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another newbie question, do i need to heat the basement fear of freezing pipes

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by firewatcher, Nov 27, 2006.

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  1. firewatcher

    firewatcher New Member

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    This year I plan to use my insert as my primary heatsource, however, my water heater and some plumbing are in the finished basement(my house is a traditional 2 story colonial) along with a gas furnace. So if my furnace(its set at 57F) never goes on (because I have my insert roaring) and the downstairs stays at 72 and the upstairs at 68, do I need to supplement heat in the basement for fear of freezing pipes, etc...??? Do any of you have a similar situation and what do you do? Will my water heater give off enough heat when heated to its proper tempertaure to alleviate any frozen pipe fears?

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  2. coldinnj

    coldinnj New Member

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    It depends on many factors:
    1) Is your water heater insulated?
    2) do the pipes from the hot water heater run straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    3) Do your cold water pipes go straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    4) Are your water pipes close to the outside walls?
    5) Are they inside the finished areas?
    6) How much of your basement is above ground?

    Depending on your area the ground temperature below 36" is between 45 & 55 degrees year round. Hence if your pipes are away from the walls, insulated abit, basement below grade, not a lot of windows or openings to allow outside air. You should be ok. Leaving the water run a little during coldest days makes a big difference as moving water does not freeze as easily.
  3. firewatcher

    firewatcher New Member

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    1) Is your water heater insulated? No it is not2) do the pipes from the hot water heater run straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    They go straight up and then run across
    3) Do your cold water pipes go straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    they go striaigh up after they come out of the sidewall
    4) Are your water pipes close to the outside walls?
    what do you consider close? about 2 or 3 feet from the outside wall
    5) Are they inside the finished areas?
    mostly
    6) How much of your basement is above ground? maybe a foot
  4. coldinnj

    coldinnj New Member

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    1) Is your water heater insulated? No it is not *** Good that will leak some heat (not alot though)
    2) do the pipes from the hot water heater run straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    They go straight up and then run across *** still doesn't tell me if they are going around the basement area (leaking more heat into basement)3) Do your cold water pipes go straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    they go striaigh up after they come out of the sidewall *** Looking to see if they will go into conditioned space quickly, being exposed to unheated area very little4) Are your water pipes close to the outside walls?
    what do you consider close? about 2 or 3 feet from the outside wall *** that is good, as long as they are also in the finished area.
    5) Are they inside the finished areas? mostly
    6) How much of your basement is above ground? maybe a foot *** good mostly underground keeps exposure to outside air and wind to a minimum. Ground is a very good insulator.Forgot to ask... As you said the basement is "finished" is it insulated?
  5. firewatcher

    firewatcher New Member

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    2) do the pipes from the hot water heater run straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    They go straight up and then run across *** still doesn’t tell me if they are going around the basement area (leaking more heat into basement < what do you mean by this?)3) Do your cold water pipes go straight up or do they go around the basement a bit?
    they go striaigh up after they come out of the sidewall *** Looking to see if they will go into conditioned space quickly, being exposed to unheated area very little4) Are your water pipes close to the outside walls?
    what do you consider close? about 2 or 3 feet from the outside wall *** that is good, as long as they are also in the finished area.
    5) Are they inside the finished areas? mostly
    6) How much of your basement is above ground? maybe a foot *** good mostly underground keeps exposure to outside air and wind to a minimum. Ground is a very good insulator.Forgot to ask… As you said the basement is “finished” is it insulated? It is insulated with 1inch foam behind the drywall. I dont know how much insulation that provides?

    If i feel that some pipes may be too close to the outside wall or if they do not enter conditioned space quickly, will insulating the pipe with foam be adequate?
  6. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Basically, what causes pipes to freeze is large amounts of exposed foundation, pipes running right against the foundation walls exposed to the outside (in your case, the upper foot), or people who improperly insulate and insulate in such a way the pipes are BEHIND the insulation, basically you insulate the pipes from having any contact with warm basement air. If you don't have any of those conditions, it's very unlikely you'll freeze pipes in your basement expecially in Jersey. Your basement in winter is probably maintaining around 50F+ with that 1" insulation. I think the only thing you have to look out for is if you have forced hot water heat with baseboards. Your heating pipes can come to the outside wall around the sill plate area (that's the top of your basement wall where it turns from cement to wood), which can be a bad situation. Sill plates are notorious for having large amounts of air leaks that can have cold outside air blowing on your heating pipes combined with sill plates don't provide a lot of insulation (around R2). Just make sure, if you have forced hot water baseboard heat, or where you have sinks, toilets, bathroom plumbing on outside walls that the plumbing isn't isolated behind insulation. All plumbing must be exposed to basement air.

    You did a good job with the insulation, the 1" foam is the right choice for basements. It will be R5 if it's XPS (and the best choice for basements) or R7 if it's polyiso (foil faced foam), or R3-4 if it's styrofoam. If you consider that just 1/4" of foam insulation insulates better than 10" thick of cement you've really done a good job. Insulating the pipes is a good idea regardless, but the insulation probably won't stop your pipes from freezing if they're in freezing conditions rather slow the process down, or if your pipes aren't in freezing conditions unless in a real cold snap it can slow it down long enough to get over the hurdle. That can be one of the reasons when people leave for several days in winter they come back home to their house full of water. These people don't know their pipes are in freezing conditions because they keep using the water every morning and evening before the water sitting in the pipes have time to freeze. When they go away for a weekend, they lower the temp of the house and the water in the pipes now sits long enough to freeze, the pipes burst, and people come home to a house full of water.

    I had a pipe in my basement freeze & burst last winter, I don't heat my basement, and in fact I turn my boiler on when I wake up, and shut it off when I leave for work. All my pipes were about 1' away from the outside walls so I thought. I was eating one day when all of a sudden it sounded like someone turned on the garden hose. Going into my basement I tracked the culprit to a frozen pipe that burst. It was part of the forced hot water baseboard heating down there that I disconnected. I had all the conditions, the pipe ran against the foundation wall. That wall was a walkout, fully exposed to outside air. It was also enclosed behind a wall, insulating it from the inside warm basement air (if you call 40-45F warm), and it wasn't insulated. I'm surprised it hadn't burst earlier.
  7. hearth_login

    hearth_login New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
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    If you're concerned, you could get an inexpensive wireless digital
    thermometer and hang the remote sensor where you suspect you might have
    an issue. Then, just set the main thermometer to alert you when the
    remote temperature has reached a given threshold...
  8. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    I live in Northern NJ, and once when my zone control valve went and I had boiling water bursting through the TPV on the water boiler in my basement, I shut off the boiler and had to go a couple days in late january without heat. This was also before my wood stove was installed and I think my cheap digital thermometer in my house got as cold as 41degrees with an outside temp of in the 20s or so. But the basement stayed in the upper 40s to low 50s because as mentioned here, my unfinished basement is only about 1.5 feet above ground. I do have some basement type windows there that aren't sealed the best they could be but still it remained fairly toasty down there even when the heat was off.

    Pipes never froze either.

    Jay
  9. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    We had a really wierd freezing problem a while back, it was a bear to diagnose, but wasn't to bad to fix once I finally figured out what was going on. It is relevant because I've seen more than a few houses set up this way, and it shows the subtleties of insulation problems.

    Our laundry room is a long narrow room between the house and the garage. It is heated (HVAC), but at the end of a run and tends to be on the cool side. Occasionally after running a load of wash, we would come out and find the carpet soaked around the washer. I would then run test cycles, w/o problems, check the hoses and so forth and not find any issues, and generally not find anything at all wrong. The amount of water involved didn't seem to be that large, as it soaked the rug around the machine, but not the entire room, and there were no puddles, etc.

    Eventually I figured that it had to be a problem on the drain side, as the wall was wet in that area, but there was no sign of moisture around the supply lines. It turns out that the drain is in a wall that is one side of the recessed front entrance, putting it in an outside wall. The drain pipe is in a slot cut in the sheetrock and recessed a bit into the insulation, but I didn't think of it as a big problem since it should be mostly empty. However I found ICE in the insulation when poking around after one of the flooding incidents. It appears that the pipe got closer into the wall the further down it went, until it was just about up against the outside wall at the trap level.

    As best I can tell, the water in the trap was partially freezing, not enough to damage anything, or even to totally block the drain, but just enough to cause it to backup and overflow. The water that was making it through apparently would then melt enough of the ice away that when I would come along and do a test cycle a while later, everything would work fine! :mad:

    My solution was two parts, first I tried to stuff as much insulation between the pipe and the outside wall as I could, while leaving it exposed on the inside. Then I found a short electric pipe wrap (IIRC it was about 3' and 20 Watts) with an integral thermal sensor to turn it on. I wrapped the trap area only with it, and plugged it in. Haven't had the problem since.

    Otherwise, our basement is partly finished, and seems to stay in the 50's in the winter, even with the furnace not on. We have gas hot water, and the pipes do run around the basement some, but not a huge amount, and mostly not against the outside walls. There is probably about 3' average exposure of the concrete basement walls above ground.

    Gooserider
  10. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Yeah, I've seen these at the local Big Block hardware store... Sounds like a good idea with the thermal sensor on it...

    I insulated the water line of my water boiler to my baseboard heat, on any of the runs in the basement, the pipes are quite hot when the boiler is running and the valves are open and pipe insulation is pretty cheap and easy to install on the open pipes.

    Jay
  11. firewatcher

    firewatcher New Member

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    All you guys are great. Thanks so much for all the input and ideas. I will be putting them all to use.

    Cheers!
  12. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Pipe insulation of fhw pipes do not use that cheap poly styrene type insulation it melts at 160 degreees one should use rubber based armaflex which has a 210 degree range

    the polystyrene can be used on the hot water side of your hot water heater as it w should not reach 160 degrees also insulate you hot water heater.
    insulate your sill plate and the joist bay above it around you permeter against the rim joist If worried that eliminate the common leak and draft areas
  13. Willhound

    Willhound Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
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    Joe
    Your set-up sounds very similar to mine, and I don't think you have much to worry about. I have an outdoor hose pipe that runs out through the wall, with an inside valve about a foot back inside so that I can close it and leave the outside open, thereby draining the last foot of line. Otherwise, most of my set-up sounds like yours.
    At -40 last winter I monitored the temps in the basement and the coldest I ever saw was around 37F, not cold enough to freeze pipes, especially if you run the water once in a while. I think that with a warm house sitting on top and only a foot or so above ground and with the ground itself holding some heat, things seemed to stay OK. I always knew when it was getting too cool in the basement when the wife complained when she went down to do the laundry.
    When it was really cold I'd leave the basement door open a crack, and although the laws of physics suggest that hot air will not go down, enough heat filtered through the air I guess to warm things up a bit. If I was really worried, I'd just run the furnace (gasp) for about 10 minutes so that some heat blew in the basement from time to time.

    There have been some good suggestions made here, and insulating water lines is always a good idea, especially the hot, but if $$$ is a consideration, a cheap thermometer from a dollar store moved around to the areas you think might be a problem will tell you the story pretty quick.
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