Frozen pipes in the winter can be a significant hazard. If they burst, they will need to be replaced and if they burst and you aren't aware of it, it can cause many damages to your home that will need repairs. When water freezes in a pipe it expands, it can spill several hundreds of gallons of water per hour, which will, in turn, cause damages, and you will have an expensive water bill to pay. The most common areas to find a frozen pipe are outside, under a sink near an exterior wall and in an unheated basement or crawlspace in your home. The goal is to find the frozen pipe and thaw it out before it bursts.
Searching for a Frozen Pipe
A sure sign of a frozen pipe is when you turn on the water at any faucet in your house and get either no water or a tiny trickle of water out of it. Turn off the main water valve or the shutoff valve to that water supply. Open the faucet that is frozen and trace the pipes backward to find the frozen area. It will more than likely be in a cold area like an exterior wall or an unheated area of your home. The frozen area should reveal itself with frost or ice on the pipe, or the pipe may be bulging in that area where it is frozen.
Thawing an Exposed Pipe
If your frozen pipe is exposed in an area that you can see, it whether it is in a crawlspace, basement or outdoors it's quite simple to thaw it. Apply a heat source of a hair dryer, a heat lamp or a portable heater and heat the pipe from the faucet first and then move the heat source towards the frozen area. This method allows the water that melts from the ice to run out of the faucet.
Thawing Frozen Pipes in a Wall
If your frozen pipe is in a wall or a ceiling, it takes a bit more work to thaw it. You can turn up the heat in the house and hopefully it will thaw on its own and not burst or cut out a section of the wall or ceiling so you can see the frozen pipe. You can then thaw the pipe as you would an exposed pipe. Another option is to use an infrared heat lamp to place in front of the wall where you believe the frozen area to be. This will eliminate the need to cut a hole in the wall.