How to Fix Frozen Water Pipes in Your Home
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How to Fix Frozen Water Pipes in Your Home

How to fix frozen pipes

After following the precautions in my last article, you should never have to worry about a frozen pipe. Nevertheless, sometimes a sudden cold spell during the night can catch you by surprise and freeze the water in a pipe leading to the outside of the house. The danger is that you will not notice it, since you will not be using the outside faucet, and then the expanding ice will rupture the pipe. If there is a frost and you have forgotten to shut off the water to outside faucets, do so at the first opportunity. After closing the valve in the pipe leading to the outside tap, open the tap and allow the water in the pipe to flow out. If no water comes out, the pipe may already be frozen.

Frozen pipes can also occur when a pipe inside the house is too close to an open window or passes through an unheated part of the basement or attic. You will be aware that something is wrong when you open a faucet, and the water trickles out too slowly or doesn’t flow at all. Similarly, a hot water radiator near an open window can freeze if the outside temperature is far below freezing. Prevention is easy; don’t open windows near radiators or pipes and keep basements warmed at least slightly in any part containing water pipes.

If you do find a frozen pipe or radiator, you must take steps immediately to thaw it before the expanding ice causes a rupture. In the case of a radiator, close the outside window and simply apply heat to the radiator. You can use hot towels, a heating pad, an electric hair dryer, a soldering iron, or any source of heat you have available. If the room is warm, you can just let nature take its course, the ice will melt eventually, although more slowly than if direct heat is applied.

If a water pipe is frozen, find the location of the ice by running your hand along the pipe to the coldest spot. First, open the faucet. Then apply heat to the frozen pipe. You can use a small propane torch, if you have one, being careful not to burn the walls or ceiling. If you have a soldering iron, you can strap it to the pipe with the hot tip in contact with the pipe. Heat from the iron will be conducted along the pipe in both directions. Warning; When you use a torch or soldering iron, you may generate enough heat to boil the water inside the pipe. The steam must have some means of escape, or it can burst the pipe. Consequently, use these heating devices only on the faucet side of the ice block. Then the steam can come out of the open faucet. This is not a danger if you use a milder source of heat such as hot towels or a hair dryer. When the ice has melted, indicated by a flow of water from the faucet, close the faucet and inspect the pipe for leaks. If the temperature is not too low or if you act quickly enough, the ice will not have expanded enough to cause damage. Don’t consider the job complete until you have taken steps to prevent a recurrence of the trouble.

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