We rely very heavily on our home’s plumbing system. Without them, we wouldn’t have hot water, or any water, central heating, flushing toilets, or most of the essential things within a home. Yet many of us don’t do enough to protect the pipes in our plumbing systems from freezing temperatures, which often leads to poorly insulated pipes freezing. So how do you fix a frozen pipe? Can you just pour boiling water down it? The short answer is yes. So you might want to take a few notes because this will not be covered by a home warranty.
Why do pipes freeze?
If not well insulated, exterior and interior pipes freeze when the water flowing through them is affected by freezing temperatures. This causes the water to begin to solidify as it freezes, stopping the use of the pipe.
How do you know if you have frozen pipes?
We asked for a little advice here from Rider Drains. There are a few telltale signs that you have frozen pipes, so be sure to keep an eye out for these as the temperatures drop heading into autumn and winter. The most common sign of a frozen pipe is no flowing water from your taps. This suggests that somewhere in the drain pipes or elsewhere, there is a blockage caused by frozen water. You may also notice significant changes in your water pressure.
Another sign that you have frozen pipes in your home is a boiler that won’t turn on. This means losing out on hot water and central heating. If your boiler stops working and will not turn on, it is worth checking for frozen pipes before calling your landlord or a plumber, as these are often easy enough to fix.
Often, frozen pipes cause sinks to block. Should you notice that your sink is suddenly completely blocked, try using baking soda and vinegar to unblock it. Failing that, it is likely that your blocked sink is being caused by ice somewhere in your pipes.
Other signs of frozen pipes include a slow-to-flush toilet and your central heating gurgling when in use. Gurgling in a central heating system is relatively normal, but if it begins suddenly, or if it happens alongside any other symptoms of frozen pipes, then you should check through your home for a frozen pipe.
How to thaw frozen pipes
If you’re trying to safely unfreeze or thaw frozen pipes, you can pour boiling water down the pipe to thaw the ice. However, it is not recommended to pour boiling water on a frozen pipe, as this is likely to just freeze, adding to the issue. Ideally, even when pouring hot water down the drain into your frozen pipe to melt the ice inside, you should use very hot water rather than boiling water, as it is less likely to cause further damage. CheckaRoof has had the same questions asked about guttering with all the extra weight it causes. You should use a kettle or a saucepan and fill it with water, then just before the water boils, take it out, and slowly pour that down the pipe rather than actual boiling water.
If you want to tackle the issue from the outside of the pipe rather than pouring hot water down the pipe you can thaw pipes by applying heat to the pipe itself. It is important to note that whilst applying heat to the pipe you should avoid using a blowtorch, a propane heater, a propane torch, a kerosene heater, or any other open flame devices. These are huge fire hazards, and could result in you having a small house fire! You should also avoid using a space heater or fan heater, as these can be a fire hazard too.
Instead, use something like a hot water bottle, hair dryers (not on too high heat), or hot towels. Before you begin to thaw pipes, you should turn off your water supply and turn on all the faucets within your home. This prevents any water from coming out of the open taps, which must be open to allow for the melted water and potential steam to escape out of the plumbing system. You’ll be able to tell when the freeze is solved when you begin to get running water again as the frozen section melts.
The safest bet when it comes to thawing frozen pipes, particularly if you’re not a well-versed DIY expert, is calling a professional plumber to help you thaw frozen pipes. This is especially important if the frozen pipes are in an exterior wall, as this will require some more construction-based work.
How to prevent frozen pipes
There are a range of things that you can do to prevent frozen pipes. The easiest way to protect your pipes from reaching their freezing point is to insulate them. You can insulate your pipes using foam insulation in a process called lagging, and you can insulate your home to ensure that you protect interior pipes from freezing. This involves sealing any cracks in the walls around your home and ensuring you keep out any drafts. You might find that you need to reseal windows or doors in order to best keep your home warm.
You might also want to keep your thermostat at a warm temperature all day during the winter, even when you aren’t home. This makes sure that it is warm water flowing through your pipes, reducing the risk of frozen pipes. Likewise, if you keep your taps dripping cold water slightly during the coldest days, the water flow through your pipes will help to combat any freezing. However, this might be reflected in your water meter and heating bills, so be extremely careful and perhaps consider other options first. Most DIY methods will cost less than these options.
Why do you need to thaw pipes?
It is important to pour hot water, use a hot towel, or whatever else you can do to unfreeze pipes and melt ice in order to remove any ice blockage within the pipes, as otherwise, the pipes are unusable. Frozen plumbing makes it hard to use our faucets, boiler, and toilet within the home, and until the ice melts, these problems with the plumbing will continue.
Additionally, as water freezes, it expands. This can lead to burst pipes, which can be an expensive problem and often results in flooding. If the flooding happens near electrical equipment, this can be even more expensive and dangerous.
It is essential that homeowners insulate exposed pipes and regularly run hot and cold water through the drain and water pipes to ensure that the plumbing system does not freeze and to protect the home from frozen drain pipes and frozen water pipes.
Whilst you can use boiling water to thaw out a frozen pipe, it’s not the recommended method as it is a major fire hazard. The best way to thaw pipes is to use low heat over a longer period of time, or to call a professional plumber if you’re unsure. You can prevent frozen pipes by sealing any cracks in your home and keeping the thermostat on a warm temperature. Finally, you need to thaw pipes in order to avoid burst pipes and expensive flooding.