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defrosting the hydrant

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  • defrosting the hydrant

    In a few posts, a few people have mentioned they have done this and it's not easy... Well, of my three, one (luckily it's in the middle, the others still work, so I know it's not a complete water line failure) is frozen. No hoses attached to it, it just froze in the ridiculously cold weather we had in Colorado this week. Yesterday we got into the high 20's - it's still not working. Today and this weekend we are working our way to the 40's - so I'm hoping I can somehow thraw it out - or else that pasture is toast for the winter. There is no way I want risk digging it up (if we can even get through the dirt) in the winter - don't want to screw up the other two. I used a torch on it for a little while yesterday, but that didn't help.

    So how have you guys done it?


  • #2
    Hair drier, for a long time.


    • #3
      heat tape. I only leave the heat tape plugged in while I am around and checking it frequently. I worry about it catching fire.

      I just got a heated hose. It is so nice to plug it in and not have a frozen hose. No more blowing through the hose to make sure every last bit of water is out of it! So exciting!


      • #4
        If you have frost free hydrants, the kind that are supposed to drain the spigot water below frost level when they are turned off, they might be broken.

        You have to disconnect your hose from the hydrant every time for it to drain proper.

        To unfreeze, make a makeshift plywood backer and top, like a cheap nativity scene hut! Get a torpedo heater and blast it towards the hut. Unfrozen in record time.
        ...don't sh** where you eat...


        • #5
          Yes, if you have electricity close, try a hair drier.
          Hydrants have a rubber bullet at the bottom end, to close them up and if you use a cutting torch to defrost them, that melts.
          Don't ask how I know.

          Vibration is good to defrost metal pipes, try tapping it with a hammer.
          When we had all metal pipes, we used to attach the welder to both ends and the vibration would break the ice in the pipes.

          If you can't get that defrosted, how about asking a local plumber to look at your set up?
          If he fixes it, you then can keep using that pasture.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks for the ideas - of course, I don't have electricity near by - but I do have a generator - now I just have to think of what type of heater to use - a hair dryer - now I know why you guys said it was a pain in the rear... Did anyone try pouring boiling hot water on it? I think I may have broken the valve when I forced it open the other day... As my wonderful husband pointed out - that was stupid - shouldn't have forced it. Duh...



            • #7
              I'd use a propane torch but not down near the lower part of the stack much or up where the packing is for the lift rod. Just run the flame up and down the pipe so the heat with transfer down and up. Keep trying to lift the handle as you are heating it but don't use more force than you normally would. As soon as the critical part melts it should work normally. It may not have enough drainage rock under it so the water has somewhere to go as it drains out.

              The one potential problem will be that if you do defrost it and it's split upstream of the cutoff washer. Then you will have a plumbing repair but it probably has to be done.

              Hopefully some just froze to lock the lifting rod as it was draining and it will be a simple fix.


              • #8
                Originally posted by AKB View Post

                I just got a heated hose. It is so nice to plug it in and not have a frozen hose. No more blowing through the hose to make sure every last bit of water is out of it! So exciting!
                Where did you get your heated hose? Was it the one on a thread posted here?

                I've been thinking about that hose this week!


                • #9
                  Please do not pour boiling water over it. You are just asking for additional issues. The water gets places and freezes again.

                  Use something to heat it.

                  And like was said above. For it to work properly you have to remove the hose from it when you are done. If you have one of those shut off type adapters that give you multiple hose connections that has to be open also. It needs to be able to drain the water back down to below the frost line. It can not do that properly if it can not get air in/out.


                  • #10
                    Here's a fix that was posted on a local group. A friend of mine used it and it worked.

                    Yes, there is a magic fix for frozen hydrants! No plumbers,
                    excavators, welding torches, fire rings, or heat tape needed. Many,
                    many thanks to XXX for telling me about propylene glycol, a food
                    grade antifreeze, available at Fleet Farm as Keto-Aid, a treatment for
                    ketosis in cattle, $17.00/gallon.

                    You attach a short hose(3-4 feet) to
                    the hydrant, attach a funnel to the hose, and start pouring the Keto-
                    Aid into the funnel, holding it up as high as you can--or standing on a
                    mounting block. (The first hose I tried didn't work, possibly because
                    of a small filter at one end. Keto-Aid is just a little viscous.) I
                    stood there, feeding the stuff into the funnel, when I wondered whether
                    it would work better with the hydrant handle up. So I pulled the
                    handle up, and whoosh: water! Yeah, I got wet but it was worth it. I
                    think my hydrant must have had a little ice 'way down at the bottom,
                    since the handle never stopped working, so it might take longer if the
                    whole pipe is frozen. Truly magic; tell everyone you know!


                    • #11
                      I just put a heat light bulb in a clamp light, and attach it to the hydrant, aiming it at the handle base. Within a few hours, I have water.


                      • #12
                        One way to speed up the hair dryer process (or any other "hot air" method) is to put a heavy duty plastic contractor bag over the hydrant. Weight the edges with rocks or bricks, making a "balloon" over the hydrant that you'll now inflate with hot air. Keep the dryer away from the plastic.

                        This can also work with all kinds of frozen pipes.

                        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                        • #13
                          Plastic garbage can upside down over the bucket might be better than a plastic bag. Just the garbage can and a sunny day might be enough, but add a heat sourse and you might have a real winner.


                          • Original Poster

                            Thank you all for your great ideas. After trying to defrost the hydrant for the past 4 days, I had decided that I must have broke the plunger when I forced it open last week. This morning I started work to join the pasture with the broken hydrant to another pasture I have with a working hydrant - I figured I'd tackle the broken one in the spring. It was only about 1.5 hours of moving panels, cutting wire fencing etc... I reached a point in my work that I needed a shovel, so I headed back to the barn. As I drove past the frozen hydrant, I thought what the heck - I'll give it one more try. You can imagine what happened next...

                            The stupid thing worked! The good news is my hydrant is no longer frozen. And, it seems to be working fine (turns on and off). The bad news was the time I spent modifying fencing, and the fact that I had even gone so far as to cut a hole in the wire fencing of the other pasture. I secured the pastures with panels, and if the hydrant freezes again, at least I'll be half way to joining them.




                            • #15
                              That Murphy's Law thing was helping you along I see. You do know that if you had not cut the wire and such the hydrant would not have started working?

                              Glad it is working now.


                              • #16
                                Here's a question: isn't the only reason a frost free hydrant would freeze is a leak somewhere? (If it was properly installed below the frost line, etc)?

                                We had one that we thought was leaking, and would freeze sometimes.. We dug down and found the 90 degree pvc elbow about to snap. We replaced it with a metal elbow and a new hydrant (they sell them at Home Depot!). We think, judging by the water bills, we were losing a lot of water through that leak.

                                We finally installed an auto waterer- the best money I've ever spent esp. in this cold snap! Ours keeps the water pretty darn warm- which is wonderful for the horses. OP- The fellow who dug the trench for us was very experienced with installing there and very reasonable- based out of Ft Lupton and goes about anywhere for work- let me know if you ever want his number


                                • #17
                                  If it is really cold, sometimes water will freeze somewhere in the stack before it can all drain. It only takes a few drops somewhere like around the packing nut to freeze it up. This is the reason it's best to make sure there is no leak around the packing nut before cold weather gets here.

                                  Never use a plastic elbow attached to the hydrant. Always use a "street" elbow and a male threaded adaptor into the el. Absolutely never use a plastic female threaded adaptor anywhere in the water system-always plastic male threads into metal female threads. Both are responsible for the majority of waterline repairs.


                                  • #18
                                    We have a few hydrants on our farm and last winter one of ours froze and was out of action for most of the winter. I figured that although the water lines were 8ft down and the hydrant is only an 8ft hydrant pole, so 4ft sticks out the ground and the water line comes up to 4ft below ground at that point, so the freeze line must have reached 4ft down. Anyhow, before the beginning of this winter, I decided to take the excavator down there and piled about another foot of earth on top of where the hydrant comes out of the ground, so now there is only 3ft sticking above ground. So far it seems to be working absolutely fine. I don't need this hydrant for anything important but I have been checking it every day and it has worked each and every time. Maybe that is your problem?


                                    • Original Poster

                                      I think the hydrant actually sticks too far out of the ground. We installed it ourselves (when we did all the hydrants) 3 winters ago. Last week - we had a horrible freeze that went on for days - as did most of the nation - although this hydrant made it thru the last 3 winters - and it typically does get ridoculously cold at least one week a year in Colorado - the stars must have aligned to cause it freeze this time. In the meantime - I have seen insulation that you can put on them, and little hoods - I will probably use that until we can dig it up next spring. I don't want to jepordize my water lines this winter by fussing with it now. I have wondered about a leak or something else being broke at the base of it - I have a hydrant further down the line that is working fine - until I see evidence of a leak ( I can imagine a huge sink hole) - I'm going to pretend that all is well.



                                      • #20
                                        Ah yes that is the same as with mine. I have auto waterers both before and after the hydrant on that water line and neither of them froze, just the hydrant. Sounds like your problem is the same as mine. We also had that crazy freeze last week, that's how I know mine should be okay this winter. Good luck!