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How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

Winter in Montana can be hard on pipes. Any pipes exposed to cold temperatures are at risk – and may freeze.

This post is about how to thaw frozen pipes.
If your pipes haven’t yet frozen, and you want to avoid it, here’s a post on How to prevent your pipes from freezing.

Overview:

Frozen water expands and this may not only bring your water supply to a halt, it can cause your pipes to crack or burst. If your pipes have frozen, see below for measures you can take to thaw them. If your pipes are cracked and leaking, give us a call. We can help.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you’ve notice a significant reduction in water pressure then your pipes may be in the process of freezing. The blockage is due to the fact that water expands as it turns into ice. In order to prevent total blockage, turn the water on wherever you notice a reduction in pressure and leave it on. The flowing water should help thaw the frozen water in the pipe.
If you’re not so lucky, and find that you have no water pressure at all in one or more areas of your home, there’s a good chance that your pipes have frozen completely. You should take action immediately because the frozen water can expand beyond what the pipe can withstand, causing your pipes to burst.

To identify the most likely section of pipe that contains the frozen water, test various fixtures and narrow down the possible sections of pipe that could be frozen. Next, look for areas where cold air in that segment. This is often in the basement or along an exterior wall. If your heating system is warming most of your building, it should be easier to find areas where that heat isn’t reaching. This is your likely problem area.
Before attempting to thaw the frozen pipes, check to see if the pipes are leaking or have burst. If you notice cracks or leaks, you will need to make repairs before thawing the ice in the pipes.

Note, even if you can’t see a crack or leak, you may have one ready to cause damage as the thawing begins. Be sure to write down our 24 hour emergency phone line and keep it handy just in case. 1-800-555-3803.

STEPS:
The first step is to shut off the water supply to the frozen pipe. If there is no valve nearby that allows you do shut it off locally, you will need to shut off the main water cut-off valve to your house.

Second, turn on a few of the nearby faucets to provide a path for the ice and water as thawing begins to occur.

Third, start at the faucet end of the frozen pipe, and begin thawing the pipe, working toward the main water supply.

Several methods can be used to start the thawing process. Use caution! If the pipes are heated too quickly and begin to boil, the resulting steam pressure can cause the pipe to rupture potentially harming you and causing damage to your house. As a precaution, do NOT allow the pipe to become too hot to touch. Also not that plastic pipes, such as PVC, should be warmed with particular care because they can melt and or warp.
Before choosing your preferred method to thaw your pipes, be sure to NEVER use electrical tools or appliances if you are wet or standing in water.

Here are some options for thawing pipes:
• Wrap a grounded heat strip around the frozen pipe
If you do not have a grounded heat strip,
• Use a space heater directed to the frozen area of pipe, or
• Wrap rags around the frozen area of the pipe and pour hot water on the rags (Continue to intermittently pour hot water on the wet rags when they begin to cool), or
• Use a hairdryer focused on the frozen area of the pipe.
Whichever method you choose, continue to apply heat until water pressure returns.

Should your attempts to thaw your pipes fall short, give us a call to discuss your situation. 1-800-555-3803

Bonus Video:

Here is a great video segment by NBC Montana in Butte where we were asked about this situation. Enjoy.

http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/ktvm/broken-pipes-cause-issue-for-homeowners/209101713

 

If your pipes haven’t frozen, here’s a post on How to prevent your pipes from freezing.