Hot Water Lines Frozen? How To Avoid and Thaw Frozen Pipes This Winter

Winter weather brings a lot of things – snow, cozy sweaters and hot chocolate to name a few. But, it can also mean something else: frozen water lines! Don’t let the chill take over your home this season; learn how to keep those pesky pipes thawed all winter long with our expert tips.

Don’t Let Frozen Water Pipes Be One Of Your Winter Woes

Icicles hanging out of frozen vent pipe
Make sure you know all you need to prevent your pipes from freezing!

Worried about getting frozen hot water lines during the winter season (and all that entails)? Don’t worry, this article has you covered! 

Below, we’ll reveal how you can prevent this from happening, what to do if it does happen, when it’s safe to attempt a DIY fix, and when you should be calling in a plumber.

Read on for a detailed guide on keeping your hot water lines flowing smoothly even in freezing temperatures.

Key Takeaways: How to Thaw and Prevent Pipes from Freezing

  • Prevention is key to avoiding frozen pipes: insulate water pipes, keep a drip of water running, and maintain sufficient heat in your home when the cold weather comes
  • To safely thaw pipes, use a hairdryer or heat lamp to slowly thaw the pipe from the faucet outward. Never use an open flame or electrical appliances near standing water!
  • Causes of frozen pipes include exposed pipes in unheated areas, lack of insulation, and temperature drops below freezing point
  • Consequences if left untreated include bursting and flooding that can cause significant damage to your home (most of which will require costly repairs!)

Prevention Measures for Frozen Hot Water Lines

Prevention is always better than cure, and in the case of frozen hot water lines could save you serious money on plumbing repairs and property damage.

Below, we’ve listed the most important steps to take to prevent pipe troubles in the cold season:

  • Try to keep indoor temperatures above 55°F
  • Using insulation materials on all exposed pipes
  • Install heat tape or pipe-heating cables on at-risk areas
  • Use caulking and sealant around windows and doors to prevent cold air infiltration
  • Drain outdoor faucets before the onset of winter
  • In-ground sprinkler systems and outdoor swimming pool plumbing are also vulnerable to freezing, requiring foam sleeves or heat tape installation
  • Insulate hot and cold water pipes that are exposed, including those in unheated areas such as garages/crawl spaces 
Plumber holding foam thermal insulation for covering home water pipes
A cheap solution to help prevent pipes from freezing is to insulate them with foam.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes Safely and Effectively

When dealing with frozen water supply lines, safety should always be the top priority. Before starting the thawing process, be sure to turn off the main water supply line and open nearby taps so that once the water thaws, it has somewhere to flow.

There are several ways to safely and effectively thaw a frozen pipe. One good option is using a hair dryer or heat lamp and slowly moving it along the length of the exposed pipe (keeping it at least 6 inches away). Alternatively, open the cabinet doors under your sink to let in warm air or wrap warm towels around the frozen pipes.

For optimal results, use a heat lamp, space heater, electric heating pad, or hot towels/water bottles around the frozen area (on a low setting) until full flow is restored. Just be sure to keep any flammable materials at a safe distance!

Warning: Never use an open flame when attempting to thaw a hot water pipe as this could irreparable damage or even a fire.

Close up of tap not working
Whatever method of thawing you choose always open closeby faucets first.

Causes of Hot Water Lines Freezing

There are various factors that contribute to this issue, including:

  • Insufficient insulation around the pipe(s)
  • Cold air entering into unsealed openings like windows or cracks
  • Failure to drain outdoor faucets/hoses properly
  • Power outages leading to non-functioning heating systems
  • Neglected maintenance/damaged piping
  • Low temperatures along with lack of insulation in vulnerable pipes often located in attics, basements, or crawlspaces.

In addition to the above-mentioned causes, it is worth noting that construction/renovation work within the house walls can also disrupt the piping system leading to hot water lines freezing. Furthermore, areas with poor infrastructure maintenance such as underground water mains/cities may also cause hot water pipes freezing. 

In traditionally warmer Southern US regions with inadequate insulation and skinnier exterior walls, frozen hot water pipes may also be an issue. 

Consequences of Leaving Frozen Water Pipes Untreated

Leaving frozen water pipes untreated can have serious consequences, such as losing access to running, hot water, damaged or burst pipes (leading to costly repairs!), and energy bills skyrocketing as a result of leaks and general inefficiency. 

Flooding and property damage are, however, the two biggest concerns – water damage from a burst pipe can be extensive both inside and outside of your home. And this, of course, will deal a serious blow to your bank account.

Water leak from room above causing water damage on the ceiling
Water damage is always a pain to fix no matter the cause!

Symptoms Indicating That You May Have a Frozen Pipe

Unlike many household issues, diagnosing a frozen pipe is fairly easy. 

The most obvious and common tell-tale sign is having no (or very little) running water coming out of your faucets, which happens because the pipe is either completely or partially blocked by ice. 

Other symptoms include strange smells or sounds coming from your plumbing system, such as banging, rattling, or clanking noises, and visible frost or ice buildup on your exposed pipes.

To pinpoint which section of any pipe is affected, feel or tap it to find out which area feels colder than others. Once you’ve identified where the issue lies, get to work on thawing it out asap before the pipe bursts and causes serious damage.

What To Do If Your Pipes Burst Due to Freezing

If your pipes burst due to freezing, it’s important to act quickly to minimize damage and protect yourself until professional help arrives. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Shut off the main water supply immediately to stop the flow of water.
  • Turn up the central heating in your home to help thaw out any frozen pipes.
  • Keep the thermostat at a consistent temperature throughout your home.
  • Call a licensed plumber for an emergency repair service as soon as possible.
  • Document any damages caused by the leak/burst for insurance purposes by taking pictures or videos of affected areas.
  • Use towels and buckets near affected areas till professional services arrive, if necessary, to contain any leaking water.
Person setting house thermostat
Keeping the temperature consistent throughout winter will help save your pipes from freezing.


Brrr! When the winter winds begin to howl, the absolute last thing any homeowner or renter wants to deal with is a disastrous plumbing mishap (one of these combined with all that Bing Crosby would test the patience of your average saint!).

But fear not, dear readers! With the tips we’ve shared on how to prevent those pesky pipe freezes, as well as how to safely thaw them if they do occur, you can protect yourself from costly and frustrating winter plumbing problems.

Please help share these helpful insights by passing along this article – it’d be much appreciated!


Can You Still Use Other Plumbing Fixtures? 

Gah! Dealing with a frozen pipe is like trying to navigate a busy intersection with a blindfold on – a challenge, to say the least. If the frozen pipe is located on an external wall, it’s usually a-okay to use toilets and sinks without exacerbating the problem. However, if the issue is with interior faucets, it’s more like a game of Russian roulette – one wrong move, and you could be bathing in a sea of water damage!

To avoid this mess, it’s best to avoid using any appliances like washing machines or dishwashers until the issue is resolved. Trust us, it’s just too risky.

When you suspect your pipes are iced over, be sure to shut off the main water supply valve. In the meantime, quench your thirst and take care of hygiene using bottled water or water from other, safer sources.

External pipe on wall frozen with icicles formed underneath
Only use toilets and sinks if its a case of external frozen pipes, never when internal pipes are frozen.

How Often Should I Check On My Plumbing System to Prevent a Pipe Freezing?

To keep your plumbing running smoothly during the cold months, it’s important to conduct regular inspections of your hot water lines. A yearly check-up in the fall is a great idea as this will allow you to detect any leaks or cracks before they freeze up and cause bigger problems. 

Additionally, be sure to insulate all drain pipes so that warmth can reach throughout their length – no matter how icy conditions get! Taking these steps now should ensure hot H2O from every faucet for years down the line…even on frosty days!

About the author

An accomplished plumber with more than 15 years of experience in the industry, David "Fitz" Fitzgerald began as an apprentice and steadily worked his way up to become a fully licensed and certified master plumber.

With extensive training in all aspects of plumbing. David is well-versed in the installation, repair, and maintenance of plumbing systems, including pipes, fixtures, and appliances, and is able to troubleshoot and solve even the most complex plumbing issues.

He loves to share his wealth of knowledge and looks forward to engaging with the community here on No Hassle Plumbing.

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