How Do I Thaw a Frozen Pipe?

Those living in a cold weather climate know that there is a good chance that you will have a frozen pipe at some point in time. Uninsulated, cold water pipes can be working well until subzero weather hits, and the pipe freezes, becoming clogged with ice. This will cause your water supply to dwindle off to a trickle, or worse yet, will stop your water supply completely. Do you know what to do if a pipe freezes your home?

Once you discover that the pipe has frozen, you need to ensure that it hasn’t burst. If the pipe has burst, you need to turn the water off at the shutoff valve and call a plumber. (The main cutoff valve for the water will be near the spot that fresh water enters the house. This will be inside of your house.) If the pipe hasn’t burst, save yourself a few bucks on the plumber’s bill, and fix it yourself.

For those having problems determining which pipe has frozen: Fold a dish towel in half, and place it on each pipe. While looking for the problem, remember the metal will be extremely cold, and that’s how you’ll know you have located your frozen pipe. (The towel will protect your hands from freeze burns, but at the same time is thin enough that you’ll still be able to feel the cold through the cloth.)

If you are fortunate enough to discover that the pipe hasn’t burst, you’re are going to need to act quickly! However, remember that you should not use a blowtorch or any similar device to thaw your pipes.

Option 1: Boil a pan of water on the stove and then carry it the area where the pipe has frozen. Dip bath towels into the boiling water, and then carefully wrap these around the frozen pipe. Keep doing this until water is running smoothly again. Be sure you use protective gloves while handling the towels dipped in boiling water and the frozen pipe.

Option 2: If you have an electrical outlet nearby, grab a hair dryer. It seems like a really simple solution, but it actually works. Just set the dryer to the highest and hottest setting, and thaw that pipe. Just remember that this option will take longer then option 1.

Option 3: Once you have located your frozen pipe, wrap it in electric heat tape. This is definitely the easiest way to thaw a frozen pipe, but requires a little caution. Make sure you plug the heat tape into a grounded electrical socket. (This way the power will cutoff when it reaches a point where it could be a potentially dangerous shock hazard.)

Regardless of how you decide to thaw your frozen pipe, make sure you insulate it afterward.

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