipes:
- Open all the faucets around your house to see which area is blocked.
- Follow any suspected frozen pipes back to the main supply line looking for stretches of pipe that are exposed or uninsulated.
- If you have an infrared thermostat, you can measure a major decrease in temperature when you find an icy portion of the pipe.
It Could Be the Water Main
If no water is coming from any faucet or spigot in your house, it’s likely the main water line (the connection from the street to your house) is frozen. Considering water mains are generally buried and enter your residence underground, it’s rare to have them freeze. Still, you can look for the following to see if this is the issue.
- Examine the area of pipe running from your meter to the entry point of your home (unless it is buried).
- Inspect the section of pipe from where it enters the house to where it divides into the rest of the home.
- Frost on the outside of pipes is good sign pipes have frozen.
Ways to Thaw Frozen Pipes
These methods are safe ways to thaw frozen water pipes.
- Turn up the Heat – Turn up the temperature on your thermostat and guide the warmer air to the location where your water pipe is located.
- Space Heater – Place a space heater near the frozen pipes.
- Heat Light – Direct the light at the pipe, but keep the light a safe distance from the pipe.
- Electric Heat Tape – Wrap the tape around the frozen pipe then gradually warm it up using the tape’s thermostat.
- Hairdryer, Blowdryer – Slowly warm the pipe with a hairdryer until the ice has thawed enough to allow water to go through. Then, open numerous faucets for at least five minutes, letting water flow to thaw the remainder of the ice.
- Heating Pads – Wrap the pipe in a heating pad. You can also use hand/foot warmers. If there’s a control, put it on low or medium. Place the pad on there until the water starts flowing. After that, open multiple faucets to keep thawing the ice from your plumbing system.
- Hot Towel – Cover the pipe in a towel soaked in hot water and wrung out. The heat from the towel will gradually melt the ice within the pipe. Repeat as required. As with various other methods, once the water begins to move, allow water to flow for five minutes.
- For all kinds of pipes (stainless steel, copper, PVC, or PEX), the temperature needs to be increased gradually to stop cracks and ruptures.
Identifying a Ruptured Line or Pipe
After freezing weather, you may have a fractured water line or pipe. The following are indications you need to take action ASAP.
- Pooling or poor drainage of water after showers, dishwasher use, or sink use
- Watermarks on your wall
- Hissing or dripping noises from inside a wall
- Drop in water pressure from your faucets
To spot a leak from a frozen pipe or damage after a frozen pipe:
- Turn off all faucets and appliances which use water
- Check the reading on your water meter
- Wait an hour and don’t use any water
- Check the meter again
- If you detect water usage, it’s probably because you have a leak
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing
It’s possible and preferable to prevent pipes from freezing up in the first place when you know the bitter cold is on the way.
The following tips will help you protect your pipes and water supply:
- When freezing temperature levels are expected, open a faucet or two a little bit, for a stable stream of water running.
- Leave doors open under sinks and with or close to other pipes or fixtures to allow warm air in.
- Insulate or cover pipes in the attic, crawl space, garage, basement, or exterior of your house.
- Install pipe sleeves, heat tape, or warming cable on open water pipes.
- Cover open pipes in the newspaper for temporary insulation.
- Seal any voids in insulation or trim that let cold air into your house.
- When traveling or going for longer periods, leave your heat on with your thermostat set from 55-60 degrees.
- Disconnect outside/garden hoses, shut off, and drain pipes or spigots outside.
South End Plumbing specializes in emergency plumbing services and detecting problems, so remember, we are just a click away. We also specialize in leak detection – give us a call! South End Plumbing is one of the only companies that will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-919-1722 or fill out the form online to schedule a visit.