Author Topic: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?  (Read 6293 times)

CommonCents

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Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« on: January 08, 2015, 10:00:09 AM »
We have at least one frozen pipe today after negative temperatures and major wind chill last night.  I understand you can sit with a hair dryer to warm up a pipe, but this requires figuring out where the pipe is and can't find where it is.  We have cold water working in one of the upstairs bathrooms - but not the other one right next to it.  Kitchen does not have running cold water, but half bath (which is right below the upstairs baths) does.  Our best guess is somewhere in the outside wall of the kitchen or in the wall between the garage and the house.  DH looked at the pipes in the utility room, but again, none of those seem to be the issue (and we can't entirely figure out what goes where.  1934 house that's had some renovations).

Any suggestions?  We turned off the water in the house, turned up the heat to 68 (normally it's 60 while gone at work, 65-67 when home and in that portion of the house - we have two forced hot air heaters, one upstairs and one downstairs), and opened up the door the office below the kitchen that we usually keep closed so that room warms up.  At work now.  Give up and call a plumber?  Sit with a hair dryer on the few pipes we can see, even though they don't appear or feel frozen?  Turn an electric heater on in the garage?  Wait and cross our fingers?

And yes, next time there's an artic blast, we'll leave our faucets on to drip.  Never thought it'd happen to us, though DH set the temp to 61 rather than 60 yesterday/last night in an concession to the cold.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2015, 10:03:20 AM by CommonCents »

MayDay

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2015, 10:13:12 AM »
Open all cupboards under the sinks.

yandz

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2015, 10:15:30 AM »
Yikes. I have had frozen pipes before (burst once) - eventually heat-taped the repeat offender and had not problems afterwards. Had to tear out kitchen cabinets to do it.  Not fun.

Turning up house temp was the right thing to do.
DO NOT TURN OFF WATER TO YOUR HOUSE. Having the pipes no longer pressurized will actually make pipes MORE susceptible to freezing.  I know it feels like you might mitigate damage in case they burst while you are gone, but it can be worse in the long run.
Boiling water and pouring it down the drains can help, transferring enough heat to the parallel supply pipe to unfreeze it.
Open cabinets below sinks to increase warm air circulation

Since you are unable to locate the pipe(s) that are frozen on your own which limits that actions you can take on your own, I would seriously consider calling a plumber.  It will cost money, but so much less than the money burst pipes will cost you...

Good luck!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2015, 10:22:43 AM »
I only turn off the water when it's going to be cold and we're leaving for a while (and then only to exterior rooms that don't heat well - we have a manifold in the basement). Did have a pipe burst due to a cold snap and thermostat short-out (in a previous house), and that was a $56k insurance claim. Awful.

Even if you don't call a plumber today, you might want to get the house better-insulated so it doesn't happen again. Had my previous house been better insulated between the first and second floors, the pipe probably wouldn't have burst because the heat had not been off for that long.

Louis the Cat

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2015, 10:31:04 AM »
We had a frozen pipe last week but knew where it was: in the crawlspace under the addition. We opened the access to the crawl space, put a space heater in the opening and opened the usually closed vent that had the good grace to be right next to the opening. We also left the faucet for the offending pipe wide open (turned out the drain froze, too, but luckily it was for a giant bathtub so we just let the water run until both thawed). Any way you can get heat to a normally unheated crawlspace or basement that might have the offending pipe in it?

CommonCents

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2015, 10:32:49 AM »
Yikes. I have had frozen pipes before (burst once) - eventually heat-taped the repeat offender and had not problems afterwards. Had to tear out kitchen cabinets to do it.  Not fun.

Turning up house temp was the right thing to do.
DO NOT TURN OFF WATER TO YOUR HOUSE. Having the pipes no longer pressurized will actually make pipes MORE susceptible to freezing.  I know it feels like you might mitigate damage in case they burst while you are gone, but it can be worse in the long run.
Boiling water and pouring it down the drains can help, transferring enough heat to the parallel supply pipe to unfreeze it.
Open cabinets below sinks to increase warm air circulation

Since you are unable to locate the pipe(s) that are frozen on your own which limits that actions you can take on your own, I would seriously consider calling a plumber.  It will cost money, but so much less than the money burst pipes will cost you...

Good luck!

Next time we won't turn off the pipes, but it's too late for this time.  I have a dentist appointment after work today, but hopefully DH can go home early and start to work on them (and turn it back on).  Will try boiling water trick. 

Yes, improving insulation is something that was on our to-do list already.  Actually have an energy audit scheduled for Jan 24th, and would like to renovate the kitchen and improving the insulation there (it started life as a sunroom or porch and we don't think whoever converted it did a great job with insulation), but haven't wanted to rush into it.

CommonCents

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2015, 10:37:21 AM »
We had a frozen pipe last week but knew where it was: in the crawlspace under the addition. We opened the access to the crawl space, put a space heater in the opening and opened the usually closed vent that had the good grace to be right next to the opening. We also left the faucet for the offending pipe wide open (turned out the drain froze, too, but luckily it was for a giant bathtub so we just let the water run until both thawed). Any way you can get heat to a normally unheated crawlspace or basement that might have the offending pipe in it?

There's actually very little unheated space in the house - we have only a small utility closet in the basement and that's it beyond the attic.  And the closet was fine.  The basement is finished - it's built into a hill and walkout.  There's a space for our laundry over the garage, which is technically heated but often cold, and even that was fine this morning.  (I did open the doors to it though.)  I don't know where we'd even have any crawlspace.  This sucks, waiting for impending doom.  :( 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2015, 10:38:22 AM »
it started life as a sunroom or porch and we don't think whoever converted it did a great job with insulation

Oh jeepers. Maybe before you renovate, you could get some foam insulation and line the back of your cabinets with it. Slight improvement, at least.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2015, 10:45:17 AM »
I'd leave the water off if I wasn't home. Like Shoulder says, leaks can get real expensive real fast. If the problem has not resolved by the time you get home, in addition to the other recommendations, I would run everything you can 50/50 hot and cold at around 25% flow.  This will help pull heat in the piping areas as well.  Heat the garage if it is near pipes. I'd also run the heat up to 75+ in the house until the pipes thaw.  If no pipes have broken, you have not gotten off for free, freeze damage is cumulative and every time a pipe freezes and thaws it is more likely to break in the future.  Be on the look out for very small leaks over the next few months as well. I would do my best to find the problem and fix it properly.  If you can't, I know it feels anti-mustachian but a little dribble of water can save you a lot of head ache and money.  It doesn't take much, think a stream of water the size of a strand of spaghetti.   

yandz

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2015, 10:48:33 AM »
I guess just one more thought - you feel certain the pipes are frozen and it isn't just galvanized piping that has given up on life?  Galvanized pipes have water pressure until they don't, in my experience they just cut off one day (I am apparently all about plumbing issues).

So sorry this is happening. Plumbing is the worst :(

teen persuasion

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2015, 10:57:25 AM »
I had to thaw out a frozen pipe last night, I used the blow dryer trick.  I had left the cold water on a trickle, but neglected the hot water side.  Make sure your taps are open, so that when it thaws the water has somewhere to escape without bursting a pipe.

Without access to the pipes, it is hard to warm them.  You could try a length of pipe tape (that uses electricity to warm the pipes) on an exposed area, hoping that it transfers enough heat to thaw further on.  You usually want to begin heating from the outlet (the faucet) and work back to the source, so that melt can escape without the pressure th burst a pipe.  Since two faucets are affected, it's possible the freeze point is before either one, so start looking before the lower sink, down in the basement.  I began heating under my bathroom sink, but when it had no effect, I moved to the basement and heated the point where the pipe got near a foundation wall.  I have an old house with thick fieldstone walls, and the pipe made a bend up and over that wall, and it must be drafty there.  One of my teens listened to let me know when the water was flowing again, maybe ten minutes after beginning in the basement, but my earlier efforts might have helped, too.

Jack

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2015, 11:14:46 AM »
Make sure your taps are open, so that when it thaws the water has somewhere to escape without bursting a pipe.

...

You usually want to begin heating from the outlet (the faucet) and work back to the source, so that melt can escape without the pressure th burst a pipe.

Water expands when it freezes, so if the pipe was going to burst then the damage would already be done before it started to thaw.

CommonCents

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2015, 11:58:26 AM »
I guess just one more thought - you feel certain the pipes are frozen and it isn't just galvanized piping that has given up on life?  Galvanized pipes have water pressure until they don't, in my experience they just cut off one day (I am apparently all about plumbing issues).

So sorry this is happening. Plumbing is the worst :(

Pretty sure, but if not it's remarkably suspicious it happened on what was touted as the "coldest night" of the year.

So I got a recommendation from a coworker who lives nearby for a plumber, and called him.  He said turning off the water if we weren't going to be home was good and turning up the heat was good.  When we get home, we should turn the water back on, try to warm it up more, and keep an eye out for sinks backing up/leaks etc, and call him if there's an issue.  He lives 2-3 minutes away, which is handy for after hours situations.  He's dealing with those with no heat right now, so as I thought, there's nothing he would do for it anyways now.

DH did drain the water out of the faucets after turning it off, and he only shut off the cold water not the hot.

Our game plan: My parents are unexpectedly driving down from NH today to pick something up from Hanscom, so afterwards they'll drive to our house, turn on the water, open the faucets, hunt up our space heater and fire it up in the office below the kitchen, and stay till we get home.  That was the cold room (I opened the door to it before leaving) and where we think might be the problem.  We keep the door closed to keep the cat out because she's made some messes there (we think because the prior owners had a dog that did so - in 11 years this was the first she's really ever done deliberately).  We'll have to resolve that issue a new way going forward.

lakemom

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2015, 06:07:12 AM »
What did you find when you got home?  Water running?  Burst pipes?  Just still no water?  Don't leave us wondering!

CommonCents

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2015, 08:32:52 AM »
Hi!   Sorry for the delay.  My office has had a major personnel change this week (I work for an Executive agency, and we swore in the new Governor yesterday) so things have been busy at work.

Parents got to our house at about 4PM.  They couldn't find my heater, even though my mom tore the house apart.  Neither could I, for that matter, when I got home after work & the dentist - not sure what happened to it.  They're going to give us an extra one they have next time we see them up in NH.  So they turned the heat up more to 72 downstairs (left it 68 upstairs), turned on the water, opened the faucets and dad found a faucet in the garage he thought might have a chance at being frozen further back.  (We were pulling at straws as there is no crawl space in this house.)  He set himself up with a hair dryer until my husband got home about 6:15.  (Meanwhile, my mom got bored and organized my crafting supplies in the guest bedroom closet.)

At about 10:15PM, the kitchen faucet suddenly started working.  No slow drip to alert - it just started coming out full force.  We let it run a bit, then tamped it back.  At 11:30PM, the master bathroom faucet started the same way.  We turned the heat down less than normal overnight, to 68 I think (not 65 & 60).  When we left this morning, we turned the overnight trickle off and turned the heat down a bit more but kept it higher than usual.  (It's 20 degrees today, substantially warmer than the past two days, and we've never had a problem at these temps before.)

Looked around a few times but didn't see any evidence of leaks so we may have gotten lucky.  We'll keep an eye on it.  In the future, we'll keep the office door open when it gets colder, and when we are warned of particularly cold bursts we'll open cabinets and start the overnight trickle/keep the heat up a bit higher.  Long-term, I'd like to renovate the kitchen and would add in insulation when we do that.  (It's on a to do list, but we have to figure out what exactly we want to happen.)

lakemom

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2015, 09:59:24 AM »
glad to know nothing burst!

Exflyboy

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Re: Frozen pipes today - suggestions?
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2015, 11:27:28 PM »
yes a tiny dribble from hot and cold taps before it freezes is the solution.

Water has to lose a lot of energy to drop in temperature.. so as long as the water is a few degrees above freezing when it is dribbling out of the taps then it will be very difficult to lose enough heat to actually freeze in the pipe.

Having good insulation is only part of the solution.. even with good insulation, if the outside of the insulation is cold enough and the water is not moving, it will freeze if the temperature is low enough.

flowing a small trickle of water will normally prevent this however.

I'm a registered professional engineer in case your wondering if I know what I'm talking about..:)