How Do You Thaw Frozen Pipes?
TechXpert verified by Ken Kontra
The best way to thaw frozen pipes and coils in your home is to carefully apply heat to the frosty or icy area. Healthy pipes are crucial for the systems in your home to work well together. But you’ll need to be careful when applying heat to frozen pipes — here are some tips to help with that.
Finding the Freeze
Your pipes are more prone to freezing when colder temperatures arrive (no big surprise there), especially in areas of your home that aren’t heated. So begin looking for frozen pipes in your attic, small crawl spaces, or an unfinished basement (if you have one).
What are you looking for? Well, frozen pipes often appear to be swollen, since water expands when it freezes. They may also have condensation and frost on their exterior.
When pipes expand, they develop a crack or split. If you see signs of this, first things first: turn off the water supply to that pipe, or if necessary, to the entire home. Next: call a plumber. This will minimize property damage when that split pipe thaws.
The best way to locate a frozen pipe is by turning on all your faucets. If there’s little to no water coming out of a faucet, then one of its connecting pipes is likely frozen. It’s possible other pipes around it are frozen as well, so pay close attention to the condition of each set of pipes.
Fixing the Freeze
Once you’ve located the frozen pipe, it’s important to know where and how to apply heat so that it can thaw safely.
How to Thaw Your Frozen Pipes
Before you dive into defrosting, be sure to open the hot and cold handles of the faucet that the frozen pipe connects to. This step relieves pressure in the system and makes it easy for water to pass through once the pipe starts to thaw.
Depending on the location of your frozen pipe, there are different thawing measures to try:
Frozen pipe near your faucet: Begin heating the pipe where it meets the base of the faucet and slowly work your way toward the frozen spot. It’s best to carefully use a hair dryer or a hot towel here. Keep gently heating the pipe until water flows freely through your faucet.
Frozen pipe inside your walls: Locating a frozen pipe inside your walls is a bit more difficult. But if you have luck finding it, you can turn up the heat in your house using your thermostat to gently thaw the pipe.
Frozen pipe touching your walls: If the frozen pipe is touching an outside or exterior wall, try aiming a space heater or heat lamp at the wall to transfer heat to the pipe.
The Best Tools for Thawing
When you’re thawing a frozen pipe, it’s important to choose the tools that will help you safely and carefully deal with the freeze. If your frozen pipe is easy to access, the best heating method to use is typically a hair dryer, fan or hot towels.
While you can use a heat lamp or space heater to heat your pipes, it’s not a good idea to expose these tools to PVC, CPVC or PEX pipes — instead, aim them near the wall where the frozen pipe is located.
Under no circumstances should you use an open flame to thaw a frozen pipe, because it can pose a major — not to mention avoidable and regrettable — fire hazard.
Protect Your Pipes
While frozen pipes are no fun, neither is heat damage. When you’re thawing your pipes, be extra cautious to avoid damaging your pipes and sparking a fire.
If you’re not sure about the condition of your pipes and how to properly treat them, it’s smart to contact a professional technician who can swiftly investigate and help return your system of pipes to good working order.
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