Many people arrive in Japan from places where it simply does not get cold and are unaware that they need to worry about things like frozen pipes. In most places in Japan, the temperature does not fall below freezing that often, and as a result, the pipes have not been insulated as well as they could be. Often, the water pipes are located outside the house to allow easy access, compounding the problem.
Outdoor pipes located on the north side of the building will remain cold during the day. Piping that faces south, west or east may defrost during the day on their own but are still susceptible to freezing overnight or during a cold spell. The best answer to this problem is to pay attention to the weather and take preventative steps to avoid freezing.
When you notice the temperature will fall below 0ºC/ 32ºF, your best bet is to:
As Japanese homes are often built with exposed pipes, the first option is the best one. Inside heat will not warm outside pipes! If you do find yourself with frozen pipes, you may be able to thaw them yourself.
Thawing frozen pipes can be dangerous if done incorrectly. An open flame should be used ONLY by a qualified professional. If you are unable to thaw your pipes any other way, you should call a professional before using any type of flame device on your own. Besides the fire hazard, you could over-heat the pipe and cause a steam explosion.
Here are the steps you can take, safely, if you wake up some frigid winter morning to find a pipe has frozen.
Pipe-thawing options: Here are a couple of safe ways to thaw your home’s pipes.