Using a heat gun to thaw frozen pipes

With the onset of winter, home owners in areas of the country that experience freezing temperatures have to risk an inconvenient and potentially costly problem – frozen pipes.

Ice can accumulate within pipes across a person's home when they're exposed to freezing temperatures for extended periods of time. Pipes in areas like crawl spaces and uninsulated outside walls are susceptible to freezing. A malfunctioning thermostat or accidentally leaving the garage door open can also cause pipes to freeze over. Even in well-insulated homes, pipes can experience ice buildup if the weather is cold enough.

When a section of a pipe is frozen, pressure accumulates between the solid portions of ice and if not defrosted in time, the pipe could crack or burst. These ruptures and the cost of their repair can be expensive and could leave portions of your house without water for days.

Time is of the essence in these situations as the longer the pipe remains frozen, the harder it is to unfreeze and higher the risk of a rupture.

Heat guns are highly efficient in thawing sections of frozen pipes. Below is a guide on how to effectively and safely use the tool to keep the water in your home running all winter.

Safety needs to be white hot priority

Don't use an open flame tool, such as that from a blow torch which creates a fire hazard.

Heating the pipe must be done carefully, as too much heat can melt the pipe or turn the water inside to steam, which is another way for it to burst. It is best to keep the heat gun at a low to medium setting, depending on the material of the pipe.

Using a tool like the Master HG Heat Gun is recommended.

Hold the heat gun a few inches away from the surface of the pipe.  As you apply heat, maintain even hand movements back and forth across the pipe, being careful not to let keep the gun stationary for too long.

Old plywood and exposed insulation can create a fire hazard if exposed to high temperatures, especially when the heat source is in close proximity or the heat is contained in an enclosed area. Be aware of these materials in your surroundings as you heat the frozen pipe and be careful to avoid inadvertently applying heat to any flammable items as you work.

If space allows for it, place a heat shield behind the section of pipe you are working on. This prevents the hot air flow from hitting any potential fire hazards located behind the section of pipe being heated.

Aluminum foil has a melting point of 1,220 degrees, and your heat gun setting should be well below that when thawing frozen pipes. You craft a homemade heat shield by taping or stapling a layer of foil to a large section of plywood, poster board.

Know that the aluminum heat shield will reflect the heat in the direction the shield is pointed. If directed properly, heat can be reflected back at the pipe. But be careful not to expose any potentially flammable items, or yourself, to the hot air as it travels away from the shield.

You should also have a fire extinguisher nearby in the event that a fire does accidentally occur.

It's important that homeowners know how to correct this problem before it occurs to prevent pipes from bursting, making for a troublesome winter and potentially expensive winter.

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