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  • Frozen underground water lines

    I am curious what methods other plumbers use to defrost water lines that are underground. With the arctic freeze there are plenty of frozen lines to go around.

  • #2
    Re: Frozen underground water lines

    Originally posted by hrplumber View Post
    I am curious what methods other plumbers use to defrost water lines that are underground. With the arctic freeze there are plenty of frozen lines to go around.
    there are a couple of different ways frozen can be thawed.

    there are a couple of companies up here that have jetters for water service thawing only (for obvious reasons). they work well if you can get the machine to the house without freezing it (for some reason they don't run non-toxic antifreeze through it) of course it has to have it's own water source on board or get the water from the HWT through the sed. faucet on the bottom (don't forget that you can wash your hands in the wc tank if it hasn't been flushed yet).

    if you can get a water source from the neighbor's house, a garden hose and adapters to reduce to 1/8" flexible white tubing with a high heat rating will do you fine for short (12'>). longer runs, get a jetter if you have trouble pushing the thaw tube or tape the end to a electrician's fish tape and use that to aid pushing the thaw tube.

    i have used a machine called "king thaw" but i never much liked it because of the risk of fire. its like using a battery charger to thaw frozen pipes. i remember seeing old warning posters for tradesmen (plumbers in particular) about the risks of improperly grounding welders when thawing the old lead water services and house fires (maybe the oldtimers (more experienced than me) could fill you in on that).

    Vince

    i've thawed water services up here before the new water services requirments were implemented, 1 week of on my stomach, my sides, my back, my stomach)
    dumping steam at the curb cock because we didn't have the equipment and technology at the time to dig through perma-frost to the main during the dead of winter,
    -47 yesterday with the wind

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    • #3
      Re: Frozen underground water lines

      I think Vince pretty much covered it.

      I like to use 1/4" ice maker line on some short runs. This time of year if it's frozen underground it's not very far from where it comes up out of the ground. I'll attach, with various fittings, the ice maker line to a submersible pump. Put the pump in a bucket of water (2-3gal usually enough as any ice you melt will be added to the cycle). Placing the bucket so it will catch the water coming back* will allow the same water to cycle. As your doing this the water will begin to warm from the heat of the pump but you don't need water to be warm as, as long as it's 1 degree above freezing it will melt ice(obviously warmer is faster).



      *if this can't be done I'll attach a sump or washing machine drain hose to the pipe.
      INSIGHT PIPE is now Maine Drain Serving most of ME with no charge for travel! 207-431-6232 is nolonger a working # our NEW # is 207-355-1476
      Sewer main snaking (roto rooting). Sink clogs. Sewer backup. Pipe inspection/locating. No Dig trenchless repair. Root clog removal.We are NOT to replace your local Plumber, as we do not do plumbing. WE ARE YOUR DRAIN CLEANING EXPERTS!!! www.sewermaine.com waterville winslow bangor augusta skowhegan fairfield pittsfield oakland

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      • #4
        Re: Frozen underground water lines

        I havent ever tried any of these tube in tube solutions before. I have always used a thermo king trindle tron electric thawing machine for copper mains and really didnt know of any fix for poly or other non metallic mains. How long does it take to get the tube to move? a couple of inches a minute, slower or maybe faster? Only had a main freeze up once here in nj. Used the trindle with good luck.
        The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation

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        • #5
          Re: Frozen underground water lines

          The speed all depends on the ice. I'm guessing a 1' every 1-2 minutes maybe? Not sure as I've never timed it. I'll have to time it next time, you've got me curious.
          A jetter works great but like Vince said you have to use a hose thats never been in sewer. I try to keep one just for water but I always end up using it in the sewer.
          I used a Hot Shot before. Good job inside of home but could not get good contact outside. Also some towns around here won't allow you to use them. Too many houses burned down from people using welders.

          Steam machine is another option but I don't use one. I do a fair amount of well lines (HDPE) and I've seen a lot of people melt the pipe from leaving it in one spot too long.
          INSIGHT PIPE is now Maine Drain Serving most of ME with no charge for travel! 207-431-6232 is nolonger a working # our NEW # is 207-355-1476
          Sewer main snaking (roto rooting). Sink clogs. Sewer backup. Pipe inspection/locating. No Dig trenchless repair. Root clog removal.We are NOT to replace your local Plumber, as we do not do plumbing. WE ARE YOUR DRAIN CLEANING EXPERTS!!! www.sewermaine.com waterville winslow bangor augusta skowhegan fairfield pittsfield oakland

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          • #6
            Re: Frozen underground water lines

            Originally posted by Vince the Plumber View Post

            i have used a machine called "king thaw" but i never much liked it because of the risk of fire. its like using a battery charger to thaw frozen pipes. i remember seeing old warning posters for tradesmen (plumbers in particular) about the risks of improperly grounding welders when thawing the old lead water services and house fires (maybe the oldtimers (more experienced than me) could fill you in on that).

            d
            Ahhh the king thaw, That like the machine I used to use

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            • #7
              Re: Frozen underground water lines

              Thanks guys. I'm always interested in different perspectives. I haven't seen that General machine, either. I'll have to check it out.

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              • #8
                Re: Frozen underground water lines

                Around here, if you have continuity, the standard method is a big old welder and some long leads. I've never gone there as the liability insurance for it is so high Id have to charge about $300/hr, and I'm busy enough with drains. Most welding services around here do pipe thawing.

                I do keep a 100' hose strictly for potable water. As more and more houses around here have their water services run in that blue plastic stuff, I'm finding a small niche market for thawing these lines that the welder won't work on. I keep the hose and a dedicated sump pump in a dedicated clean bucket. Sump pump supplies my little elec jetter, bring a few jugs of water along to job to fill bucket.

                Biggest thing I've found is you better have a key in the curbstop and someone standing over it as when you pop it you've got however many feet of hose to pull out before you can shut a valve the hose is thru, and that 1 1/4" blue stuff flows a LOT of water.
                This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

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                • #9
                  Re: Frozen underground water lines

                  I watched that show "every thing is harder in Alaska". They did an episode where on a remote island, the heating system on their underground sewer froze, and so the all the plumbing froze. They tried to thaw it out with a network of hoses laid on the ground covered with insulation. Didn't work. I think they installed some temporary above ground heated pipes and just waited for spring!

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                  • #10
                    Re: Frozen underground water lines

                    Originally posted by Ace Sewer View Post
                    Around here, if you have continuity, the standard method is a big old welder and some long leads. I've never gone there as the liability insurance for it is so high Id have to charge about $300/hr, and I'm busy enough with drains. Most welding services around here do pipe thawing.

                    I do keep a 100' hose strictly for potable water. As more and more houses around here have their water services run in that blue plastic stuff, I'm finding a small niche market for thawing these lines that the welder won't work on. I keep the hose and a dedicated sump pump in a dedicated clean bucket. Sump pump supplies my little elec jetter, bring a few jugs of water along to job to fill bucket.

                    Biggest thing I've found is you better have a key in the curbstop and someone standing over it as when you pop it you've got however many feet of hose to pull out before you can shut a valve the hose is thru, and that 1 1/4" blue stuff flows a LOT of water.
                    I did one on the fly in someones basement. Curb stop could not be located. water dept standing by to shut off the main if need be. Owner advised by us and the water dept supervisor of the risk involved.
                    Got about 50' of hose out though ice then felt a slight surge. Never seen 50' of hose come out of a pipe so quick in my life. Slapped a compression fitting on and turned it off just a slight amount of slush and water came. Worked like a charm but VERY risky. I've done more then my fair share on the fly but that was always in the hole and I had some where to point the 60' or water shooting out.
                    INSIGHT PIPE is now Maine Drain Serving most of ME with no charge for travel! 207-431-6232 is nolonger a working # our NEW # is 207-355-1476
                    Sewer main snaking (roto rooting). Sink clogs. Sewer backup. Pipe inspection/locating. No Dig trenchless repair. Root clog removal.We are NOT to replace your local Plumber, as we do not do plumbing. WE ARE YOUR DRAIN CLEANING EXPERTS!!! www.sewermaine.com waterville winslow bangor augusta skowhegan fairfield pittsfield oakland

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                    • #11
                      Re: Frozen underground water lines

                      Originally posted by Gene Bickford View Post
                      I did one on the fly in someones basement. Curb stop could not be located. water dept standing by to shut off the main if need be. Owner advised by us and the water dept supervisor of the risk involved.
                      Got about 50' of hose out though ice then felt a slight surge. Never seen 50' of hose come out of a pipe so quick in my life. Slapped a compression fitting on and turned it off just a slight amount of slush and water came. Worked like a charm but VERY risky. I've done more then my fair share on the fly but that was always in the hole and I had some where to point the 60' or water shooting out.
                      up here we put a tee fitting on the water service before we put the thaw tube down the service.

                      the branch has a garden hose adapter and the run has a compression fitting the same size of the service. the other end of the run has a compression fitting the same size as the thaw tube without the compression ring.

                      we put the custom tee on the water service, the garden hose goes back to the tank on the machine and obviously the thaw tube goes straight though the tee. you'll have to install a ball valve (upstream side) and tee with a stub (downstream side) on the service to make this work.

                      when the frozen service lets go, the incoming water goes into a bucket or the thawing machine/jetter tank.

                      this gives the plumber/worker time to pull the thaw tube out of the service without too much spillage/spray. also, you don't have to have a guy standing outside ready to turn the curb cock off.

                      be sure to remove the compression ring in the fitting that the thaw tube goes through otherwise it will bind when pulling it out.

                      Vince

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                      • #12
                        Re: Frozen underground water lines

                        Cool, tthats good info.
                        Sounds like it's much more controlled/safer.
                        INSIGHT PIPE is now Maine Drain Serving most of ME with no charge for travel! 207-431-6232 is nolonger a working # our NEW # is 207-355-1476
                        Sewer main snaking (roto rooting). Sink clogs. Sewer backup. Pipe inspection/locating. No Dig trenchless repair. Root clog removal.We are NOT to replace your local Plumber, as we do not do plumbing. WE ARE YOUR DRAIN CLEANING EXPERTS!!! www.sewermaine.com waterville winslow bangor augusta skowhegan fairfield pittsfield oakland

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Frozen underground water lines

                          Hey plumbers,
                          Thanks for the help! The tempeature this morning was -10 causing the water line to freeze right were it goes into the basement. I hooked up a small " Jiffy clothes steamer" to the water line were it connects to the expansion tank in the basement. I let the steam go through for about 5 minutes, turned the well pump back on and I had water again. Praise the Lord! Thanks again for all the input.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Frozen underground water lines

                            Originally posted by Vince the Plumber View Post
                            up here we put a tee fitting on the water service before we put the thaw tube down the service.

                            the branch has a garden hose adapter and the run has a compression fitting the same size of the service. the other end of the run has a compression fitting the same size as the thaw tube without the compression ring.

                            we put the custom tee on the water service, the garden hose goes back to the tank on the machine and obviously the thaw tube goes straight though the tee. you'll have to install a ball valve (upstream side) and tee with a stub (downstream side) on the service to make this work.

                            when the frozen service lets go, the incoming water goes into a bucket or the thawing machine/jetter tank.

                            this gives the plumber/worker time to pull the thaw tube out of the service without too much spillage/spray. also, you don't have to have a guy standing outside ready to turn the curb cock off.

                            be sure to remove the compression ring in the fitting that the thaw tube goes through otherwise it will bind when pulling it out.

                            Vince
                            Am I understanding this correctly? I can use an icemaker hose supplied by water to thaw frozen pipes. Somehow using buckets of water, and a pump. Will a well pump or utility pump work for this? I've never seen or heard of this at all. Can I have a picture of that tee thing your talking about. We're having some trouble getting our kt-200's to make a good connection, possibly because they are plastic or have a plastic repair, on several services that are still frozen. I would love to revisit these customers and thaw them out. What solution would you offer for thawing from the meter crock towards the house. We have a lot of outside meters in No. Ky. Approximately how many gallons of water would be needed to thaw approx 100ft if you had no way of reclaiming the water?

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                            • #15
                              Re: Frozen underground water lines

                              Originally posted by Theron View Post
                              Am I understanding this correctly? I can use an icemaker hose supplied by water to thaw frozen pipes. Somehow using buckets of water, and a pump. Will a well pump or utility pump work for this? I've never seen or heard of this at all. Can I have a picture of that tee thing your talking about. We're having some trouble getting our kt-200's to make a good connection, possibly because they are plastic or have a plastic repair, on several services that are still frozen. I would love to revisit these customers and thaw them out. What solution would you offer for thawing from the meter crock towards the house. We have a lot of outside meters in No. Ky. Approximately how many gallons of water would be needed to thaw approx 100ft if you had no way of reclaiming the water?
                              i'm going to explain the way we thaw water service lines. your particular situation may be different but the end result is still the same, get the water to the building.

                              our domestic water services are all 1" HDPE. we also use "ford" fittings, i think you guys call them dresser fittings. basically a heavy duty compression fitting. this is a local requirement because the chances that the service will freeze is pretty much 100% (at some point in time, every building will lose the water due to freezing).

                              we undo the inlet part of the water meter and hook up the tee i've talked about. i tried to find it on the internet but i can't seem to find it. the tee i've seen might be custome made so that might be why i can't find them. so i drew one for you.

                              we use electric jetters because we have to bring the machine inside, or it'll freeze and break if we have to stop for a while.

                              may i suggest one of these.http://www.ridgid.com/Tools/Jetters/EN/index.htm

                              it wouldn't be hard to fabricate the tee out of copper or plastic fittings.

                              when the water service line thaws under pressure, the thaw tube will shutter then start getting forced out of the water service line. it's important to pull the thaw tube out of the service as quickly as possible or it may become tangled in the pipe. turn 3/4" garden hose ball valve.

                              when you get all of the thaw tube out of the service line, turn off 3/8" thaw tube ball valve. then turn off the water service isolation valve. remove the tee and hook-up the water meter and your good to go and write up the bill.

                              Vince

                              i forgot to draw the 3/8" ball valve on the end, and a 3/4" ball valve for the garden hose discharge

                              once you've got it thawed and hooked up, don't forget to set up a bleeder of some sort
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