In areas where temperatures typically dip below the freezing mark, there is always a possibility a home’s drain pipes may become frozen. If drain lines are exposed to the outdoors, located in exterior walls or are not adequately protected from the cold, the resulting frozen pipes can play havoc with a home’s plumbing system.
A home’s drain lines carry used water, or “wastewater,” away from the house. This can consist of water from sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, dishwashers and sewer lines. A typical drain clog will usually only affect that particular apparatus. But when most or all of a home’s drains are backing up, this often indicates that drain pipes may very well be frozen.
Addressing Frozen Drain Lines
The homeowner should first make sure that pipes are frozen and not just clogged. This can be done by feeding a plumbing auger or “snake” through the drain and into the pipeline. If after pulling the auger from the drain there is no indication of debris of any kind the pipes are probably frozen.
There are a number of approaches to thawing frozen pipes and drain lines, such as turning faucets on very low and running hot water into the drain. Boiling several gallons of water and dumping it into the drain may help to weaken the ice within the pipes as well.
Homeowners can also run a blow dryer or heat lamp over the frozen portion of pipe to melt and eventually break up the ice. Towels soaked in hot water can also be placed around frozen sections of pipe. While a space heater can be situated close to the pipe, do not use electric heaters if there is any moisture in the area at all. Additionally, it is advisable to turn the home’s thermostat up a few notches to help the pipe-thawing process along.
After frozen drainage pipes have been cleared of ice and are working, homeowners can take preventive measures to try to ensure that their pipes don’t freeze again. These measures include adding insulation to at-risk sections of piping and using UL-approved heating tape or cabling for pipes. Of course, homeowners should always contact a professional plumber if they uncomfortable with do-it-yourself plumbing jobs around their dwellings.