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Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 12:04 PM

Winter has caused an underground water line to freeze. It is about 4 feet down in the ground and 60 feet long. It is plastic 1 inch inside diameter. I can enter the line and reach with a sewer snake and the blockage is about 50 feet down the line. I can reach the ice spot.

It is not potable water but just goes between a barn and my office for bathroom and wash water only. Any ideas on how to thaw from inside the hose? It would not be easy to get hot water delivered to that point. What else?

Bart

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#1

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 1:22 PM

Add glycerin, (antifreeze) (I'd say use alcohol, but it is better to drink that.) Use snake to mix, this will lower the freezing point and slowly melt the ice. Flush thoroughly when complete since glycerin is a poison.

If it is freezing 4 feet down, you have abnormally low temperatures. You may want to keep the water slowly dripping once it is freed until the soil thaws. Flowing water is harder to freeze. This was an old trick we used years ago when the insulation in houses was not as good as it is now.

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#3
In reply to #1

Try Steam!

03/07/2008 2:43 PM

I would not recommend glycol (antifreeze)! It is poisonous and I am sure you don't want that in your waste water treatment plant!!!

I would start calling some plumbers and see if one of the outfits might have a way of injecting steam into one end of the pipe. I don't think this is something you want to do yourself.

However, if a smaller diameter hose is run down the outlet end of the pipe (like your snake did) as far as you can get it, then injecting steam into the smaller hose should thaw the frozen section. It may take some time, but I think it would work. You can buy flexible plastic hose at Lowes like they use for plumbing water to refrigerators.

You can also try warm or hot air. Even a regular air compressor could be used to blow room temperature air down the pipe, but steam will be much better.

Once you do get it thawed, leave the water running 24/7 at a slight trickle so that it does not refreeze.

When the ground finally thaws, you need to dig up the old line and burry it about 2 feet deeper and it may be a good idea to see if there is some kind of insulation that you can wrap the pipe in as well.

My solution was to move to Florida. I left my snow shovel as a house warming gift to the new owners when I bugged out.

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#9
In reply to #3

Re: Try Steam!

03/08/2008 3:36 AM

You wrote:-

My solution was to move to Florida. I left my snow shovel as a house warming gift to the new owners when I bugged out.

Did the previous owners of the Florida home leave you the head protection and the window boards for Hurricanes etc.. when they "Bugged out"?

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#25
In reply to #1

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/10/2008 5:54 AM

Table salt (either NaCl, or preferably Lo-Salt, which is 2/3 KCl and 1/3 NaCl), would be a much better idea!

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#27
In reply to #1

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/11/2008 7:38 AM

A really bad idea that could land you in court. Better not get caught discharging glycol anywhere into the environment.

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/11/2008 8:46 AM

Correct. I give you a GA point for this.

Methylated spirits is cheap and if you can get a pint of it or two down to the frozen area with a hose pipe in the pipe, or a hot cooking salt solution, that is I believe better for the environment, not a lot better, but still better!!

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#43
In reply to #28

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/18/2008 9:26 PM

Has anyone suggested use of a catalyst to heat the ice plug? Calcium or may be even lye?

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#2

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 1:37 PM

Salt might work and is less toxic, they also sell pet safe antifreeze.

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#4

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 3:00 PM

Sounds to me like you have something else going on here. If it's really 4 ft down, that's well below the frost line. You state you can feel the blockage at 50 ft, so perhaps it gets real shallow there. My experence is that, if it's frozen, there is nothing you can do until it warms up, and if it happens, it will happen again. It could be a root or something. No matter what, your gonna have to dig it up in the spring.

Good luck!

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#14
In reply to #4

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 11:30 AM

On the farm in MN when I was young our metal water line froze in late winter. It was buried 7' deep. It froze where we had removed the snow on the driveway. We often in the old farmhouses and barns would like to leave the water dripping real slow to avoid freezing.

I like the Florida idea!!

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#5

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 5:24 PM

If the line is 60 long and you got a fish down it 50 ft to the blockage. Its closer to the other end. You do not give your location but 4 ft is pretty deep to freeze. Would look at where the pipe makes a transit thru the freeze level of the ground. Maybe heat that end with a heat tape.

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#6

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 7:55 PM

Rent an electric water jet pipe cleaner like this one. Supply heated water to it and dissolve the plug.

Next, design a snake with an electric heating element on the tip and sell to local plumbers for the next hard freeze. (Where are you at anyway that you froze to 4'?)

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#7

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/07/2008 8:30 PM

I too live in a deepfreeze. It often reaches -50F here in the dead of winter. I can tell you for sure that salt is the answer. About every other year I forget to trickle the water and have the same problem. One of those round boxes is all it takes and we're up and running again.

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#8

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 12:40 AM

When you do get it thawed , it can be protected with a method they use in some parts of Ontario Canada . In some places there the ground has so much rock and bolders that they can't get their water lines buried . They sometimes have to run their water lines over the top of the ground .

The lines are kept from freezing with a heat wire inside the pipe . They have a kind of T fitting where the side opening of the T is a plug in for the heat wire . The heat wire assy is made up according to the length of the pipe area to be protected . From what I understand , this system works quite well . If you contact a hardware store or building supply company around lake of the woods or Crow lake , they can steer you on to a supplier for this . Don' believe it's cheap , but you never have to worry about a frozen pipe again . Since it's inside the pipe , there's no worry about the wire getting cut , and it runs less than a heat tape on the outside of a pipe .

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#10

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 3:44 AM

Dig up and replace with a properly insulated pipe. Do a proper job......make it even deeper as well, use a back hoe for speed. Its not even a days work for such a machine, you can get them to make the hole and you can push the earth back in yourself later.....

Unfreezing it will still allow it to freeze again if the ground is that cold that far down, it will take months to warm up again.....

Use a hose above ground and plastic water storage tank for the time being if the ground is still too hard to open up....bring hose back into a warm area when tank is full.....heating oil tanks (secondhand) should be good enough when washed out with high pressure hose....

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#18
In reply to #10

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 6:01 PM

Andy - does it get cold enough in Germany to freeze the soil and how deep does the frost usually go. Was Germany as warm as the Swedes this year? I heard Northern Europe was missing winter this year. Last year we missed it until February.

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#22
In reply to #18

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/09/2008 8:19 AM

We have basically not had a "good" winter for some years now. The winter in Germany is more like the winters in the UK were, snow not every year and it only lays a few days. Frosts, but days usually above 0°C....some days in February this year we had 15°C!!!! Crazy....

When I first came here in 1981, the winters were very cold. From December onwards, the first really big snow came around 31st December and stayed around till the end of February at least. January would go to -15°C at night and around -8°C during the days....We might even have big snow storms as late as April, which would take a few days to melt. First snow came in October and was usually gone within a day or so.....

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#11

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 6:12 AM

If you have not already done so, open the taps in the barn.

Feed a smaller hose (1/4-1/2" depending on what will fit) into the pipe until you reach the blockage. Be sure to mark the hose so you know how far you have pushed it.

Trickle hot water into the smaller hose until the frozen section thaws.

Some considerations:

If the 60 foot pipe is frozen at 50 feet, would it be easier to thaw it from the barn side?

Is the pipe free draining? If not your frozen section will get bigger.

Check if your frozen zone is under a heavily travelled area where the soil has been compacted as frost will tend to go deeper here. You may be able to add some gravel to the surface to create an insulating layer.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 10:59 AM

mr. habib the answer is a thumbs up one.

for a change i have problems aggreeing with one of andy's answers, unless you have the opportunity to cut shale or granite in midnorth you may have difficulty in undefrstanding how rough putting a trench in below grade in the crow area is.

i am sure the eu envirocops wo0uld not hesitate to wite a ticket for putting a trench in a farm area without permission , the ones in the soo make those guys look like school kids if he tried doing what is a very good alternative. but using not salt but a compound called urea prills or the pro environmental grade ice melters you may be able to get from your county's feed and grain supply stores poured down it in five minute intervals followed by a fine tricle of hot water will get the joint open. this way if there is a crack in the delivery pipe because it is not really below the frost line the eath will musgh up and you will have a better idea of where to gently backhoe the earth away from so you can at least patch the pipe up before further damage is done.

that type of a leak can create some reallll messy situations.

having a 1" delivery pipe makes the job of feeding a tube down it easier if you can get your hands on about 60' of 1/2 pex tube it will slide inside the plastic like s.t.a.g.

have fun with that one.

'da ber

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#12

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 6:55 AM

I had earlier posted problem of Snow Shoveling in U.S, now another problem of pipe line freezing.My God it is tough life to live in Snow Country. I would suggest to put the cock at the inlet and at the out let. Whenever you want to use the water open the cocks and let there be running water which is not likely to freeze and let pipe line remain empty when water is not flowing through it. Just cheaper and easier solution,hope it works for you.

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#15

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 3:16 PM

Bart,

Have you considered that the pipe may be broken? Andy of Germany suggested replacing the line. As a minimum you might consider excavating the area in question. If some one buried the pipe there you ought to be able to dig it up.................errr, is the ground frozen? Living in Florida I claim no experience with frozen water other than that which resides in my beer cooler.


Good luck with it.

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 5:09 PM

Given that water undergoes a decrease in density (increase in volume) as it freezes, it is quite likely that the pipe is broken and will have to be replaced anyway. At that time would suggest properly insulating and heat taping the line.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 5:56 PM

Very true about water expanding when forming ice. Engine blocks and pipes usually don't burst tho until the ice gets down to mid-twenty ( my dad said 22 F or colder). The cold in the ground is still going down and will continue for several more weeks. If there were any way to put some quantity of alcohol (that was the old anti-freeze before Glycerin) it would diffuse through out - you would need some on both ends. My guess is (60-40) that the pipe has not burst yet but could in the next couple of days if the last week has been 10 F or colder. Good luck!

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#19

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 8:50 PM

I think #4 Bricktop is right. My guess is the pipe developed a small crack and is now filled with root growths blocking the pipe - roter rooter can clear it but I'll wager iit will need to be dug down to and repaired for a permanent fix.

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 9:14 PM

I don't believe that roots can penetrate a plastic pipe to crack it and then plug it. If it had been penetrated with a root, the water pressure would have caused a big mess a long time ago. As an agronomist I would really doubt that roots are growing much in frozen soil boring through plastic pipes. Roots can penetrate into sewer lines made out of clay and especially cement sewer lines but roots do most of their aggressive growth in the warmer time of the year.

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#20

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/08/2008 9:05 PM

Bart@,

Sounds as if your location is at or slightly north of the 45th parallel and the temperature is a bit cooler this year. I agree with the other posters who've suggested digging deeper later this year as we are beginning a shift in weather cycle towards cooler climes during the next eleven years or as such has been speculated. Though as we are actually experiencing a global cooling effect contrary to media hype you may want to trickle for insurance in the future when you will be less likely to dig.

There have been many suggestions as to a solution but we both know would be more feasible to wash in the the house until thaw to prevent excavation of the entire line.

Put a note to yourself on the October calender to remind yourself to repeat in coming years to trickle your water (:

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#23

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/09/2008 9:53 AM

I had that frozen pipe to the barn problem too, and the pipe was buried 7'. I ran a small hose (3/8" Pex)from inside the house into the pipe and up to the blockage. I connected the end to the hot water supply and allowed warm water to flow from the house into the hose to melt the ice in the pipe. Then I advanced the hose to the other end of the pipe and left it in place. At the house end, I added a tee to the pipe where it goes out of the house and made a leak proof adaptor to run the hose though the long side of the tee into the pipe, yet seal around the hose by a compression fitting. The short side of the tee is connected to the cold water supply line. If I turn on the tap in the barn, cold water flows through that leg of the tee. The hose is connected to a hot water line in the house with a ball valve opened just a little all winter. Now when we water the cows, a little hot water flows down the line too adding just enough heat keep the line from freezing, without electricity or a pool of ice forming around the tap from allowing the water to trickle out all winter. I never checked, but I'll bet every time we use water in the house, (flush a toilet) some hot water flows to the end of the hose and back up the cold water line.

And it only took me a few winters to realize how to solve the problem...

Laing (www.lainginc.com) and others make pumps and control valves that work in a similar way. Look for the AutoCir1 on the web site.

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#24

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/09/2008 6:21 PM

Use a self regulating heater, slide it in from the point of entrance and let it start heating, it will thaw the ice block as you slide it down.

For the future you can leave the heater in and start it up when winter is heavy again.

Best heater to use for this is an ETL from Raychem. It has special parts for use in pressure lines up to 10 bar. And a Scandinavian potable water use certificate.

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#26

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/10/2008 10:46 AM

If it was my pipe, I would dissolve the frozen water with salt, as stated before. I am guessing that your math skills are still functioning and there is some physical reason that you can't reach the clog from 10 feet away. If you can feed a smaller line into the accessible end try this. In garden supply shops they sell siphon sprayers that allow you to attach a small jar to the end of your garden hose and feed weed killer or fertilizer to your lawn. If you fill the jar with standard table salt, then attach a smaller flexible hose to the discharge end of the sprayer. That would be the tricky part. Perhaps a larger diameter hose to fit over then reducing to the smaller size. Try it out above ground to make sure no leaks, then feed the open end of small hose into 1" pipe till you hit the blockage. So far the only investment is about $15. This combination should dissolve the ice at 3 to 5" per minute. Once the hose is able to be fed all the way to the other end, open the spigot in the barn. If the water is not loaded with dirt, there was no root intrusion. To test for a pipe leak, Connect a pressure gauge on the barn end of the pipe. If there is a shut off valve on the house end, close it and watch the barn mounted pressure gauge. If the pipe has a crack in it the pressure will drop quickly. If there is no shut off valve, You will have to install a pressure gauge at the house end also, and compare readings. This test should be done with no water usage . Be careful of the accuracy of the gauge readings. They must read the same because a small difference will mean the pipe is leaking.

Now I have a suggestion that I am not so sure of. Water softeners run tap water through a storage tank that contains salt. This would seem to cause the salt content of the water to become higher. This could be an answer to keeping the pipe from freezing.I would bet there are experts that will read this and be able to give you more accurate information. Good luck.

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#29

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/11/2008 2:01 PM

Hey Russ, your an Agronomist? Who do you work for. I googled it, sounds like a great job. Where did you study? How did you get into that field ( no pun intended ). Is there any money there? Sounds like it beats working in a factory. Should I push one of my kids into that profession?

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#30

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/13/2008 8:29 PM

Do you have an electric welder? If so, make sure that the pipe is not bonded or connected with any of your electric service grounds, then apply the ground electrode to one end of the pipe(filled with water),contacting the water with an electrode or nail. and the power end to the other end likewise.Set the welder to lowest setting, and turn on the welder.Some water is not very conductive, so you may have to increase the setting to get a reasonable current flow.Try passing water thru the pipe in a few minutes, but make sure you have cleared all welding cables first. A metal connector at each end will make this more convenient if needed in the future.

This method works,but make certain that there are no other connections to your electrical service or ground rods,bonding wires, etc.

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/14/2008 4:00 AM

It sounds a good fix, but you need a huge long welding cable for a 50 ft(?) underground cable, horrendous price - if you can even get one that long......

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/14/2008 4:11 AM

And add some salt to the water, it will conduct more.

But how do you fill a drain pipe from the two sides?

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#33
In reply to #31

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/14/2008 8:48 AM

Here in central MN it is common for pipes to freeze. One city worker told me that they come to a home with a frozen water line and they come in with some kind of vibrator and it works every time if the homeowner doesn't wait to long. I suppose the deeper the pipes the more vibration you would need. Here in MN all pipes are buried 5-7 ft so a 4 ft deep pipe shouldn't need to much.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/14/2008 9:20 AM

There are way too many possibilities in this plan for my sick mind to contemplate.

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/14/2008 11:54 AM

Too right, I resolutely kept my fingers away from answering "in vein" so to say.....

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#38
In reply to #31

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/17/2008 7:02 PM

You will not be passing full welding current thru the wire, so a piece of 10 guage copper for ground will suffice.This will safely handle 30 amps, and due to resistance of the water, it will take a very high current setting to drive the current this high.As a matter of fact, you are relying on the resistance of the water to generate the heat required for melting.Another contributor mentioned adding salt to increase conductivity of the water, this is good, but too much salt will cause a very high current draw.The key here, is gentle heat, not welding heat.Start with a very low setting on the welder, and increase slowly as required.A clamp-on ampmeter is good to have, and allows you to keep your current below 30 amps on the output.

I have used this method many times with great results.

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/18/2008 10:53 AM

For years I worked in an automotive repair facility in New York. The owner told of defrosting air brake lines on large trucks by using jumper cables attached on either side of the low spot that was clogged with ice. (Frozen condensation) Air lines were made of copper back then. My point is that to defrost the ice, would not require a welder. Just using a automotive battery would do the job. Just complete the circuit long enough to warm up the wire, not long enough to burn your hands.

Has anyone given thought to the salt content of the water after using the water softener. Would the added salt content of the "softened" water lower the freezing point of the water enough to prevent this in the future?

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/18/2008 12:35 PM

Softened water does NOT contain salt. The salt is used to regenerate the resin crystals and this salty water is pumped directly into the drainage system, not out of the taps!!!

Unless of course something has gone seriously wrong with the softener!!

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#41
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Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/18/2008 1:42 PM

I guess I will now have to flush that thought. Thanks for the answer.

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#42
In reply to #41

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/18/2008 2:57 PM

Too right!!!

Most people would not be too happy with a salty water supply I feel....

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#36

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/16/2008 3:11 PM

I am thoroughly impressed with the knowledge and ideas stirring around out there when a problem is posed. Thanks very much to all!!!!! I now have water running. I rented a hose which is like an air pressure hose. On the end it has a nozzle with a 0.020 inch opening pointed forward and also three similar openings, slightly smaller, pointed in the reverse direction. You hook this up to a pressure washer. It almost feeds itself forward because of the pressure and when I reached the ice, it would thaw the ice at about 1-2 inches/minute. I was truly amazed. Because I had not rushed into thawing the pipe, it now had several feet of ice to thaw. But it worked great. Yes, we are just north of the 45th parallel in Minnesota. The end closest to the frozen area is near the Ritchie watering fountain for the horses. I suspect their standing above the pipe keeps the snow away and allows the frost to penetrate downward more so. When it reaches the area outside the corral, there is no problem. Thus I had to work my way out to that area from the barn/office/studio. But we did it. I really liked some of the answers which included the salt idea, the heat wires inside the pipe and also concern for broken pipe. We will check that out. We definitely will dig it up this Spring and try to insulate the area somehow. Welders are typically used here for thawing ice in metal pipes. I had never heard of it for plastic but someone's suggestion I am certain would work, if one is careful. Thanks to all for their excellent contributions. I continue to be amazed at the time people took to contribute and think about the problem. I will continue to monitor to see if I can help another struggling soul with their challenges.

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#37
In reply to #36

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/17/2008 3:24 AM

Sorry to end a dream: attention with heat tracing and horses, they may never drink warm water. In the past of our company we had several problems with dead horses. All were "traced" back to heat traced lines and no line sensing thermostat.

Strange region you live, I live above 52th parallel and buried pipes never freeze. We also had no snow this winter, but we had some frost so the mosquitos will stay away for some weeks to come.

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#44
In reply to #37

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

03/18/2008 9:36 PM

May it be that large pond just west of you moderates the temperature?

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#45

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

05/07/2008 1:13 AM

to CSM #6 and # 30.

there is a snake with an electric heater element on the end. the municipal worker stated they use this instead of welder units/ battery jump cables due to the amount of fires they caused. sometimes not even in the same problem household. better late than never. I see it is thawed already.

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#46

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

10/03/2008 9:39 PM

Dr. V.V. Zhurin, President, Colorado Advanced Technology LLC (CATech),

548 Charrington Court, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525, USA

Telephone/Fax: 970-225-2517, Email: slava_zhurin@msn.com

Web: www.ion-plasma.com

Our Company Colorado Advanced Technology LLC developed and patented a so-called Freeze-Free Water Hose (FFWH). A small air compressor, which is a part of whole assembly

removes water from a hose and a faucet in just about 30-40 seconds, depending on the length of your hose.

So, while installed you don't have to disassemble the hose at subfreezing temperatures. The US patent 7,198,057 "Freeze-Free Water Hose. Works very reliably in Colorado, where we live.

The price for a FFWH on a web is wrong. It is $300.00 for the whole new assembly.

Regards,

Dr. V.Zhurin

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#47
In reply to #46

Re: Frozen Plastic Water Pipe

10/04/2008 8:43 AM

Very nice unit,

But how do you detect the need for water at the other side of the line and replace the air again with water?

I'm still more impressed by the in-pipe heaters, which do not spill water and use the plastic pipe as heat insulator.

Gwen

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#48

Water pipes

12/31/2008 1:47 AM

I am thinking about buying some wholesale water pipes from this company in China http://www.liangdianup.com/tobacciana_z.htm
but I am not sure if they are legal to bring in to the states? What are the laws on water pipes, bongs, and pipes?

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#49
In reply to #48

Re: Water pipes

12/31/2008 9:37 AM

Has the authority having jurisdiction over your project established a standard for the pipes you are planning to use? If so does the pipe you are contemplating meet that standard?

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#50
In reply to #49

Re: Water pipes

01/05/2009 3:48 AM

Bob, he had you right where you would not like it.

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#51
In reply to #50

Re: Water pipes

01/06/2009 7:34 AM

He certainly did.

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