DIY Pipe Freezing Kit

icemelt

Have you ever needed to freeze a water pipe to do a quick plumbing job without shutting off all the water? It’s actually a fairly common practice for contractors, except they use a rather expensive tool to do it. As it turns out, there’s actually a fairly cheap and easy DIY solution you can do with minimal supplies or experience.

[Go Repairs] shows us that all you need is some pipe insulation (or a large sponge), a plastic bag, two zip-ties, and a air duster can. Wrap the insulation and plastic bag around the pipe, and zip-tie it in place. Holding the air duster can upside down, release the majority of the contents into the insulation. Congratulations, you’ve just frozen your pipe.

It works by exploiting the properties of a compressed gas — in this case tetrafluoroethane — the “air” in the air duster.

When this gas is under pressure it exists as both a liquid and a gas in the can. When you spray the can normally, you’re just getting the gas out — but if you hold the can upside down, the liquid comes out instead. Because liquid tetrafluoroethane can’t exist at atmospheric pressure as a liquid, it boils instantly as it leaves the can. This causes an extreme temperature drop in the surroundings due to the endothermic reaction occurring.

For a complete explanation, check out the video below.

Comments

  1. Joshua C says:

    Cooling something by evaporative cooling is _not_ an endothermic reaction. To have an endothermic reaction, you have to have a reaction! Evaporating a pressurized liquid a chemical reaction does not make. Liquid tetraflouoroethane in, gaseous tetraflouoroethane out.

    Source http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Latent_heat

    Neat hack though!

  2. Magic Blue Smoke says:

    wouldn’t it be cheaper and longer lasting to use dry ice rather than expensive aerosol air duster which is not very good for the environment or you.

  3. metrux says:

    Well, just keep in mind, that most canned air in the EU is made of Butane, which is highly flammable. That might lead to some problems with “larger” plumbing jobs ;-)

  4. DainBramage1991 says:

    Common practice among professional plumbers? Not good ones. Any plumber worth his/her salt shuts off the water and drains the lines in order to perform repairs on copper lines.
    The problem with freezing a copper pipe to get a convenient (read: lazy) plug is that ice expands, usually more than the copper does. This results in a weak point or a split, adding to the repair load and quite possibly damaging the property if the new leak goes undetected.
    I’ve had enough professional training (3 years) and done enough professional plumbing (15 years on the job) to know that this is very bad practice.

    • PC1911 says:

      When plumbers freeze pipes, they do it if the water shutoff is either not accessible or stuck open, or if they don’t want or is impractical to drain out the entire system (for example a fire sprinkler system that contains gallons of water in 1″ or greater pipes). However when they do use it they use liquid carbon dioxide not R134a (most older “compressed/canned air”/dusters or now the more common R152a (difluoroethane). Liquid carbon dioxide is also a lot cheaper than refrigerants are, safer for the environment, and is what dry ice is made of. Do a search for “pipe freezing kit” and you will see them widely available, though not necessarily cheap especially for an occasional use tool for a DIY’r.

      • DainBramage1991 says:

        I’ve never seen a sprinkler system run with copper, all that I’ve seen were black iron. I don’t have experience with frozen black iron pipes, only copper. For all I know they may hold up just fine.
        I do know that freezing copper pipes is always a bad idea.

    • cybergibbons says:

      It’s massively common amongst professional plumbers. I’ve never seen a pipe split because of localised pipe freezing, have you got any source for that at all?

    • Garbz says:

      Actually there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s common not only in plumbing and building maintenance but throughout the entire process industry. We’ve done line freezes on 10″ lines on our cooling system, that takes a lot of nitrogen to do.

      Line freezing won’t crack the pipe unless you’re really stupid and do something like freeze in two different places at once. Yes ice expands but as it does it pushes outwards. Providing you have a single point you’re freezing the centre will start to build up ICE and expand outwards, no risk of anything breaking. If you’re doing a really large freeze you may want to open a valve somewhere to relieve the minor but not pipe splitting pressure before you cut the pipe or you may be in for a surprise.

      • mh says:

        I guess that is why it is “popular with professionals” (paraphrasing a comment above). Because they know what to do to avoid sideeffects.

        Just like cutting open a person is not something most of us should be doing – but surgents do it all the time, taking necessary precautions (many of which most of us would probably never consider).

        It could also be a case of “do as i say, not as i do”. or the problem have a better solution, but the old solution still intrenched in the industry (or cheaper). But why not give them the benefit of the doubt :)

        • cybergibbons says:

          There’s very little to go wrong with it. The freezing is gradual from the outside in, so there really isn’t a splitting issue. I’ve seen it used hundreds of times with no issue in domestic and small commercial settings, and we even used it on a ship to fix a 100mm bronze seawater pipe.

  5. I have never seen a plumber do this and I would fire any who tried it. And on a thin-walled copper pipe to boot? I can only see this even making the barest of beer-goggled sense for PEX but am at a loss as to what legitimate reason a clear-headed person might have for doing so. Cut off the supply, drain the lines, do your work. If cutting the supply is inconvenient, add a valve near the fixture so next time it won’t be.

  6. Isotope says:

    It is common practice in industry, and I’ve seen it done at a power plant where I used to work. I hadn’t heard of it done in homes, but I don’t see why not.

    According to these guys, it’s not the ice in frozen lines that breaks the pipe, it’s the water pressure…

    “The common misconception is that it is the ice that expands and damages the pipe. In fact the ice expands along the pipe which then pushes against the trapped water. The trapped water will not compress (unlike air) and so the pressure in the pipe rises. This continues until the pressure exceeds the pressure rating of the pipe itself, and then the pipe will break. It is in fact water pressure that does the damage and not the ice itself. If a faucet is left dripping, the pipe may still freeze but it will not be damaged as there has been no increase in water pressure due to the dripping tap.”

    http://www.nitropipefreeze.com/faq-pipe-freeze-service-pipes-freezing/

    I remember now that I was taught to let your water drip if you think the pipes might freeze…I thought it was to maintain some flow in the system, but this makes more sense now that I think about it.

    • F says:

      leaving the water dripping when you leave the house is standard practice in the far north

      you never know when the furnace is going to crap out, maybe while you are out for the evening

    • vonskippy says:

      Not sure I buy that reasoning. If the water plug is frozen, and growing both behind and in front of the frozen plug along the length of the pipe, letting the tap drip only reduces the water pressure from the frozen plug to the tap, but not from the frozen plug back to the water inlet source? So if it was pressure, not ice expansion, why don’t the pipes still burst between the inlet and the frozen plug even when the tap is dripping?

  7. F says:

    my old landlord would provide this service for free

    he ran the pipes up the side of the building, outside the insulation

    he called a plumber, his diagnosis: “your pipes are frozen”

    my question for the landlord: “how much are you paying this guy?”

  8. zaprodk says:

    Ahh, good old R134a! – release it from a Refrigerator, Aircon or Car, and get fined if the EPA catches you, but emptying a full can of it ? – no problem…
    Sigh!…

  9. Dan says:
  10. Eirinn says:

    Heston Blumenthal used this trick to quick freeze a baking plate so he could make fancy chocolate “pipes” :P

  11. Kaine says:

    Seriously guys, Listen to yourselves. Bickering about every little thing. This site used to have a great “community” feel to it. Now its just a bunch of know-it-alls that have nothing better to do than try to sound smarter than everyone else. Just enjoy the flippin’ video and try to be a little more civil.

  12. Kaine says:

    Did i say i was leaving?

    • voxnulla says:

      I though your imminent departure was a logical assumption looking at the facts. Seeing as you are unable to selectively read comments and filter out those who are not of your liking, it seems reasonable for you not to visit the forum again, unless you are a masochist of course, but then you secretly like it.

      • Kaine says:

        HAHAHA! I think its plain to see who has the issues here. I was saying cant we be nice? You clearly want to argue. I wont argue with you over this. Take care, buddy.

        • Ellipsis says:

          Kaine, you’re clearly making quite transparent digs at Voxnulla here. Please calm down and try to at least set some example of the behaviour that you want to see.

          • mh says:

            +1

            We do not all have to agree on everything. we never will.

            But we can still respectfully disagree (or if we think the other opinion is indeed laughable, perhaps just not commenting at all, it is very unlikely to lead anywhere useful).

  13. Matt Walters says:

    As long as no one has celiac’s disease, stuff a piece of bread into the pipe. It’ll absorb any dripping water long enough to solder and then fall apart.

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