View Full Version : Frozen Frost-free hydrant

Mar. 26, 2011, 12:10 PM
I live in Central Alberta, and to say it gets cold here is an understatement. Last month we had a brutal cold snap of -40 and I did a bone-headed move and left a hose connected to the hydrant for only 1/2 an hour, but the dang thing froze solid.

I have been schlepping water to the barn ever since. Yesterday was a downright balmy -5, (I am soooo over winter, it will warm up soon right? :cry:) so I sat with a torch on the base of the pipe for 8, yes 8! freaken hours trying to thaw our the stupid thing. No go. I also tried to take off the hydrant part to pour some thawing stuff down there, but I couldn't get it off. I didn't want to crank it too hard and snap the pipe.

I just installed this hydrant in the fall, I love it and it was so nice to not have to haul water 2-3 times a day....

Any suggestions?

Mar. 26, 2011, 12:12 PM
Heat tape?

Sorry, hauling water blows! I don't have water in my barn (although it's 50ft from the backdoor/bathroom of the house) and just did a happy dance at being able to take my hose out the other day. (Still not at the point where I don't have to drain it, but getting there!)

Mar. 26, 2011, 12:17 PM
I had it wrapped in heat tape for about a week after it froze, no go. Did I mention is cold here?

Effen winter needs to quit.

Mar. 26, 2011, 01:07 PM
It probably froze way down the pipe, like 4 feet or more. Only thing I can suggest is once it warms sufficiently to work sorta comfortably (oh, 3-4°C) take off the top and pour boiling water down the pipe.

Yes, winter needs to stop - it is a whopping -16°C here and windchill is around -30 That damned north wind is icy, and keeps blowing the whitecrap around. I probably have to dig out AGAIN and the chief delight is I wont be shoving that crap over water because it is much colder than it was the day after the blizzard.

Mar. 26, 2011, 01:39 PM
I think you're SOL until the frost comes out. Then cross your fingers that the pipe hasn't cracked somewhere below ground level. Try to switch off the pump or turn off the tap to this hydrant before the thing thaws out, just in case...

This summer, put heat tape from the nozzle wrapped along pipe, right down underground as far as you want to dig -- frost line or bedrock, whichever comes first. That's the inexpensive option. The expensive one is to put in an in-line pipe heater. Neat stuff, that. It only heats up in areas which it senses to be below freezing. The downside is it is really expensive.

Mar. 26, 2011, 01:45 PM
May be even cheaper to (groan) install a longer frost free. And don't forget to put a big gravel bed in for it to back-drain into.

Mar. 26, 2011, 02:11 PM
You need to get the head off (heat it then use two wrenches one going each way) take off and get lots of hot water and keep pouring down the pipe till it defrosts. I live in northern New England and this works for me. Mine are 5ft down in the ground.

Mar. 26, 2011, 02:32 PM
Get thee to the local farm store and pick up some propylene glycol....also called Keto-Aid. Pour this into the hydrant and it *will* thaw....and be ready to shut the water off fast unless you are going for the fountain effect. Safe for the horses as well...but there are some concerns regarding cats and propylene glycol, so be cautious there.

Mar. 26, 2011, 03:15 PM
I second Unfforgettable's advice. We had to thaw a frozen
frost hydrant one winter and used the Keto-Aid product
with excellent results. To get the top off the hydrant, I
would get some sort of box and put insulation inside it.
But the insulated box around the top of the frost hydrant
and then put whatever heat source you consider safe in
with the pipe. It might take a couple days, but the top
of your pipe should start to feel a bit warm. That should
make it a trifle easier to get the top off the hydrant.

If you hydrant and the underground pipe are all iron pipe
(no plastic anywhere there, even underground), you can
consider using an electric welder to create heat in the
pipe to melt out the ice. But you still may have to replace
the foot valve in the hydrant, so you want to have a
frost hydrant such as a Woodford where you can get
access to the foot valve from the top or you will have
to dig which is no fun.

Mar. 26, 2011, 03:40 PM
Thanks for the advise, the whole thing was VERY warm yesterday, and I still couldn't get the dang faucet part off. I was using two pipe wrenches, and I am pretty strong, I'm afraid to snap the dang thing...

I too kinda think it's frozen all the way to the drain. It is installed properly with a drainage bed, we are 10 feet, yup 10! down, and the head is just inside the barn. The total length is 14 feet.

I'm just so sick of winter, we have at least 3 feet of snow on the ground, and drifts of 5-6' around the property. Today is cold, windy and snow flurries. Is it really the end of March?

Mar. 26, 2011, 04:08 PM
Give the thing a drink of weasel piss.....er WD40 and let that soak for a bit on the threads but it may not work so good until the air temp warms up a bit. Adding heat to metal makes it expant and will tighten the joints temporarily, so, that was the problem for you yesterday. You CAN heat the part that screws on slightly and it may let go that way but still advise WD40 and slightly warmer air temps.

Mar. 26, 2011, 09:57 PM
Another thought, deckchick, if you can get the handle to
come up on the hydrant, Thread a short hose into the
top of the hydrant and attach a funnel to the other end
of the hose. Hold the funnel high above the hydrant and
pour keto-aid into the funnel. It should run into the pipe
without having to get the top off the hydrant that way.
My DH suggests you then heat the pipe (get out your
trusty torch) as that will let the keto-aid circulate and
help thaw the ice out quicker (he says).

Also, if you do still want to get the top off the hydrant,
try heating the top while chilling the pipe. If you can
get the two metal parts at different temperatures, the
metal will be of two sizes and that may be enough to
loosen the threads.

Mar. 26, 2011, 10:06 PM
You need to completely thaw the area around the hydrant w/ like a torpedo contruction type heater (use common sense and saftey) the ground is holding the cold....ask me how i know..we had 2 freeze up that never have in the past...hours w/ torches...but protective (saftey) enclosed area w/ heat thawed ground to feeze line and hydrant....

Mar. 27, 2011, 09:39 AM
Robin, I have taken the top apart and tried to put the ice melt stuff down it, but there is a blockage there and I can't get more then a few drops in. If I can get the top off, I will dump that ice melting stuff down there. I don't know if it's keto-aid, but all the guys use it out here to unthaw frozen pipes.

judybigredpony, The hydrant is beside a wall in my barn in the rabbit pen. The frost line here is for sure 4' minimum, probably deeper. I do have a propane heater, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be practical.

sk_pacer, I will try the WD-40, but at this point, I fear I need to wait until spring. We are going to get spring soon right?

Mar. 27, 2011, 12:16 PM
Good Luck. All our pipes froze one winter and the frost free hydrants did not thaw out till the 15 of July. Yes they were deep in the ground and correctly installed.

Mar. 27, 2011, 04:26 PM
Good Luck. All our pipes froze one winter and the frost free hydrants did not thaw out till the 15 of July. Yes they were deep in the ground and correctly installed.


That is my nightmare scenario...

Mar. 30, 2011, 05:37 AM
Sorry Deckchick...I feel your pain we were hauling water in tubs back of Gator to 2 fields.
But here in Mid Atlantic we have now above freeze and all finally thawed..............

Mar. 30, 2011, 09:18 AM
My neighbour was telling me last night when his hydrant froze, it didn't thaw out until June. :cry: :no:

Mar. 30, 2011, 12:58 PM
That's the worst of living this far north, deckchick - if something undergroud freezes, it stays that way for a long time unless you dig it up. I had actually toyed with putting a 'rainwater recover system' in the barn (aka 6000 gallon cistern and pressure system) until I found the TOP of the tank would have to be 15' underground. Then I started thinking what if it froze? What if something busted requiring digging the thing up and decided to haul water from town at 2.50 a tank rather than spending all that dough on tanks, eaves, pressure system, and back-up hand pump.

Fairview Horse Center
Mar. 30, 2011, 01:06 PM
I would use a clamp light with a heat lamp bulb in it, as long as not in a place that is dangerous to catch on fire.

Mar. 30, 2011, 04:38 PM
Yeah sk_pacer, the cold really stays in the ground forever around here. No way of easily digging in the winter either.

Fairview Horse Center, my hydrant is 10-11 feet into the ground. I had heat tape wrapped around the protruding 4' for more then a week, I had a torch on it for 8+ hours. No go. Our frost line here is a minimum of 6'. Short of digging it up, I think I just need to be patient.

Fairview Horse Center
Mar. 30, 2011, 06:21 PM
A torch spot heats, and heat tape is a milder heat. The heat lamp is worth a try for $10. Get the higher wattage bulb. I believe that is 250, not the 150 one, but not sure if it is the red or white one.

At the very least, it will thaw the handle to be able to remove it.

May. 16, 2011, 12:34 AM
I took my rabbits to the auction, so of course today is the day my pipe thawed out! I came home to a big lake by the barn, but at least I have water again! May 15th is my happy day this year :D

May. 16, 2011, 03:56 PM
Hurray! No broken pipe? If so, you're very, very lucky.

May. 16, 2011, 06:50 PM
Nope! It works just fine, I am kinda surprised it took so long to thaw out though...

May. 16, 2011, 07:49 PM
I'm surprised that it thawed so soon - nights have been danged cold and not a lot of heat yet.........but regardless, thawed is wonderful.