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Frozen Baseboard Pipes


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#1 Murphy

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Posted January 18 2011 - 8:43 AM

Hi Guys,

I wanted to see if anyone had any tricks for unfreezing copper heating pipes. Had a tech out yesterday because of a bad zone on the heating system and he said that a section of the pipe was frozen. He wasn’t sure about what section it was but he recommend cranking up the heat and getting a few space heaters.

Through last night I was able to get the heat in the bad zone up to 60 degrees. We used blow dryers last night and had 3 space heaters going. Woke up this morning and the heat still wasn’t hitting that zone. When I touch the pipe it feels like a slight vibration (almost like there is a trickle of water going through).

Any ideas??? It’s supposed to get in the high 30’s today with rain so maybe that will help some. The heat will be left cranking all day today and I have informed my wife on how to shut off the water in case of a cracked pipe

#2 Montana_Mac

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Posted January 18 2011 - 8:57 AM

It sounds like you have access to the pipes if you can feel the vibration. They sell electric heating strips that you can wrap around the pipe and plug in. Depending on the amount of room around/behind the pipe you could use a heat gun or a torch.

I owned a house that the water pipe would freeze in an outside wall. If I knew it was going to be very cold I would let the water run during the night to prevent a freeze up. If it froze the only way I could get it thawed was with a torch in the basement until the pipe got warm enough to thaw.
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

#3 dogboy

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Posted January 18 2011 - 10:22 AM


Quote:








Originally Posted by Montana_Mac
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They sell electric heating strips that you can wrap around the pipe and plug in.






IMO- NEVER, EVER use those things unless you put it on, plug it in, and REMOVE IT when it has done its job

i was house sitting one time and the cable they wrapped around the kitchen sink water supply burned through and set the house on fire

we (the adults) had been on the ice right out front for about half an hour after supper when one of the kids called to us

we ran back in: the house was full of smoke, and the cable under the sink was whipping around like an angry snake, sending out showers of sparks every time it hit something

we cut the power and put it out with the fire extinguisher that was in the van and then called the fire dept.- they stuck around and read the temps for a while before declaring victory and going home

if we had gone out to dinner or gone to bed early, it could have ended very differently

if you have a problem with freezing pipes, fix the cause of the problem

those things make dangerous band-aids

#4 cheech

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Posted January 18 2011 - 10:28 AM

Cold moving air,and drafts freeze heating pipes.Its usually in a crawlspace or near a window.Good insulation might stop it.Electric pipe thawers will free a freeze in a copper line,and Ive seen guys use elec. welders to get the same result.If you know how to purge air from a heating loop,increasing pressure with the autofeed might free it.You can put antifreeze in that loop and it will never freeze again.There is a small loss in efficiency when antifreeze is used. Good luck

#5 CaptRandy

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Posted January 18 2011 - 11:58 AM

2nd the tape strips for heating the pipes. We used to place a sting of 40w bulbs in the crawl space before the tapes came available.

#6 JohnQ

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Posted January 18 2011 - 12:08 PM

I think you need to come up with more information. Does this piping go through a crawl space? Did you check to see if that particular zone pump is running. If in a crawl space are pipes insulated. There was a similar question here the other day.

#7 speedracer

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Posted January 18 2011 - 12:49 PM

You might be better off using foam pipe insulation on all your pipes that are accessible. It keeps the water inside warmer, longer, and the only way a pipe will freeze is if the system is shut off.


You're getting sleepy. ....very sleepy.....

#8 The Riddler

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Posted January 18 2011 - 1:40 PM

Hopefully this warm up gets it out for ya.

I have a hot shot system. Paid 350 10 years ago and it's paid for itself 10 times over just by little service calls. I'm in and out in quick time, as long as splits don't happen after thawing your good to go. The only time it is not effective is when PEX tubing or any non-metallic piping is within the charge points. Cost 50 bucks a day in my area from tool rental. Just keep the cables from keeping in contact from any fabric. If that's the case, I use a heat blanket to rest the cables on.

If piping needs to be replaced because of splitting, look at re-routing to an accessible area or consult with your mechanic about the benefits of a glycol in a loop.

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#9 coppertrout

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Posted January 18 2011 - 6:06 PM

everything riddler said.

and if you are on city water it's a good idea to disconnect your meter. you don't want power back feeding anywhere. i cut the pipe to isolate from the street and just solder a coupling when i'm done.

#10 cheech

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Posted January 18 2011 - 8:16 PM

If backfeeding the domestic water supply is a concern simply support your water meter, and disconnect one of the unions that hold it in place.Just dont lose that special washer that sits between the union and the meter.

#11 Murphy

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Posted January 18 2011 - 9:51 PM

Hey Guys,

Thanks for all the responses. My wife got home around 3:00 this afternoon and the heat was back on. Huge relief!!!!

Got out of this one big time.....



Didn't do anything other than run the space heaters and crank the heat

#12 cheech

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Posted January 19 2011 - 2:02 PM

Murphy, your forgetting your own law, "Murphys law".If you can see where the freeze was your probably ok,if you cant there may be a slow drip,pulled out solder joint etc..Your autofeed will keep silently adding makeup water and you'll eventually have a moisture problem. Just a thought

#13 Charleston

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Posted January 19 2011 - 2:53 PM

Use an arch welder. Connet the leads on both sides of the freeze and turn on low. Same as the thawing machine mentioned.

Went to see the whatfixer.


#14 Murphy

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Posted January 19 2011 - 9:54 PM

Good thought Cheech... Not sure where the ice build up was however, nothing exposed is leaking. My guess of where the frozen pipe may have been is in a walk-in closet that is on the outside corner of the house. There is no heat in there and the closet door was closed when we had the issue with the frozen pipe. Is there anyway to check if there is a slight leak in the copper pipe???

#15 cheech

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Posted January 20 2011 - 9:14 AM

There are many factors that could affect the results of this non-invasive,fairly easy test.IMHO the 100% test would be to separate the loop completley from the boiler, and the other zone.Drain it, and pump 30psi in through the purge draw-off,and check for dropping pressureThis might show you something. .Shut the valve(s) near the autofeed.Put the stat on the unaffected zone low so it does not come on.Put the stat on the suspect zone very high so the heat comes on.Note what the boiler pressure is.If the pressure gauge(12-17psi) starts to drop there is a leak.This may take time with a slow drip.Dont forget to open the closed valves when your finished,and to return the thermostats where you had them.