In this comprehensive post, we'll go over;
How to Unfreeze Pipes
- Signs of freezing pipes,
- Different thawing methods, and
- How to prevent pipes from freezing
So if you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you'll love this post!
Unfortunately, in upstate NY, frozen pipes are very common. When temps drop below freezing, we all do our best to keep our homes warm and dry. Oftentimes, we forget that the pipes can freeze, leaving us without water until they thaw.
However, when pipes freeze, they may burst to leave our homes flooded and cause too much money in water damage. Read on to learn how to unfreeze pipes if it happens to you!
How to Tell if Your Pipes Are Freezing or Frozen
The easiest way to identify a frozen pipe is when you can visibly see frost or ice on the pipe. In addition to the frost, there may be a section of pipe bulging. Sadly, not all of the pipes in our home are visible.
Some are underground, behind walls, and in a tiny crawl space beneath our home. If you are unable to see your pipes, it is best to call a professional like Rock Emergency to check them out for you.
Another tell-tale sign your pipes may be frozen is if there is only a trickle or drip of water coming out of your faucets. If the temps got well below freezing, the water in the line could have frozen preventing water to flow through. Lastly, if toilets don’t fill after being flushed, that is also another sign of frozen pipes.
How Do Frozen Pipes Burst?
It doesn’t take long for pipes that have frozen to eventually burst. When temperatures outside drop low enough, about 20 degrees or lower, pipes can freeze. It might only take 6 hours for the water in the pipes to freeze. Often, temps get lower at night, so while you're sleeping, your pipes are freezing!
Pipes that are outdoors or unprotected from the cold are going to be more likely to freeze. This could include pipes in a crawlspace that isn't insulated, within the attic or basement, or even under the kitchen sink. When the water expands from freezing, it could cause any weakness in the pipe to crack or break open.
If the pipe does burst when the ice thaws it will end up flooding your home if the water hasn't been turned off. In this case, thousands of dollars are often claimed for water damage restoration by homeowners insurance companies. Keep reading to learn how to unfreeze pipes and prevent them from bursting!
How to Unfreeze Pipes
Thawing out your frozen pipes should begin near the faucet that doesn't have running water. You will want to trace the pipe as far as you can and look for the signs of freezing (frost or ice). Once you find the frozen area, you will want to start using one of the methods below to slowly raise the temperature.
Shut Off the Water
If it is possible, shutting off the water to your home could be a game-changer in potential water damage to your home. If the water has been shut off, you can prevent excess water from coming out of the pipes if they have frozen and burst.
Sadly, many people don't realize there has been a crack in a section of the pipe until the ice has thawed out. If you know your pipes have frozen, but aren't sure where or how to shut off the water, it is best to call a professional.
Open Cabinets & Turn on Faucets
If you turn on your faucet and notice there is no water coming out, it is likely the pipes nearby have frozen. To start thawing the pipes, keep the faucet turned on. This will help to let any water through once it starts to unfreeze.
You should also open up the cabinet doors so the warm air from your home can get to the pipes to help warm them up. Keeping the faucet open will help relieve the pressure that has built up from the ice, plus, once the pipes have thawed you will hear the water start running.
Use a Heat Source
Small space heaters can go a long way in helping thaw out frozen pipes. In addition to a space heater, heating pads, blow dryers, and heat lamps have also been used to effectively unfreeze pipes. In a kitchen or bathroom where a section of pipe may have frozen, a space heater can help when the cabinets have been opened and the door partially closed. Trapping the warm air can help circulate it around the pipes to thaw them out.
Using a heating pad or heat lamp might only thaw a small section at a time, but the consistent heat source can allow for the ice to break up and melt quicker. Using a hairdryer might be a tedious way to thaw the pipes, but in the event, you don't have any other heat sources, or are being used elsewhere, the heat from a blow dryer has been known to be effective on unfreezing pipes.
When using heat sources, it is important to monitor them to ensure they are not causing damage to the area. Additionally, watching the heat is important too, heat that is too high could cause the pipe to burst. When using these heating methods, the frozen water will slowly thaw, so you'll want to keep the faucet open so the water can relieve the pressure that has built up from the ice.
Wrap Up the Pipes
There are a few different ways that you can wrap up a frozen pipe to help unfreeze it. One way would be by purchasing heat tape. This can be purchased at hardware stores or other home stores such as Home Depot or Lowes.
The tape is electronic and temperature-controlled, so once it is applied to the section of the frozen pipe, it can be thawed out in no time. Purchasing the tape may be a good investment if you have areas of pipes that are more prone to freezing.
Another method is to use hot towels. Even if you don't have running water, you can melt snow or ice in a pot on the stove and dip the towels in there. Once they are soaked (and hot) you would wrap them around the area of the frozen pipe to thaw.
This process does take time and patience. The towels would need to be replaced often with hot water to keep the warm temperatures on the frozen area.
Lastly, properly insulating the exposed pipes can also help thaw them out and prevent them from possibly freezing in the future. Home stores should have pipe insulation, however, if you are unsure what to get or how to install it properly, call a professional.
Turn the Heat Up
Maintaining a consistent temperature in your home can help prevent pipes from freezing. However, in the event they do freeze, sometimes just turning up the heat in your home can help thaw them out.
Make sure you open any cabinets where the pipes may be so the warm air can circulate through them. If you know ahead of time the temps may drop significantly overnight, you could turn the heat up before going to bed to help reduce the chance of the pipes freezing.
Cut Open the Wall
As a worst-case scenario, you may need to open up the wall to circulate heat through the pipes. If this is the only area that you can get to, it is easier to repair a hole in the wall that you made on purpose than to make repairs after a pipe has burst and spewed out hundreds of gallons of water. This should be done by a professional if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.
DON'T USE AN OPEN FLAME
It may sound like a quick way how to unfreeze pipes, but you should never use an open flame device to do so. Using something like a heat gun or blow torch could start a fire, cause damage to the pipe or surrounding area, or worse, cause something to ignite creating even more damage to your home. Other devices could include propane or kerosene heaters, it is safer to use another heating method.
How Long Does it Take to Unfreeze Pipes?
Thawing out your frozen pipes may seem like a tough task, but it often can take less than an hour. There are factors like pipe accessibility and weather that may affect how long it takes. It has been found that most of the methods we recommend can take around 30 minutes. If you're having trouble locating the section of a frozen pipe, or it is taking longer than an hour, call Rock Emergency, we can help!
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
- If you are going to be away during a big freeze, keep the temps in your home at least 55 degrees.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate through the pipes
- Turn the faucet to a cold water drip or slow trickle to keep the water moving (moving water doesn't freeze)
- Properly insulate any pipes that are exposed to cold weather or prone to freezing
- If your pipes have frozen, turn off the water and check them carefully for any cracks or leaks
- If you are unable to locate the frozen pipe, call a professional
- If your pipes are in a crawl space or other hard to reach area, call Rock Emergency
- If your pipes have burst, and you don't know what to do, call a professional.
Learning how to unfreeze pipes may be the best thing you can learn as a homeowner. Frozen pipes that burst can cause a lot of damage and cost thousands of dollars to restore. However, if this has happened to you, don’t worry, Rock Emergency is equipped to handle any water damage that may have occurred due to the burst pipes. Additionally, we will work with your insurance company to get the situation handled in a quick, effective, and professional manner.
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