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Tool Talk Discussion Forum

Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines

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randallnMo

02-09-2011 05:49:49
216.74.197.161



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Does anybody know how to use a welder to thaw out a frozen metal water line? We used to have an older man in town who did this for me a couple times. He's gone now, and I never paid any attention to how he did it. Can the welder be used for copper water lines?




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Mark - IN.

02-10-2011 20:09:18
71.201.64.34



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Heat Tapes. Get them at most hardwares. Wrap the heat tapes along the copper tube, then wrap the insulation, then enclose it with waterproof tape, plug the heat tapes into an outlet, and within a couple of hours, thawed out and good to go for years. When it gets below freezing for the year, unplug the heat tapes.

If this is mobile home type setup, job one after hooking up the water, heat tape installation.

Mark

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steven-id

02-09-2011 20:14:04
69.20.189.211



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
I don't think a welder will work on a plastic pipe. You need a conductor for the electricity and I don't think the water or ice will work? Where water conducts electricity it might? Easiest to leave a dribble of water running and not have frozen pipes.

Steven



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IOWA NORTHEAST

02-09-2011 20:09:58
206.72.18.89



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
I used to do it for years, untill a couple other guys had fires. One guy had the neighbors enterance catch fire.

We are not alowed to do it in our town, because of a few close calls. I have asked to see the ordanance in writting, and no one seems to be able to find it, they just know it's the law.



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charles todd

02-09-2011 19:37:02
205.242.95.141



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to MarkWV, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
What is that? I see it has a Wisconsin V-4, big azz generator, and maybe a compressor?

CT



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NP

02-09-2011 19:31:31
65.25.184.168



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
I used a Craftsman welder set at 75 amps to thaw a frozen waterline that ran under a driveway at my apartments for a number of years----until I read on the internet that welders are not safe for thawing pipes that are used as a ground for your electrical system. Because of the liability issues, I then purchased a commercial pipe thawer off ebay that had 100 foot cables and works off a 110 volt 15 amp circuit. The cables are of heavier gauge than welding cables and it does a good job. I understand lincoln no longer provides instructions for thawing pipes with their new welders because of the liability issues. Pipe thawers are not a cheap item and generally have to be ordered, as I have never seen them stocked. Home Depot can order them, or a good plumbing supply house.

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Roy Suomi

02-09-2011 17:31:56
24.166.51.144



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
I used to do that with my old Hobart "Pipeliner" welder..250 amp Willys industrial powered..Hooked up the leads, fired up the welder; Turned the amps almost all the way up and "tickle " the fine tune adjustment till I saw fine line of sparks on the armature brushes..Pour a coffee , sit back and wait for the water to start dribbling out of the faucet..The fastest thaw job was 5 minutes, the longest was Kentucky Fried Chicken at about 3 hours..

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Shane Tharp

02-09-2011 17:48:16
64.12.116.141



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Roy Suomi, 02-09-2011 17:31:56  
About 15 years ago, I loaned out my cutting torches to a neighbor. He said that he was going to unthaw water lines. I told him to use propane on it and he said that it took too long. I figured I would watch and get a good laugh. He proceded to heat up the lines and aparently thought that it was going too slow. He hit the accelator on the torches and melted right thru them. I then said, "Told you so and went home and laughed about that for weeks.

I do like your idea about using the electric welder.

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pja

02-09-2011 13:13:55
64.119.50.26



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Some years back the little town I live in (central michigan) would thaw your pipes as a city service for free. My lady friend had frozen pipes in her house, the city hooked up the welder, then the fire department (her ex-husband, fire chief) came over and put out the fire, then her and her children lived at a motel for six weeks while I rebuilt the house and the insurance paid for it all.



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Dusty MI

02-09-2011 13:07:51
65.32.87.156



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Another way, if you can tale the pipe apart, take an 1/8" plastic pipe and hook to a hot water line, start a small flow threw it and push it into the frozen line.

Dusty



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bc

02-09-2011 12:34:49
71.158.211.196



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Chances are there is someplace where cold air is getting to the pipe. I"ve thawed entrances where the pipe freezes at ground level with boiling water. Sounds like a job for the wife and her hair dryer. The heat will eventually transfer on down. Same if you used a little torch on the exposed part, the heat will transfer.



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LeoinMI

02-09-2011 11:56:08
75.134.126.44



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Since your pipe is unaccessable to hookup on opposite ends,..you may have to do as others have said,..i.e. use a heat gun. The solder on a copper pipe would melt if I tried thawing it out with the size welder I have. In your case maybe wrapping heat tape or a heat gun would be enough to trnasfer enough heat to thaw the frozen area. Try a butane torch right where the pipe comes through the cement floor. Apply the heat gradually and don"t let it get too hot to develope leaks at the joints. Good Luck

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Puddles

02-09-2011 08:58:19
24.113.77.148



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Dave Sherburne NY, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
I scanned these pages out of a Lincoln book.

[URL=http://img573.imageshack.us/i/pg1c.jpg/][/URL]

[URL=http://img41.imageshack.us/i/pg2f.jpg/][/URL]

[URL=http://img824.imageshack.us/i/pg3j.jpg/][/URL]

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PJH

02-09-2011 09:21:55
72.69.97.23



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Puddles, 02-09-2011 08:58:19  
Thanks for posting that Puddles.

When I was a kid, a water line froze in our neighborhood. It served several houses, and the guy who ran the local welding shop was dying of cancer, so the city guys (small town) borrowed a small Lincoln engine driven welder, and borrowed leads from all over town, in an attempt to thaw this line. I'm sure all those welding lead connections didn't help. They ran that welder for a couple days with no results. It had a setting labeled "For Thawing Frozen Pipes". Finally, they approached the old welder about using his machine. It had a flathead Ford engine on it, and was truck mounted, with an unbelievable coil of big leads. Junior, the old welder, told them to set it on 300 amps. It was thawed in minutes, with the leads melting down into the snow.

I don't know who built that old welder, but it was impressive. It had two straight pipes for exhaust, and it would really bark when he struck an arc. Something a kid would love to hear, but I bet it got old after using it for a few hours.

Sorry for rambling, but this topic brought back good memories of a good old man.

Paul

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Phil in MI

02-09-2011 08:44:44
24.247.218.227



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Best to use a good bolt on electrical ground clamp on the copper line to connect the welder leads. Heat just the area frozen. And above all keep a very close watch for fire during and 30 minutes after thawing. During thawing if you should hear the generator motor lose load shut down right away because you may have blowen a copperr line apart. I have thawed many many water lines this way. Phil



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Tramway Guy

02-09-2011 08:37:26
67.249.37.53



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
You CAN use a vehicle battery to thaw out pipes, keep the engine running. I have done this sucessfully.
The use of low voltage uses the pipe (a resistor) that heats up and melts the ice inside.
My experience is that once water starts flowing the resistance goes down and the battery will draw down rapidly.
You need jumper cables or welding leads long enough to reach either side of the obstruction...

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Puddles

02-09-2011 08:11:01
24.113.77.148



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to dnail, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
This is all fine an dandy unless your electrical panel / system is grounded to your water pipes!



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buickanddeere

02-09-2011 12:05:15
192.75.48.150



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Puddles, 02-09-2011 08:11:01  
Secondary on a welder is supposed to float free of the welder's chassis and ground system.



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Stan in Oly, WA

02-09-2011 07:20:52
174.31.198.77



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
Hi Randall,

If you happen to own a Lincoln buzz box AC (tombstone) welder, this is what I've heard about them: The circle around the 75 (amps) on the dial indicates that it's the setting to use for thawing pipes. The duty cycle for all settings on that welder is 20% (which most people routinely ignore) except for the 75 amp setting which has a 100% duty cycle.

I'd be hard pressed to cite my references on this.

Stan

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buickanddeere

02-09-2011 12:08:41
192.75.48.150



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 duty cycle in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-09-2011 07:20:52  
Duty cycle is proportional to current. A welder for example maybe. 20% duty cycle at 225A, 40% at 150A, 60% at 125A,80% at 100A and 100% duty cycle at any current below 75A.



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Stan in Oly, WA

02-09-2011 17:26:55
174.31.198.77



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 Re: duty cycle in reply to buickanddeere, 02-09-2011 12:08:41  
Hi buickanddeere,

Duty cycle would certainly be proportional to amperage through the same conductors, but what if each amperage setting used its own individual conductor and those conductors were sized proportional to the amperage setting? That's what the inside of a Lincoln buzz box looks like to me.

Stan



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buickanddeere

02-09-2011 20:16:30
216.183.132.122



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 Re: duty cycle in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-09-2011 17:26:55  
Part of the winding is common to every amperage tap. Can't cheat the laws of physics.



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Stan in Oly, WA

02-10-2011 09:17:19
174.31.198.77



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 Re: duty cycle in reply to buickanddeere, 02-09-2011 20:16:30  
This is an area in which Iím not particularly knowledgeable so youíll have to bear with me. For instance, I donít know whether the term "taps" refers to the locations on the transformer where the conductors are attached, or to the conductors themselves. Anyway, wonít a given amount of current create increasing amounts of heat as the size of the conductor carrying it decreases? The arrangement inside the Lincoln buzz box is that different sized conductors carry the current from the tapped locations on the transformer to individual connections on the back of the selector switch. Turning the selector makes separate mechanical connections between each of these conductors and the work lead. If all the conductors were the same gauge of wire then the amount of heat generated by resistance would increase as increasing amounts of current were conducted from the transformer to the work lead. In that case, the duty cycle would increase as the current decreased. But with the conductors increasing in size from the lowest tapped current to the highest, couldnít the heat generated by resistance stay relatively consistent over the whole range? This would then hold the duty cycle constant at all settings.

If this is incorrect, please explain to me what I am misunderstanding.

Stan

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buickanddeere

02-10-2011 12:39:18
192.75.48.150



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 Re: duty cycle in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-10-2011 09:17:19  
I would have to look inside a Tomb Stone to know for certain. A "Tap" location is the notch/point/location/contact where the electrical connection is changed. To obtain higher or lower voltages.

Anyway, wonít a given amount of current create increasing amounts of heat as the size of the conductor carrying it decreases? ( Yes )

If all the conductors were the same gauge of wire then the amount of heat generated by resistance would increase as increasing amounts of current were conducted from the transformer to the work lead.( Yes )

In that case, the duty cycle would increase as the current decreased.( Yes )

But with the conductors increasing in size from the lowest tapped current to the highest, couldnít the heat generated by resistance stay relatively consistent over the whole range? ( Yes)

This would then hold the duty cycle constant at all settings. ( Yes, but...........)

In this application the primary 240V windings appear to be limiting max power out.

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Stan in Oly, WA

02-11-2011 09:35:50
174.31.198.77



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 Re: duty cycle in reply to buickanddeere, 02-10-2011 12:39:18  
"( Yes, but...........)" what?

Also, a couple of things I'd like to be able to understand better:

1) How do the higher or lower voltages from the taps relate to the higher or lower amperage settings which the user selects?

2) "In this application the primary 240V windings appear to be limiting max power out." Isn't this always the case?

Stan



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buickanddeere

02-11-2011 12:02:51
192.75.48.150



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 Re: duty cycle in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-11-2011 09:35:50  
1) How do the higher or lower voltages from the taps relate to the higher or lower amperage settings which the user selects?

The primary windings dictate how many volts per turn on the windings. By increasing the number of windings on the seconary the secondary voltage and thus current increases.

2) "In this application the primary 240V windings appear to be limiting max power out." Isn't this always the case?

It would depend on how the transformer and core was designed. Less copper makes it cheaper to build but lower the duty cycle.

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Ken Macfarlane

02-09-2011 12:08:31
156.34.142.102



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-09-2011 07:20:52  
If a welder is rated for 100% duty cycle at a certain amp value, normally lower amp values are 100% as well. You are just switching taps on the transformer and duty cycle is all about how hot it gets.

So in -30 your welder should have a better duty cycle than at 100 f.



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Stan in Oly, WA

02-09-2011 17:18:56
174.31.198.77



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Ken Macfarlane, 02-09-2011 12:08:31  
Hi Ken,

That was my understanding, too, but I was not able to persuade the person at Lincoln Electric Tech Support who I corresponded with via e-mail.

I have two theories about why Lincoln would maintain that their 225 amp AC buzz box welder has a 20% duty cycle at every setting, and if I keep them to myself I won't look too stupid.

Stan



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RodInNS

02-11-2011 11:08:47
216.118.158.123



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-09-2011 17:18:56  
Did you speak to someone at tech support that actually knew something or just a rag head in a call center reading information off a flow chart?
I had always understood that the Linc was 100% at or under 75 amp and declined from there as the amps got higher. In reality most of them got used at 100% anyway and were no worse for the wear. A Linc crackerbox is one tough little welder for all that it is.

Rod

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Stan in Oly, WA

02-11-2011 14:23:07
174.31.198.77



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to RodInNS, 02-11-2011 11:08:47  
Well, it was conducted through e-mails, so I couldn't really say whether the person was a member of an inferior ethnic group. I thought that the models K1170 (225 AC buzz box) and K1279 (225/125 AC/DC buzz box) would have increasing duty cycle as the amperage went down since it is 20% at 225 amps. That is what I specifically asked. I was told that the duty cycle was 20% at all settings---no explanation.

Open one up sometime and take a look at the gauge of the leads from the taps on the transformer to the connections on the selector switch. They are graduated from small at the lowest setting to large at the highest. That might be the factor determining the duty cycle being the same at all settings.

Stan

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buickanddeere

02-11-2011 15:17:07
216.183.146.116



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-11-2011 14:23:07  
Any welder I've ever seen had the duty cycle vary inversely with the current. Somebody is really trying to save $10.00 in copper by keeping a flat 20% duty cycle.



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Stan in Oly, WA

02-11-2011 16:49:15
174.31.198.77



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to buickanddeere, 02-11-2011 15:17:07  
I agree. I e-mailed Lincoln Electric to argue the point. It makes no sense to me. Here are the points I can attest to.

1.) Lincoln Electric told me that the duty cycle was 20% at all settings. I rephrased my question to make sure there wasn't a misunderstanding. They told me the same thing. That isn't to say the person who told me didn't make a mistake; I can only tell you what they said.

2.) It doesn't make sense for Lincoln to make a welder which is less capable than it could be for almost no extra cost, but the conductors from the transformer taps to the amperage selector points are different sizes. That's just a fact. I have the guts of a Lincoln 225 AC sitting on my workbench in the basement and I just went down and looked at it a minute ago. The wires at the lower settings appear to be copper. They get bigger in diameter, and some of them are doubled as the settings go up. Some of the settings have wires from more than one tap on the transformer. The highest 6 settings have flat conductors of what appears to be aluminum. They increase in size, too.

3.) I can't think of a reason Lincoln would deny the existence of higher duty cycles at lower amperage settings if that was the case.

4.) When I've run Lincoln buzzbox welders in the past, I've pretty much ignored the duty cycle, as many people do. I've tripped breakers in the facility circuit breaker box, but I've never had the welder itself shut down on me.

5.) That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Stan

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RodInNS

02-11-2011 17:17:25
216.118.158.123



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-11-2011 16:49:15  
The reason they stick to the 20% duty cycle thing is likely because it's a consumer product and they assume that consumers have no understanding of things such as duty cycle. It's safer and easier to tell you that it's good for 20% and have you never destroy the darn thing than it is to explain to you that it can gradually do more as the amperage decreases...
As an entry level welder competitively priced with other entry level welders that all have 20% or less duty cycle it's probably not worth the bother to claim more.
As far as them sticking to their story... I would expect you got a very entry level person in a 'customer contact center' who probably doesn't even know what the welder looks like let alone how it works... and they read a script off to you. Specifications say 20% duty cycle...

I have one of those welders. I took it apart a long time ago when the fan failed... but I honestly can't remember how large the wires were to each position on the selector switch. I would be inclined to say they're all the same on mine...

Rod

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135 Fan

02-09-2011 10:38:19
68.149.56.30



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 02-09-2011 07:20:52  
That is true Stan but Lincoln always recommended using the Linc-Thaw unit like in Puddles post. The Linc-Thaw unit wasn't available in Canada because it didn't meet CSA standards and I think it has been discontinued entirely for several years. The AC 225's don't have a circle around the 75 amp setting anymore. That setting was also for using a carbon arc torch. Some guys still thaw water pipes with welders though. Another job where an SAE 300 or 400 engine drive is often used. Dave

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LeoinMI

02-09-2011 06:56:06
75.134.126.44



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  

As 60acre said, hook up your ground lead and electrode holder on opposite ends of where the frozen area of your pipe is. I used to replace the electrode holder with a heavy duty clamp for a good connection. If you have a water outlet connected to the frozen pipe somewhere,open it. When you steam starting to come out of the outlet you know the pipe is thawing. Like 60 said,don't overload the welder because you are getting full current. ALSO HOOK YOUR CABLES UP FIRST BEFORE STARTING UP YOUR WELDER TO PREVENT ARCING AND POSSIBLE DAMAGE. Be sure to check your pump so you don't get any back feed that might short it out. Here,s a picture of the welder that I used to thaw out water pipe.

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60 acre hillside

02-09-2011 06:19:13
67.142.170.24



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 05:49:49  
I have done that. Had a welding shop and would take out portable welder and hook to each end of where the frozen area was. Do not overload your machine as this is a full time load. Check the duty factor and do not exceed. Does not take long.



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randallnMo

02-09-2011 08:53:07
216.74.197.161



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to 60 acre hillside, 02-09-2011 06:19:13  
I'm not sure I can make this work. Here is what I have: copper water line coming directly through a concrete floor (No insulation or tubing or anything) into a bathroom that is hooked into the main feed water line which is plastic buried in the ground. It freezes either in the concrete or just below ground level. So how do I hook to each end (Or on either side of the frozen area) with this situation? My welder is a portable Lincoln Ac welder.

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135 Fan

02-09-2011 10:45:49
68.149.56.30



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-09-2011 08:53:07  
If there is a plastic line(or soldered connection) anywhere near the frozen pipe, I wouldn't be hooking a welder up to thaw the pipe. Pipe thawing is hard on a welding machine because it's a direct short. Maybe a heat gun would work for you. I think it would be a bad idea to experiment with a welder in your situation. You could end up with much worse than a frozen water pipe. Dave



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randallnMo

02-10-2011 09:57:51
216.74.197.161



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to 135 Fan, 02-09-2011 10:45:49  
Thanks to everyone for all their replies. I did get the line thawed by using a heat lamp which I sat right next to the water line. It heated the concrete up enough within 3 hours to do the job. I built an office/bathroomn in a pole barn/machine shed several years ago. I wasn't there the day my hired men poured the floor and ran the water line. I could have skinned those guys when I saw they had just stuck that copper tubing through the concrete and poured around it. I said "How the heck are we going to keep that from freezing"? "Oh well we didn't think of that"! THe water line comes into the floor on the north side of the barn and is probably only 1 foot from the outside wall. We had had a blizzard last week and it blew all the snow away from the building on the north side, so the ground was bare. I had the heat lamp running and thought maybe I should shovel snow back up against the building and cover the ground on the north side of the barn where the water line enters. I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but within 30 minutes of shoveling, the line thawed out. I usually keep the water dripping in the office, but forgot it that night. Dang beer anyway.

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bc

02-10-2011 11:51:46
71.158.211.196



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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-10-2011 09:57:51  
The inside temperature of snow or ice for that matter stays at a constant 32 degrees or thereabouts. It works as an insulator. Basic survival technique in snow country is to build a snow cave. Between your body heat and maybe lighting a candle and laying on an insulated pad, it will stay warm enough to survive and not freeze. Had training for it in the army. Also part of the fraud of the old Sears Diehard commercials at Frostbite Falls, Minnesota where they showed a car that was buried under a foot of snow all winter that started right up. The snow kept it around 32 degrees. Same reason why we like to have snow covering crop ground during the winter as much as possible.

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135 Fan

02-10-2011 11:06:20
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 Re: Using a welder to thaw out frozen water lines in reply to randallnMo, 02-10-2011 09:57:51  
Wrap some heat electric water line heat tape around every part of the pipe that's exposed. It has a thermostat that turns it on when it's below freezing and shuts it off when it's warm. No need to leave it dripping. Dave



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