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Frozen pipes...

DaveDave Member Posts: 1,405
Going all sci-fi the Pentagon has just come up with a new crowd control weapon that is harmless to its victims.

It consists of a cool Humvee fitted with a giant umbrella-like device the operator only needs to point towards an unruly mob. Then select power and dial in the timer and, bzzzz, ding, a projectible microwave zap hits the target like a hot summer sun ray. It's done when it's uncomfortable enough.

This is in substitution to the more traditional water hose, which, I guess, freezes from time to time.

So -

Secure one of these microwave-on-the-hood attachment, then from the driveway, point towards the general area of the home and dial in thaw. When it buzzes, not only are the pipes defrosted, but the chicken dinner is cooked.

It's got to be better than a winch.

How cool would that be. I think this is a weapons program that is run out of Wright Patterson AFB.


  • DaveDave Member Posts: 1,405
    Frozen pipes...

    This week, while dealing with an impossible situation (frozen pex zone somewhere within a 2-story addition with an inaccessible crawlspace under it!) I got to thinking. Why hasn't anyone come up with a chemical solution to frozen water/ice filled pipes? Sort of like MeltDown, where you could add it to the boiler (which is, in most cases, NOT frozen), and it would eat it's way through all of the water in the distribution piping and thaw it? It would be fine with me if all of the water had to be drained and refilled afterward. Sorry, been a long couple of weeks, and these things drive me crazy. Mike
  • amhplumbamhplumb Member Posts: 62
    Getting the \"stuff\" to flow to the ice!

    Frozen lines are one of the most frustrating things that we have to deal with at times! You'll do an excellent piping job and someone decides to turn a zone off to save money! Good for me as a professional? Yes and no, it's work, but I hate that type! How about as a landlord? Had a tennant do just that this past week! So, I'm venting a bit too here! Anyway, back to your original question! If there was something out there, getting the "stuff" to flow to the ice blockage would be the issue. And if you could get it to flow, you could just "bombard" the ice blockage with the heated water from the boiler! It would be nice though!
  • JohnNYJohnNY Member Posts: 1,822
    There IS something out there....'s called 'appropriate design'.

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  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,512
    ahh yes

    But remember even the "appropriate design" goes right in the trash when the boiler shut's down for a week due to a power failure and the people live out of state..:)
  • EdEd Member Posts: 284

    Doesn't "appropriate design" include glycol?
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 503
    Hair dryers...

    For inaccessable areas, drill a small (1-1/2") inconspicious hole, where ever is convenient (CLOSET, CABINET BASE) , and plug a hair dryer into it. Had a freeze situation last week, and that's what got it done.

    Flame less, painless. I agree with the OP, appropriate design for the most part, but then you get people who shut their heat off to a certain zone (bed room ) when its is extremely cold outside....

    You can't cover ALL the potentials, and certain assumptions (heating system SHOULD be on when it gets real cold outside) are a given.

  • Brad WhiteBrad White Member Posts: 2,393
    Might as well do that, Mark....

    What else would *I* use a hairdryer for?

    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 503
    Arm pit dryer???

  • DaveDave Member Posts: 1,405
    What about...

    when you have NO IDEA where the pipes run? Addition was added on to one side of the house. 2 floors over crawl space, maybe 30 by 40. Pex goes into crawlspace, but also obviously(by the placement of baseboard) runs through outside walls all over the place. (But I have no idea where, and homeowner can't help). We took a hairdryer to a couple of likely freeze spots near front and back doors, but no luck. I'm not complaining. It's just another part of the job that we all encounter. I just keep going back to the way that MeltDown seems to crawl through the existing oil to un-gel it. Maybe there are some chemists around?
  • Brad WhiteBrad White Member Posts: 2,393

    Susan has two hairdryers now.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • EricjeeperEricjeeper Member Posts: 177
    I tried packing a 1/2 inch pvc pipe with salt once

    Thinking the salt water would migrate towards the freeze behind the tub. well you guessed it.. It did not work.My buddy brought his salamander over and we simply super heated the bathroom til the pipes thawed./
    Big heat is a way to thaw pipes out of access.
  • J.C.A.J.C.A. Member Posts: 2,981
    Try as we may...

    I quote Ron White here...."Ya just can't fix stupid!"

    Power failures are 1 thing...but to have someone fire up the wood or pellet stove, and turn the thermostat down is just that. I have HORROR stories that would scare Steven King about these "knuckleheads".

    As much as I hate to use glycol in ANY system, sometimes it IS a must. Being a pro, you should be able to identify which jobs will,and that goes a long way to making a freezeup less of a possibility. YOU have to state upfront to the homeowner the reasons and possibilities...and have them agree to it. When they see the price for it the first time, most will balk....but 1 freezeup, and the labor bill should shock them right into YOUR way of thinking.

    We had a spot in town that was without power for 22 hours 2 weeks ago, when the temps. plumeted to single digits. Most survived...but the ones that didn't were quite messy and now have various holes in places that they really don't belong in.

    We learn as they do, but as much as I dislike it, I do recommend glycol where I know it has to be.(Lately I'm becoming a bigger fan of constant circulation!)J.C.A.
  • chrischris Member Posts: 53

    "git er done,"...Not what he wants to hear,...but proper design saves each and every can pay me now, or you can pay me later...the short road eventually ends up being the long road!
  • Pipe freeze

    Problem with a freeze up like this is that you could never really charge them what it should actually cost to figure this mess out, and get it corrected. These calls cost you money in the long run.

    And they are always an emergency call.
    They always happen when it is really cold and you are really busy.
    They happen when you could make more money somewhere else.

    Glycol is a double edged sword. But sometimes it is the only long term solution to a problem like this. (After you thaw it out with (BIG HEAT) like Eric said).

    There are two types of hydronic heat systems for a person who has a heated seasonal residence, and they live out if state.

    The systems that have already had frozen pipes, and the systems that will someday.

    Long term solution:

    Fill the hydronic with glycol, and install a pressurized feed water tank for the boiler and heating system, to keep that system pressurized.

    Set up his domestic water system pipe pitch to drain with a few low valves. When he leaves turn off the domestic, open ALL faucets, open drain valves to drain all pipes, and pour a little RV type antifreeze in the commodes and sink traps.

    They can leave the heat very low. If the heat goes out when they are away, no problem.

    When they show up to use the place, turn up the heat.
    Close all of the drain valves. Turn on the domestic, leave all faucets open for 5 minutes to flush out all air, and they are back in business.

    Repeat shut down upon leaving

    If they argue about the initial cost, (which could be substantial), let them know just how much it would cost if the whole place freezes.

    If they say no, or too expensive up front, not a problem.

    Then happily take their money to fix the place after it freezes,,,,,,, and it eventually will.

    Just my $00.02

    Ed Carey
  • Follow UP


    That Hair drier is like spitting into the wind.

    Eric is right BIG HEAT.

    A couple of LARGE volume heaters so you can heat the entire space without concentrating the heat on a surface.

    Before I retired I had 3 200K salamanders. I would use one on each floor, to thaw out big freeze ups.

    Dont use a small heater and concentrate it on a surface, that is how fires are started.


    Just my 2 cents

    Ed Carey
  • JimHJimH Member Posts: 89
    try this

    this doesnt work all the time, but it does work some of the time, and it is the quickest and easiest way to first attempt to de-ice a zone. close the return valve and open the draw off valve; let the water in the zone drain out, then close the draw off and open up the shut off valve on the return and backfeed water up the return. close the return valve again and open the draw off again and drain the water again. try doing this about ten to fifteen times. what happens usually is that the hot water makes its way to and through the freeze point. you will know when it is thawed because you will have high pressure water coming out of the draw off valve.
  • WeezboWeezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    forget chemicals. i have a cool tool just for pex.

    it is so inexpensive to make that i feel bad about mentioning it ,again.

    maybe some of the tools we use should have their own space here on the wall...then when the same problem arises someone would go ..Wow! Thats Just what i NEED! and all the ingredients will be right there...only thing is results vary due to the experience of the operator *~/:)

    maybe sommeone will make a new thread...until then search back in my posts on this subject..i think i may have posted a jpeg...
  • mtfallsmikeymtfallsmikey Member Posts: 765
    Don't try this at home, but...

    Dad was a most creative tinkerer...took a small steel expansion tank, ran hose off the top, filled partially with water, sat it on top of the gas burner we used for the lead pot, stuck hose into unaccessable crawl space, lit it up. Presto!... steamed up the crawl space, thawing the pipes. I take no resposibility, or assume any liability for this,violates any and all safety codes, it's what we had to do on occasion.
  • Ruthe JubinvilleRuthe Jubinville Member Posts: 674
    homemade steamer

    Jerry and I made a small portable steamer and rigged it with small tubing like used for air in fish tanks. Find a spot to enter the piping with the tubing. start up the steam and the little tubing will feed itself into the piping as it thaws. Used it many times on water pies that were frozen. Maybe the concept would work on heat pipes too. .... Ruthe
  • Paul ReardonPaul Reardon Member Posts: 2

    problem with frezz ups is that the customer blames the plumber for the split pipes they wornt leaking before!!!!love this these calls are an excuse to sit by a warm heater all day if only the person knew about insulation they we would be out of a job.
  • Paul ReardonPaul Reardon Member Posts: 2

    problem with frezz ups is that the customer blames the plumber for the split pipes they wornt leaking before!!!!love this these calls are an excuse to sit by a warm heater all day if only the person knew about insulation they we would be out of a job.
  • chrischris Member Posts: 53
    Actualy this is a serious problem,...

    Aircraft radar units aren't all that powerfull but they manage to injur and kill about 10-20 service people each year. So to the point, there is a microwave heater that is used to join the newer polypropeleyne gas services. They are very dangerous, but they also can be aimed to heat almost any object. This has already happened, it probably ranks about the same as some diseases but get out of the trench or vicinity if you see this thing in use. And it is also a well doucumented weapons system but Wright Patterson is primarilay the neighbor to the USAFM and is a flight test and research center. Think Elgin for some of the fun stuff. And think Nellis for the flying space based airborn lazer systems.
  • hrhr Member Posts: 6,106
    I agree with big heat also

    as Ed mentioned. We used LP salamanders and took the homes to 80F or so.

    Like Ruthe mentioned we built a steamer for thawing frozen sewer lines that hung in underground parking garages.

    Most were insulated and or heat traced, both can fail.

    We used a coil of 1/4" copper tube with hot, hot water. You'd be amazed what a 1/4" hole will do to an ice plug.

    The following deluge was rather un-pleasent, especially with multi stories above you :)

    You might get 1/4 pex or PB a ways up a pex line. Probably not around many bends however.

    The key to pipe thawing is to catch it as soon as possible. the longer you wait the longer the ice plug.

    hot rod

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  • Ruthe JubinvilleRuthe Jubinville Member Posts: 674
    ice melt

    that was the advantage of the plastic fish tank tubing. It was very flexible. Absolutely fascinating to watch it feed itself into the ice filled pipe. ...Ruthe
  • Mike ThomasMike Thomas Member Posts: 109
    Part of the Design

    When I worked in Alaska we put glycol in everything. But then as a back up, just in case there was a area where you would never get to the piping again, I would wrap the pipe with self regulating heat tape. Some times I would tape it to the bottom of the pipe with aluminum foil tape. Let the end of the heat tape hang out somewhere you can get to and install the plug. When the inevitable freeze up occurs, you just plug in the heat tape, and in an hour or less, you got water running.

    We also used the small pipe inside the larger pipe idea. You don't really need steam, just some warm water, and it doesen't even need to be that warm. Get a small pump and hook it to the small tubing and start sliding it in the frozen pipe. It will thaw rather quickly and bring the cold water out. Works great on drains too!
  • WeezboWeezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    i misplaced your e-mail addy...

    so, today i took a picture of the 1/4" break line with hose attachment...i am downloading it and will add the attachmen in a little while...*~/:)
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