Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

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Reubin
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Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:14 pm

I live in New York and took a wonderful 9 day cruise to the Caribbean. Unfortunately, when we returned home we had no water entering our home. The weather has been frightfully cold while we were gone and I'm certain that a pipe has frozen solid. We left the home at 62 degrees and left a slight drip going in two faucets. The water line enters the home through the water meter in our unheated garage so I thought that the pipe in the garage might have frozen. The pipe felt very cold. I used a heat gun on it for 2 hours to no avail and then placed a ceramic heater in there for an additional 3 days. Still no water! I contacted a plumber who told me without looking that the water line is probably frozen beyond the point where it enters the home and that all I can do is wait. Is this true? Is there any way to thaw out the pipes beyond the garage? I've contacted the DEP but they haven't returned my inquiries in the past 2 days. We were above freezing today but still no water. I'm also worried that when the water starts flowing that it might cause flooding either inside my home or directly in front due to a broken pipe. How can I prevent this from happening? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

itstoomuch
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by itstoomuch » Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:33 pm

I had 30 feet of heat tape (Left Bank) that I'd don't ever think we will use here out west.
Warmest winter that I can remember in 60 years. Stone fruit trees are in bloom and ornamental pears are close behind. Daffadils have been in bloom for a week.

I would immediately check your HO policy to for low deductible and for water damage BEFORE pipes thaw out. :oops:
Rev012718; 4 Incm stream buckets: SS+pension; dfr'd GLWB VA & FI anntys, by time & $$ laddered; Discretionary; Rentals. LTCi. Own, not asset. Tax TBT%. Early SS. FundRatio (FR) >1.1 67/70yo

jonbois
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by jonbois » Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:44 pm

First thing I would do is shut the water off at the meter. Then turn it on back after the garage has returned to above freezing for a day, turn it back on and watch for a leak. If you still don't have water flowing shut it back down an wait another few hours and repeat the exercise. If the pipe thaws slowly and is made of copper or plastic you might get lucky if not you will minimize the damage.

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:53 pm

jonbois wrote:First thing I would do is shut the water off at the meter. Then turn it on back after the garage has returned to above freezing for a day, turn it back on and watch for a leak. If you still don't have water flowing shut it back down an wait another few hours and repeat the exercise. If the pipe thaws slowly and is made of copper or plastic you might get lucky if not you will minimize the damage.
Hi, Brit,

Water meters (at least mine) have a little extra red dial that moves in case of a leak, although it did not move when I had a very very slow leak.

My garage has a closet-sized room for the water meter, hot water heater, baseboard heating boiler. It is heated by an offshoot of the baseboard heating system. You can also buy the above-mentioned heat tapes to wrap around pipes; I don't know how well they work.

Millennial
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Millennial » Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:03 pm

First off, advise given above is good: close the valve before the meter if you have one or after the meter if you do not. If your frozen pipe is in your house and cracked when it froze, this will limit the water that can flow into your house to a fraction of what it could be if the supply is left on.

There is a chance that the pipe before the meter has frozen (this part is called your "water service"), which is what your plumber suggested. This has been a significant problem in the Northeast this year. Typically this is buried enough to protect it from freezing, but frost depth is lower this year and a significant number of services have frozen for the first time in the areas that I work. You will not be able to thaw this with a heat gun, unfortunately - it's either getting a contractor to dig/thaw (and maybe have them put it deeper while they're at it!) or wait it out. I'm not 100% sure on the rules in NYC, but in most municipalities you own the water service from the property line back.

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Mon Mar 02, 2015 11:33 pm

Thank you for your responses. I was told tonight that I am responsible for the line from my home to the city line in the street. A woman from the water board advised me that I should hire a "sub surface contractor" and have them shock the pipes near the meter with electricity to break the freeze. Does this sound like a workable idea?

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just frank
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by just frank » Mon Mar 02, 2015 11:43 pm

I've heard tell of folks cutting the main in the garage, and fishing a flexible house into the pipe and flushing it with hot water to 'drill' through the ice in the main.

I'd check the forecast and wait. And in warm weather have it excavated, insulated and a heater tape installed.

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Mon Mar 02, 2015 11:48 pm

A contractor who installs mains told me that it could take six weeks for the main to unfreeze....even with warmer temps. This is disheartening!

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Mon Mar 02, 2015 11:54 pm

People, what are the odds the water is frozen in the pipes in the house, given that apparently the heat was on (could there have been a power failure? If so, it would be apparent from the clocks, I suppose)? If close to zero, at least that limits the area that has to be unfrozen.

How about talking to your neighbors - if they have water, that lowers the chance that the freeze is in the city line.

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6miths
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by 6miths » Tue Mar 03, 2015 12:08 am

Had the pipes freeze in an outside wall this year. Run of -20 F weather, a good wind and an exposed west wall. Thawed on its own and thankfully no leaks. Many places have had city lines freezing because of how deep frost is penetrating due to the prolonged cold. I would probably just go pioneer and wait for the underground line to thaw. I would be very surprised if it was that long once outside temps start to come up. This is supposed to start this week. Digging is expensive and a big mess. If the supply line is cast iron or copper, you might be able to speed the thawing by wrapping the heat tape around the pipe where it exits the house and then wrapping pipe insulation around the heat tape (or maybe use a block of Roxul. Metals conduct heat with surprising efficiency and it doesn't take much melting to get things moving. Good luck. Hope you don't have a leak anywhere.
'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so!' Mark Twain

dowse
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by dowse » Tue Mar 03, 2015 10:02 am

I've heard of using electrical current as suggested above to heat the water line. In some places that is not an option because the water lines are plastic pvc pipe, which is the case for the vacation home community where I own a home. There is a marginal municipal water supply there put in by a shoddy original developer. The village has to open bleeder valves in some locations to keep the water flowing so it won't freeze. Makes some really interesting ice sculptures. Two years after buying the home, I discovered the water line was leaking near where it entered the house. When the authorities became aware of the situation, I was compelled to replace the water line at my expense. It turned out it was only about 2 feet deep in places. The requirement is 6 feet due to the frost depth in the area. Because of solid rock ledge near the surface, I had to bring in a contractor with an excavator fitted with a hoe ram, which is basically a giant jackhammer. In addition, the contractor hired to install the water line had to follow along with a backhoe. So, I had 2 excavating contractors with both meters running for about 3 days. Nerve-racking. But no freeze-ups ever since. There was evidence of previous problems - several makeshift repairs with hose clamps were discovered. I also found a heater tape in the basement where the water line comes in left by the previous owner wrapped around the incoming plastic pipe - kind of scary - not sure what that did.

Anyway, good luck, and hope there are no leaks.

USGrant
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by USGrant » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:32 am

just frank wrote:I've heard tell of folks cutting the main in the garage, and fishing a flexible house into the pipe and flushing it with hot water to 'drill' through the ice in the main.

I'd check the forecast and wait. And in warm weather have it excavated, insulated and a heater tape installed.
Hi OP,

Just dealt with a very similar issue. I'm brand-spanking new to homeownership and not very knowledgeable about any of these issues, but can share what I did.

We live up north, too, but we have a well. We left the house unoccupied for almost a week during a brutal stretch leading up to Feb 20, at which point we returned, flushed the toilet and then had water coming back in to the basement. In our case, the main septic line leading OUT of our house was frozen solid, so water could not EXIT and was then backing up, stagnating, and finding it's way out in the basement.

Neighbors thought "ice plug - call plumber." Plumber came, opened up the pipe where it exited the house, tried to snake the ice plug, but found the pipe frozen solid. Told us to call in the "sewer and drain" people, who came in with a steam hose and blasted the pipe back open so our water could exit out again.

It took about 50 minutes (price was like $350 for first hour, a lot less for any additional time) and everything has been fine since, although temps have been much better. The sewer/drain guy said waiting for it to thaw underground could take weeks/months (April, May). Have no clue if this plausible or not.

I don't know if the steam hose is an option for opening up your pipe on city water, but if the line is frozen solid and you need use of water sooner rather than later, it's one option to consider.

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flossy21
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by flossy21 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:57 am

I've heard of people who have the ability to hook a welder up to the metal pipes and use resistance heating to heat the entire metal pipe.

I guess you would need to have an electrical lead (alligator clamp) at the water meter and one in the garage where the pipe emerges from the ground.

Pass current between the two and let resistance heating work for you.

Here's a link that shows the basic method...

http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Frozen-Water-Pipes

Dan999
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Dan999 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 2:47 pm

dowse wrote:I've heard of using electrical current as suggested above to heat the water line.
I had frozen pipes and the plumber came in hooked up the electrical shocker and in just a couple of minutes the water was flowing fine. Fortunately, no broken pipes.
This avoided cutting a hole in the ceiling to get access.
Works great.
Dan999

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:04 pm

I'm glad to hear that the electric shock method is viable. We had some city workers come today after numerous phone calls/emails. The firt one had a stethoscope and placed it on the tall pipe in the well near my water meter. He listened and reported hearing no sounds, which he says is good because that means there is no sign of leaking..at least so far. He checked the street for water leakage and found none. Then a second worker removed the water meter and found it had no ice in it or water. So he put it back together. I've made an appointment with Roto-Rooter for tomorrow to electrically shock the pipes which the water board says should work. They'll give me the price when they get here but I'm expecting the worst and I'm certain that there is no guarantee of success. Oh, btw, my porta-potty arrived today complete with a working sink and even though we have to go outside in the cold and at night it feels good to have it!

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:06 pm

Dan999 wrote:
dowse wrote:I've heard of using electrical current as suggested above to heat the water line.
I had frozen pipes and the plumber came in hooked up the electrical shocker and in just a couple of minutes the water was flowing fine. Fortunately, no broken pipes.
This avoided cutting a hole in the ceiling to get access.
Works great.
Dan999
Dan999, where was your frozen line? I believe that mine could be outside the water meter in the service line that goes from the meter to the street. Could the clectrical shocker work even out there?

Dan999
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Dan999 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:08 pm

Mine was in the house in either the ceiling or an outside wall. Not before the water meter.

Ron
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Ron » Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:13 pm

Reubin wrote:<snip...> Could the electrical shocker work even out there?
Yes, see: http://www.pipethaw.com/ownersmanual.html#OPERATION

You can run from the meter out to the street shutoff.

- Ron

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Epsilon Delta » Tue Mar 03, 2015 9:53 pm

Reubin wrote:A contractor who installs mains told me that it could take six weeks for the main to unfreeze....even with warmer temps. This is disheartening!
Have you discussed getting an interim water supply? It is fairly common to run a temporary pipe from a hydrant or neighboring property if a water main is being worked on for a while. This is easier in the summer, but with heat tape and insulation making it work in the winter may not be beyond the wit of man.

The crudest connection I've seen just used a food grade hose from a neighbors hose bib to backfeed the hose bib on the house lacking supply.

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:43 am

Reubin wrote: I've made an appointment with Roto-Rooter for tomorrow to electrically shock the pipes which the water board says should work. They'll give me the price when they get here but I'm expecting the worst and I'm certain that there is no guarantee of success.
Let us know what happens.

pshonore
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by pshonore » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:47 am

USGrant wrote:
just frank wrote:I've heard tell of folks cutting the main in the garage, and fishing a flexible house into the pipe and flushing it with hot water to 'drill' through the ice in the main.

I'd check the forecast and wait. And in warm weather have it excavated, insulated and a heater tape installed.
Hi OP,

Just dealt with a very similar issue. I'm brand-spanking new to homeownership and not very knowledgeable about any of these issues, but can share what I did.

We live up north, too, but we have a well. We left the house unoccupied for almost a week during a brutal stretch leading up to Feb 20, at which point we returned, flushed the toilet and then had water coming back in to the basement. In our case, the main septic line leading OUT of our house was frozen solid, so water could not EXIT and was then backing up, stagnating, and finding it's way out in the basement.

Neighbors thought "ice plug - call plumber." Plumber came, opened up the pipe where it exited the house, tried to snake the ice plug, but found the pipe frozen solid. Told us to call in the "sewer and drain" people, who came in with a steam hose and blasted the pipe back open so our water could exit out again.

It took about 50 minutes (price was like $350 for first hour, a lot less for any additional time) and everything has been fine since, although temps have been much better. The sewer/drain guy said waiting for it to thaw underground could take weeks/months (April, May). Have no clue if this plausible or not.

I don't know if the steam hose is an option for opening up your pipe on city water, but if the line is frozen solid and you need use of water sooner rather than later, it's one option to consider.
I've never heard of a septic line freezing unless theres a severe blockage (like from tree roots, soil intrusion, etc). A septic line is usually not full of liquid under pressure like a water supply line and usually sloped for gravity flow unless its a pump-up system where the fixture is lower than the tank inlet. You may want to investigate that when the weather is warmer and the snow is gone.

USGrant
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by USGrant » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:58 am

pshonore wrote:
USGrant wrote:
just frank wrote:I've heard tell of folks cutting the main in the garage, and fishing a flexible house into the pipe and flushing it with hot water to 'drill' through the ice in the main.

I'd check the forecast and wait. And in warm weather have it excavated, insulated and a heater tape installed.
Hi OP,

Just dealt with a very similar issue. I'm brand-spanking new to homeownership and not very knowledgeable about any of these issues, but can share what I did.

We live up north, too, but we have a well. We left the house unoccupied for almost a week during a brutal stretch leading up to Feb 20, at which point we returned, flushed the toilet and then had water coming back in to the basement. In our case, the main septic line leading OUT of our house was frozen solid, so water could not EXIT and was then backing up, stagnating, and finding it's way out in the basement.

Neighbors thought "ice plug - call plumber." Plumber came, opened up the pipe where it exited the house, tried to snake the ice plug, but found the pipe frozen solid. Told us to call in the "sewer and drain" people, who came in with a steam hose and blasted the pipe back open so our water could exit out again.

It took about 50 minutes (price was like $350 for first hour, a lot less for any additional time) and everything has been fine since, although temps have been much better. The sewer/drain guy said waiting for it to thaw underground could take weeks/months (April, May). Have no clue if this plausible or not.

I don't know if the steam hose is an option for opening up your pipe on city water, but if the line is frozen solid and you need use of water sooner rather than later, it's one option to consider.
I've never heard of a septic line freezing unless theres a severe blockage (like from tree roots, soil intrusion, etc). A septic line is usually not full of liquid under pressure like a water supply line and usually sloped for gravity flow unless its a pump-up system where the fixture is lower than the tank inlet. You may want to investigate that when the weather is warmer and the snow is gone.
Hi PSHONORE,

I wasn't actually there dealing with the issue (my wife was) so the details were relayed to me secondhand, and, not knowing much about any of this, I may be botching the details. I'm pretty sure it was the septic line, but I don't know about the slope. I think the main reason it froze was lack of usage for several days during severe cold, but that said, the contractor -- once he had opened the line back up with the steam hose -- noted holes in the pipe itself, "showing daylight." It could be the case that the holes permitted soil, snow/ice, or other debris to build up in the septic line and make complete freezing possible despite low water volume passing through. I'm really not sure. The plan is to dig up the pipe in Spring/Summer and insulate and replace it.

NoVa Lurker
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by NoVa Lurker » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:02 am

I don't have any good advice for the OP; only commiseration. We had a pipe burst above our kitchen during the "polar vortex" last year. What a disaster. This year, we've been dripping faucets at night, keeping the heat in our house warmer all winter, and holding our breath whenever the temperature has been dropping into sub-zero territory, which has been way too frequent.

This whole thread makes me want to move south / west.

Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out.

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:49 am

NoVa Lurker wrote:I don't have any good advice for the OP; only commiseration. We had a pipe burst above our kitchen during the "polar vortex" last year. What a disaster. This year, we've been dripping faucets at night, keeping the heat in our house warmer all winter, and holding our breath whenever the temperature has been dropping into sub-zero territory, which has been way too frequent.
I tend to do my laundry at night or run the dishwasher.

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Wed Mar 04, 2015 12:35 pm

A plumber that was working next door came by to look. He used a blow torch on the pipe inside the garage where it first enters to no avail. He then called someone he knew who thaws pipes from the meter to the street but he wants $1500. Roto Rooter will be here today for a free estimate
.

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Wed Mar 04, 2015 12:37 pm

Dan999 wrote:
dowse wrote:I've heard of using electrical current as suggested above to heat the water line.
I had frozen pipes and the plumber came in hooked up the electrical shocker and in just a couple of minutes the water was flowing fine. Fortunately, no broken pipes.
This avoided cutting a hole in the ceiling to get access.
Works great.
Dan999
Dan, what did they charge you for the shock therapy?

Dan999
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Dan999 » Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:27 pm

I do not remember. It was 20 years ago.
But I know it was very reasonable, or I would not have forgotten an outrageous amount.
Seems like a normal plumber visit would be fair. It took 5 minutes to do.

Reubin
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Reubin » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:35 pm

Dan999 wrote:I do not remember. It was 20 years ago.
But I know it was very reasonable, or I would not have forgotten an outrageous amount.
Seems like a normal plumber visit would be fair. It took 5 minutes to do.
Roto Rooter came, hooked up the Hotshot 320 to the pipe that comes into the house and hooked up the other end to the neighbors pipe to make a circuit. He used the device for an hour and a half to no avail. He kept moving the clamps and complained of a resistance issue. So now it looks like I'll have no water for a while.

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:46 pm

Reubin wrote:
Dan999 wrote:I do not remember. It was 20 years ago.
But I know it was very reasonable, or I would not have forgotten an outrageous amount.
Seems like a normal plumber visit would be fair. It took 5 minutes to do.
Roto Rooter came, hooked up the Hotshot 320 to the pipe that comes into the house and hooked up the other end to the neighbors pipe to make a circuit. He used the device for an hour and a half to no avail. He kept moving the clamps and complained of a resistance issue. So now it looks like I'll have no water for a while.
Maybe you need a real old plumber who's seem everything to take a look at this. I am just now remembering that the one time I called RotoRooter years ago, they messed up. I don't think the guy was even a plumber, based on his incompetence.

Almost there
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Re: Frozen Pipes/No Water In Home

Post by Almost there » Wed Mar 04, 2015 5:03 pm

In the past, electric shock always worked (while praying). Keep the pipes insulated especially the ones which have an outside wall. Also, keep the temperature higher in the house. 62 is way to low.

Almost there

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