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Thread: frozen pipes

  1. #1
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    Default frozen pipes

    i have a frozen pipe for my baseboard heat...i burn wood mostly but it was -18 last night and one or other pipes froze...how do i unthaw them...my system runs hot water through copper lines to each baseboard through out the house if that helps.its 55 degrees inside the house.i have two zones one for the main floor and the other upstairs..the zone up stairs is working its downstars that is frozen somewhere thinking about putting my snowmobile gear on to stay warm...im more worried about my 15month old daughter staying warm than anything.I do have space heater running where i think the pipe is frozen. any suggetions?

  2. #2
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    I don't have a good answer for your current situation, but you should look to see if there is any insulation between your out side wall and the pipe (I am assuming this is on a out side wall) as this should not happen. There are plenty of other savvy guys on this site that will chime in and give you suggestions soon.

    Good luck with the little one!!!

  3. #3
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    When you get the pipes thawed make sure you watch for signs of water leaks. The pipes may have split.

  4. #4
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    Default

    yes the pipe in question is along the fundation of the house....

  5. #5
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    Default

    Turn on your back up heat supply. Hope you have one. Then start worrying about the frozen pipe. Heat tape works good but I would try and insulate the area first. Like was said before check for water leaks once you get it thawed....

  6. #6
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    bigdaddy's the expert but I do pay attention sometimes around here. He's snowmobiling so I'll tell you what I DO know...(2 seconds worth!?)

    hemi - U have to use an outside source to thaw that pipe out - space heater, electric heater. You may get lucky and the pipe may not have split...but like was said, be sure to be on guard for leaks/breaks and know where your valves are for shutting off. You'll also have to check the baseboard in question and make sure no leaks. If they were the old cast iron radiators, you'd have a more chance of cracks in them - which sucks!

    For outside walls, you will for SURE need to insulate that piping that's up against!! I know bigdaddy buys it buy the rolls...but would think is something is easy enough to get at hardware or chain home improvement, fleet farm/farm fleet.

    What's your temp for the upstairs zone? I'd go ahead and turn that up so you at least have a floor of your house nice and toasty for the 15 mos old!

    Good luck! Wish I could be of more help!

    wtg

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by windingtrailgal View Post
    bigdaddy's the expert but I do pay attention sometimes around here. He's snowmobiling so I'll tell you what I DO know...(2 seconds worth!?)

    hemi - U have to use an outside source to thaw that pipe out - space heater, electric heater. You may get lucky and the pipe may not have split...but like was said, be sure to be on guard for leaks/breaks and know where your valves are for shutting off. You'll also have to check the baseboard in question and make sure no leaks. If they were the old cast iron radiators, you'd have a more chance of cracks in them - which sucks!

    For outside walls, you will for SURE need to insulate that piping that's up against!! I know bigdaddy buys it buy the rolls...but would think is something is easy enough to get at hardware or chain home improvement, fleet farm/farm fleet.

    What's your temp for the upstairs zone? I'd go ahead and turn that up so you at least have a floor of your house nice and toasty for the 15 mos old!

    Good luck! Wish I could be of more help!

    wtg
    upstairs is at 70 degrees...wood stove is cranking along with the fireplace.Its 68* on the main floor but is going to be another cold one tonight -10 at least...i have a space heater on the pipe i think is frozen

  8. #8
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    Default

    is this the first winter in the house for you?

  9. #9
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    Northern Indiana
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    The pipe probably froze at an elbow, or under the house (if there is a crawl space).

    You need to get heat on it soon, or the frozen spot could continue to spread.

  10. #10
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    Huntley, Illinois
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    Heat tape works, dont use any type of blowtorch unless you want to make the evening news. Suggest borrowing your wifes hair dryer, that is one of the safest methods to get heat concentrated on a section of pipe

  11. #11
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    yes this is the first year in the house......is there a way to keep circulating the water once unfrozen so this does not happen again but without burning LP?

  12. #12
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    sometimes on a boiler there is a switch where the aquastat or thermostat attaches that you can switch from automatic (signal from the thermostat) and just "run" or "circulate". Ive seen this from time to time dealing with hot water storage tanks with a boiler to heat them. Otherwise, if you can find the freeze, you might try the space heater, heat tape, etc., bottom line, you may need to find a plumber with a pipe thaw machine in your area.
    Good luck

  13. #13
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    I am a HVAC Engineer and Licensed Boiler Operator with over 25yrs of design and practical hands on application experience.

    I would simply thaw out the system with space heaters but make sure when doing so you stay with it and watch to make sure the piping has not split. If you’re lucky and you get it thawed out with no leaks etc., drain the system gauging how many gallons the system holds (you will see why on the below link) then refill with glycol (antifreeze). (See the information on this web site link below). Note: DO NOT USE AUTOMOTIVE ANTIFREEZE!

    If you thaw it out and spring a leak then drain the system, make the repair and follow the instructions on the link below as to which glycol (antifreeze) to use and how to dilute it properly.

    Note: DO NOT USE AUTOMOTIVE ANTIFREEZE!

    If you refill with the proper diluted amount of glycol (antifreeze) you will not have to worry about freeze ups for quite some time.

    http://www.crownsolutions.com/lib/cr...ZC8Vupyuud.pdf

    If the link above doesn't work let me know and I will try and repost it or you can email me at : d.wagner_555monroe@sbcglobal.net and I will get you the information you will need.

    Good Luck,
    Dan

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wags View Post
    I am a HVAC Engineer and Licensed Boiler Operator with over 25yrs of design and practical hands on application experience.

    I would simply thaw out the system with space heaters but make sure when doing so you stay with it and watch to make sure the piping has not split. If you’re lucky and you get it thawed out with no leaks etc., drain the system gauging how many gallons the system holds (you will see why on the below link) then refill with glycol (antifreeze). (See the information on this web site link below). Note: DO NOT USE AUTOMOTIVE ANTIFREEZE!

    If you thaw it out and spring a leak then drain the system, make the repair and follow the instructions on the link below as to which glycol (antifreeze) to use and how to dilute it properly.

    Note: DO NOT USE AUTOMOTIVE ANTIFREEZE!

    If you refill with the proper diluted amount of glycol (antifreeze) you will not have to worry about freeze ups for quite some time.

    http://www.crownsolutions.com/lib/cr...ZC8Vupyuud.pdf

    If the link above doesn't work let me know and I will try and repost it or you can email me at : d.wagner_555monroe@sbcglobal.net and I will get you the information you will need.

    Good Luck,
    Dan
    What wags says. And again - Do Not use automotive antifreeze. I have enough boiler antifreeze in my system to protect to about 0. If you do end up having a split line replace it with PEX and insulate the area that gave you trouble to begin with. It sounds as though whoever installed your system to begin with botched the job. The general rule of thumb is to NEVER run any type of water line anywhere near a foundation or outside wall. Come to think of it if you do have a split line abandon it and re-route it into a better area. Pex is cheap and quick. If I were you I would take my young-un to a different location until you get squared away. Good luck.

  15. #15
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    Sylvania Ohio
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    Default

    Question: basement or crawl space and where is frozen pipe?

  16. #16
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    I agree with wags also Polypropolene glycol (RV antifreeze) is reasonable enough compared to repairs. You will need a small pump to get static pressure (no pump running) up to around 12 psi, that gives you around 25 ft of lift to get flow to the second story easily. Make sure when you make the conversion to remove the make up water feed line to the system, this will prevent backflow contamination to you drinking water. If your system pressure is low in the future, you will need to pump in enough to get your pressure back up to 12 psi. There is probably a 30 psi pressure relief on your boiler so don't get crazy on your pressure and always get system up to running temp before you make decision to add, expansion of fluid will usually make a mess through relief when you're in bed or at work.

  17. #17
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    Marquette Mi
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    You said you have two zones and the lower one is froze right.. Could it be so simple as you have a bad zone valve and it is not opening, thus no heat in that zone and not froze.
    just my 2 cents

  18. #18
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    its day 2 and no luck yet....i have no basement... the pipe does run along the outside of the house.upstairs is working...we called a tech yesterday and said we need to wait for the pipes to unthaw before he can add antifreeze to the system.

  19. #19
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    Sounds like a valve failure is possible here. You can use a torch to put massive amounts of heat to the pipe which will eventually thaw the pipe if it is frozen...as I have done that before, though it takes a lot longer than you would think it would take to cook the pipe water hot enough to thaw it out.

    Not an expert here but a frozen pipe that is frozen for the first time probably won't have expanded enough to break the pipe...just might have plugged it. Leaving it there so that it thaws and expands again will very likely break the pipe.

    In a system that is NOT hooked to your fresh water supply, I guess I don't know why you could not use automotive anti freeze...as I did it for years without problems.

    The answer is to insulate the pipe where it runs along the foundation and likely air leakage point so that it does not take a direct hit from outside air infiltration.

    But the best is to run some sort of anti freeze in the system so that it won't ever happen again, even if the heat fails.

    Lastly you could wire the pump to run with a manual switch on cold nights to keep the water from freezing.

    All of these should work.

    I would like to know why those pro's on here say not to use automotive antifreeze in the pipe?

  20. #20
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    Different properties between Glycols, open the link I posted it explains the differences.

  21. #21
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    We have a pipe thawing machine at our shop looks like a battery charger. Put a clamp on supply and one on return turn on 5 minutes later water flowing again. There has to be a rental place or a local shop by you that has one. Good luck!

  22. #22
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    Do not use automotive-type glycols. These glycols are formulated with silicates which
    tend to gel, reducing heat-transfer efficiency.

    All glycols produce acids in the presence of air (oxidants). The acids can
    reduce pH and cause corrosion. When the system pH drops below 7, rust will form on
    any ferrous metal, and nonferrous metals start to corrode. For HVAC applications,
    glycols are formulated with passivating and buffering corrosion inhibitors to counteract
    acids formed by the oxidation of glycols.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by hemi_newman View Post
    … we need to wait for the pipes to unthaw
    UNthaw = refreeze?

    (I tried, but just couldn't resist. The devil made me do it! )

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter View Post
    We have a pipe thawing machine at our shop looks like a battery charger. Put a clamp on supply and one on return turn on 5 minutes later water flowing again. There has to be a rental place or a local shop by you that has one. Good luck!
    I've used a regular arc welder also. If your plumber is too busy - fire him and find another, as this is an emergency. "Frozen and potentially burst pipes." Installing glycol should be way down on your list - get those pipes thawed, and be ready to valve things off. Thaw with your fingers crossed, but be prepared with the shop vac. If you don't know how to sweat copper under not so perfect conditions, get that new plumber to your house.

  25. #25
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    im back in business....i cranked the heat up yesterday...and she is running again....furance guy is coming today or tomorrow to add more antifreeze...no leaks to be found either...thank god.

  26. #26
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    Please be sure you have an air gap back flow preventer.

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