Say you had big plans to do everything we suggested in our blog post on avoiding frozen pipes, but things got a little busy. Household projects, Christmas preparations, football season...life got in the way, and you never got around to getting things winter-ready.
And now, thanks to colder-than-usual temps, you have frozen pipes. Yikes! Now what?
Read on. We’ll tell you how to spot a frozen pipe and how to thaw it safely.
How Do I Know if My Pipes Are Frozen?
Sometimes the signs are clear: no running water, turning on the water and seeing only a trickle come out of the faucet, or inadequate water flow to your appliances. Sometimes one faucet is fine and another isn’t.
Outside the home it can be trickier, because you aren’t turning the water on for tea or a shower using the pipes leading to a pool or hot tub, irrigation systems, and outdoor hoses. You’ll have to make it a point to inspect these from time to time.
Next up: Determining where, in the hundreds of feet of pipe your home has, the frozen section might be. As you might expect, the more exposed the pipe, the more likely it is to freeze. Therefore, look under sinks, in the crawl space or basement, in the attic, along the main pipeline to and from your yard, and any other exterior pipes. Look for frost or condensation; if you don’t see any, touch the pipes. The frozen section will be considerably colder.
You know how we said sometimes one faucet is fine and other isn’t? This can help you pinpoint the origin. If faucets don’t work in a certain room only, the pipe is frozen somewhere between the main line and that room’s piping. If the faucets work on one floor but not another, the frozen pipe is located where the floors separate. If you are 0 for everything and no faucets work, a section of the pipe near the main water line may be frozen. The frozen pipe may or may not be directly accessible.
Warm Up Those Pipes!
If you’re able to identify the frozen section, it’s time to turn off the water supply to avoid pressure build-up and turn up the heat. Try one of the following to thaw the pipe:
- Hair dryer on low or medium (not high) heat
- A space heater—but be careful not to place it too close to the pipe
- Towels dipped in warm water (you’ll need to replace them periodically)
- A heating pad on low or medium (not high); wrap it around the pipe.
How Will I Know If the Pipes Are OK?
Gently turn on the relevant faucet or hose periodically to test the pipe. When water flows normally again, the pipe has thawed. Next, take steps to ensure the pipe doesn’t refreeze.
Now, even if you thaw out a pipe properly, the damage might already be done. It’s important to remain vigilant and look for signs of a hidden leak after a pipe has frozen and been thawed.
Frozen Pipe Burst? Call E.R. Plumbing
If you suspect a leak in your pipes after thawing or you have the misfortune of a pipe burst, we’re here to help. With 20 years of plumbing experience, we’ve seen it all! Call us at (704) 846-5371 or via our contact form. We’re available 24/7, 365 days of the year.
Quick question & answer: What are the best ways to safely thaw frozen pipes?
There are several ways to safely thaw frozen pipes. Put your hair dryer on low or medium heat. Use a space heater a fair distance away from the pipes. Place towels dipped in warm water on them. Wrap a heating pad on low or medium around the pipe.