For people living in cold states like Alaska, North Dakota, Maine, and Minnesota, where the temperature drops below freezing point, frozen water can be a big problem. Whether you use city water or have a private well, the frozen water problem is mutual and common. While city authorities are responsible for municipal water, private well owners have to take care of their well and the water coming out from it.
This article will discuss what steps you can take to unfreeze the water in pipes and prevent water from freezing during the chilly winter months.
Let’s get water flowing in your pipes!
How to Unfreeze the Water Pipes?
Anytime the temperature will go below 32 F, water is likely to freeze. If you have frozen pipes at home, you need to make sure that they are not frozen for a very long time in icy weather. It may force the pipes to burst, and you will then have a bigger problem at hand, resulting in costly repairs and maintenance. Let’s look at the DIY techniques to thaw your pipes.
Wait for it – Some people wait for the pipes to unfreeze naturally. While it is usually the laziest technique to adopt, it may take many days for water pipes to thaw naturally. Depending upon the weather and amount of sun your pipes receive, it can take up to weeks for the ice to melt naturally.
On the contrary, if you follow other methods listed below, you can get water flowing in pipes in about an hour or two.
Turn off the Main Water Valve – When you plan to thaw the water pipes, make sure that the main water supply valve towards your home is closed. The valve is located near the pressure tank. When the valve is perpendicular to the water pipe, it is closed. Turn off the water heater, softener, and water filters before starting the thawing process.
Locate the Frozen Pipes – Once you know which faucets are not working, you need to trace the plumbing backward. You need to look for condensation or frost coats on the pipes. You can also tap pipes with a screwdriver or key. If the water inside is frozen, it will give a solid sound. You can even touch pipes to locate the frozen spots. However, it will be complicated as the pipe’s entire surface outside your home will be very cool. There is a high chance that only the pipes outside your home will be frozen. You also need to check the pipes in the garage, attic, and crawlspaces.
Warm them up – After you are done identifying the frozen pipes, it’s time to thaw them. You can use space heaters or heat lamps for this purpose. Make sure you place them at least 2-3 feet away from any flammable material nearby. Ensure that your sweaters, mufflers, or any other clothing do not get in contact with the heaters. You can also use hair dryers to heat the frozen area of the pipe.
It is best to keep the hairdryer moving in up and down motion and not keep it stationary at one spot. You can also use electric heating cables. Wrap the pipes with the cable, and please be very attentive while doing so. It is best not to involve kids during this process.
Please keep in mind that you must NEVER use any type of open flame on frozen pipes. The heat can damage the pipes, fittings, and other plumbing fixtures. It can lead to a fire hazard.
Dealing with Hidden Pipes – The above strategies are perfect for dealing with frozen pipes that are easily accessible. What about the water pipes inside the walls, behind the cupboards, and areas that can’t be reached easily? Such pipes will rarely freeze, but they do freeze in extremely cold areas. To unfreeze water in such pipes, you can turn on the furnace and open closets and cabinets adjacent to these pipes. The aim is to deliver maximum heat to such pipes. You can also use a fan heater to blow directly towards the frozen pipes. A fan heater will give better results as compared to an electric or propane heater. If nothing works, you would need to cut holes in the wall and warm the pipes.
Use Hot Water – You can also use boiling water with salt and pour it into the drains. It can thaw the frozen pipes, but you will have to repeat the process several times to push the water down the drain.
Seek Professional Help – If you have applied all the above techniques and are still not getting water at your home, it is time to call professionals.
How to Prevent Well From Freezing?
We have discussed the ways to unfreeze water pipes during winters. Now let’s get in the proactive mode and be prepared to prevent your well from freezing. It is a simple process, and you can employ the following techniques.
Get the Pipes Ready – First of all, you need to make sure that your pipes are not already frozen. We have already discussed the ways you can employ to thaw the freezing pipes. Ensure that no part of the pipes is frozen.
Insulating the Pipes – Next up is to insulate the frozen pipes. You would need to measure the pipe length and then get insulation for it. Pipe insulation is available in fiberglass or foam sleeves. Some people also use old sweatshirts, thermal blankets for insulating the pipes. You may need to double the thickness of the insulation material depending upon the weather. Use heat tape to wrap the insulation.
It helps in making the insulation stay at its place. You need to keep the garage doors closed so that cold air does not attack the pipes inside. One must try to minimize the cold air entry to your home during winters. You need to seal all the openings that can allow cold air to enter and freeze the pipes. While you are insulating the pipes, remember to insulate all the pipes in attics and crawlspaces.
Taking care of Pipes inside the Walls – It is best to keep the kitchen cabinets and bathroom doors open during the winter seasons. The pipes behind them will get some hot air from your furnace and stay heated due to the comparatively high temperature inside your home. It will particularly come in handy if you have pipes located inside the walls. You can also use a fan heater or light bulbs to get better results.
Let the Faucets Drip – By allowing your faucets to drip, you can avoid water freezing in the pipes. If the faucets drip a little, the water wastage will be very less; you can keep a bucket below the dripping faucet to avoid the “tap” sound and water wastage. The science behind this method is that flowing water is difficult to freeze.
Keep the Well Warm – You can also use an incandescent heat lamp inside the well. Open the well casing and immerse the lamp. Make sure you close the casing after immersing the bulb; you can drill a small hole for the pipe. If you are going for this method, use an outdoor-safe extension. You can also cover the well with an insulated well cover, empty clean trash can (cheap and effective), or you can build a brick well house. All these methods will keep the temperature warm as compared to outside. You can also use an old blanket to cover your well. You won’t need a heating lamp for submersible pumps. It is best for the above-ground pumps.
Use Heat Strips – If all the above strategies don’t work, you would need to go a step further and use heat strips. Heat strips are wrapped along the water pipes and are waterproof. They keep the pipes warm, and the water keeps flowing without any hassles. Heat strips are particularly effective for areas where the temperature gets below freezing point frequently. If you are using heat strips or heat cables, don’t double back them. It can result in overheating and may cause damage to plastic plumbing pipes and strips as well.
Pre-Winter Inspection and Maintenance – Apart from the above methods, you must also carry out a pre-winter well inspection. You must look for any cracks in the well casing, any issues with the well pump, water tank, or any other problems. We don’t want you to get stuck with frozen pipes and well issues at the same time.