Possible frozen line between main and meter

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by shadowjfaith, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Heated water freezes quicker than cold water. So after you dump that heated water in the hole, watch how fast it turns to ice.

    How far away is this pit from an outlet?
    You can't run a cord over to the hole?
     
  2. shadowjfaith

    shadowjfaith New Member

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    That is exactly what I thought, even if it didn't turn to ice immediately it would just freeze my pit anyways. The supervisor for Citizens Energy Group was the one who came up with the idea, of course thinking he knew what he was doing I obliged.

    It's a bit of a distance, but I can run to it. I missed 2 days of work over this so far so I was a bit required to come in today and is the reason why there isn't something in the pit right now.
     
  3. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    An awful lot of conversation about a pretty simple job. Putting a lightbulb down there is about as effective as pissing into a hurricane. If the pipe is frozen under ground you will never get enough heat in thehole to thaw it out. I'd bet a salamander won't do it either. The ground will absorb most of the heat within the first 3' and then dissapate the rest.
     
  4. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    That may be true, but if 100,000 BTU don't get it you are hosed, unless you open the line.
     
  5. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    I have sucessfully thawed hundreds of feet and hundreds of freezups just exactly like the one described with just a compressor and a vacuum. You guys are all over thinking the fix and underestimating the ability of compacted soil to absorb heat.
     
  6. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    If the plug is not just the first several feet of pipe from the pit, I agree that heat down the pit would not do it. However if the pit is a special shallow point, then the only plug may well be near the pit.

    However your method sounds very effective based your experience. The fact that you work in Maine would indicate that this works even if the compressor is in very cold temperatures. From the OP's description, only the line from the main to the meter is frozen, and the line to the house has been pretty much emptied. So to feed a tube into the supply line would require pulling the meter, I would think. And if that is the case, and if the blockage is successfully removed, it seems like a lot of water would suddenly flood the pit and keep flowing. Now if there is a ball cutoff valve that could be rodded through, maybe that could work... when water starts, pull the tubing quickly and close the valve. Perhaps wear waterproof outerwear during the process.
     
  7. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    Living close to Indy, You should be able to rent one of these.


    Jet_Dryer.jpg


    That will get with the program.
     
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    My family had a farm in the Eastern side of Washington State.
    Water was supplied by a well, and therefore we had a "well house"
    This was heated by a lightbulb in Winter. Temperatures would get down to 5 degrees for long periods of time.

    The idea that someone would throw a warm bucket of water at it to keep it from freezing is funny to even think about.
    We did provide some dry warmth to the water lines there.
    Sometimes in the Seattle area, we've had six week cold snaps. In Snohomish county, the ground was frozen about two feet down. I remember smashing two pick handles one day plumbing for a ground work.
    Half the crew was sent home for six weeks, and they kept me out there doing ground works. When things warmed up, the other plumbers wound up topping out a lot of my work.
    We had 150 plumbers at that shop.

    Cold weather ideas
     
  9. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    A light bulb or heat tape works great if you use it before it freezes.

    Never tried hot water. That is a bit funny, that was a joke right ?

    Shooting hot water out of a squirt gun is fun when it gets real cold.
     
  10. DougB

    DougB Member

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    I'm here in Minnesocold. 48" is the depth for a footing that is frost proof. The poster says it's 48" underground - except where it comes into this 'pit'.

    I can't imagine that the pipe is frozen for more than a couple of feet from the 'pit' (I'm not familiar with that type of design).

    I'd get a gas heater in that pit and keep it warm - 80 - 90 degrees, additionally slightly open a faucet. This will be enough to thaw the pipe.

    Around here, if they have to excavate (for a broken water line) - they use propane burners to thaw the ground.
     
  11. shadowjfaith

    shadowjfaith New Member

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    Chuckled at this a bit just because for some reason Indy has gotten more snow than Denver, Minneapolis, and New York (as well as others obviously) I know snow doesn't equate to MN cold, but a chuckle still.

    I have just gotten an outdoor extension cord long enough to get to the meter as well as found my heat gun (I just purchased the home right out of college a few months ago so everything is still in shambles) and I will be placing it into the pit in the morning with the lid positioned so that the cord isn't pinched and then covering with a bit of snow for insulation. I'm assuming the meter will be fine as a blow torch didn't do any damage and I don't see a heat gun messing up glass and a needle.

    Side question when things thaw out a bit, some ice will be coming along with the water correct? If so I don't have a large faucet to handle the ice (no bath tubs, only showers) any suggestions on this part as I would think the aerator on a typical faucet would have some trouble.
     
  12. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    If you get a trickle of water through, the ice will all melt. Keep a faucet on low, but don't leave a big faucet wide open while you are waiting for water.
     
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    FWIW, as you compress the air, any heat that it does have also gets concentrated (as seen by the temperature going up). If you've ever looked at an air compressor (even a bicycle pump), and used it a bit, you'd quickly learn that it can get quite hot...that's why compressors have cooling fins on them. It takes almost 80x more energy to melt ice to the same temp water as it does to raise the same amount of liquid water 80-degrees.
     
  14. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    The compressor doesn't have to be a big commercial one either. A decent quality one used for blowing up tires and such will do just fine. You don't need 150 lbs of air either
     
  15. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    You should not direct the heat gun on the meter. Some heat guns do get very Hot on the output.

    If it is one with a air flow adjustment, It should be wide open, max air flow.

    Also the snow will most likely melt and could fill the hole with water, Then your heat gun could be under water.


    Good Luck.
     
  16. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    might as well direct the heat gun at the sky for all the good it will do.
     
  17. shadowjfaith

    shadowjfaith New Member

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    The heat gun is in the pit sitting on a couple of bricks with max air flow. I didn't pile snow on top as suggested, I was assuming the lid would be sealed when I said that forgetting that I would have a cord running down there. I removed a bit of snow from around the pit as well just in case about 1-2 feet from the pit. So far no results, but it has been set up for only 45 minutes or so now, I'm not sure if my heat gun has a safety shut off for overheating or not, but I guess I'll find out.

    You're probably right, but I'm going to cross my fingers and 'piss into a hurricane' as you say and hope something comes out of it, if not the compressor is what I will be doing (I had to wait for it anyways so why not try something while I do).
     
  18. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    It may take a day or so if it is going to work.

    The only problem that I see is how will you know ? You may have frozen pipes on your uninsulated areas also.

    When it does open up, don't be surprised if you have a busted water pipes, but you will have water at least. I hope your heat gun is on a GFCI.


    Good Luck.
     
  19. DougB

    DougB Member

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    Ice has latent heat - the energy it took to make the change of state (convert the liquid water to solid water). You first have to 'consume' the latent heat from the ice, before it will melt. This is why ice cubes don't immediately melt in a drink.

    What you need to do is warm that pit to 80 - 90 degrees - for a couple of days. You're going to have to warm the meter and pipe and surrounding earth for a while. The reason a torch doesn't work is that the metal pipe conducts the heat away - remember heat travels from hot to cold. I doubt a heat gun will do. You need something like a propane heater. What are the dimensions of the pit? You have a photo?
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
  20. shadowjfaith

    shadowjfaith New Member

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    I'm not currently home so I can't get you a picture (I do have someone there overseeing the pit just to make sure catastrophe doesn't strike), but rough dimension would be about 36" deep and maybe 24" diameter (complete guess there as It's hard for me to say since the lid isn't the same size as the hole, obviously).

    The outlet is outside and GFCI. One can hope the pipes are not busted, but I know that's unlikely.

    The actual pit and meter setup is a bit different but it gives you a rough idea of what I'm working with.

    images.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
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