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Anyone ever freeze pipes in their basement not running furnace?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by KarlP, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    This is my first year with both a stove and an insert. In the past when the temperatures dropped below 15 degrees the stove couldn't keep up and the furnace would still kick a few times an hour. Since the furnace runs through uninsulated ducts to the living space, I never worried about pipes in the unfinished basement with ceiling insulation only from freezing. Its -4 now with a prediction of -14 in the next few hours. I'm holding my first floor at 72 and 2nd floor bedrooms at 67 on wood alone, but I just decided to bump up the heat on for 15 minutes while reloading to warm up the basement. Am I over thinking this?


    FWIW the 87k btu output gas furnace running through those uninsulated ducts only keeps the house ~75 degrees warmer than the outside temps. Looks like I can do that well by tossing 3-4 silver maple splits into a VC Madison and Jotul 550 every 3-4 hours. I can only imagine what it would be like if I had good wood this year. :)

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  2. kgrant

    kgrant Member

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    What's the temperature in the basement?
  3. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Better safe than mopping :bug: Sometimes a small block can occur and radiate back to a serious block or break. My shop water is on an outside wall at footing level. When we were running in the single digits I turned the water on a trickle. Moving water doesn't freeze as quickly as trapped water. costs a little water bucks, but will save a little more on fuel.
  4. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Yep, water at a drip-drip-drip pace is a good idea. I think though, that i would wrap the pipes in heat tape and plug them into a regulator that will come on when the temps hit 38-40F, and then put foam pipe insulation over the heat-tape-wrapped pipes. Or get the kind that is set up to automatically turn on when the temp gets too low. Once it's set up like that, you won't have to worry about it--plug it in when temps are a concern, unplug when the weather warms up. Here's a link w/the basics: http://www.mygreathome.com/fix-it_guide/heat_tape.htm

    No, you're not overthinking this. THe people who have their plumbing freeze up usually would do it differently if they could have a do-over. I've seen houses freeze up, and it's a PITA.

    Regarding your uninsulated basement, another trick is to dig the snow away from your foundation, put styrofoam insulation up against the it, and shovel the snow back against the insulation. (The snow helps hold the insulation in place, and is insulative as well if not packed too tightly). I've even used just snow (this was awhile ago) to bank a house, when that was all that was available. It makes a big difference, surprisingly. Just be aware that you want that snow flowing away from the house come spring when it's melting time.

    Good luck. Keep thinking--it's the right thing to do.
  5. RedGuy

    RedGuy New Member

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    Unless you leave a window open or something it should never get cold enough in the basement to freeze as long as your heating the house above it. The floor and walls will nauturally radiate (or absorb if temp is higher) about 55deg due to the ground being that temp just a few feet down. My basement has never dropped below 50 deg and I run a heat pump water heater (like an airconditioner in the basement!) down there, plus I have (still) uninsulater rim joist. Now if it where a crawl that'd be a different story.
  6. f3cbboy

    f3cbboy Feeling the Heat

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    hot water to the back bathroom sink frozen when i got up this am. Usually when it get this cold, low single digits, and the boiler comes on in the middle of the night i don't have anything to worry about. the boiler gives enough heat to keep the ambient air in the basement warm enough to keep pipes from freezing, but not today. Must have been some wind last night. the feed to that sink is the furthest part of the house from the stove and it is outside of the original foundation. back entrance to the basement is an addition that allowed the back bathroom on main floor to go in, before i bought the house 10 yrs ago.
    Also my gas hot water htr is right there keeping up ambient temps too. Just got cold last night.
  7. herdbull

    herdbull Member

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    This was exactly why I installed a wood stove in the basement fireplace. Didn't have any frozen pipes but when it got close to zero my basement was frigid. On really cold snaps here when temps push -15 to -20 no doubt I would have either had to run the furnace or deal with busted pipes.

    My basement is half exposed though with a huge walk out and floor to ceiling windows. Not the most efficient set up by any means. It's also a log home which is even a little less efficient than a more traditional home.
  8. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    It hit -10F here last night. Stove was running all day so the boiler only came on once or twice for hot water.

    My basement is 53F. Nothing is freezing.

    If its a fully below grade basement yuo are fine as long as no pluming is in or against an outside wall.
  9. Tom NJ

    Tom NJ New Member

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    With electric baseboard, I don't have any heat source in the basement, other than the fireplace which isn't in use. My basement stays pretty warm, though. It is about 55* down there. Of course, we aren't going to -15*, either.
  10. cmonSTART

    cmonSTART Minister of Fire

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    I just did. One branch of my downstairs baseboard zone is frozen in the dining room. Hooray. I hope it warms up soon.
  11. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Those saying that a window would have to be open must have seriously tight houses. I've had it happen twice- once on the second floor a pipe burst in a closet- it was in a weird space and a slight leak created an icebox effect in there. Once it was in the basement where the pipe ran through an isolated space- heated with a heat gun and that one was fine. Now on the coldest days I make sure to keep the heat turned up to warm up the pipes and those spaces a few times a day or more.
  12. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    +1

    I had two lines freeze over the weekend, and its only been down to 0 at the lowest.

    In my folks house I remember them bursting a line in the crawlspace - thats fun to deal with crawling under the kitchen in dirt for 20 feet getting soaked in freezing temperatures.
  13. bpm44

    bpm44 Member

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    I have a crawl space - literally 2 1/2' high. I've been wondering the same thing. We just bought this place last fall so I guess this winter is experimental. Hopefully nothing bad happens. I put foam board in all the vents and have uninsulated heat ducts in there. The inside perimeter has 2" foam board glued to the concrete blocks. The waterlines (copper) are insulated. At first I was thinking about insulating the ducts, but now I'm thinking they are better off the way they are. Woke up to minus 12 and nothing had frozen, but the furnace had cycled a bunch of times last night, even with a good load of oak and hickory in the Lopi still burning.

    We do have a re-circulating pump on the hot water line going to the master bath way in the back, but obviously it does nothing for the main cold water line coming in. Last night in bed I was pretty worried about freezing up, and since I couldn't sleep I was toying with the idea of running a second hot water line along (actually zip-tied right to) the cold all the way to where it stubs up out of the ground into the crawl space and insulating them both together, looping it back to the pump and adding that as a second "zone" for the re-circ pump, thinking that the hot water would keep the cold water from freezing, and since the re-circ pump cycles on a timer anyway, it would be cheaper than running electric heat tape. I haven't found many good sites that deal with crawl spaces, but the search will continue since I sure don't want to have to crawl around in a frozen wet mess under there to fix a broken or frozen copper line.
  14. basswidow

    basswidow Minister of Fire

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    I would be concerned about leaving a drip on.

    Might not happen in a basement, but I have 40 years experience with mobile homes, and if you do that in a mobile home, that slow drip will freeze in you waste line to the point that it will eventually close and freeze solid. Then you've got a really big problem. Yes, inside the waste line should be warm from the ground level and warm water (shower or tub or laundry), but it can still happen.

    I can think of lots of stories where people didn't want to run their heat and left a trickle while on a vacation only to return and find the waste line solid ICE and the home flooded.

    If you are concerned - put a space heater in the basement. OR cycle the heat a few times during this extreme cold snap.
  15. tfdchief

    tfdchief Minister of Fire

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    I have a ranch style house, built in the '70's, reasonably insulated, and my insulatd perimeter walled crawl space never gets below 50 F. Sometimes I run just the fan on the forced air furnace to circulate warm house air through the duct work in the crawl space so the floors aren't so cold. A lot depends on your house. Something you will just have to monitor and figure out.
  16. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    Good point I forgot about the drains freezing. Would a drip from the hot water as well warm the drain up enough to keep from freezing? Dripping wont help me anyways though, the two things that freeze up for me are the washer and toilet, probably since those lines run closer to the outside walls. Can't leave those dripping and nothing downstream of them to drip either.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Whoa, toilet freezing up could get ugly real fast. Flush regularly. For the washer drain, I'd be tempted to drop a pint of denatured alcohol directly down the drain (not in the washer).
  18. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    Its not the drains that freeze up, sorry if that got confused with talking about drains. The toilet just does not fill back up, same thing washer willnot fill but you can hear the solenoid humming. We have another bathroom so its no big deal, and usually enough laundry to get by a day without. A space heater down there has thawed the lines out the couple times its happened withing maybe 4hrs or so.
  19. RedGuy

    RedGuy New Member

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    Perhaps we should specify the age and type of home. My house was built in 1973, it's a quad level, the basement is entirely below grade exluding the normal top 12 inches or so. 3 walls have exterior exposure, 1 wall has the den down to 1/2 below grade. It has 3 single pane basement windows, is roughly 500 sq feet with an 8ft celing and has no insulation around the rim joist. It basically only recives heat from the furnace first thing in the morning for about an hour while the furnace brings the temps in the house back up til the stove catches up and residual from the warmer floor above and to the one 1/2 side. It does however recive aproxamately 8 hours off cooling from my heat pump water heater which I figure puts out about as much cool air as an 8,000btu airconditioner. Like I said above my basement holds a pretty steady 50 degF.

    The only fixture in my house I have any concern with freezing in my up stairs toilet as the lines for that run in an overhang area as the upper leavel over hangs the lower by a couple feet on both sides. However as far as I know it's never frozen in the past 38 years so my concern is only alittle.

    I even checked the actual water temperature this morning coming out of my kitchen sink which is on the far outside wall out of curiosity, 55deg.
  20. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    My basement holds at better than 50F, but it only takes one isolated space with an air leak to freeze a pipe there. The whole basement doesn't have to be 31F for a spot to be 20F next to a pipe.
  21. kksalm

    kksalm Member

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    I had my plumber install a separate zone for the basement. I placed a digital thermostat where I could monitor the temperature. I checked the most likely to freeze pipes with my infrared heat reader. At a sustained twenty below my pipes were clocking in at 34 degrees so I turned on the zone to match the usual basement temperature. It came on a couple times and sucessfully circulated hot water warming the area and pipes so I didn't have to worry about them. Now that we're back in the teens I've shut it off.
    Cheers from Kenai, Alaska.
  22. basswidow

    basswidow Minister of Fire

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    Actually hot water freezes quicker then cold water. This is true.

    Take two ice cube trays. Fill one with cold water and the other with hot water and see which one freezes first. It's the hot water EVERY time. I am not a scientist - so I can't explain this, but it does.

    Yeah - I figured it was an outside wall deal. Lots of folks will make the mistake too when insulating a pipe - that they insulate it from the house heat. I would place insulation between the pipe and the wall - but not around the pipe or on the house side of the pipe. You can end up blocking house heat from the pipe. Open cabinets to let heat get in to the pipes. Pray that when the thaw comes - you don't have a burst pipe.
  23. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    I had a pipe freeze with the furnace running.
    The kitchen sink cold water pipe ran right by a single pane basement window.
    So close there was no way to ever open that window even though it had hinges.
    About 2 inches from the glass.
    We had about 2 or 3 weeks of extended cold in 2003/2004 ( ice in lots of Buzzards Bay).
    Got pretty darned cold by any window.
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Make a 1.5" styrofoam cover for that glass or at least staple some clear plastic to create an inside storm window.
  25. RedGuy

    RedGuy New Member

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    Also a crawl is definately far different fron a basement. To get to that 55deg earth temperature you generally need to be down about 5 feet in my area. Anything above and near grade will recieve outside air temps, probably with little to no insulation.

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