When pipes freeze the possibility of property damage is the first and foremost thought in both the plumbers eyes and the customers. When temperatures drop it is a nice thing to know the pipes that are most at risk.
Draincom specialists always tell people that the most at risk piping is the outside hose taps that are left on all year long.
We received one call from a building as they had reported no water, hot or cold in the kitchen.
Here is the full story spoken by our professional:
I had thought this was particularly weird as buildings have re circulation lines that keep the hot water moving at all times. I remember that the building had a parking garage that was above ground, not heated and that the kitchen piping was above a false ceiling.
It was fully insulated and the piping that was exposed was heat traced. The good thing was that they had not reported that there was water running out of the ceiling so It is well known that if the piping was frozen that it had not yet ruptured.
The problem is that when piping freezes, especially copper piping, it expands and splits the piping.
I arrived on site and went to the suite. I talked to the Tenant and found the kitchen area. I asked to open the faucet in the kitchen and there obviously was no flow at all.
I asked that it be left open because when I did locate the ice plug and remove it the water should be able to flow freely. I went down to the garage and opened the access panels to check the pipe.
Nothing appeared to be split but when I looked at the tracing cables, they were not energized. I checked the breaker panel and found that it had tripped out. I turned it back on and closed the panel thinking that it was all over.
I waited a short 10 mins for the tracing cables to get warm again but nothing seemed to be happening. I went back to my truck and unpacked the thaw machine. I went back to the panel to shut off the circuit as if it had been damaged or grounded out I may be causing more problems. A thaw machine basically sends an electrical charge through the piping between the clamps to warm the pipe, very similar to your stove element. I found acceptable points to attach the machine and did so. I fired up my thawing machine and waited up in the unit to see the fruits of my labor. As we were taking , the customer and I , the plug let go and water started to trickle out of the faucet. This was the hot line. I shut off the faucet and removed the aerator to allow the ice to come out. I opened the faucet again and a few moments later the water started to flow as if there was never anything wrong. I went Down to the garage to verify that the piping had not ruptured, which it had not, and moved it to the cold side. I had left the hot water trickling and returned back upstairs.
I left the hot water trickling and opened the cold side as I had previously done with the hot. Within about 10 minutes water was trickling out the cold. Minutes later it started flowing just as well as the hot was after the thaw. I again went below to check the cold for leaks and there were none. I packed up my machine , re installed the aerator, and left the faucet flowing very slowly. As it turns out, the heat trace wire had failed and the pipe was in a freezing condition. I assured both the building management and the tenant that the running water would not freeze and they needed to have an electrician check out the tracing for damage or wear. All parties involved were very happy with the result and the lack of property damage.
The biggest part of thawing pipes is to have an educated guess as to where the blockage actually is. Be aware that if you use a torch or pipe thaw machine on frozen piping in an area that is not frozen you could possibly cause more harm than good.
Always in a case of emergency, call us.