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How To Defrost Frozen PEX Plumbing

PEX plumbing is an alternative type of plumbing material that is made out of flexible plastic tubing. This unique material gives PEX plumbing a number of distinctive benefits, the least of which is the easier installation process. However, like all types of plumbing materials, PEX plumbing can become frozen during the winter as temperatures drop below zero. Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to properly defrost PEX plumbing before it bursts or becomes damaged by thawing ice.

What You'll Need

Before you begin, gather all of the tools and materials that you'll be using to speed up the process as much as possible. You'll need a kettle, a hair dryer, and a piece of cloth, all of which can be found at most hardware and grocery stores if you don't already have them at home.

Defrosting Frozen PEX Plumbing

First, do a visual inspection of the PEX plumbing that has become frozen. You want to make sure that there are no cracks or visible breaks that water can leak out of once you defrost the ice. If you do notice physical damage to the PEX plumbing, you should contact a professional immediately to have that section replaced.

If the PEX pipes aren't broken, however, you can go ahead and turn off the main water supply for your home. This is usually located next to your water heater, but differs from home to home.

Then, turn on all the faucets that are at the end of the length of plumbing that has become frozen. This lets the water drain out of the pipe as it thaws and prevents pressure from building up within the pipes, which can cause damage.

You can now begin to thaw your plumbing. You can use the hair dryer turned up to high held a few inches away from the pipe to begin defrosting the frozen pipe, which can take a while but is good for small blockages as it requires the least amount of effort.

If the hair dryer is working too slowly, likely due to a large amount of ice buildup, you can cover the PEX plumbing with a piece of cloth and heat up water in the kettle. Once the kettle is boiling, you can pour the water over the frozen pipe to defrost the ice. Repeat as needed until the ice is all melted.

Once the ice is cleared from your PEX plumbing, you can turn the water supply back on. Check the open faucets to ensure that water is flowing freely: if it is, you can turn them off and continue using your plumbing as normal.

It's a good idea to insulate your PEX plumbing with foam sleeves, available at most hardware stores, to ensure that they do freeze regularly and become damaged. Talk to your plumber about other winterizing ideas.