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  #1  
Old 01/17/09, 04:30 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: MA
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frozen pipes

I am in MA and it sure is cold here. Some of my pipes are frozen and I am not sure what to do. I have forced hot water central heat.
I heat mainly with a wood stove and pellet stove, but I have been running my furnace a bit with this cold snap. I think a few of the pipes in my baseboard heat are frozen because the heat is not working in some of the rooms on the North side.
My downstairs toilet won't flush and my dishwasher overflowed. I still have the heat cranked up and I just hope the baseboard pipes won't burst. What should I do to minimize damage?
One time one of the baseboard pipes burst and we had a flood. My son was here and he knew what to do to stop the water. I don't know what he did. All I know is when it burst the water just kept on coming! If this happens what do I do? I know turning off the water to the house did not help, there was a lot of water in the system.
Please help!

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  #2  
Old 01/17/09, 06:07 AM
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I think you really need to call a heating repair service ~ it sounds like there is more than one issue. Some of my pipes are frozen this morning as well, but they are not baseboard heat and won't cause a mess if they break. I feel for you...been there before.

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  #3  
Old 01/17/09, 06:12 AM
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Of all things our hot water was frozen yesterday and this morning. Not the cold water. We have an electric heater facing the pipes in question and DH will go under the building after coffee and hit them with the torch. But he knows what he is doing , I am not suggesting you use a torch if you are unfamiliar with it.

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  #4  
Old 01/17/09, 07:14 AM
 
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I would call a heating specialist so you reduce any damage that the cold may cause. Chris

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  #5  
Old 01/17/09, 07:48 AM
 
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Location: NE Kansas
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To minimize damage that can be done by your hot water heat system, find the water valve that feeds the boiler from your fresh water supply, and turn it off. This will stop the water flow if the pipe bursts. You will get some water out of the burst area, but the water pressure will be relieved. If it should happen, you will want to turn your heat off, so as not to ruin the boiler. That is when you call the repaireman. Good luck.

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  #6  
Old 01/17/09, 08:01 AM
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Location: Western NY State near the PA border
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Knock on wood I've had no frozen water pipes. I use the old trick of letting the water drip from my faucets during the night. Both hot and cold. I heat with 2 pellet stoves here and plan on installing a wood stove this coming summer, that i picked up cheap. I have a bad feeling that wood pellets will be sky high this year...as they are on average around $280 - $300/ton...and that's if you can find any!

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  #7  
Old 01/17/09, 08:19 AM
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First of all if you can go to the farmers market and get a roll of black plastic 6 foot wide. Wrap the lower part of you house in it. It isn't pretty but we need to stop the cold creeping further. If the water for your central boiler is not frozen (The water intake) run it full. If the system was installed correctly it should have a surge shut off being in cold weather. The black plastic will thaw pipes even in 20 degree weather if the sun hits it at all.
What you are going to have to do is get more heat inside than the cold is coming in from the out side. The plastic will help the drafts. My father (Journeyman Plumber) trouble shot for a day one time when he finally found a matchstick hole in the foundation behind a water pipe. The wind blew through the hole freezing one inch of pipe stopping all the water for the house. The foundation was solid and looked perfect.
If you do not have surge check valve stay with it and watch and listen. Also fans blowing against the north wall from inside the house is a good idea with all cabinet doors open.

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  #8  
Old 01/17/09, 08:30 AM
 
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Don't use a torch. So many places have burned down because of it. A hairdryer works just as well and is safer. When it gets very cold I will set the sinks up for a slow drip at night. This really helps. We have no basement, only a crawl space. Our water pipes run along the west side of the house which gets hit by the wind. Freezing pipes is something I have to deal with every winter.

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  #9  
Old 01/17/09, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JJ Grandits View Post
Don't use a torch. So many places have burned down because of it. A hairdryer works just as well and is safer. When it gets very cold I will set the sinks up for a slow drip at night. This really helps. We have no basement, only a crawl space. Our water pipes run along the west side of the house which gets hit by the wind. Freezing pipes is something I have to deal with every winter.
I was also going to recommend a hair dryer.

Spent some time with a hair dryer and an extension cord yesterday morning, I thought I had gotten all the faucets but forgot the hot water to the kitchen sink.

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  #10  
Old 01/17/09, 11:55 AM
 
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The pipe damage is already done but the water damage is yet to happen. It is best you do what mdharris68 recommended and shut the incoming water off NOW.

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  #11  
Old 01/17/09, 12:25 PM
 
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Wrap the frozen line with a towel or rag soaked in hot water.Do not use anything that will cause a fire. You probably should call a service man to be sure not to have damage.

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  #12  
Old 01/17/09, 05:39 PM
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We thaw pipes all winter, at the shop I work at. We use a big gas powered welder with 400 feet of cable. The ground goes on a pipe on one side of the blockage and the stinger goes on the other side. Then we turn on the welder. I'm not sure if it's the heat or what, but as the electricity runs throught the pipes the ice gets worked out. Sometimes it only takes 5 min. and you have water again, sometimes 1/2 hour. We charge $75 to do this. Call around to your local welding shops and see if this a service that they offer. We have done 10-12 so far this year, and this is the first real cold snap.

Everybody is right, you have to find out why it is happening, and cure that. Or, you will run into this every year. We have MANY people that never learn and they pay us every year.

Sometimes Electric Heat tape wrapped around the pipes helps, also halogen work lights can warm up a pipe well if set close to it.

Good Luck

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  #13  
Old 01/17/09, 05:47 PM
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The big question is, are the pipes copper or plastic???? PVC (plastic) pipes will split easier than copper will from freezing water...

Try the hair dryer solution as suggested above, to try and thaw the frozen pipes. A propane torch will thaw copper pipes, but there is a fire risk from using a flame near walls, and other wood nearby. Otherwise try calling a plumbing service, but they may be overwhelmed by others in your are experienciing the same frozen pipes..

If you find the propblem area, maybe an electrical heating tape on the pipes in question will prevent frozen pipes in the future.

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  #14  
Old 01/17/09, 06:34 PM
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Our washer p-trap froze during the last freeze. Found out when the washer started emptying and water flowed out all over the floor. Before doing any clothes after a hard freeze, I learned to run some water through the microwave and pour it down into the trap to make sure it's thawed before doing any clothes. I've used a hair dryer many times to thaw out frozen pipes. Since both of our lines (cold/hot) are run closely together through the house, I'll also get up about every 4 hours during a freeze and run hot water through the lines to keep the insulated space above freezing. I don't just run the water down the sink...good way to fill up water bottles for the animals.

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  #15  
Old 01/17/09, 07:28 PM
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Around here, the only way to keep water pipes from freezing is to keep the water running. Just a small flow, a bit more than a drip will prevent them from freezing.
That will also prevent the drains from freezing, too.

In the city there are places where they couldn't bury the water line deep enough. The city issues a "run water" notice so the pipes don't freeze between the main line and the house.


Most hot water heat systems have several zones, pumping hot water thru only the areas that the thermostat calls for. Hard to believe the zone on the north side froze.

If you get the water thawed out quickly, you can often avoid a split pipe. But that is only good between the time ice forms and blocks circulation and the time it freezes up solid. Water is one of the few things that expands as it changes from a liquid to a solid.

Here's a short story. If you've got time, otherwise move on.
Several years ago, the couple renting a house from me, called Christmas Eve, " We don't have any hot water." It had been cold with wind gusts above 40 miles per hour. The gas water heater's pilot light has been blown out by a downdraft before. The water heater sits in a closet in the laundry room/entry room. I was on my way out the door to open gifts with extended family. The access door to light the pilot is a bit too high and sometimes re-lighting it can be troublesome. I asked if they could get by without hot water until Christmas afternoon, the next day. Sure, no problem.

On Christmas morning, while opening gifts with me children, the phone rang. Renter said, " I hear water running in the crawl space and the water pump hasn't shut off in awhile."

Only now did it become clear to me what they meant about no hot water and what I thought they meant were two very different problems. They could have said, "there is no water coming out of the hot water faucet." That statement would have been my clue that I had a frozen pipe and not just a cold water heater.

After I instructed them to trip the breaker for the pump and grabbed my tools and spare plastic plumbing stuff.

So, on Christmas day, I laid on my back in the flooded crawl space (only 2 blocks high, that's 16 inches) sawing off the broken plumbing and gluing in the new, while my renters played Nintendo on their TV above me.

Just telling a person to keep the water running just a bit is no guarantee that they'll do it.

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  #16  
Old 01/18/09, 09:15 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: MA
Posts: 274
Thank you

Thank you to all for the advice! I did turn off the boiler, open the valves in the cellar and drained most of the water out of the system.
The pipe did thaw and leak onto the floor, but it was very minimal.
Very good advice from all of you!

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  #17  
Old 01/18/09, 09:49 AM
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Wisconsin
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Up here they sell heat tape which you wrap around your pipes and it keeps them warm enough so they don't freeze. They have to be plugged in but they work well. If you keep having problems on the north side maybe you can consider banking that side of the house with snow or straw bales as this helps to insulate the house and prevent frozen pipes.

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  #18  
Old 01/18/09, 03:13 PM
 
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Someone on another forum said they had seen a valve that automatically started a small stream running if the water temperature in the pipe dropped to a certain temperature . I would assume it was tied into the sink drain . According to the OP it was installed under the kitchen sink & he had seen it in a magazine several years ago & was trying to find one now . I assume the valve was installed in the water line & ran the small stream to the drain line , otherwise the faucet would have to be open . Has anyone ever heard of such a device ? I did a quick google search & all I found was patent numbers that sounded like they were for a device such as this .

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