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Safely Thaw Frozen Pipes
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By James Jarman
Jim Jarman, Agronomy Specialist
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By James Jarman
Jan. 2, 2013 1:49 p.m.

Safely Thaw Frozen Pipes
Our sudden blast of winter cold may have caught some of us off guard protect our running water. Here are some suggestions so you can safely help yourself. Of course it is Missouri, so by the time this blog is read, we may be thinking it is more like spring. Just wait it will get cold again.
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. Likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation. These sites should go on a “to do” or “honey do” list for extra insulation.
A trickle can mean hope unless it is water draining from pipes located above the faucet. Leave the faucet open to see if the trickle decreases meaning draining water or stays the same meaning the trickle may slowly open the freeze blockage. Otherwise, follow the instructions below.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, and electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  • If there are pipes prone to freezing (having frozen more than once) consider wrapping pipes with heating tape designed specifically for freeze prone pipes, adding additional insulation between pipes and the cold or rerouting pipes to avoid cold spots.
  • For more information, contact a licensed plumber, building professional or local water providers, your home insurance provider or search frozen water pipes on a favorite search web site including www.extension.missouri.edu.

    Sources: Ronn Phillips, Associate Professor Architectural Studies, 573-882-4575 or Email: PhillipsR@missouri.edu and Jim Jarman, 573-642-0755

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