How to warm a frozen water supply: an overview of the most effective methods

Vasily Borutsky
Checked by a specialist: Vasily Borutsky
Author: Elena Nikolaeva
Last update: August 2019

Is it familiar to you when the tap water supply stops at a negative temperature on the street? Such a problem arises in your house with the onset of a cold pore, but you do not know how to quickly fix it? To fight, you need to choose an effective method of resuming the water supply network. Do you agree?

We will tell you how to warm a frozen pipeline and how to prevent a problem situation in the future. Let's talk about effective methods that allow you to quickly restore the water supply on a cold winter day for sanitary purposes and cooking.

Our article provides a selection of the best ways to help deal with this trouble on your own. The methods for pipelines of various materials are considered. So that you can better understand the nuances of warming, we picked up visual photos and thematic videos with a detailed description of recommendations for saving the water supply from ice captivity.

Causes of System Freezing

With a sharp onset of frost, supplemented by strong winds, cases of freezing autonomous plumbing systems with the formation of ice plugs inside them, they are often found.

Water frozen as a result of improper installation or operation of the pipeline will, at best, make it impossible to use the system, and at worst, it will force to eliminate the breakthrough.

System freezing problem
The problem of pipe freezing is more relevant for owners of summer cottages and private sector houses, the water supply pipelines of which pass along the street

There may be several reasons for the freezing of water in a water supply system.

The most basic among them:

  • extremely low outdoor temperatures;
  • laying pipes to a shallower depth than the level of soil freezing;
  • insufficient insulation of the pipeline;
  • low or even zero water consumption.

At night or for a longer period, when the owners do not use the water supply, the water in the pipes remains stationary. At subzero temperatures, it quickly freezes.

Freezing of insulated taps
Not only pipelines can freeze, but also untimely shut off taps that supply water to both the unheated basement and the yard

A pipe located in frozen ground, after passing warm streams, begins to cool, and after a short period of time acquires a low temperature. Small portions of water begin to freeze and crystallize as they approach, at some point clogging the entire section of the pipe completely.

How to find a problem area?

The most difficult moment in this matter is to determine the place of freezing in an open area water supply systems. Experienced masters advise when inspecting and probing the accessible part of the route to focus on temperature sensations.

How to determine the location of the cork
It is not difficult to determine the place of the ice plug in a plastic pipeline when probing: a characteristic crunch is heard within the confined area when trying to bend the pipe slightly

Water pipes usually freeze in areas where pipes come close to the surface of the earth. Vulnerable to frost are also technical wells, unheated basements.

It is noticed that concrete freezes faster than soil strata. Therefore, if the basement was unreliably insulated or ajar during a period of severe frost, it is quite natural that the pipeline running through it froze.

Choosing a solution to the problem
If it is not possible to determine the freezing area, it is better to immediately abandon the idea of ​​breaking the ice jam mechanically

If it is not possible to “calculate” a specific area, use the available methods at once at several most probable freezing places.

Effective solutions to the problem

Water supply can be thawed by external heat, or by defrosting from the inside. Each specific case depends on the length of the frozen area and the material from which water pipes, and therefore requires the use of different means.

Despite the fact that ice with the same mass is more voluminous than water, in the framework of its state of aggregation, subject to the laws of physics, it expands before it melts.

Metal pipe rupture
To reduce the risk of pipe rupture during the thawing period of ice plugs, it is necessary to reduce the pressure on the walls of the structure by carefully opening the taps

Before starting work, it is mandatory to open the water tap or “vent” after the valve at the inlet in order to determine the effectiveness of the actions taken from the water flowing from it.

Method # 1 - using hot water

If the system freezes in an open area at entering the house, or inside an unheated basement, the easiest way to warm a section of the water supply is to treat it outside with boiling water. Hot water saved water pipes from freezing at all times.

To do this, wrap the pipe in several layers with rags and cuts of old rags that absorb moisture well. A wet rag will extend the contact time of the pipe walls with water.

Defrosting the system under hot water
A rag-wrapped area is poured with hot water in several approaches until the fabric gets wet and the ice under it begins to melt

When warming up a frozen section of the pipeline, it is important not to damage it. Areas of construction that do not require heating must be covered with a heat insulating material. This will prevent the accumulation of pieces of ice moving along the pipeline with water.

Apply this method only in enclosed spaces and with the open method of laying the pipeline. And this technology is suitable only for steel pipelines. The system located underground will have to be heated with boiling water for at least 12 hours.

Method # 2 - heating with a building hairdryer

The desired effect can also be achieved with the help of hot air created by a powerful building hair dryer. The method is used for heating frozen sections of the pipeline in those places where it is quite easy to get to them, for example, when the system is laid inside the building.

Pipeline heating with hot air
In order to melt water along the shell of the pipeline, the surface of the structure is blown from all sides by a stream of hot air directed by the nozzle

To create conditions for promoting ice accumulation along the pipe, it is necessary to evenly distribute the flow of hot air, without forgetting to open all the valves first.

Consider that the building hair dryer gives out temperature which range can reach from 100 to 650 ° C. Therefore, it cannot be used for pipes made of polymeric materials.

To strengthen the effect, while reducing heat loss, helps the construction of a makeshift protective casing around the heated area. It will reflect heat, evenly distributing it over the entire surface of the insulated area.

For this, a small pavilion is temporarily being built, the walls of which are made of the same film or metal shields.

When warming up the pipeline, special attention should be paid to the fittings inlets, bends and contractions, as even tiny ice floes can get stuck inside them. The main thing is to leave the tap open.

When heating steel pipes, some craftsmen use open fire methods using a gas burner or blowtorch.

But this method can only be used with open visibility of the pipes. And the efficiency of using a blowtorch is not too high, since it can take up to several hours to warm up even a short section.

Method # 3 - using electric current

You can cope with ice caps with a welding machine. The principle of operation of the device is based on the fact that the metal of which the pipe is made is a conductor.

Under the influence of the created electric field, the electrons begin to move in a given direction, colliding with ions, they transfer their energy to them. That, in turn, turns into heat, which is released outside.

Heat release by metal
Under the influence of current, the metal heats up and releases heat, which is transferred to the ice inside the pipe, gradually melting it

The terminals of the off welding machine are fixed to the ends of the frozen section. First, the power regulator is set to the minimum, and then, gradually increasing it, turn on the equipment for about 30-40 seconds.

After a short pause, the manipulations are repeated. Depending on the degree of freezing, the current can be adjusted less / more. As the power increases, it is necessary to periodically check the degree of wall heating.

Safety measures when working with the unit
When working with the device, it is important to observe safety precautions: do not touch the pipe with bare hands, do all work in thick rubber gloves

As soon as the process of melting is activated, first one drop, and then a thin stream of water will flow from the tap. There is no need to completely melt the entire site. It is sufficient to provide an uninterrupted thin stream of water. And moving water will already help melt the remnants of not thawed ice.

The welding machine is used only for heating stainless, steel, copper and other types of pipes made of metal alloys. Using the device on polypropylene products is pointless. After all, plastic is not a conductor. The only thing you get in the end is a damaged pipeline.

Method # 4 - “soldier's boiler” for plastic

The easiest way to heat a plastic pipe is to use a two-core copper wire with a cross section of 2.5 mm. By the principle of operation, it is similar to a conventional boiler.

Homemade boiler in action
Due to the structure immersed directly in the pipe, the water will “boil” directly in the system; the master’s task is to provide fast flow of thawed water

Water, in which salts are present, is a weak electrolyte. Therefore, in order to heat it, it is only necessary to immerse a pair of electrodes into it, and then apply voltage to them.

For this, the conductors of the wire are disconnected:

  1. The first core is first bent to the side.
  2. The second core is exposed and wrapped around the pipe, forming 5-6 turns.
  3. Once again, they take the first core, expose them and wrap them around the pipe in the form of coils.
  4. Connect the plug to the other end of the wire.
  5. The created workpiece is pushed into the pipeline until it hits the ice and fed from the mains.

When forming the turns and placing them on the surface of the pipe, it is important to ensure that they do not touch, otherwise a short circuit will occur at the moment of contact. Ideally, the distance between the turns of the wires should be at least 2-3 mm.

You can also use a compressor to blow melt water.

Method # 5 - heating the pipeline from the inside

For extended heating water system pipinghaving several bends in its path, you can apply the method of exposure from the inside. This method is also effective in defrosting sewer pipes.

To make the device you will need:

  • elastic wire D2-4 mm;
  • hydraulic level tube;
  • Esmarch's irrigator;
  • bucket;
  • insulating tape.

To assemble the structure, the end of the wire is attached to the hydraulic level tube, fixing the elements with electrical tape. To obtain a more rigid structure, the end of the wire is bent. The end of the tube should be 3-5 centimeters longer than the wire.

One end of the tube with the wire is pushed into the water supply until it stops, and the second free end is connected to the Esmarch mug. If the pipeline is connected by fittings, they must be unscrewed in order to assess how frozen the structure is.

The arrangement of the heating structure
When arranging such a design, it is necessary to take care in advance of collecting melt water at the outlet, putting an empty bucket for this purpose

Esmarch's mug is filled with hot water and attached to the tube. The hot water flowing out of the rubber tank will enter the pipeline, warming up the icy water in it.

In the process of warming up the pipeline, it is only necessary to push pieces of ice further with a wire.As a result of heat treatment, the water in the receiving bucket should be slightly larger than the volume that was poured for defrosting.

Be prepared for the fact that this method is quite time-consuming. It will take about 60 minutes to warm up one running meter of the pipe. But then the costs of implementing this method are minimal.

This method is a simplified version of washing pipes with hot water, the temperature of which reaches 150 ° C. This procedure is performed by specialized organizations. They carry out preventive flushing of pipes, supplying hot water under high pressure within 100 Atm.

Method # 6 - professional equipment

In winter, when there is an urgent need to enjoy water facilitieswithout spending several hours on her resuscitation, you will have to use professional equipment. The use of special equipment, the apparatus, will help to quickly eliminate the formed ice plugs. "The Dragon".

For this, the mites of the apparatus are connected to the ends of the area to be heated. After checking the fluid pressure in the system, turn on the device for several minutes. Depending on the degree of freezing of the pipes, the period of continuous operation of the device can be 20-40 minutes.

Dragon unit in the fight against frozen ice
The device produces the desired effect by passing through a designated section of electric current reaching a mark of 400 A

The current generated by the device depends on its modification. Moreover, any model is equipped with effective protection, which ensures electrical safety of the device.

If it is necessary to defrost a long section of the pipeline, experienced craftsmen recommend using several devices at the same time.

Heat guns against ice caps
In addition to the "Dragon", heat guns are widely used for external influences, which are of two types: electric and gas

To eliminate ice plugs in plastic pipes, apply steam generators and hydrodynamic flushing apparatus. But they are used only if there is an opportunity to gain access to the inside of the structure.

In addition, this technique is limited by the length of the cable, and therefore, in some situations, the pipeline has to be disconnected.

Steam generator - professional equipment
The steam generator creates steam, which, under high pressure, is directed along the sleeve into the cavity of the pipeline and melts the ice plug, moving it deeper

A heat-resistant sleeve equipped with a nozzle moves along the pipe as the ice melts.

The use of such equipment allows solving two problems at once:

  1. To clean the inner surface of the pipes from various deposits, thereby improving circulation in the structure.
  2. Check for leaks over the length of the treated area and, if necessary, neutralize them.

With all the advantages of professional equipment, its main drawback is dimensions and cost. If “Dragon” type electrical appliances can still be purchased or rented, then a steam generator is a special case. Such equipment is more used by professional companies, the services of which will have to be used.

How to prevent system freezing?

The question of the probability of freezing the pipeline must be foreseen at the stage of its laying. According to the current norms of SNiP, pipes must be laid below the freezing depth.

Map of regions by depth of freezing
For regions located in mid-latitudes, the depth of freezing of the earth on average is 1.0 - 1.5 meters from the surface

The depth of freezing of the soil layers is determined empirically in the coldest period for the region, taking into account the maximum indicator of soil moisture and provided that there is no snow cover. If it is not possible to lay pipes at a sufficient depth, it is worth taking care of thermal insulation designs.

Vulnerability Isolation
The place where the pipe enters the house is the most vulnerable and therefore needs effective insulation with waterproofing materials

As a heat insulator, it is perfect:

  • polystyrene strips;
  • mineral wool;
  • glass wool.

It is not worthwhile to use rags, sawdust and paper as a winding, even for temporary insulation. When the temperature changes, these materials easily absorb moisture from the air, preventing the condensate from evaporating.

On sale, you can also find chemicals that prevent freezing of water. But their aggressive composition makes them unacceptable to the plumbing system. It is better to use a concentrated saline solution that perfectly corrodes the ice. It is fed through a hose whose diameter is slightly smaller than the cross-section of the pipeline.

In addition, salt water at a temperature below zero does not freeze, so that the formation of a cork for a salt solution is not exactly expected.

Alternatively, lay along the pipeline heating cable. It is equipped with temperature sensors, which, when the system is heated to a certain temperature, turn it off. The main advantage of self-heating cables is that they are able to adapt to external conditions. And this in no way affects the work of its other parts.

Heating cable application
The self-regulating heating electric cable will turn on as necessary, and turn off as it reaches the set temperature

The length of the heating cable can reach 20 meters, due to which it can be used to heat both individual sections of the pipeline and the entire system located in the freezing zone of soils.

Keep in mind that water freezes faster in pipelines with a small diameter. Therefore, when arranging autonomous water supply, it is preferable to use pipes whose diameter is 50 mm and above.

Since concrete freezes much faster than soils, in places where the pipeline passes through a basement or basement, it is advisable to place sections of the pipe in sleeves - pipes with a slightly larger diameter. The resulting voids can be blown out with polyurethane foam.

In the future, with irregular use of utilities during downtime during the cold season, it is necessary to completely remove water from the pipes and keep them in a dry state.

It is necessary to warm not only the pipeline itself, but also itself water source, and other structural elements passing outside the house and in unheated rooms.

Despite the wide selection of effective equipment for removing ice plugs from pipes, it is best not to bring such a problem. After all, heating frozen pipes is a rather problematic process, which is exacerbated by the complexity of performing work in the cold.

Adhering to the recommendations that are simple to follow, you can prevent the pipes from freezing and stopping the system, thereby extending its service life.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

Video # 1. Overview of the use of heating cable for pipes:

Video # 2. Video review of the heating method using new technologies:

Well, as a last resort, if frost is raging on the street, and the above methods cannot be applied, then try, contrary to safety rules, to leave the crane ajar for the night.

Albeit slow, but still water movement will prevent the formation of ice plugs. And after the warm season has come, we still recommend that you deal with the problem area and thoroughly warm the pipeline.

Want to share your own method of heating the water supply? Found controversial points in the information presented, questions have ripened on the topic of the article? Please write comments in the block below.

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Visitors Comments
  1. Andrew

    I myself am from the Volga region. Winters are not so severe here. But here, there are more than enough problems if you do not prepare in time.
    Still, I am more inclined to the option of electric heating. Therefore, in his suburban house he invested precisely in a similar method of heat supply to the water supply. It is enough to connect the network and wait a while, if it has been absent for a long time. Of course, there are problems with the current source itself, but it is much easier to survive than exploring the way to troubleshoot the water main itself.

  2. Alexander

    If it froze a little, about 15-20 meters, wind 2 kilowatts, it must be put on for two days.