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4 Things to Do When Your Pipes Freeze

It’s been getting pretty frigid this winter. With those sub-freezing—sometimes even sub-zero!— temperatures, the risk of your pipes freezing over increases substantially. You might be thinking that turning on a faucet to drip water will prevent that particular headache, but while dripping water can help prevent your main line pipes from freezing, it can create a new problem down the line (that is, in your drain pipes if they’re exposed).

Because frozen pipes hold your water hostage until they’re fixed, it’s important to know what to do in the event your pipes freeze. First of all, if you’re having water issues, confirm that it’s definitely a frozen pipe. Then, follow these tips to get your water flowing once more!

4 Things to Do When Your Pipes Are Frozen

1) Take action. Before we delve into the topic in detail, it’s important to note that whatever course of action you decide to take, calling a plumber or trying some troubleshooting on your own, it’s important that you act quickly, especially if the frozen pipes are the water supply or main line. Water delivery pipes carry a fair bit of pressure in them, meaning the ice can swell rapidly and eventually can rupture the pipe, which will necessitate pipe repair.

With this in mind, you should also know how to shut your water off at its source, in case of emergency!

2) Find the freeze. As you might expect, handling a frozen pipe is all about thawing. What’s most important in handling the situation is that you a) find the affected area, and b) apply a safe and steady type of heat. To find the area of the pipe that is frozen, the easiest option is to simply feel the pipe. Sections that are iced will feel much colder than others. Beyond this, if your pipe is metal or PVC you can tap on the pipe lightly with a tool and listen for hollow (normal) sounds to isolate the affected area.

Find the ice? Good! Now we need to:

3) Apply heat. Safe options include:

  • Hot water. If the frozen area is somewhat small, you may simply pour hot water on the pipe to thaw the ice. Test your water when you think the pipe may be done thawing, but it may take a while. Be patient!
  • A space heater. Speaking of patience, if you’re not in a hurry, and you have an outlet available near the frozen pipe, you can plug in a space heater nearby to facilitate quicker thawing. This can take a long time, but is also the most hands-off approach.
  • A simple hair dryer. Again, if you have an outlet or an outdoor-rated extension cord, applying direct heat is the best way to thaw a pipe. If you own a hair dryer, know where your pipe is frozen, and have 30 minutes to an hour to spend blasting your pipe with hot air, this may be your solution.
  • Heat tape or cable. Most hardware stores carry heat tape or heat cable, designed to wrap around your pipes and heat them. As with most other heating methods, you’ll need an outlet to plug your cable into. On the upside, once you’ve purchase heat tape, you’ll have it for any future potential freezes!

Tried just about every heating method you can think of? Still can’t get your pipe thawed? When all else fails, you can always:

4) Contact a professional. At HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited our plumbing experts are always on standby and ready to help. If you’re stressed about your pipes and not sure what to do contact us online or call (703) 493-1200!


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