Unfreezing a frost free yard hydrant

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Idahoe, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. Idahoe

    Idahoe Menagerie More~on

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    My yard hydrant for the goat barn froze several days ago . . . I use a short hose that reaches the water bucket, and did not make sure it was drained and of course, temps went below zero and you know the rest.

    The handle was down. I used a propane torch to get a plug of ice from the hydrant's opening, and of course removed the hose.

    It's a typical hydrant, water line about three feet below ground level, not near the well or septic field. Clayton-Mark brand. Gravel bed drainage. Honestly, not a lot of water gets sloshed on to the ground around the hydrant. Daytime temps might go to 20F, so no hope of waiting for it to thaw anytime in the near future. It is located in a low spot where water will run and collect when it rains or thaws.

    I put the propane heater on the pipe near the ground and got it real hot, but since the ground is frozen (and will be for a couple more months), I think the heat just won't reach.

    I read about taking the head off and pouring hot water into the open pipe, but I'm not strong enough to screw the thing off.

    Any ideas? I can certainly get some help, but since I *did* this myself, I'd like to *undo* it myself in case I have a future brain fart and do it again. Thanks in advance :) .
     
  2. Joe in SD

    Joe in SD Active Member

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    Just keep moving the propane torch up and down the exposed pipe. It will probably take about 30-40 minutes, but it will thaw. I have been there, done that.
     

  3. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Can you unscrew the hydrant without having a pump come on? If so, you can probably take it indoors to thaw (if it's not too long) and then just replace it. If you do this, cover the well with something and insulate it so that cold air doesn't get down and freeze the well itself while the hydrant is off (no idea if it would or not, but why chance it?).

    How about some of the ideas mentioned on the "frozen pipes" thread (battery charger, welder, etc.)?
     
  4. MOgal

    MOgal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ours did it once after a prolonged spell of very cold weather. DH put a heat tape on it, insulated that and wrapped the whole deal in plastic which he then sealed with duct tape. Fortunately, it's close enough to the barn that we can run an outdoor extension cord around the outside of the lot fence to the faucet. I ALWAYS keep a bucket upside down over the faucet to protect the handle from ice coatings.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Idahoe

    Idahoe Menagerie More~on

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    OK Joe, I'll give that a try. I just didn't give it enough time.

    A thirty second lapse of attention creates hours of corrective action . . .
     
  6. Rockin'B

    Rockin'B Well-Known Member

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    Just had to do that last Sunday. Unscrew the hose, open the faucet and then run the propane up and down as mentioned previously. It will eventually thaw.

    The lesson we learned is to take the hose off each time so it doesn't back up any water and start a freeze plug.
     
  7. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    You might want to forgo the propane torch. I had a pipe explode on me once by overheating it with a torch. Either use a heat gun, hairdryer or wrap a towels around the suspected frozen section and pour boiling water over it.

    The towel method works quicker'n snot.
     
  8. Old Vet

    Old Vet Well-Known Member

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    If the ground is froxen say 6 inches deep you will have to dig up enough to get to unforxen groun then heat it the best way you can. If you heat the pipe you start with the top end and work down. This is to keep the presure from builting up and causing it to exploed. Heat three or four inches at a time and make sure that dteam is coming out of the nozel before heating another three or four inches.When you get to where the groun is not frozen then the thing will work.
     
  9. brosil

    brosil Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've got heat tape and insulation going into the ground on mine but sometimes it's not enough. I build a little structure of bales around it an put an electric heater inside. That usually thaws it out in 24 hrs. or so.
     
  10. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Shouldn't happen in this case, as long as you leave the hydrant on to accomodate any water expansion.
     
  11. MOgal

    MOgal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The time ours froze, you couldn't pull the handle up, even though it had been covered. Ice had formed at the bottom of the pipe and locked the valve in place.
     
  12. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    MOgals post gave me an idea. Using a propane torch, heat the valve rod that goes down the center of the pipe. This may carry the heat down the pipe more efficiently.
     
  13. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    if you heat the pipe evenly up and down and out to the hose attachment the pipe will not explode, as there will be a place for steam to be released to the atmosphere, if you heat a frozen pipe in one area and solid freeze on both sides there is a possibility of pressure problems as there is no place for the steam/water vapor to go. and thus it builds pressure,

    I would heat the outside of the pipe and if the control rod is movable (handle) work it up and down as well, as it going through the ice plug,
     
  14. Hammer4

    Hammer4 Well-Known Member

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    We just had to do this after somebody left a hose hooked to the hydrant. I took the big weed burner torch and heated the whole thing from the nozzle to where it went in the ground with the handle up....the big torch only took a minute or two to thaw it, I started hearing a hissing as air got past the frozen water plugging it up, then the water blasted out the last of the ice. Shut it off, no problems after that.

    So I vote for the propane torch, just keep heating it with the handle up, it will get warm enough to let the air and water start coming out, its most likely frozen in the upper portion near the nozzle.
     
  15. Rockin'B

    Rockin'B Well-Known Member

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    I just passed the torch very lightly over the pipe and head. My goal was to melt the water, not boil it. Takes time, but it works.
     
  16. Steve

    Steve Well-Known Member

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    If you have a tall enough cardboard box around, put that over the hydrant and hang a trouble light inside using the highest wattage bulb you have on hand. Turn on overnight and next day it will be thawed.
     
  17. Bruce in NE

    Bruce in NE Well-Known Member

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    You're water line is only 3 ft. deep? Is that good enough for ID. Here in NE, standard is 5 ft. deep.
     
  18. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Did you get it flowing again?
     
    Rodeomomma99 likes this.
  19. lazy-s-chickens

    lazy-s-chickens Dan The Man

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    I had mine freeze up a couple of weeks ago, and from past experience The torch works good but to speed up the process I warm up what I can and stick a small hose down the pipe and suck the water up then blow it back down to flush the frozen part that is underground with "warm" water. Works great.