Just because you have frozen pipes does not necessarily mean you’ll have to call a plumbing specialist Roto-Rooter in Cleveland to have the pipes repaired or replaced. If your water isn’t running and it’s cold outside, your pipes may be frozen, but you may still have time to thaw them out before any permanent damage is caused. Thawing out pipes can be done using a heat gun, hair dryer, heat tape, or by using warm, damp rags. Depending on which method you choose, there are certain precautions that should be taken to prevent injury and further damage to your home.
Before starting any thawing method, be sure to open any faucet connected to the frozen pipe. Opening faucets with frozen pipes is important for two reasons. First, pipes usually burst from built up pressure and not from the expanding ice alone, so opening the faucet can relieve pressure. Second, once you start melting the ice, steam will be generated and can lead to pressure and bursting if it can’t escape out of the faucet.
If you are using any method that involves plugging a tool or device into an outlet, like a hair dryer, heat gun, or heat tape, be sure that the outlet you’re using is CGFI. These outlets automatically monitor the current and will trip if the current does anything unusual. Since you will be using electric tools so close to water, the chances of electrocution are higher, so it is important to have the power shut off almost instantly if an accident occurs.
When it comes to hot things, fire might be the first thing that comes to mind, but don’t use open flames in any attempt to thaw pipes. Whether you’re using matches or a blowtorch, the flames can create more problems than they’ll solve. All it takes is a moment of contact with wood or paper, and your house can be set on fire.
It’s impossible to tell how much damage has been caused to your pipes if the water isn’t running, so when your pipes start to thaw out, be ready for any possible leaks. Your water main shutoff valve is your best friend when you have a leak, so know where it is and be ready to run to it in case a pipe or joint begins leaking.
Heat tape is one of the slower methods of thawing out a pipe, but it is designed not only to thaw your pipes, but to prevent freezing in the future. It’s important to check that your heat tape comes from a reputable manufacturer, has been properly tested, and that it has been installed correctly and doesn’t ever fold over on itself. As long as you follow these precautions, you can safely thaw out frozen pipes on your own.