Winters in Anoka, MN can be brutal. With daytime temperatures rarely rising above 28 degrees Fahrenheit, this region can be especially hard on residential plumbing. Although insulating your pipes and keeping your heater on are both great ways to stave this problem off, the unexpected can and does happen. If you have frozen pipes in your home, you may be wondering how long they’ll take to thaw out naturally. The answer you’re looking for varies according to local conditions and other factors.
Freezing Conditions May Persist
There’s no set formula for determining how quickly your pipes will gradually thaw out on their own. Different environmental conditions are bound to produce different results. The same cold temperatures that caused your pipes to freeze in the first place could persist for days or even weeks. Without intervention, your pipes probably won’t thaw out until a significant change in the weather occurs. In Anoka, you might be waiting for months for your pipes to defrost naturally.
The Location of Frozen Pipes Matters
Even as outside temperatures rise, your pipes could still take a considerable amount of time to thaw. Pipes that travel underground will take the longest, especially if your yard, walkways, and other outdoor areas are still covered in a heavy layer of snow, ice, or frost. Comparatively, in-wall pipes within your home might start unfreezing as soon as you crank your heater up.
Don’t Get Handy With Your Hair Dryer
When your pipes are frozen, it’s important to act fast. After all, even if you don’t have a burst pipe right now, the longer that your pipes remain frozen, the more likely they are to sustain permanent damage. As freezing water continues to expand, it will eventually exceed the expansion capabilities of your pipes. This can cause pipes to rupture and crack several hours after freezing was first noticed.
Without preventative measures in place, pipes typically start freezing when outside temperatures are 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. If they are allowed to freeze completely, the water inside of your pipes will fully solidify and could exert pressure as high as 40,000 PSI.
One common solution for rapidly thawing pipes is to warm them up with a hair dryer. There are several reasons why this may be a bad idea for your home. To start, not all of your frozen pipes are guaranteed to be exposed. You won’t be able to access in-wall pipes or underground pipes with this technique. Moreover, it’s impossible to know whether or not the structural integrity of your pipes has already been compromised, given that the water they contain is still frozen. Rapidly thawing a ruptured or cracked pipe can result in significant indoor water damage.
It’s also important to note that applying high heat directly to frozen pipes can actually cause structural damage where there was none before. The rapid contraction that significant temperature changes produce can severely tax already-stressed materials. Thawing out frozen pipes with a hair dryer is hardly an exact science. It can prove especially problematic when frozen pipes are already nearing the end of their lifespans. You should additionally avoid using blow torches or directly applying boiling water to your pipes. Although fast action is required, your very first step should be calling a plumber.
Electric Current Thawing: How Plumbers Do It
While there may be things that you can do to troubleshoot the issue before your plumber arrives, it’s best to get needs-specific guidance from a knowledgeable professional before attempting any self-managed troubleshooting techniques. Turning on the water at your tap and having nothing come out is a very likely sign that you have a frozen pipe. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you know exactly where the frozen pipe is.
We start our work by determining whether or not the affected pipes have already burst. If there are ruptured pipes in your home, we’ll turn off the main water valve to prevent serious damage before we proceed. Their next order of business is to track down the affected plumbing. You might have a frozen pipe right under your sink, or you may have pipes frozen behind your walls, traveling underground, or connected directly to the sewer main. Underground pipes that run directly under shower drains can sometimes be resolved by slowly heating them back up with warm water. Frozen underground pipes that travel away from the home and to the sewer main are another matter entirely.
Once the frozen pipe or pipes have been identified, we can use electric current thawing to restore full pipe functionality within minutes. This entails pushing high-current AC electricity through your plumbing at a low voltage. It allows us to rapidly thaw copper and iron pipes without causing any structural damage. In some instances, electric current thawing also makes it possible to treat in-wall pipes and underground pipes in an entirely non-invasive way.
However, to work, electric current thawing must be performed on pipes that have liquid water on one side of the section that’s frozen and a functional, open faucet on the other. If these conditions exist, when even just a small film of ice at the pipe interior has melted, the warmer water on the other side of the blockage will flow through. It will also hasten the melting process.
Our team can assess the feasibility of this strategy for each blockage that your home has. We can also leverage other strategies for quickly thawing frozen pipes in areas that aren’t qualified for electric current thawing.
Steam Thawing and Hot Water Jetting
Hydro jetting is a popular and incredibly effective technique for clearing blocked pipes when they’re situated behind walls, underground, or in otherwise inaccessible areas. It’s non-invasive, and it also leaves pipes absolutely clean. In instances in which pipes are frozen, hot water jetting can thaw them quickly and safely. Hot water jetting is the most likely choice if your frozen pipes are underground and traveling toward the sewer main.
Steam thawing is a common choice for thawing pipes in homes with septic systems. This method works similarly to hot water jetting but uses steam to facilitate melting rather than high-powered jets of hot water.
How to Know If Your Pipes Are Freezing Before They Freeze
If you have exposed pipes anywhere in your home that aren’t insulated, periodically check them for frost. Frosty pipes are never a good sign during winter. If temperatures have yet to fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in your area, do yourself a favor and insulate them or have them insulated by a professional now. Spying frost is also a good indication that you should turn your heater up. Exposed pipes at the building exterior will benefit from the warmth that your heater produces via your exterior walls.
One of the most obvious signs of a frozen pipe is turning your faucet on and having absolutely nothing come out. You may hear a slight sucking sound when you turn the valve. If no water follows this, close the valve right away.
Surprisingly, another likely sign of frozen pipes is foul drain odors. The more pungent your drains are, the more likely you are to experience a whole-house backup. This is the smell of rotting food and other organic debris that is unable to make it through the pipes that lead to the municipal sewer system.
Throughout Anoka, MN and the surrounding area, Liberty Comfort Systems has been a trusted provider of heating, cooling, and plumbing services for many years. We also offer duct cleaning, indoor air quality, and electrical services. If you have frozen pipes, we’ve got answers. Give us a call today!