The Dreaded Frozen Pipe
Posted Dec 17th 2013 | By:
It's that time of year when frozen pipes will become an issue. If you have any kind of exposed pipe outdoors, then this would be the first place to check. But sometimes ice can form in pipes in more precarious positions like the ceiling or behind the walls.
The pressure build-up can be 2,000 pounds per square inch, and since the ice has nowhere else to expand, this will only result in a pipe burst, which can cause enough damage to the point where a few hundred gallons of water could leak per hour. In this instance, a plumber is the best choice when dealing with a damaged pipe. But in the event that your pipe is not damaged you can fix the pipe yourself with the following steps.
Open the faucet to allow water to pass and prevent the pipe from bursting.
Where to Find the Pipe
You can start finding the frozen pipe by feeling for any frozen sections. Check for any exposed plumbing outside. If you're having trouble locating the blockage, locate unheated sections of the house where the pipe runs, or any structure that is located closest to the outside. If your home is well heated, the basement area is your most likely place.When dealing with one faucet, check directly under your sink. If you cannot find the source, it may be behind the wall or ceiling. If all of your faucets are not working, the ice may be located in the main water line.
Once the pipe is found, you have several options, but here are just a few.
Always be aware of the risks when trying to fix it yourself.
If you're at this stage of the leak, the real damage is not done, but you'll have to act fast. If you don't want to tear down the walls in search of the pipe, you can use an infrared lamp to heat the walls or ceiling. You can use heat lamps, but infrared lamps are more direct because they do not waste energy by heating the air. This will aid you in not only heating up the wall, but directing more heat to the pipes. For indoor problems, turning up the heater also helps a great deal. If you did not cut out any piece of the wall, this will have to be a hit and miss trial as you warm up different areas of the wall. But as long as you know the basic structure of the pipes behind the wall, there should be little problem.
Applying Direct Heat
When dealing with exposed pipes, you can start small by wrapping a towel or heavy cloth around the frozen section of the pipe and pouring warm water over it. If you have the room, place a bucket or container under the pipe to contain any spilled water. Another direct method is to apply a small heater on the blocked area. Wrapping heating tape around the frozen section is a good way to alleviate the problem, and it will be a useful tool in preventing future problems. With heating tape, you can also control the temperature. If you have a heating lamp and do not want to use infrared, you can hasten the process by placing a cookie sheet behind the pipe to further reflect the heat from the back.
The direct method should slowly bring water flowing back your faucet.
Stay tuned for my next article on the best ways of dealing with burst pipes.
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