With record-breaking cold assaulting much of the United States, icy roads, frigid air and stalled trucks are big problems. However, another common weather-caused dilemma that can hit food truck owners: frozen pipes.
A surprising fact is that food trucks in the northern regions of the U.S., hit with the coldest temperatures may be at less risk than those in the east and mid-Atlantic. This is because the farther south you go, the more likely a vendor may have pipes that are not properly insulated.
Another factor in play is wind chill. Wind chills can accelerate water pipes freezing as well as potentially, bursting. If you discover you have a broken pipe, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. After that, check all of the faucets in your truck to see whether you have additional frozen pipes. Remember that if one pipe freezes, others may freeze, as well.
How To Unthaw Frozen Pipes In Your Food Truck
If you notice water flow coming from a faucet is slower than usual, you may have a frozen pipe. If you can see the affected pipe, you can attempt to unthaw it to prevent it from bursting.
- Bring your food truck into a warm space. If this isn’t possible turn on your kitchen equipment to warm the interior of the truck. In many cases this will work, however if the frozen pipe is outside of the truck, you’ll be wasting time and energy.
- Leave the faucet on and watch for water flow. Running water, even cold water, will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Use a hair dryer to warm the pipe. Start from the faucet and work your way back to the supply tank.
- You can also use a heating pad, heat lamp or space heater in the room where the pipe is. Towels soaked in water can be wrapped around the pipe, too. Apply heat on the side closest to the faucet, because if you start on the other end, you can end up building enough pressure to cause the pipe to burst.
- Continue to apply heat until full water pressure returns.
Please Note: If you are unable to locate the frozen section of pipe, if the frozen pipe is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
How To Avoid Frozen Pipes In Your Food Truck
Part of what makes frozen water lines so frustrating is that once it’s happened, there’s usually no quick fix. It’s a lot of waiting and hoping once you’ve got heat on the area. The waiting is the worse, wondering if it’ll come unstuck, worrying about what will happen if it doesn’t.
- Keep your food truck in a heated space overnight!
While this is the easiest way to prevent frozen pipes, it isn’t normally an option available to most food truck vendors. For those of you with an outdoor commissary use these tips.
Insulate Exposed Water Lines
You should begin by inspecting your food truck for exposed water lines, and then wrapping those lines in insulating tape. Insulating tape is inexpensive and easy to use, with most home improvement stores selling it for about $5 per roll. Simply wrap the tape generously around any exposed water lines for added insulation value and protection from the elements.
The next step if insulation alone does not prevent your water lines from freezing is the use of heat tape. Heat tape is a system that is used to help heat and maintain the temperature of pipes, is a great way to help prevent hoses from freezing. First, wrap the heat tape along the length of the pipe, leaving the heating element hanging off the end of the hose.
Next, you will need to cover the tape with a section of insulation tubing, which should cover the length of the hose. Finally, wrap the insulation in duct tape to secure the insulation around the heating tape. This system uses electricity to heat the tape to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Water Tank Heater
Another area of concern for freezing is the holding tank itself. Think of a water tank heater as an electric blanket for your tank. It sticks on the bottom of the tank and uses electricity to warm the tanks above the freezing point.
Keep Water Running
Even though food trucks have limited water supplies, this suggestion works great when it’s very cold outside. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe, even if it’s at a trickle, will help prevent pipes from freezing.
Remember the first step is to empty your gray water holding tank. After emptying the tank, you will want to keep the valve for your gray water tank open. This ensures that the constant stream of water will not overflow your tank. After making sure that your sink drains are open, turn on the faucets for a consistent, slow drip. Also, remember to close your gray water tank in the morning before you start running water again.
Frozen water lines and tanks can be a pain and can lead to costly repairs. Preventative measures are key, and I hope none of you ever get to find out exactly what temperature causes your food truck plumbing system to start freezing.
The Bottom Line
The quickest way for a food truck to lose profits is to be off the road due to a non-working truck. Use these tips to prevent frozen pipes and keep your food truck operational.
Do you have any additional tips for vendors trying to keep their truck’s water lines from freezing? Share your thoughts on how to prevent frozen pipes in the winter in the comment section or social media. Facebook | Twitter