Frozen pipes can add extra frustration to already freezing days. The most dangerous consequence of frozen pipes in your home is that they can burst, causing expensive repairs and water damage. Luckily, if you know the signs it is pretty easy to prevent this from happening!
Depending on the temperatures outside, pipes can take hours or days to thaw out on their own. This is plenty of time for pipes to expand and burst if not properly cared for. The first thing to do when you notice frozen pipes is to open your faucets and turn off your water valve.
Being prepared for how winter weather affects your pipes can help prevent the worst from happening. Understanding the signs of frozen pipes, how they freeze, and how you can thaw them will prevent you from having to deal with burst pipes. Follow along to prepare yourself and your pipes for the cold winter months!
Signs Of Frozen Pipes
There are several signs to look out for if you are concerned about frozen pipes. Even if you only notice one of these five signs, you should take action to prevent the pipes from freezing. Here are a few things to look out for to identify frozen pipes inside and outside your home.
The very first thing to pay attention to is the weather outside. Once the temperature drops below 20°F pipes begin to freeze. If the temperature stays like this for over 6 hours your pipes have a high chance of being frozen
When you see the weather forecast predict this temperature, it is best to take measures to keep your pipes from freezing. Such as leaving an outdoor faucet slightly open to allow water to flow. Insulated pipes are less likely to freeze, but you will still want to keep an eye out for them.
Frost On Pipes
Once the temperature has dropped and you suspect your pipes might be freezing check for frost developing on them. Frost is a telltale sign that the pipes are frozen, and once you notice this you should start thawing them immediately.
You will want to catch the freezing early before your pipes burst. The best place to start is checking for frost on pipes inside your home. Underneath the kitchen sink and basement, pipes are easy-to-reach places where you can check for this frost.
No Water Coming Out Of Faucet
This is usually the first sign homeowners notice which means their pipes are frozen. When an ice block develops in your pipes, water is unable to flow through your faucets. So if you turn on the sink and only a few drops dribble out, your pipes are frozen.
You might also hear the sound of the suction coming from your sink when there is a lack of water. When you notice this, you will want to immediately turn off your water valve. That way more water is not pulled into your pipes to be frozen like the rest.
This sign is a bit less common than the others, but you may smell rotting food when the pipes are frozen. Food and sewage are blocked from leaving the house by the frozen pipe. Which leads to it sitting and stewing in your pipes. If you smell this, your pipes may have been frozen for a while.
This is the final and most detrimental sign that your pipes have frozen. Water expands as it freezes, which can force the pipes to expand to accommodate the extra space. This is usually the final sign of frozen pipes and means your pipes are about to burst.
How Quickly Do Pipes Freeze?
When pipes freeze, the severity of the blockages largely depends on the temperatures outside. Pipes are fine on their own if the air temperature is about 32°F, but if the temperature drops below 20°F they can easily freeze up. And if the air stays like this for a while, you can have a growing problem on your hands.
Pipes can freeze easily if they are not well insulated, in this case, it could only take 3 hours for a blockage to form. But if you live in a colder area and have insulated pipes, this process could take over 6 hours. If you live in a warm area that suddenly freezes one day, you should keep an eye out for your pipes.
Will Pipes Thaw On Their Own?
Technically speaking, pipes will eventually thaw out on their own. However, it is dangerous to be passive about this thawing process. This is because the longer they are frozen, the chances the pipe will burst grows. So it is highly recommended to not wait for the pipes to thaw.
Pipes could take hours or days to thaw on their own, but it largely depends on the temperature outside. If the temperature stays below freezing for weeks at a time, your pipes will likely burst if not attended to. You can call a professional to help you if needed, but there are plenty of measures you can take on your own to that them out.
How Long Will It Take For Pipes To Unfreeze On Their Own?
There is no exact way to tell how long your pipes will take to unfreeze on their own. It depends largely on the constant temperature outside and how severely they are frozen. Pipes will begin to thaw once temperatures are above freezing for a long length of time. Which could be hours, days, weeks, or even months depending on the area.
If your pipes are located underground, it will take longer for them to unfreeze. Since the mild changes in air temperature do not penetrate the ground that easily, it will take a while for them to thaw on their own. That is why it is important to take action immediately with frozen pipes.
How To Thaw A Frozen Pipe?
There are a lot of ways to thaw a frozen pipe. The very first step you will want to take once you notice the pipe is frozen is to turn on a faucet in your home and keep it running. The movement of water will help keep ice from the building.
Then you will want to apply heat to the frozen area. Usually, this will be near the outdoor faucet, but you may have to investigate your house to find them. Keep applying heat in whatever way you can till the water pressure returns to normal. Then you should check all the faucets and take some precautions to keep the pipes from freezing in the future.
What Methods Can I Use To Unfreeze My Pipes?
There are several methods you can try with ease that will unfreeze your pipes. Often trying a combination of these efforts is best to thaw out your pipes quickly. But if you only have one of these devices on hand, they will do fine on their own! So here are a few tricks to warm up your pipes this winter.
One of the easiest ways to thaw out a pipe is to use a portable heater or heat lamp. If you know exactly where the blocked pipe is, you can easily set up the heat and leave it for an hour or so to thaw the pipe completely. It also keeps you from having to sit outside with your pipe as it thaws!
Try your best to position the heater or lamp directly on the pipe and in good proximity to the metal. You want as much heat directed to the pipe as possible to prevent it from bursting. This method is pretty quick and should take around an hour to thaw out even if the temperature outside is freezing.
Turn Up the Heat
If you are not sure where exactly the frozen pipe or clog is in your home, a helpful tip is to turn up the thermostat. This is easy to do in addition to other methods to help the pipe thaw and prevent it from freezing further. You do not need to make it unbearably hot, but you can turn it up a few degrees from normal to help the overall process.
If the blockage is small, this measure may be all you need to thaw it out! Particularly if the blockage is a bit inside the home. It will make your house a bit cozier, and help out the pipes a lot!
Electric Heating Pad
If you have an electrical heating pad on hand, this can help with your efforts to thaw your pipes! It works similarly to a portable heater but makes it easier to wrap heat around the pipe. Depending on the blockage, it may even thaw it out faster!
All you will need to do is plug in the heating pad and wrap it around the pipe. It is best to start with the faucet, then gradually move the heating pad up the pipe as sections begin to warm up. Try your best to keep the electrical outlet away from water to be safe.
If you do not have any fancy heating sources, a hair dryer will do just fine! This method takes longer than others. It also requires you to stand out in the cold. However, it is much better than letting the pipes continue to freeze and possibly burst.
This method is pretty easy to manage. You will just need to point the air dryer at the pipe and move it slightly to distribute the heat. Since this is an electrical product, you will want to avoid letting the wire come into contact with water, especially if you are holding it! The length of this process depends on the strength of the hairdryer and the severity of the blockage.
If you know the frozen pipes are within the walls of your home, you can use an infrared lamp to melt the ice away. The heat will be able to penetrate the wall and thaw out the pipe. The great thing about his method is you do not have to go outside!
Simply set up the lamp to point at the part of the wall that contains the pipes and turn it on. It should not take more than an hour or so for this to work. Test your water to make sure it flows through after you try this method.
If you do not have any heating devices in your home, do not fret! Hot towels can help thaw out frozen pipes. It is not the fastest method and it may take a few changes of towels to complete, but it works well in a pinch.
You will want to dip towels in nice hot water, then wrap them around the pipe. Once the water on the towels cools, you will want to redo the process until the pipe is thawed. You do not want to simply leave the towels, as they could freeze and stick to the pipe.
Alexis is a lifelong writer and traveler who loves collecting information with the hope of someday winning trivia night. She enjoys exploring nature’s wonders, reading historical books, and trying out new baking recipes. And as a new homeowner, she is learning alongside the readers with every article!