When pipes freeze, water will not come out of the faucet, or it will flow in a slow trickle. As soon as you determine that you have a frozen pipe, you should take the proper steps to thaw the ice so that it does not cause the pipe to burst in the future. If a pipe bursts, you should immediately shut off your main water supply valve (for details, see our previous post on How to Detect Leaks & Prevent Frozen Pipes). Let’s now cover how to thaw frozen pipes…
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To locate a frozen pipe, individually turn on each faucet in your home. If one pipe freezes, there is likely another (or multiple) frozen as well. A diminished or absence of water flow indicates that ice has formed in one or more locations inside the pipes. Remember to check all faucets on the outside of your home.
Leave the blocked faucets open to reduce pressure inside the water line. Even a small flow of water will help dislodge or melt the ice.
Follow the water supply line back from the affected faucet until the blockage is located. If a large portion of your home is without water, look in the basement, attic or crawl spaces where larger water supply lines may not have adequate insulation. Other potential trouble spots include locations where pipes pass through concrete or exterior walls.
The point where water has frozen may feel colder than the rest of the pipe. Tap the pipe with a screwdriver. Listen for a solid, less hollow, sound. The affected area may also show frost.
Options on How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
When you locate the frozen pipe, thaw it gradually. Use a hair dryer set on low. Move the hair dryer back and forth over the affected area. Sudden or uneven heating can cause the pipe to crack. Do not use a blowtorch or another source of open flame that may start a fire.
Another option is to wrap the pipe with a heating pad or warm towels. Replace the towels every few minutes. Place a bucket under the area to catch any runoff.
If the suspected frozen pipe’s location is inside a wall, turn up the heat to increase the temperature in the room to between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Open closet and cabinet doors (if applicable) so that the warm air can more easily reach the walls. It may take several hours for the pipe to thaw.
In all the above, be sure to apply heat until full water pressure is restored and make sure the devices do not come in contact with water.
Note: If you cannot locate, access or thaw the frozen area(s), we strongly advise hiring or consulting with a professional plumber to learn how to thaw frozen pipes.
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