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    Frozen pipes


    Summary: Learn how to thaw frozen pipes, find the frozen pipe, prepare freezing pipes before defrosting, and prevent a pipe freezing in the future.



    In the depths of winter the cold weather can cause problems with your water system if not properly insulated. Frozen water pipes are not uncommon and it is important you know how to thaw these pipes correctly, as heating the frozen pipes too quickly, or with too much heat can cause damage or injury.


    Preparation

    • You need to find the location of the frozen pipe. If none of the taps in your house are running, then the problem is probably located near the meter. If some of the taps work then the frozen pipe or pipes are probably located in places where the pipe emerges from the exterior wall. If you have a crawlspace that isn’t sufficiently insulated, then try looking there.
    • Before you make any attempts at thawing a pipe, you must be sure you are not using a method that can cause damage or injury. If you heat a pipe too quickly, the steam will have nowhere to go, which causes the pipe to rupture or explode. Open the taps to allow for some ventilation.
    • Also turn off the main water valve so the water doesn’t surge through the pipes once it has thawed.

    Thawing pipes

    • A good method of thawing pipes is to turn on hot water taps throughout your house. They do not need to be on full. When the pipes heat up, they will pass on some heat to the frozen pipes next to them, slowly thawing them.
    • Alternatively, if you are able to locate the frozen pipe, use a handheld hair dryer or heat gun and slowly and gently heat the pipe.
    • If the frozen pipe is inside the house, an option is to turn up the heating in your house. This should eventually thaw the pipes. This is a less reliable method, however.

    Prevent pipes freezing in the future

    • To prevent the pipe from repeatedly becoming frozen in cold weather, it is possible to purchase electrical heat tape. Attached to a thermostat, the tape will automatically heat up when the temperature falls.
    • A cheaper option is to purchase pipe insulation. The insulation wraps around the pipe preventing cold air from getting to the pipes and freezing them.
    • You may also have the pipes drained by a professional plumber if you are leaving the property for extended periods of time. This will prevent damage caused when the water pipes freeze. You can drain the system yourself, see how to drain a central heating system.



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