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Thread: OT- Frozen Pipes
01-25-2011, 09:59 AM #1
OT- Frozen Pipes
I have a frozen pipe (copper) that runs under the floor of my house that I cannot get at to thaw with a heat gun or other. I thought of connecting my Lincoln Weldanpower to both ends of the pipe and run it at low current. I dont know what the duty cyle of the welder is and I am unsure of using it. What say you? Thanks
01-25-2011, 10:09 AM #2
That does work. I haven't done it, though.
Lincoln website will discuss the duty cycle of your welder.
Upon reflection... you'll need to stay below the melting point of the solder joints, the combustion point of whatever touches it, etc. Then, you'll need to deal with the possibility of having a high amperage, unfused power supply connected to a conductor that may be spewing water (due to bursting when frozen) when it thaws out. Sounds like fun!
If you can crawl under there to it, I'd get some heat cable (made for thawing pipes) and wrap it around and let it work. The kind with the thermostat will prevent it from freezing again -- just leave it plugged in over the winter.
But I realize you may not be able to/want to get down there to it, too.
01-25-2011, 10:48 AM #3
I have a valve in the line that I can shut off so no danger of water under pressure from the line. I cannot even see where the line goes so no way to add heat tape. This is the first time in 30 years that it has happened. I think that there is no danger of melting the solder joints if low amps are used.
01-25-2011, 11:38 AM #4
I HAVE done it. -44 degrees F, edit No time to get clamp on ammeters, or worry about a $230.00 welder's lifespan..
It was about an 80 ft run of copper.
All the neighbors welding leads scrounged up...
Used neighbors cheap Lincoln Tombstone, that he bought for the same purpose. Hardest thing is throwing welder power switch on, with full load applied... It was cold in crawlspace, which kept welder temps down..
Neighbor has used very same welder 5 or 6 times (his copper pipe is not buried as deep as mine)
Used 100 amps I think (Edit at first, I think I then went up higher, when cheap welder did not complain or melt). Leave water system wet, and you will have no problem melting solder joints.
I have a well, so I used a pitless adapter pulling pipe, to connect ground side to far end of copper pipe. Thats around 14 ft of galvenized steel pipe for some resistance, and lots of line loss with all that cable..
It took a couple hours, and then a couple more to repair interior pipes that had cracked.
You only park car trailer in summertime, lengthwise over buried well line, and leave it there until it hits -44 once.
01-25-2011, 11:46 AM #5
I've never done it, so don't listen to me!
I've always understood welder pipe-thawing to require a big welder. Compare the copper area of your frozen pipe to the area of your welding cables, or the windings in the welder. I doubt the pipe will show more resistance than the welder. So, the welder will get hot at least as fast as the pipe, and does not have the "advantage" of being water-cooled..
Of course, you only need to get the pipe over 32 deg, and the welder and cables should be fine up to 150 or more.
Yes, I'd check the duty cycle of your welder, and put a clamp-on ammeter on the cable to monitor what is happening.
I would also do it with the water "on", and a spigot open, so that as soon as a film of water is melted next to the pipe ID, flowing water can finish the job.
The chance that a pocket of water will melt get hot and expand and burst the pipe before a path has melted to bleed off the pressure is there, but seems rather remote to me.
I've thought of fishing a copper wire through my plastic pipes to make electrical thawing possible..but maybe I'd better just finish enclosing the house instead.
01-25-2011, 11:59 AM #6
My 6 cylinder mega amp Lincoln works a treat for melting frozen pipes. A 60' 3/4 dia copper takes about 1/2 hour at 150 amps......
01-25-2011, 12:06 PM #7
Sell everytyhing you don't need and move to So. Calif. Waalaa, no more frozen pipes. While there are some things that suck here in SoCal the weather isn't one of them. 65 Deg. and rising out on my veranda.
01-25-2011, 12:10 PM #8
I like good water, good fishing, hunting, living. No real gangs, and lack of Californians..
01-25-2011, 12:19 PM #9
From: Weather Informatio and Data
October 5th, 2010
High Temperature: 104.5
Low Temperature: 64.2
Highest Wind: 17.0 MPH from W
Rain: None Recorded
September 3rd, 2010
High Temperature: 111.1
Low Temperature: 55.5
Highest Wind: 12.0 MPH from W
Rain: None Recorded
August 26, 2010
RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE
We hit 107 today to break the previous record high temp of 106 in 1926.
August 25, 2010
RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE
We hit 111 today to tie previous record high temp set back in 1931.
August 2nd, 2010
High Temperature: 107.7
Low Temperature: 59.2
Highest Wind: 14.0 MPH from W
Rain: None recorded
July 2nd, 2010
High Temperature: 107.2
Low Temperature: 52.5
Highest Wind: 15.0 MPH from NW
01-25-2011, 12:32 PM #10
If the line is galvanized it will work better. Copper has less resistance and will heat slower, but it will work. I once used a 600 amp gas dirven welder to thaw about 200' of 1.5" K copper in frozen earth. The welder was at full load for over a day before it thawed. Be careful the welding clamps are securely attached. If contact is broken under load the resultant are could damage the pipe. If the pipe is full of water there is little danger of melting solder joints.
01-25-2011, 01:49 PM #11
On those little crackerbox A.C. only lincolns, that number on the dial that is circled- 75 or 80 I can't remember which- is where you are to set the machine to thaw frozen lines. That's why it was circled. It does sound bad flipping the switch to turn it on with a shorted connection, but it can take it. I've also used my tombstone lincoln AC/DC to jumpstart vehicles with dead batteries. Did it the same way- clamp the leads to the battery, set the amps to around 50, and flip the switch. Makes an arc, but it's not like you are doing it constantly. The engine fired right up and I flipped the switch back off, no worse for wear.
I built a welder out of a 4 cylinder I.H. engine and 4 chrysler alternators. Among other things, I have used it to thaw frozen water lines- since it is portable. It only puts out 12 volts D.C., but the amperage is adjustable up to over 200a. You aren't going to melt any soldered joints as long as water is in the pipe.
Pipes usually freeze in the fittings, f.y.i.
I'd put one lead on the pipe down in the water meter hole, and the other in the house, and wind it up and put the current wherever it sounded good.
Number one thing is good connections, you don't want to create an arc and burn a hole in the pipe- which could easily happen. Don't break the welding lead connections while the thing is under load. Use the on/off switch.
On edit~ years before I built mine, a friend built his chrysler alternator welder with 8 alternators and a slant 6 engine. It would produce over 400 amps (you add up the combined total output of each alt.).
Back when we had an ice plant here in town, the owner called him one subzero day and asked if he had any way to thaw a frozen 4" water line. It had been snowing, then sleeting, then below zero for a week. The plant had an exposed 4 inch line that wasn't insulated. It ran outside building for a ways before going underground and coming back up on the other side to enter the building.
My buddy took his welder over there, parked it on one end of the building and ran the leads from there to both sides of the building and clamped them to the pipe. Leads laying on top of the snow and ice. Started the welder. Set the current to W.F.O and let it cook. Can't recall how long he said it took to thaw the thing, but he said when it thawed out, his leads had melted down thru the ice cap and had frozen over again, trapping them. He had to start it up and go back and get them warmed enough he could get them unstuck.
That is the reason I built my alternator welder in the first place- seeing his and realizing how simple and powerful (and cheap) it is. 100% duty cycle and parts are basically available at any auto parts house. Power is only limited by the strength of your gasoline engine and the number of alternators you belt up to it.
I even made one with a 7.5 hp 3 phase motor once. Used it in the shop where I worked. The guys there were amazed how good it worked.
01-25-2011, 06:36 PM #12
Then, if it is a heat pipe in a closed system, get some antifreeze in it (the RV type, your plumber will do it, make this his problem). I had my heat pipe freeze at 5 degrees last year - a stretch of 5 degrees for a week. Been -16 to -21 at night the last four nights , no freeze yet.
01-26-2011, 03:17 PM #13
Then there is summer in Bakersfield.
And that's the best part. Can't come soon enough for me. And the drought has finally broken. Lots of rain so far.