Winter’s strangle hold of frigid sub-zero temperatures has finally taken hold here in Minnesota. I’m sure many of you too have been blasted with arctic air and the storms that come with it. I think we’re in for a good old-fashioned winter and to be honest, it’s a welcome event.
Last year’s winter weather was terrible for business here in my area and I am very much in need and looking forward to the late night emergency no-heat calls or the many frozen/burst pipe repairs a typical winter inevitably ushers in. I never wish these situations on any of my customers; however, it is how we make our money so it’s good for the bottom line.
This past week our temps began to drop leading into the weekend; with lows bottoming out near -30F air temp and windchill reaching as low as -55F the calls have been coming in fairly regularly now. No heat, frozen pipes, a couple broken water pipe and even a frozen stock tank are some of the issues I’ve personally dealt with so far.
Just this last Sunday you might have seen a Facebook or Instagram post from an early morning emergency call I received from a new customer without water at any of their faucets. With overnight lows reaching well below -25F I was curious whether they had a frozen pipe inside their home or if the well supply line to the house has actually froze underground. I quickly found the problem upon arrival with the help of my infrared thermal imager, a tool I cannot imagine being without.
As mentioned in my post I have a few thermal imagers, two by Flir, one from Milwaukee and another from SEEK Thermal. Each is a little different from the others but all have proven extremely useful when diagnosing problems with both plumbing and heating systems. I should also mention how valuable these tools are to verify the proper operation of radiant heating systems as well. On a more than one occasion I have used an imager to show my customers where embedded heating lines are installed and that they are in fact operating as designed; something nearly impossible to do with any other tool.
Back to the frozen plumbing call.
When I arrived to the house with no water I immediately turned on all the faucets, walked downstairs into the mechanical room and attached my thermal imager to my iPhone. Within a minute I was able to identify the likely problem, a fresh air supply duct spilling -13F cold air directly onto the inlet copper tubing to the whole house water softener. As you can see in the photo the area around the softener is only 28F, something I would have eventually figured out but there was a lot of piping near the rim joists and strapped in front of an outside wall so I have no doubt it would’ve taken more than one minute.
Thankfully none of the copper had burst or even expanded so once I had thawed the ice plug in the softener piping it let loose and water was flowing to each faucet. Problem solved. Quickly thanks to a tool I will never be without and continue to find new uses for everyday.