Will my pipes freeze?

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Deppizzymo

New Member
Feb 28, 2022
40
Missouri
We just got our call from the installer... The Lopi Liberty has arrived and ready for install (Ordered mid-March). We are super excited to be staring down our first winter with wood heat but I am also nervous about some of the finer details. We currently own a 1920s farm house on a hill (subject to winds) with 60% stone foundation/40% poured concrete that they used on additions over the years. Our current propane furnace has a pipe that vents out into the basement open area and I feel like it helps keep our pipes from freezing in the winter. Does anyone here have a similar condition in their home? Should I run the propane furnace on the extremely cold nights/longer cold snaps to help keep them from freezing? Maybe just cracking open the faucet to let it drip into the basin is enough to keep them from freezing? We are in Northeast Missouri. Just looking for any helpful information!

Thanks so much
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,486
South Puget Sound, WA
Yes, it's a good idea to run the furnace a bit during very cold snaps. We warn people to cycle their boiler or furnace during very cold weather, especially if there is exposed plumbing. Another option is an electric space heater in the basement on a low temp thermostat. A remote thermometer in the basement that will let you know the temp down there is a good idea. They make some that have a freeze alarm.
 
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Deppizzymo

New Member
Feb 28, 2022
40
Missouri
Do you have a recommendation on remote thermometers? I unfortunately have a tendency to buy the cheapest and then cry when it works for 2 weeks and dies out.
I will definitely keep the thermostat set in a way that the house won't ever fall below 60 (upstairs) and just be ready to run it if we have some extremely long snaps.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,486
South Puget Sound, WA
It's a good idea to exercise the furnace a few times during the winter anyway. It doesn't have to run continually. Also, you may be able to run the furnace fan only while the Liberty is burning. That will deliver some warmer air to the basement. It won't be as hot as when the furnace is running but may be enough. This is where a remote thermometer is helpful.

We've had good luck with LaCrosse thermometers. This one doesn't have an alarm but will provide remote monitoring.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,939
Philadelphia
Need to know more. When you say "furnace", are you implying a forced air system? How is your water heated, and where does that rig reside?

If you have an alarm system (eg. GE, Simplisafe, or anything with Zigbee or Z-wave), you can get a remote temperature sensor, to notify you when the temperature in a given space drops below 40F. You can use said system to automatically toggle an appliance module into which you plug a space heater (just verify wattage limits), to keep any space from freezing. I use a similar system to monitor garage temperatures, so the plumbing to my garage sink doesn't freeze.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,486
South Puget Sound, WA
Need to know more. When you say "furnace", are you implying a forced air system? How is your water heated, and where does that rig reside?
Sounds more like a furnace, but I am assuming the pipe is a duct.
Our current propane furnace has a pipe that vents out into the basement open area
 

Deppizzymo

New Member
Feb 28, 2022
40
Missouri
Yep forced air propane furnace with ducts. That's really cool about Simplisafe... what an era we live in. We had been considering a security system at one point or another. Everything in the house is electric except the furnace. Water is an electric heater.
 

marty319

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2014
526
Belair mb
I heat entirely with wood and my plumbing is in the crawl Space. I built a wall across and only heat where plumbing and well pressure tank is.im good to not put heat on under there till around -10c.i run a 3000 watt electric heater hanging from floor joists.i have a 3 sensor thermometer I bought from Amazon. I put one on each end of crawlspace and I have one in my fridge.it can get real cold here and I've never had pipes freeze.

20220701_125110.jpg 41nPv7mQ2oL._AC_SY780_.jpg
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,939
Philadelphia
Yep forced air propane furnace with ducts. That's really cool about Simplisafe... what an era we live in. We had been considering a security system at one point or another. Everything in the house is electric except the furnace. Water is an electric heater.
I have an electric water heater with a very limited amount of associated piping (1/2" copper) in the unfinished attic portion of our 3rd floor. Entire weeks of -5°F (-20°C) nights with +15°F (-10°C) days haven't managed to freeze those pipes yet. I did insulate them, and the electric water heater seems to conduct enough residual heat into said pipes to keep them above freezing, even though we only use the bathroom to which it's connected a few times per year (guest suite).

I'd settle for monitoring them each time you hit a new low, likely meaning waking up a few times per night to take their temperature on your first few extremely cold days, to satisfy yourself of the situation. Perhaps like me, a little insulation on the pipes will resolve any concern, or perhaps you'll learn you do need to add a bit of heat or water flow to the space.

Another option is a recirculator pump, which is typically only used on hot water lines, but could also be added to a troublesome cold line.
 

Draughts15

New Member
Dec 23, 2020
74
Upper Midwest
I live in an elevated ranch style house with an unfinished basement as of right now. I have a propane furnace and four vents in the floor joists for about 1450 sq ft in the basement. Upstairs we keep it around 73-75 burning wood and we have lows that can reach -30F. Our pipes did not freeze last winter (our first year with a wood stove). I don't burn 24/7 unless I'm home but when it's that cold I like to have the furnace kick on.

I also have a weather station and keep two sensors downstairs in the basement to keep an eye on the temps, one on the floor and one up a little higher against the wall. Generally when we are burning wood we have our basement drop to the low 50s and when I get home I see it back in the upper 50s.

Temps drop in our basement pretty quick. Once it gets to about 52 it takes a long time to drop to 50. The coldest our basement has gotten was 49.6. Makes me a little nervous. I do plan on insulating our joists this winter until we fully finish it. I think it would be a good idea to cycle your furnace until you get familiar with how cold your basement gets.

I experimented with circulating air on fan mode with the furnace. Ran it for several hours and it didn't help. I also purchased an in line duct and fan and blew air downstairs and up. I had mixed results but determined it didnt have much of an effect.
 

Hoytman

Feeling the Heat
Jan 6, 2020
445
Ohio
Couldn’t he run the stove for most of the load yet still run the furnace (at the same time with stove) to tweak the next 2-5 degrees he might need in the house?

It might mean the difference between needing to run a separate heater in the basement/crawl space or not, if that is possible.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,486
South Puget Sound, WA
Couldn’t he run the stove for most of the load yet still run the furnace (at the same time with stove) to tweak the next 2-5 degrees he might need in the house?

It might mean the difference between needing to run a separate heater in the basement/crawl space or not, if that is possible.
That is a common cycle in very cold weather, especially if the thermostat is not in the stove room though typically it is only making up a degree or two of temp.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,939
Philadelphia
Couldn’t he run the stove for most of the load yet still run the furnace (at the same time with stove) to tweak the next 2-5 degrees he might need in the house?

It might mean the difference between needing to run a separate heater in the basement/crawl space or not, if that is possible.
Change the percentages and degrees, and this is exactly what I do, all winter long. If you size your stove to work well for 80% of the year, it's naturally going to need some help on the coldest nights, exactly when you want that furnace running.
 

Deppizzymo

New Member
Feb 28, 2022
40
Missouri
You all have been super helpful. I will definitely be monitoring basement temps. We are also going to go all out and use leaves/straw to insulate the side of the house to reduce the draft coming in as well. It's good to hear that it is hard to fall below a certain low temp as long as the stove is going.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
2,010
Iowa
You all have been super helpful. I will definitely be monitoring basement temps. We are also going to go all out and use leaves/straw to insulate the side of the house to reduce the draft coming in as well. It's good to hear that it is hard to fall below a certain low temp as long as the stove is going.
Hope you have a really tight foundation/home if you are going to place leaves/straw against it. Mice can be an issue!
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,939
Philadelphia
... and fungus, and rot. I would strongly advise against any organic insulation. Fiberglass is your friend.
 

Draughts15

New Member
Dec 23, 2020
74
Upper Midwest
Do you have any windows in your basement? I'd get those sealed up in the fall. I used insulation foam boards to cover my window wells from the outside. It looks ugly but its only temporary for the winter. Depending on your setup you could do it on the inside or get the insulation film.

I doubt you get snow like we do, but I bank the snow against our cement foundation, seemed to help.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,939
Philadelphia
Do you have any windows in your basement? I'd get those sealed up in the fall. I used insulation foam boards to cover my window wells from the outside. It looks ugly but its only temporary for the winter. Depending on your setup you could do it on the inside or get the insulation film.

I doubt you get snow like we do, but I bank the snow against our cement foundation, seemed to help.
Just remember that you want the moisture barrier on the inside of the window in winter, if you don't want issues with mold and rot. Sealing tight around the outside of a window will invite condensation and moisture between window and foam board.

One way around this, if outside is indeed the best place for the foam board, is to seal inside with plastic film. Another option is to make sure you foam board fitment, if on the outside, is leakier than the window itself.