Pipe Freeze

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Doing plumbing maintenance on townhouses and units can be tricky if the tenant doesn’t know where to turn off their water supply. We had such an incident yesterday, although, Dad and I had done work at this property before. Unfortunately, where we thought the ball valve (stop tap) was – in the store room, was actually the ball valve for the reticulated hot water.

We had to have the cold water turned off so that I could replace a dripping hose tap. When replacing washers or taps, the water needs to be turned off because one, you’ll get wet if you don’t and two, you can’t work under high water pressure.

So this situation called for an instant pipe freeze kit that we always keep spare in the back of the ute. The quick freeze kit from Rothernberger enables a plumber to freeze a copper pipe causing an ice block to form in the pipe for at least half an hour, giving the plumber time to replace the tap.

Each can has liquid nitrogen in it. To create a solid ice block in the pipes, the pipe itself needs to be wrapped with a foam cover and fastened at each end with a zip lock tie and then the long straw nozzle from the can gets inserted into the foam cover and sprayed with nitrogen. It takes approximately 10 minutes for an ice block to form.

Spraying the liquid nitrogen into the encased copper pipe
Spraying the liquid nitrogen into the encased copper pipe
You can see the ice condensation on the copper which means the ice block is forming inside the pipe
You can see the ice condensation on the copper which means the ice block is forming inside the pipe

The kits are only great for pipes with a diameter of 10-25mm. Anything bigger and it’s time to call in a professional pipe freezer. We would use these specialized pipe freezers in older high rise buildings where we were contracted to replace the existing ball valves for each floor level of a high rise. The water main going from top to bottom would be 40 to 50mm in diameter.

Before crimping copper became the norm, plumbers would weld copper together. We had to be so careful when welding onto an iced water main because the heat from the oxy torch could melt the ice block which would have caused catastrophic water damage. This was why it was imperative for all of our subbies and for us ourselves to have public liability insurance.

Back to our little job, once the pipe was frozen, the new hose tap could be installed and the foam cover could be discarded. The heat from my hands helped the copper to de freeze so that the water could flow freely through the hose tap.

We’ve asked the tenant to find out exactly where the stop valve is for her unit so that if she ever had a water leak emergency, she would know where to turn the water off.

Do you know where to turn the water off to your property if you have a water emergency?

I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.