Preventing frozen pipes, heat or drip?

7 Replies

Thought this would be an appropriate question considering half this country is going to be under a deep freeze.

Do you leave the central heat on low or do you let some faucets drip water to prevent frozen plumbing? 

I usually do both, set the heat as low as it'll go and drip cold water in one sink and hot water in another.  Also, I put some automotive antifreeze in my washing machines that are in an unheated storage building and run the spin cycle for a few seconds.

I would make sure pipes have insulation on them. In areas with a split system heat pump, setting it on a lower setting will help keep the crawlspace warm preventing pipes on crawlspace from freezing.

Sometimes, though rarely, the pipes can freeze despite the conditions inside the building.

We acquired several properties in the same area this past year which are built on a shale escarpment.   This past week we've been having an early - though not terribly severe - cold snap with temperatures down in the -25C range overnight.  As a consequence, we've had frozen pipes at three properties.

At two of the properties, the cause has been water lines running too close to external {rubble} foundation walls and draughts coming trough the sills.  According to inherited tenants at one of the properties, frozen pipes are an annual occurrence ... so we have some air sealing work to do next summer.

However, we have one building, which had no issues last winter.  We replaced the water and sewer services this past spring, and the pipes froze a week ago and again last night - outside of the foundation in both instances.  The pipes are almost 7' below the surface and should not be able to freeze, but they have.  Current working theory is water has gotten down amongst the course gravel covering the pipes and frozen just outside the rubble wall.  Today we are digging out under the foundation from the inside and, once we thaw the pipes, we'll place a length of heat tape along the service line and re-wrap it with insulation.  It's treating the symptom and not a permanent solution, but should hopefully get us through the winter.

BTW:  Last night we had two faucets (at corners of the building furthest from the water entrance) trickling, yet the line still froze outside of the foundation.

I have 2 empty right now . I blew out the water lines with a compressor , drained the hot water heater ( kill the electric first)  . Rv antifreeze in all traps and toilet bowls .  Well is shut off .  Took about 1/2 hour 

I recommend heat tape for sure and on the really cold days do the dripping. I try to drip a faucet that is the further away from main line in so that it in theory goes through as many lines as possible. I also check my heat tape every year (they don't last for ever) and I would replace at 5 years at most if not earlier. And do make sure you read the instructions on those because they can cause fires if installed improperly. It'd be a shame to lose an entire property because you were too lazy to install a $30 product properly.

So I spoke to our property manager about this same topic. As part of the fee, which includes typical property management, they will come by the house 3x a week and do a complete walk inside and out. After each guest and housekeeping service is complete they will turn the water off at the main, drain the lines then set the temperature at 55F. We are also in the process of installing a number of smarthome devices - thermostats, locks, water sensors etc- which allows both our property manager and me to monitor/control away from the home. 

It doesn’t get too terrible cold in TN and our properties are always booked and functioning so I don’t worry too much about it. If we’re leaving town I’ll drip the sink in our primary.
We came home to a busted main after thanksgiving but it wasn’t cold related. Just a shark bite that didn’t like living under ground.

We have a poorly insulated guest apartment on our property in Northern Idaho.  We  shut off the water to the building, leave all faucets open ( water will drain, but lines are not blown out), electricity off to hot water heater, oil filled electric radiators set to the * setting, in front of open cabinets to heat under the sinks.  We use three heaters in the apartment.  We have now done this for 7 years.  The only burst pipe we have had is when faucets were closed.  We have thermometers in the apartment and it stays about 40 degrees.  We use the heated living room of the guest apartment to store our paint and other LL supplies that would be ruined by freezing, so the heat is not a complete waste.  Come spring, we move the paint back to the unheated shop, clean and get the guest apartment back in shape.