Waiting For Frozen Pipes To Thaw? What To Do Instead
Plumbing 101 DIY New Homeowner

Waiting For Frozen Pipes To Thaw? What To Do Instead

Gabe Halimi
Gabe Halimi
Gabe Halimi

In a previous article, we went over some steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes in your home. But what if it’s too late to think about prevention? What if your pipes are already frozen? In this article, we’ll give you some action tips to help you get things flowing again.

You might be wondering if you can just wait for the pipe to thaw on its own. Maybe the outside temperature has gone up enough for you to just sit tight and wait it out. The truth is, waiting for pipes to thaw on their own is a mistake. This is a time to be proactive.

Every minute you have ice blocking you pipes you’re at risk for a pipe burst. Water expands when it freezes, and when it’s contained under pressure (like it is in your plumbing system), it can be powerful enough to break even the strongest materials. So if you suspect you have a frozen pipe, you should start taking steps immediately to locate the freeze and start the thawing process.

Isolate The Problem

Before you can get around to thawing out the frozen pipe, you need to know where the ice is. Start by opening each faucet in your home one at a time. If a faucet has little or no water flow, there’s likely an ice dam in the pipe leading to the fixture. If you aren’t getting water from any faucets, then the blockage is probably near your water main. Examine all areas of exposed pipes for frost, condensation and bulges.

Tip: If you have a frozen pipe, there’s always the possibility that a burst has already occurred. In many cases, burst pipes won’t start leaking until the ice dam has been thawed. Locate your water main shutoff valve before you start any defrosting efforts. If you notice any leaks while you’re troubleshooting your frozen pipes, shut off your water main immediately.

How To Thaw Frozen Exposed Pipes

Exposed pipes are the easiest to defrost. The key is to apply a heat source to the area of the pipe that is frozen.

Before you start heating up the pipe, make sure you open the faucet at the end of the line. This does two things: it helps the thawing process by letting warm air into the pipe and it will start to let out more and more water, letting you know you’re making actual progress.

Next it’s time to apply a heat source to the pipe. You can use heating pads, towels soaked in hot water, a hair dryer, or a space heater. Start as close to the faucet as possible, slowly working your way down the pipe. Whatever you do, don’t use a blowtorch or anything else with an open flame. And if you’re using a hair dryer or space heater, don’t leave the site unattended.

How To Thaw Frozen Pipes In A Wall

If you’re able to determine that the frozen pipe is on the other side of a wall, you won’t be able to use hair dryers or space heaters to fix the problem. If you’re comfortable doing some basic DIY carpentry, you can cut a square section out of the drywall and then proceed with the same defrosting process you would use for an exposed pipe.

If you shudder at the thought of putting a hole in your wall, there are some other techniques you can try. You can pick up an infrared lamp and place it on the wall close to the frozen pipe. It’s also possible that simply cranking up the thermostat in your home will be enough to thaw out the pipe.

How To Thaw A Frozen Drain Pipe

Thawing frozen drain pipes requires a different approach than water supply pipes. What you’ll need is a bucket of hot water, a screwdriver to remove the drain cover, a garden hose and a funnel.

Remove the drain cover and feed the garden hose into the drain until you feel resistance from the ice dam. Secure the funnel to the other end of the garden hose, then slowly pour hot water from the bucket into the funnel. Be careful not to go too fast or you could have hot water shoot back out of the hose. Repeat the process until you no longer feel resistance from the ice.

How To Thaw A Frozen Pipe Underground

Things start to get tricky when pipes freeze underground. Your best bet is to pick up some heavy-duty thawing blankets. Thawing blankets are often used by construction workers who have to get underground during the winter months. They can radiate temperatures over 150 degrees, which can actually thaw out your underground pipes.

If thawing blankets aren’t getting the job done, your best option is to bite the bullet and call a professional. A professional plumber can access the frozen section of pipe and thaw it out manually, or cut into the pipe and pump hot water into it to dislodge the ice dam.

Freezing During The Summer – Frozen AC Systems

If your air conditioning unit has frozen over, the problem usually lies in the evaporator coils in the unit. Evaporator coils contain the refrigerant that cools the air in your home and expels the warmer air outdoors. If something blocks the coils, they aren’t able to absorb the warm air around them and they get colder and colder, eventually freezing. When that happens, the AC unit stops working.

So what can you do? The first step is to turn off the cool setting on your unit while keeping the fan running. In many cases, that will be enough to defrost the AC unit over the course of a few hours. Next, inspect all the vents in your HVAC system for buildup and blockages. Also take a look at your air filter and change it if necessary. If you don’t see improvement after 6 hours, your best bet is to call an HVAC professional to look into the problem.

Stay Proactive With The Flo By Moen System

Of course, there’s no better solution to a problem than outright prevention. That’s why at Flo, we always try to stress the importance of monitoring and staying on top of the conditions of your plumbing system.

With the Flo by Moen device, you get the benefit of 24/7, accurate monitoring of the flow, pressure and temperature of the water in your plumbing system. With real-time alerts delivered straight to your smartphone, you’ll get a heads up about any abnormal spikes in water pressure (a good indicator of ice buildup). With smart monitoring, you can save time and money on plumbing repairs by avoiding them altogether.