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Crawl space vents and pipe insulation concerns since we changed heat systems.

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by tickbitty, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. tickbitty

    tickbitty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Messages:
    1,537
    Loc:
    VA
    Our old heating system (in our 1400 sq foot single story brick house built in 1950s) was forced oil heat, with the furnace in a little utility basement that is only under about 1/5 of the house. Washer/dryer down there, gas water heater. You enter the basement off a screened porch to the side. The ductwork is uninsulated, and the underside of the house is uninsulated. The rest of the underside of the house is a crawl space, but in the past the ductwork kept everything under the crawl warm and dry. THere is a vapor barrior down there on sand etc but it's not a very open crawl.

    When we moved in, we had AC/heat pump system put in the attic that uses a totally different vent system. Last year the oil furnace crapped out. Rather than replace it we went with the heat pump (found ourselves cold and it was expensive!), and then we got a wood stove. We have not ditched the furnace down there so it sits idle in case we or somebody else wants to replace the whole thing with a gas or oil unit in the future. The ducts aren't insulated but the guy we talked to said that's OK, they can either be insulated, or a heat outlet can be put into the space where the furnace is.

    For now, my concern is that the uninsulated underside of the house is much colder than it used to be. There are only a few small vents under the house to outside, but I guess I need to block them/insulate them and I am not sure how.

    I will also have to get faucet covers for the two hoses, and a jacket for the water heater in the basement. The washer/dryer are in the basement, is there any kind of heater I can put in there just to make sure the little basement stays warm enough for the pipes and etc?

    It never seems THAT bad down there but I am just trying to anticipate before we have a problem. We had a very cold winter last year and we did OK, but a power outage or if we were away a few days with no woodstove heat might spell disaster.

    So I am wondering about

    1) possibility of some mild inexpensive basement heat?
    2) how to block/insulate the under house vents from the outside (it's NOT an easy crawler under there)
    3) is it necessary to put heat tape or anything on pipes?
    4) anything else I'm not thinking of?

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  2. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2009
    Messages:
    2,344
    Loc:
    SW Virginia
    Sounds like you have several issues to consider. Being that its a basement the temps will be moderated by the mass of the walls and floors. If I understand correctly you have ventilation from outside which may present a low temp problem resulting in freezing of the pump in your washer, your pipes, etc. You can wrap pipes but it may be tough to protect your washing machine between uses. I suggest you review the info at http://www.buildingscience.com/ and consider sealing/insulating your basement to control temps and moisture. If you do this, enough heat will probably enter the basement through your uninsulated 1st story floors to keep the basement from freezing.
  3. Panhandler

    Panhandler Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    607
    Loc:
    WV Northern Panhandle
    I have used a small electric heater ran off a Thermocube. (http://www.apelectric.com/TC-3-Thermo-Cube-Plug-in-Thermostat-15A-p/tc3.htm). The Thermocube is an inline thermostat. You plug the heater into the Thermocube and plug the Thermocube into your extension cord or outlet. There are several cubes with different settings, I use the "on" at 35" and "off" at 45". They are preset, not adjustable. Another option is an electric heater ran thru an extension cord snaked to a living area. By using a remote thermometer, you can plug in the heater when you see the temps drop to around 30. This does require you to keep a closer eye on upcoming weather. Of course I stress that all portable electric heaters that are unattended be placed on a stable, uncombustible surface. Although the newer portable heaters are much safer than the old days. Plug up your air leaks and do a little insulation.

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