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How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe

Knowing the temperature has dipped below 32 degrees Fahrenheit is the scariest feeling in the world for homeowners. This means there’s a very real chance for the water within your water pipes to freeze — which could leave you with a burst pipe (and the repair bills that come with it). If one of your water pipes happen to freeze this winter, you should know how to thaw it before anything bad happens…

Step 1: Confirm the Pipe is Frozen

In order to find out if there’s a frozen pipe in your home, turn on each of the faucets and fixtures to see if water is coming out or not. If you find one where no water is dispensed (or barely any), the pipe is most likely frozen or is well on its way. For pipes you can easily access, perform a visual inspection to check for frost or a bulge where the ice would be.

Step 2: Turn the Faucet On

When thawing a pipe, you want to make sure you open the faucet (both hot and cold valves). This will allow any melted water and pressure to escape the pipe during the thawing process. Leaving the faucet closed during the thawing process could cause the pipe to burst due to an overload of pressure that has been built up.

Step 3: Where to Begin Thawing

It’s important to know where to begin thawing before actually attempting this. You want to start the thawing process toward the top of the pipe, closest to the faucet. This will allow any melted ice and initial pressure to exit the pipe as you work your way toward the bulge of the frozen pipe. You could cause the pipe to burst by melting ice behind the main blockage, leading to more pressure and an eventual burst pipe.

Step 4: Thawing the Pipes

  • Exposed Pipes – The easiest way to thaw a visible water pipe is to heat it with a hair dryer. Simply point the hair dryer at the top of the pipe and slowly work your way down toward the blockage; this method gives you the most control. You can also place a space heater near the pipe to heat it in its entirety. A last resort is to place multiple hot towels on the pipe to slowly thaw it.

  • Enclosed Pipes – Many pipes are not visible, as they’re located behind walls, floors, and ceilings. If an enclosed pipe is frozen, start by turning the heat up within your home. Heating your entire home may be the simple solution for this nightmare of a plumbing problem. You can also try pointing an infrared heat lamp at the wall that’s covering the suspected frozen pipe.

Step 5: What to Do if Things Go South

During the thawing process, it’s possible for the pipe to burst due to a buildup of too much pressure within the pipe. It’s imperative you know where the main water shutoff valve is to prevent a flood of water from collecting in your home (where water damage, mold, and other damages can form). Immediately shut this valve and call your local plumber to have this situation addressed immediately.

Being able to successfully thaw a pipe can save you from ever having to deal with a burst pipe — also known as one of the biggest homeowner nightmares! When you need a water pipe thawed, repaired, or replaced; we’d be happy to lend you a helping hand!

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When you need a reliable partner for all your home services in the Lancaster area, trust Lancaster Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. From our location in East Petersburg, we can provide fast, professional HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services anywhere in Lancaster County and the surrounding communities. We have some of the best technicians in the business. Our company features:

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