I thought it would be good touching on a few safety tips on thawing frozen water pipes. 1st off, NEVER, EVER, EVER use a blow torch, propane torch, MAPP gas torch, Acetylene torch, MAPP & Oxygen torch, MAP/Pro propylene torch, ametalene torch, HGX propane torch, Chemtane 2 torch, natural gas torch or any open flame at all PERIOD! Also, if you use a heat gun, be super careful with that, since it can heat up enough to set things on fire. A hair dryer is a safer alternative to a heat gun or flame source, especially if you are not properly trained or experienced with a heat gun. Below are safety tips and recommendations from various sources with the links to the sources.
Frozen pipes are not just an inconvenience. An average of a quarter-million homes are damaged and lives disrupted each winter, all because of frozen water pipes. An eighth-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, destroying floors, furniture, and personal property. Both plastic (PVC) and cooper pipes can burst.
• Insulate pipes in crawl spaces and attics, the ones most susceptible to freezing. Remember: the more insulation, the better protected your pipes will be.
• Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Use only products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories, and only for the use intended (exterior or interior).
• Seal leaks that allow cold air inside, especially near the location of pipes. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes. use caulk or insulation to keep cold air out and the heat in. With severe wind chill, a tiny opening can let enough cold air inside to cause a pipe to freeze.
• Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of the pope just inside the house.
• A trickle of water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
• Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees F.
• Ask a friend or neighbor to check our house daily to make sure it's warm enough to prevent freezing, or…
• Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it will be deactivated when you shut off the water.
• Don't take chances. If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber. If you detect your water pipes have frozen, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on.
• Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. Water damage is preferable to fire damage. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
• Do Not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water because electrocution is possible.
• Make sure everyone in your family is aware of where the water shut-off valve is and how to open and close it.
Every year the fire department responds to hundreds of minor water pipe breaks which pose no real danger. This is in addition to the already large number of real emergencies such as house fires and accidents.
Water freezing in your cold and hot water pipes can cause serious problems. While this freezing takes place, the pipe begins to swell and may burst. In most cases, the actual break doesn't appear until the water begins to thaw.
1. Shut off water to unheated areas of your home and to outdoor faucets. Don't forget to drain these pipes. Open cabinet doors and service access ways so heat can get into these otherwise hidden areas where pipes are located.
2. Leaving a faucet on with a slow trickle may or may not keep the pipe from freezing; you can't count on this method. There are some specially designed, UL approved heat tapes that can be used in unheated areas, but again, you need to be careful. If these methods are used, be sure to follow the directions exactly; a slight variation could cause a fire.
3. Locate the shut-off valves for both the hot and cold water, and the power shut-off for the hot water heater. In the event a pipe freezes, first shut off the water valve to that pipe (and the water heater if it's the hot water pipe). Then slowly thaw it out. Never use a torch! It thaws the water too quickly and weakens the pipe, almost guaranteeing the pipe will break. Room temperature heat and careful use of a hair dryer are good methods.
4. If the pipe breaks, quickly shut off the water valve, if you haven't already done so. Then call a plumber. They have the know-how to correctly fix the break. At this time, you may consider having the pipe or pipes rerouted through less vulnerable areas.
5. Should you call the fire department? Only if the water gets in or near electrical outlets or panels, or if the water threatens a pilot light or power to a water heater or furnace.
A little bit of planning can make for a dryer, happier winter.
Learn how to prevent water pipes from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.
Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.
Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:
Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold-water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold-water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.Safety Tips for Frozen Pipes https://fire9prevention.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/safety-tips-for-frozen-pipes/ One of our investigators spent an afternoon underneath a manufactured home yesterday. Cold weather had frozen water pipes and the homeowner’s remedy resulted in a fire. Cold weather is a fact of life here in eastern Washington. Following are some tips to keep pipes thawed and your house intact:
1. Prevention is the best medicine. Insulate exposed pipes and protect them from cold. Remember, anytime you enclose and insulate a space, wildlife will view that as a good place to hibernate or store food. Squirrels and mice can rearrange your insulation so that your piping will be exposed again. So, check your piping every fall to ensure you won’t have a problem once winter hits.
2. Pipe sleeves or UL-listed heat tape work well. Once again, check these things every fall to ensure they’re in good working order.
3. It may be prudent to hire a plumber to re-route pipes to locations where there is greater heat protection.
4. If you’re in the middle of a cold snap and fear freezing pipes, turn faucets on just a trickle. The tiniest amount of water movement will help.
5. If water flow stops, it’s probably due to frozen water somewhere in the pipe. As water freezes it expands. That expansion in an enclosed pipe can split the pipe. That will take a little time, so if you’ve just noticed a freeze-up and can locate the frozen spot, you have some options:
• First things first. Open the faucet so water, steam and heat from your thawing action can escape, rather than build up pressure and cause leaks.
• Locate the frozen spot and start thawing on the side toward the faucet so that melted water can run out. If you start in the middle or upstream of the frozen point, you’ll build up more pressure and perhaps cause a leak.
• Wrap the suspect pipe with towels soaked in hot water. Keep changing out towels or pouring hot water on the towels until the frozen spot thaws. Use a bucket underneath to catch drips. This method localizes heat right where you need it and is probably the most efficient.
• You can also use a hair dryer to heat up the frozen pipe. This is not as efficient at using hot towels, but in tight spaces this may be your only option.
• Wrap a heating pad around the suspected spot. Do not leave the heating pad there indefinitely. This is an emergency measure and the heating pad must be monitored constantly. Remove the pad once the freeze-up is cleared.
• Use space heaters only in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. Pay careful attention to distances around the heater and air flow. Many heaters require some air flow to keep from overheating. Remember that paper on fiberglass bat insulation will ignite.
• NEVER use a torch. Torches will melt plastic plumbing as well as soldered pipe joints. Heat from a torch doesn’t just warm the pipe. Torches also heat nearby wooden structural elements. Even if the affected pipe is not near wood, metal plumbing will conduct the heat from a torch to combustible framing and start a fire. Fires from using torches to melt frozen pipes are pretty common.
• DO NOT use fuel burning appliances such as propane, charcoal barbecue, kerosene, etc. underneath or inside your house. Fuel burning appliances produce carbon monoxide, the number one accidental poisoning killer in the United States.
No one wants to deal with frozen pipes this winter and we hope you don’t have this problem. If you do, pay attention to the fire safety concerns outlined above. We’d rather you not experience frozen pipes AND a fire.
Frozen water pipes are a serious risk during very cold winter weather. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands and can exert pressure at over 2,000 pounds per square inch. This pressure is enough to rupture almost any pipe filled with water, which provides no place for the ice to expand. A ruptured pipe can be a time bomb, since initially there may be no leaking at all since the frozen water may completely block the pipe—until, that is, the ice begins to thaw slightly, at which point you are on the verge of a major flood. There are many instances where homeowners try to escape a cold winter for a few weeks of vacation in a warm climate, only to return to a home that has been devastated by tens of thousands of dollars in damage from water that destroyed walls, ceilings, and floors.
A burst pipe can easily spill several hundred gallons of water per hour, and that equates to enormous damage to your home.
Pipes are most susceptible to freezing when they are located:
In an outside wall that adjoins the outdoors
In a cabinet under a sink (especially when located near an outside wall).
In an unheated crawl space or basement
Near outdoor faucets (hose bibbs) used to connect garden hoses.
If your pipe is frozen but not yet ruptured, you must thaw it right away. There are a few thawing techniques to try, depending on where the frozen pipe is located.
Warning: Never use a blow torch or other open flame to thaw a pipe. This presents a serious fire hazard and can damage the pipe.
A frozen pipe that hasn't burst yet often reveals itself at a faucet: When you turn on the faucet in very cold weather and no water comes out or it has slowed to a trickle, there's probably a blockage of ice somewhere in the line. It's time to take immediate action:
Shut off the water to the faucet locally or at the home's main water shutoff valve.
Open the faucet that is supplied by the frozen pipe; do this even if you don't know where the blockage is.
Identify the frozen pipe and locate the blockage: Follow the pipe back from the faucet to where it runs through cold areas, such as an exterior wall or unheated crawl space. Look for areas of the pipe that have frost or ice; it may also be slightly bulged or fissured.
How you thaw the pipe will depend on where it is located.
When you find that the frozen—but not yet burst—pipe is behind the surface of a wall or ceiling, you've got a challenge on your hands. You have three options for thawing the pipe:
Turn up the heat in the house and wait. If you suspect the pipe is inside the wall within a bathroom or kitchen sink base cabinet or vanity, make sure to open the door of the cabinet to help the heat reach the wall.
Cut out a section of the wall or ceiling to access the frozen section of pipe, then thaw the pipe as an exposed pipe (see next step: Thawing an Exposed Frozen Pipe).
Use an infrared lamp to help heat the wall section in front of where you believe the pipe is frozen. Infrared lamps are better than regular heat lamps because they pass through the air without heating it and will direct more energy to warm the wall and frozen pipe. And here is less chance that the infrared lamp will dangerously overheat the wall materials.
If the frozen pipe is exposed, such as may be present in an unfinished basement or garage, you have several options for thawing it. Whichever remedy you use, heat the pipe moving from the faucet toward the frozen area. This allows water to flow out as the ice melts.
This is usually the easiest and safest way to thaw a pipe. If the pipe is close to the wall, place a cookie sheet behind the pipe to help radiate heat onto the backside of the pipe.
You can use an infrared or incandescent heat lamp. As with a hairdryer, if the pipe is close to the wall, use a cookie sheet behind the pipe to help reflect heat onto the pipe.
A small, powerful heater works great for warming pipes under a kitchen or vanity base cabinet. Direct the heater onto the frozen section of pipe. It will work like a hair dryer on steroids!
Heat tape is a ribbon-like wrap that contains electrical heating elements. You wrap it around the pipe you want to heat and plug it into the wall. The temperature of the tape is controlled with a thermostat. Heat tape can also be used to prevent pipes from freezing in critical areas; you can leave the heat tape on the pipe and plug it in only when needed.
There are a few things you can do to prevent the problem of freezing pipes from occurring again:
Leave the faucet dripping slightly during the coldest time of the day or night. The steadily moving water will keep the pipes slightly above the freezing point and prevent them from freezing. No one wants to wastewater, but it is better than dealing with burst pipes.
Open the cabinet doors to allow the heated air from the room to reach pipes inside the cabinet.
Wrap the problem pipe with electrical heat tape and allow it to run when the weather is especially cold.
Insulate problem pipes with foam insulation wrap, especially those that run through unheated spaces. Note: Insulation merely slows the transfer of heat and will not prevent a pipe from freezing if the surrounding air is cold enough.
Heat unheated areas with a permanent heater, just to keep the temperature above freezing, or about 40 degrees F. Warning: Do not use portable heaters, which should never be left running unattended.
Remove garden hoses attached to outdoor faucets (hose bibs or sillcocks). If the faucet is not a frost-proof type, turn off the water to the faucet inside the house and drain the exterior section of the pipe and faucet.
When below-freezing weather is predicted, the Bend Fire Department reminds building owners, homeowners, tenants, facility managers, and building maintenance personnel that water and fire sprinkler pipes and easily freeze and break. A few simple measures can prevent water lines from freezing and breaking.
The Bend Fire Department responds to water line and fire sprinkler activation's due to pipes breaking from freezing every year. These breaks can cause significant water damage but can easily be prevented. Also, frozen fire sprinkler pipes, even if they don’t break, render the sprinkler system inoperative to protect buildings from fire, thus jeopardizing lives and property. When cold air moves south into Central Oregon, from the artic, many simple preparations should take place.
• Put up insulation blocks in crawl space vents.
• Slightly crack a water tap in your home furthest from where your water line enters your home or business.
• Open up cabinets in low heat areas of the occupancy where plumbing exists, especially overnight when temperatures reach the lowest point.
• Check all outdoor faucets and turn off water to any exterior spigot, or hose bib where not a frost-free type. Disconnect garden hoses and drain.
• Snow on the ground insulates underground plumbing better than no snow.
• Read all applicable manufacturers’ information when using heat-tape. Never over-lap or apply heat-tape over insulation.
• Make sure your fire sprinkler system has been maintained adequately and has been tested for sub-zero conditions.
• While some sprinkler systems are designed to operate in cold temperatures, the majority of fire sprinkler pipe must be installed in areas that can maintain a minimum temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Where sprinkler systems have an air compressor, ensure the air compressor is working properly and never turned off. The air compressor is maintaining air in the pipes to prevent water from getting in and freezing, causing damage in cold weather.
• Check attic spaces for exposed pipes or areas with little insulation.
• Examine areas of concern and test to see if things are a problem.
(Information provided in part courtesy of the City of Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department© 2013)