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Old 01-23-2013, 07:25 PM
 
240 posts, read 214,652 times
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Default Thawing Frozen Pipes ?

Got some frozen pipes to deal with. Managed to thaw some with a hair dryer. The problem is the water coming into my house is coming into the laundry room. The laundry room is an ice box. I've tried electric heaters from Home Depot and now Lowe's to no avail. So what I'm doing now is letting my faucets drip with hot/cold water. Problem solved until the weather warms up a bit.

But here is the unresolved problem: I have a pipe going from my house through my basement wall to my neighbor's house. There that pipe connects to their water so they can have water. It comes in right above where their pipe connected to their old (and now disconnected) water meter.

It seems like my best bet is to either wait for the weather to get warmer for them to have water or for them to replace that pipe. I mean I've tried the whole hot towel thing and I'm about to use one of those plumber's torches next. Does anyone have any other ideas?
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:03 PM
 
Location: East of Seattle, originally from SF Bay Area
14,085 posts, read 16,443,863 times
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I won't ask for details but as a person that worked for utilities, I can tell you that in most places that connection to the other house is not to code, probably illegal and if the city finds out would start charging you double for sewer.

As for the thawing, once you have at least a drip coming out then you can make better progress. The water coming in from the street is above freezing, so start where the water is coming out and heat back toward where the pipe enters the house. If you thaw the other way, bits of ice will get moved into Ts and elbows and stop it up. You want to keep the water, even if just s trickle, flowing.

A hair dryer is slow, heat gun would be better.
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:17 PM
 
737 posts, read 558,572 times
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I'm with Hemlock. Water to your neighbor and bypassing the meter is theft of services. I'm not touching that one.
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:07 PM
 
42,477 posts, read 47,596,826 times
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It's not theft of services. Someone is paying the water bill. It's not bypassing the OP's water meter. Sewage bills are based on water usage so it's not theft of sewage treatment either. Water companies don't care who is using the water as long as someone is paying for it. Water and sewage isn't like cable TV where it can be split and used for free. What the OP describes is a line going from his water meter to the neighbors. It's being measured and billed.

Regardless, I'm an expert on frozen pipes. Of course, it's best to avoid their freezing entirely. It's often possible to avoid without trickling the water. If you can figure out where they are freezing, in this case your laundry room, you've won half the battle. Since heaters didn't work, that means they are likely freezing in the walls. If you get the heaters going AND blow a fan into the area crevice where they freeze, you can get air circulation that can prevent the freezing.

If we forget to do this when the temps are low and the pipes freeze, this is how we unfreeze them. We release the pressure by turning on the faucets (your neighbors should do this so the pipes don't burst in your laundry room) and blow the fans. It takes some time. Sometimes an hour, sometimes a few hours, depending on how badly they are frozen. Hair dryers or blow torches wouldn't work because they freeze somewhere those things can't reach. For us, we don't need to use space heaters. Just circulating the air into the wall space does the trick.

Thanks for this thread. I turned my fans on last night, but forgot to turn them on again tonight. Your thread reminded me to do that before I go to sleep .

Good luck!
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:09 PM
 
21,477 posts, read 35,383,360 times
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Default Do NOT use a TORCH!!!!

A torch is NOT appropriate for thawing frozen pipes! You can literally create a "steam powered missile" as the concentrated heat can boil trapped water and create dangerous pressures inside the pipes.

Use nothing hotter than something you could put your own hand in front of -- 150 degrees or less!

There are electrical heating cables that can be wrapped around pipes to keep them from freezing in unheated spaces.

Amazon.com: Easy Heat AHB-019 Cold Weather Valve and Pipe Heating Cable, 9 feet: Patio, Lawn & Garden
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:37 PM
 
Location: The Middle
5,229 posts, read 7,776,015 times
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In our first house that had a crawl space we had the same issue. We used those wraps that Chet referred to. They worked quite well.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:50 PM
 
240 posts, read 214,652 times
Reputation: 88
Whoa whoa, absolutely no meter is jumped. The only thing that has jumped is my monthly bill. You gotta be real careful before you start throwing around words like "illegal" or "theft of services." It's very easy to assume.

I tried the blow torch and didn't work. I dislike it and it makes me feel very uncomfortable. So I've stopped and I've since looked at all of these replies. I won't be using it any more. I did manage to get my vent-less gas heater to work. It's really warming up my laundry room (where the pipes come into the house) rather nicely. But I gotta say, I'm not comfortable letting it run overnight while I sleep. Maybe, I'm being needlessly paranoid.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:53 PM
 
Location: Not far from Fairbanks, AK
12,912 posts, read 13,858,109 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fallingwater View Post
In our first house that had a crawl space we had the same issue. We used those wraps that Chet referred to. They worked quite well.
A heat trace should work, but I would use a flat cable.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:56 PM
 
240 posts, read 214,652 times
Reputation: 88
do you mean like "heat tape?" Because I've used some of that before and it doesn't seem to do a whole lot.
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:05 AM
 
Location: Not far from Fairbanks, AK
12,912 posts, read 13,858,109 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayTwila View Post
do you mean like "heat tape?" Because I've used some of that before and it doesn't seem to do a whole lot.
Yes, but heat traces are loosely wrapped around the pipe and left plugged into an electrical outlet. The best ones are more expensive, but are self-regulating (control their own temperature to avoid overheating). Het traces are widely used in the interior of Alaska. Every home has one on the water pipe coming into the house through a wall.
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