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Preventing frozen pipes

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by denjohn, Apr 18, 2014.

  1. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    I'm looking for suggestions on how to prevent pipes freezing in a WI home that is sometimes unoccupied for a while.
    Usually heat w wood but a gas furnace is set to 55 degrees when unoccupied.
    There is one area where the possibility of pipes freezing is a concern.
    I've used heat tape in another area, but that's not practical here.
    It's a small space, I'm thinking of a very small electric heater, thermostatically controlled to activate at around 40 degrees, preferably w fan. I see them for sale online, but no indication about how low in degrees the thermostats are good for. Don't want it running til the temps are 40ish.
    Can anyone recommend such a product? Or other suggestion?
    Thanks
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2014

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  2. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    It would help to know just where that one area of pipes possibly freezing is.
    How had the previous owner avoided the problem? Is it possible to drain the water each time you're leaving it unoccupied? Leaving the cabinet and vanity doors open for air to access the sinks water lines also helps, but this is for above floor applications.
  3. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    Area is within the house, near external wall, minimal air circulation, above floor.
    Previous owners didn't leave house unattended for long.
    Draining was our first thought, but impractical, we do turn off the well pump and close the first valve in the house in that line.
    A small electric fan that operates at a low temp range seems a good solution, only want it operating in the 40's range, I'm having trouble getting an idea of the temp ranges for the fans I see.
    This looks good, am waiting for a reply for the manufacturer http://www.bionaire.com/heaters/BFH2242M-SM.html#start=1
  4. Warm_in_NH

    Warm_in_NH Minister of Fire

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    Joful likes this.
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    You beat me to it. I don't think you're going to find a space heater with a built in t-stat that works as low as 40F. I'd be buying or building (line voltage t-state + receptacle box) an external rig.

    The set points on the one shown above are too wide, if your space heater is going to be heating any appreciable space. Might come on at 35F, and never go off, if your little space heater doesn't have the hp to get you quite to 45F.
    Warm_in_NH likes this.
  6. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Btw, a solenoid valve on the offending appliance, controlled by a thermocouple or thermistor on the pipe, would make a kick-ass anti-freeze system. Screw valve onto faucet and leave appliance on. Any time pipe temp drops to 35F, valve can bleed a little water thru, and prevent freeze. Works on toilet supply lines too! Just not on drain traps. Treat those with RV antifreeze, all sinks, showers, toilets.
  7. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    Thanks guys.....that Amazon linked unit should be close enough to our goal. It's candidate number one unless a better idea comes along.
  8. brian89gp

    brian89gp Feeling the Heat

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    An incandescent light bulb works too.
    Warm_in_NH likes this.
  9. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    This is getting better and better.
  10. brian89gp

    brian89gp Feeling the Heat

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    Remember energy is energy. 100w light bulb is the same amount of energy as a 100w space heater except the light bulb has more of the energy in visible and infrared light wavelengths. Line of sight is important with infrared. My parents expansion tank and some piping from their well is above ground outdoors in a well house and they run a light bulb to keep it from freezing. Central Missouri vs Wisconsin though.

    How much energy you need (heat loss calc)? 1000w is a lot of lightbulbs...
    Joful likes this.
  11. Warm_in_NH

    Warm_in_NH Minister of Fire

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    I know a couple guys with a bulb under the exit spout of their oil tanks outside. It's just enough to keep it from gelling up.
    Good point above with the range of the thermal cube, if it's a bigger area it may never hit the shut off point. Definitely something to consider. It'd be nice to be able to do a test run or two while you're present.

    Why are we having this conversation on a beautiful spring day? :cool:
  12. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    Thanks for the continued brainstorming......I think the incandescents are enough in our situation, but will do some testing.
    A possible security benefit w the random on/off of the incandescent.
  13. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    That's what I used in my old camp's well house to keep things from freezing . . . and in my oil tank room when it's sub zero and I want to keep the heat up . . . but just a bit to keep the oil from gelling.
  14. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    FWIW....I got a reply from the company linked in post #3, re the lowest of 7 thermostat settings.
    The lowest setting will be approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 750 watts.
  15. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Just make sure your incandescent doesn't burn out!
  16. denjohn

    denjohn Member

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    Ja, if bulbs, would use two.
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  17. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    There is a new product for protecting water pipes down to -30 degrees called Ice-Loc
    http://www.iceloc.com/

    Also on about.com are 8 pages of some good tips on frozen pipes in your home.

    http://homerepair.about.com/od/plumbingrepair/ss/thaw_frzn_pipe.htm

    From Page 5 of 8
    Preventing Frozen Pipes
    There are a few things you can do to prevent the problem of freezing pipes from occurring again.

    * Leave the faucet drip slightly as a trickle. The dripping water will keep the water in the pipe from freezing.
    * Open kitchen base cabinet and let room air circulate.
    * Open kitchen base cabinet and place a small portable heater near or in it to heat the pipes
    * Wrap the problem pipe with electrical heat tape.
    * Insulate the problem pipes with foam insulation wrap, especially those that run through unheated spaces.
    * Temper the currently unheated crawlspace by placing a heater in the crawlspace. You just need to elevate the crawlspace temperature to modestly above freezing, about 40°F.

    Video shows IceLock install into the pipe!
  18. kobudo

    kobudo Member

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  19. kobudo

    kobudo Member

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    It may not be easy to find any 100w light bulbs.
  20. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    rough service and other exempt versions will be easy to find.
  21. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    I've been buying them ;)
  22. Lake Girl

    Lake Girl Moderator Staff Member

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    Is there a ban on incandescent bulbs in the US too? Thought it was only Canada. The light bulb trick (2 in our crawl space lasted until the end of december when we had to add a couple of small heaters. The light bulbs did the trick last year but this year too cold for too long. Rough service bulbs:)

    With the mentions of oil gelling, we used to have a magnetic block heater that we used to put at the bottom of the outside tank to prevent gelling. Not an endorsement of the sites but the zero start is the closest to what we used to use. So ... what material is piping made from and could this be adapted for your application?
    http://www.ebay.com/bhp/magnetic-block-heater
  23. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Standard medium base soft white incandescent bulbs were banned at the 75 & 100 watt level a few years back, and this year that rolled down to include (I think) 40 and 60 watt varieties. We can still buy clear / decorative bulbs in incandescent, as well as rough service bulbs, appliance bulbs, etc.
  24. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    I wonder why I can still buy 40, 60, 75 and 100 then? Every time I'm in Menards, I grab a box or two...
  25. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    they prob stocked up, or got a source that labelled them exempt in some way. Not banned for sale, just new production.

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