Our 2014 Pipe Thawing Story

And Being a Proud Winnipegger

A recent Google search on Tractus Projects will result in numerous articles relating to “pipe thawing”.  Some may think we are plumbers, and although we know a ton of plumbers, allow me to explain, because it has everything to do with being a proud Winnipegger.
This past winter was freeking cold!  In terms of astonishing weather facts, it doesn’t get much more impressive than being as cold as a distant planet for a day, or colder than the North Pole, or coldest winter since 1898.  With temperatures this extreme, things are going to break, and for those living in Winnipeg, you have to find ways to stay mentally warm or you break too.

The home of a business neighbour of mine, Pam, had fallen victim to frozen pipes in February.  I couldn’t help but feel really bad for her and her family, knowing that she had small children, and how I had taken for granted a hot shower every morning.  Later that week, I was visiting with my father-in-law, a businessman and welder who lives in Grand Forks, ND.  We would always talk shop, complain about weather and drink a few beers.  When I inquired about “how many residences in Grand Forks had frozen pipes”, his response was “10”, and that he was helping with the thaw.  Winnipeg was at 1,200+.  I inquired further, almost demanding his trade secrets.  Luckily he shared, and we were well on our way to building our first prototype, pipe thaw machine and “Idea 1.0”.

There’s nothing special about “Idea 1.0”, because it couldn’t be.  The machine and technique needed to be built using parts readily available thru local box stores and cost less than $350.00.  It was a challenge, but after a full weekend of shopping, building and testing in my garage, we were ready to try “Idea 1.0”.  My business neighbour, Pam, was our first test house, and after five grueling hours of breakdowns, adding more pipe clamps and miles of Teflon tape, we were finally successful.  Words cannot explain the relief and emotional experience felt by both Pam and our Crew – the sound of water sputtering thru the kitchen tap was euphoric.

We went on to refine “Idea 1.0”, eventually creating two reliable machines and techniques, and successfully thawing numerous residences and businesses within Winnipeg.  We grabbed Canada wide media attention, were trending on Twitter, and considered “local heroes” within the community.  The experience was amazing. 

But you know what the best part was?

Our small pipe thawing “Idea 1.0” sparked a movement that motivated local Winnipeggers and The City of Winnipeg Public Works Department to look around the community, not settle, re-boot, re-think, be proud, and begin with “Idea 1.0”, continually refining into “Idea 2.0” until it runs like a top.  In our case, our idea happened to be pipe thawing. 

Hey you, proud Winnipegger, what’s yours going to be?