Imagine waking up on a freezing morning and heading straight to the kitchen for a hot cup of coffee. But one turn of the faucet handle, alas!
No water is coming out. And do you know the reason? With the freezing temperatures, it is a clear sign that you are dealing with frozen pipes. Your hot water pipes can freeze due to a malfunctioning thermostat, faulty faucet, or insufficient insulation. If you don’t take quick action, the frozen pipes can even burst your pipes.
So, to help you deal with frozen hot water pipes and prevent damage to your home, we have a few tips on ‘hot water pipes frozen what to do’ that can help you handle the situation and prevent future freezing of your hot water pipes.
Common Signs That Your Hot Water Pipes Are Frozen
One of the common and the earliest signs that you have frozen pipes is when you turn on the faucet and no water comes out. If you find that no water is coming out, check your basement to ascertain that the main water supply is turned on and that you don’t have a leak.
Once you confirm these two things, proceed to inspect your plumbing system to ensure that no pipe has burst. What do you do if your search reveals that your pipes are frozen but none is burst? Call a plumber to help thaw your frozen pipes. Ideally, it is best if you ponder on how you can fix your frozen pipes safely by yourself. However, if you have no idea which part of your plumbing system is affected, you can call in a plumber to help find and fix the frozen pipe.
Alternatively, you can thaw frozen pipes by yourself. But, keep in mind that this option can be dangerous if not done appropriately.
Hot Water Pipes Frozen? What to Do?
Locate the Frozen Pipe
Narrow Down the Search
Once you realize that you have a frozen water pipe, the first thing to do is to locate the pipe. Ideally, narrow down your search for easy locating of the frozen pipes. For instance, you can turn on all the hot water faucets in your home and see which ones don’t let out water.
If the hot water is coming out of one faucet and not the other, then the frozen pipe is located between the two faucets. It is best to leave the faucet open a bit. That way, a trickle of water coming out from the working tap can hinder further freezing of the pipes while helping with melting the ice.
Moreover, leaving the frozen and blocked faucets open will help reduce pressure on your piping system.
Check in the Most Likely Areas
If a bigger area of your house has no water, check in the most likely suspect areas. For instance, start with the areas you can easily access before moving into the walls. Ideally, narrow your search to the following areas first:
- Check pipes near cold air vents or cold concrete in the basement
- Examine pipes in or near uninsulated crawlspaces or attics
- Examine your outdoor spigots and valves
- Check the outdoor pipes since most of them hold standing water
Look for Cracks and Leaks
Inspect your plumbing lines for affected areas cautiously. When pipes freeze they crack or tear due to the change in pressure. Often, when water freezes in pipes, the pressure splits the pipe lengthwise or cracks them in the joint areas. For effective inspection of your pipes behind the wall, get a flashlight.
Find the Frozen Area
Let’s say you find no cracks or leaks on your plumbing system. That is not the end of it, you can still find the frozen areas of your piping system through the following methods:
Feel the temperature of the pipes with your hand. An infrared thermometer can be a significant device in picking freezing pipes from others.
You can also tap your pipes with a screwdriver or other object and listen for a more solid less hollow sound from your pipes
If you have found the freezing sections of your plumbing system, proceed to unfreeze them.
How to Unfreeze Hot Water Pipes
Are you an experienced DIY-er? If not, it is best and safer to call a professional plumber to help fix your frozen pipes. Regardless, you can take advantage of the following fast fixes to unfreeze your frozen water pipes:
Keep your Faucets Open Slightly
Open the tap that is attached to the frozen piping system as well as the nearby working tap to a trickle. Flowing water is less likely to freeze compared to stagnant one. Moreover, if the flowing water passes through or near the frozen one, it may help thaw the ice after some time.
But, if you discover any burst pipe or cracks in any of your pipes, turn off the main shut-off valve immediately. Turn off all the faucets you opened earlier.
Heat the Section of the Frozen Pipe with Hair Dryer or Heat Gun
Switch on your heat gun or hairdryer and run it back and forth along the frozen pipe. By maintaining the heat and moving the dryer evenly along the pipe, the icy water will liquefy thus breaking the froze to flow.
Heating directly on a single part of the pipe or uneven heating, the heat might split the pipe. PVC pipes can easily be damaged by the heat of as low as 600C, so don’t use a powerful heating gun or heat directly with more heat.
Outdoor valves feature fiber washers and other non-heat-safe materials inside them. So, be cautious and heat them slowly. However, if your frozen plumbing system is metal, consider using a more powerful heat gun for best results.
Use Heat Tape
Run to your local hardware store and get an electrical heat tape. Wrap the tape in a single layer all through the length of your frozen pipe. Plug the tape into a power source and let the tape heat the pipe consistently. Do not overlap the heat tape as you wrap it around the pipe. Simply make a spiral pattern.
Heat the Area Around the Frozen Pipe
That space heater, heat lamp, or bare incandescent light bulb you have in your living room or bedroom can help you unfreeze your frozen hot water pipes. Bring any of them and position it near the frozen pipe and turn it on.
Ideally, hang up blankets or tarps to traps and concentrate the heat produced in a small area. Don’t let these heating devices get into direct contact with the tarps. If your pipes are frozen in a large area, consider using several heating sources for safe and even heating of the frozen pipe(s).
Flush Salt to Frozen Drains
When salt is added to ice, it lowers its melting point. By pouring a tablespoon of salt down the drain, it will melt down the ice in your drains, even at cold temperatures. You can also dissolve the salt in 1/2 cup of boiling water first before pouring. However, by pouring the hot water down your drain, you risk bursting the pipe due to the abrupt change in temperature.
Wrap the Frozen Pipes in Hot Towels
Soak your towels in hot water and wrap them around the frozen sections of the pipe. Consider replacing them with freshly soaked hot towels after ever 5 to 10 minutes until the frozen water is gone.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes Inside Walls
If your frozen pipes are inside the walls, what do you do?
Blow a fan heater into the outdoor vents
Find the external vent to your house and place a portable space heater to dispense warm air into the vent. Cover the heater pad with cardboard or tarp so that it concentrates the warm air into the vents along. The warm air will warm up the frozen pipes to break the ice and allow water flow.
Switch on the Central Heating System
Turn on your central heating system in your house and set it at around 24-270C and wait at least two hours for the ice to melt in the pipes. Ideally, open your kitchen and bathroom cabinets to let the warm air circulate freely close to the walls.
Cut a Hole In the Wall
To reach the frozen pipes inside the walls before it bursts, you have to cut through the walls. Ideally cut a hole through the wall, especially where you think the froze is severe. Make use of a keyhole saw to make the cut. If you find that this section of the pipe freezes often, consider installing a cabinet door to allow easy access next time.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Future
No one can control the weather, right? But something can be done to prevent your hot water pipes from freezing during extremely cold weather. Preventing frozen pipes under the cold weather? Do the following:
Insulate Exposed Pipes
Make sure your exposed pipes, especially the swimming pool supply lines are insulated during the cold weather season. You can cover them with rags, pipe sponge covers, or any other insulating material. You can also use electric heat tape if you have a power outlet nearby. With this, you simply plug the heat tape once the cold season sets in.
Protect your pipes from cold air and wind
Inspect your crawl spaces and external walls for holes that might let in cold air and fix them to minimize the area of exposed pipes to cold air. Ideally, use wind barriers to protect your faucets and valves, especially those outside your house.
Heat the Area along your Pipes that is Prone to Freezing
Whenever the cold weather arrives, consider turning a 60-Watt incandescent light bulb along the pipes where freezing often occurs or just adjacent. However, make sure no flammable materials should be near the heating bulb as you may risk a fire outbreak. Never let your house temperature drop way below 130C.
Leave a trickle of water running out of your faucet
It is difficult for flowing water in the pipes to freeze. It is the standing water that freezes. So, letting your faucet trickle during the cold weather, will keep the pipes from freezing. For your toilet, adjust the ballast in the toilet tank to allow continuous flow even when the tank is full.
If you are cautious and know when to call a plumber, your hot or cold water pipes can guarantee no freezing throughout the winter season. Have you handled frozen hot water pipes before? Let us know how you fixed the problem.