Troubleshooting frozen water pipes is the key to quickly finding out where the pipes are frozen, so you can begin the process of unfreezing them, insulating them and making sure they thaw out.
How do you know your pipe is frozen? During freezing cold, windy weather, you try to turn on the water you get a trickle for no water at all. The frozen water in the pipes can expand and pop your water pipes breaking them wide open if you dont gwet them thawed out quickly.
Step 1) Find out which pipes are frozen
First, check if the main water is frozen or only one particular area of your plumbing. Sometimes, just one sink will have frozen pipes from being against an exterior wall. In this case, it may be enough just to open the cabinet doors and put a small space heater in the cabinet or blow hot air dryer under there until the pipes thaw out.
If ALL your water is frozen, either your main water inlet pipe is frozen or you have serious draft problems and ALL your pipes are actually frozen. Whenever I go on a frozen pipe service call and the people have no water, the first thing I check is to see if the main water pipe is exposed. Often in crawlspaces and underneath mobile homes, the main water pipe will be exposed to cold air drafts. In this case, I use a hot air dryer to slowly heat the pipe up and thaw it out.
Unfreezing your pipes with a space heater.
If all the pipes are frozen, it is usually because of poor isulation and/or the heat is out. In this case, I work on insulating the area and getting a small space heater in there to bring the temperature up. Insulation is key, because without it all the heat will simple blow outside, and the cold air drafts will continue to come in. Once the area is insulated, use a small electric space heater and make sure to keep it away from anything flammable.
Unfreezing your pipes with a thawing machine.
If all your water pipes are metal, like copper or galvanized steel, then a plumber might use something called a thawing machine. It uses electricity to thaw the pipes out by running it through the pipes like a conductor. These machines are expensive and somewhat dangerous, so it is best to leave it to a professional plumber.
Thawing out your frozen water pipes with a heat gun or blow dryer.
My tool of choice when thawing out frozen pipes is a heat gun. A heat gun is basically like a blow-dryer on steroids. The hot air blows directly on the pipes, and heats them to the point of thawing out. To use this method, you have to know exactly where the pipes are frozen. Usually you can tell by checking where the pipes are exposed to drafts, or feeling them with your hand to see if they are freezing cold.
Using heat tape and insulation to thaw out pipes.
Not only is heat tape a great idea for preventing frozen water pipes, it also works excellently for unfreezing the pipes in the first place. Wrap the heat tape using electrical tape and make sure to keep the heat tape touching the pipe, then use pipe insulation foam to wrap around the heat tape and keep the pipe warm. You can read more on the article about heat tape and freeze protection.