All the drains in your home connect to the main sewer line, which flows into a municipal sewage system or septic tank. When the weather brings on freezing temperatures, there is the possibility that the water in the drainage pipes will freeze. Should this occur, you then run the risk of a pipe bursting if you wait too long to thaw it. Here are some tips on what to do when you have frozen pipes and how to avoid the situation from happening.
Signs You Have a Frozen Sewer Pipe
Water from all of your indoor faucets drains into the main sewer line. Therefore, you could have a frozen sewer line if you notice any slow-draining sink, tub, or toilet during freezing weather.
An unpleasant smell from your drains indicates that you may have a frozen line. If the line isn’t flushed, the wastewater accumulates, sending foul odors back into your living areas.
Locate Frozen Pipes
Before you attempt to thaw your drainage pipes, it is important to determine which ones are actually frozen. Trying to unthaw a pipe that is not impaired will take valuable time away from solving the problem. Check around for the pipes that are near uninsulated crawlspaces, against exterior walls, or in attics or basements.
What you will want to look for is a pipe that is slightly bulging. This is a telltale sign that it is frozen. Keep in mind that even if you have found one frozen pipe, continue inspecting all the pipes. There is the possibility that there is more than one pipe has frozen.
Apply Direct Heat
After you locate the frozen pipe, you can try to apply some direct heat. The easiest way to do this is by wrapping a heating pad or hot, wet towels around the pipe. You can also aim a hairdryer towards the area. Do not use devices with open flames to thaw the pipe. If needed, that approach should only be used by professionals.
Use Ambient Heat
Another method is to use ambient heat. With this method, a space heater warms the area around the suspect spot, eventually melting the ice. Be aware that it might take hours to accomplish this.
Professional Hydro Jetting
One method some professionals use to thaw frozen pipes is hydrojetting. This is the use of high-velocity hot water or steam to partially melt and dislodge the ice that is blocking the sewer line. The semi-thawed ice is then forced down the line, preventing any damage to the pipes that could occur from some of the other methods. Do not attempt to do this on your own.
How to Prevent Frozen Sewer Pipes
Probably the best way to deal with frozen sewer pipes is to make sure that they do not happen in the first place. Here are some preventative measures you can take to prevent your sewer lines from freezing.
Insulate the Pipes
If your sewer pipes are not properly insulated, you run the risk of them freezing. Addressing this is simple. All you need to do is wrap piping insulation around the lines, securing it with duct tape. Also, make sure to limit how much outside cold air flows to the pipes by sealing off your crawlspace and basement vents.
Check the Water Heater
Check your water heater to ensure that it maintains a proper temperature so that the water stays warm enough to keep flowing through your pipes. Once it gets colder outside, raise the temperature on the water heater a few degrees. You can also wrap an insulation blanket around the unit.
Keep a Faucet Dripping
During very cold winters, always keep a small stream of water dripping from one of your faucets in the rear of the house. This releases pressure at the end of the main line, making it harder for flowing water to freeze.
Call In a Professional
If you are stuck with a frozen sewer pipe, it is probably best to have a professional come out to deal with it. After all, a lot could go wrong if you try to DIY it. You run the risk of having the pipe burst while you are trying to thaw it, which could lead to costly repairs or replacement. There is also the possibility that you could get hurt from a pipe bursting.
At TYCO Plumbing, we understand how frustrating a frozen sewer pipe can be. Our team of licensed professionals has been helping customers like you in Brighton, CO, and the surrounding area for several years. We are driven by honesty, integrity, and professionalism, and we strive to leave every customer 100% satisfied. Contact TYCO Plumbing today for any plumbing needs.