How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

Posted on: January 15th, 2018 by M Carlson Painting

MCarlson Painting is not just a painting contractor! We deal with the same household projects you do, and we’re dedicated to helping you keep your home in great condition. Here is This Week’s True Story…

The Problem

As the temperatures drop in Minnesota, our homes get cold! If your house is like mine and built before property records existed, aka A long, long time ago, it’s working overtime to keep your people cozy. And when the words “polar vortex” start to circulate, that means frozen pipes at my house. Why? Well, prior to the purchase of our home, contractors added a master bathroom and ran the water lines up the exhaust stacks on the exterior wall. This is NOT recommended. Come on!!!

So, this week, the hot water pipe froze solid after multiple days of sub-zero weather – polar vortex – sigh. My wife knows better than to let this happen and typically keeps the faucet dripping to avoid the freeze. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize it was polar vortex cold. I think she’s starting to deny the fact we live in Minnesota. She’s an island girl at heart. I digress…

Your frozen pipes can burst, which is catastrophic. Do you know how to turn off the water main in your home? Learn! We have a service plan with a local plumbing company, but they don’t cover frozen pipes. Sigh, again. Still, we called them because we trust their advice. Unfortunately, the estimate to unfreeze the pipes and save our home from extreme water damage was $550.

The DIY Solution

The company uses a “special machine” (my wife’s words) to thaw. I refused to pay $550. I’m a HANDY MAN and knew I could do it myself. My wife was a bit skeptical and thought I might burn the house down. While the technician was still in our home, I Googled “Hot Shot Pipe Thawing Machine Rental” in the Twin Cities and a merchant popped up. Like everyone else, Google is my best friend. The merchant is Hejny Rentals Inc. in St. Paul. They rent EVERYTHING. I was in luck because despite the polar vortex they still had a Hot Shot available. I hopped in my truck and brought it home.

The tool is very simple to use. You simply attach one clamp above the frozen area and one below and flip the switch. Make sure you plug it into an outlet that is 20 amps or more. If you don’t the breakers will pop. Also, use a 20 amp extension cord. It pulls a lot of power and can heat up a smaller cord very quickly. FIRE! Okay, maybe my wife had a point?! The Hot Shot runs a current through your copper pipe and starts to thaw the frozen pipes. The water broke loose from our ice dam in less than 15 minutes!

In a Nutshell

So back to my original point. Here are the 3 steps you need to thaw frozen pipes and save money:

1. Locate the area where the pipe is frozen. It might be in a wall. Walls are easy to fix. Water damage IS NOT.
2. Open the faucet. Make sure you open both cold and hot. This will help release the pressure.
3. Drive to Hejny, rent the Hot Shot, follow advice above.

Problem SOLVED!

Home owners need to be resourceful when problems arise. Of course, it’d be easier to keep your pipes from freezing in the first place, but remember, if you have to call for professional help, never take the first estimate. Always ask for other, cheaper solutions.

Happy DIY’ing – GCM

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