How to thaw frozen pipes!

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Terry, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,660
    Location:
    .
    Well, it is 19F here, and suprise! I turned on my kitchen faucet and heard that all too familiar sound of my pipes starting to freeze! So... I took action. Doors open, faucet dripping, all throughout the house.

    The fun has begun. :( I guess I better warm up that blow dryer.
  2. Rich B

    Rich B DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I have a 2 family house. I rented one side for about 35 years. The rental side has been vacant for over 2 years now and that is so I can do some rennovations. It is a duplex style home and each side is a mirror of the other.

    I have kept the heat at a minimum on the vacant side during the winter. One cold winter morning (I think it was 12 overnight) I had NO cold water in my upstairs bathroom.....I knew immediately what it must be......I followed the pipes to an area where they were run right next to an outside wall in the basement......YUP....one elbow was getting hit with a cold air stream from outside.......I thawed it and than sealed up the air leak with foam and insulation.......I used a 500w quartz light and directed the heat to the pipe........Luckily it thawed without damage to the pipe.......

    In the spring I moved all 3 copper pipes that were run in that area in further and up to the second floor........I also insulated them anywhere I could.
    They were the supllies for the 2 upstairs bathrooms......1, 3/4" cold and 2, 1/2" hots.......The original "plumber" ran them right next to the oustisde uninsulated wall........With the heat always turned up on both sides it never caused a freezup in the past.....

    I now have some heat from a duct sending warm air directly in the area of those pipes and sealed up any leaks I could find around the sill area. All you need to do is use you hand on a cold day and feel for a cold draft.......The foam insulation works great.....


    P.S. I do believe the Pipe Thawing machines are DC as that would explain the high price.....a rectifier, just like in a battery charger or a welder....
  3. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,460
    Location:
    MD
    Thawing machine, 1800 W
    hair dryer, 1000 W
    lamp, 500 W
    but the last two waste a lot of the heat they throw off.
    Oh, well. . .

    I don't guess anybody makes a machine that forces superheated steam into frozen pipes? If so it's probably only for commercial use.

    If Ridgid answers me I'll ask them about the DC output.
    I guess for small blockages you could use a car battery for 30 second intervals but it might need a long rest between attempts and you would need to limit the current to 200 A or so with your connecting cables.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2010
  4. Rich B

    Rich B DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    New Jersey
    If the Rigid machine is AC output.......$800 seems like a heck of a lot of money for a box with a couple switches/ a gauge/ a couple other components and a transformer and some jumper cables and clamps.....
  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,808
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Those things pay for themselves after about two jobs.
    I don't have one though.

    Years ago I worked at a shop that had them. Too much power and you can melt the solder joints is what I was told.
    To me, that would be worse then waiting for the pipe to thaw.
    Can you imagine having to find a bad solder joint underground with snow on the ground?
  6. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    And watch the insulating crew carefully. On one house I found they pushed all the pex up against the exterior walls wherever they could. It would have been a disaster.
  7. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,808
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    It's that time of year to revive this thread.
    At the moment we have freezing rain in Seattle. I went out to my car last night to grab a flashlight when the lights flickered inside, and all the doors were frozen shut. It looks like I will need to take a hair dryer to it.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,311
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; will say that the women on their calendars look, well, wholesome. . .:D

    To me, all the heads look like they have been Photoshopped onto bodies from previous calendars.
  9. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,309
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    A couple of years ago it got down to about 10 degrees and my DW supply line froze. It is under the DW after coming from the sink cabinet and was completely closed in. I removed the baseboard and got overly anxious about thawing the line with a heat gun. Made the mistake of leaving the gun blowing for a few minutes while I did something else. Toasted the line. Not a disaster, just a "learning experience". I left the baseboard cover off and have had no more problems. Also learned the hard way about taking hoses off my frost free valves. I usually learn pretty well after experiences after this, so I have few repeat performances. Best way the thaw pipe? Don't let them freeze.
  10. dlarrivee

    dlarrivee New Member

    Messages:
    1,172
    Location:
    Canada
    Best way to keep them from freezing is not to wrap them in pipe insulation... contrary to popular belief.

    You want insulation on the cold side of the pipe, and warm air reaching the pipe itself.

    Insulation doesn't create heat. For example you can insulate a house till the cows come home, but you'd still need a furnace to heat it.
  11. fixitright

    fixitright New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Frozen main

    Were having a cold snow-less winter here. How about some discussion on thawing
    main lines.
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