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frozen copper pipes.

Cousin bought a house - this is for him. Basement, first floor, second floor, third floor.
On super cold days the hot and cold water lines freeze. Someone ran them on the inside rooms outside walls which I bet have no insulation, they converted from hot water heat rads which were on outside walls to forced air and now the pipes freeze on cold, windy nights.

I know that there are 250 dollar systems that recirculate hot water back through the cold water line via a stainless circ pump. And that will work for the second floor kitch sink.

However on the other side of the building there is a third floor sink with just cold water. One line.(I know - "who does that?") Does anyone know of an electric immersion heater that we could install in the cold water pipe? I am thinking that just a bit of heat in the basement would drift up the pipe to keep it thawed out. The run from the basement to the third floor is probably 25-30 feet of half copper.

Opening walls is not going to happen. Heat tape is not an option. So my thought is heating it from the basement, thermostatically controlled to come on at say 36 degrees.

in the meantime the faucets are constantly running...

Comments

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,377
    I think you have to open up the walls and re do the plumbing-insulating the pipes. It's the only real, permanent solution.
    Anything else you do is a waste of time, money and aggravation when one of those pipes splits. Then you'll wish you did it right, and you'll have to do it right.
    So do it right now.
    Out of all the options you propose, letting the faucet drip is unfortunately the cheapest. But it's not fool proof as a cold water line to a toilet could still freeze.
    steve
  • oreo123
    oreo123 Member Posts: 45
    Its not my place as I would open things up and do it right the first time.

    Every time water goes from liquid to solid it expands ~ 3 percent. Pipes can only take it so many times before they split. Then the walls will be opened.

    Do you think that if those pipes were insulated they would not freeze? In the Boston area it can dip to a couple below zero. Then there is the wind chill.

    This all started when they ripped out the radiator heat and went to HVAC.

    Opening some of the walls will require removing kitch cabinets.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,495
    No such thing as a free lunch...
    You can sometimes mediate these problems by air sealing the nooks and crannies on the outside of the house with spray foam then opening the wall cavity to indoor air. Sometimes a hole in the interior of a cabinet with louver screwed to it will keep the wall cavity warm enough to prevent freezing.

    Water expands close to 10% when it freezes and can exert up to 100,000 psi. Works really well for breaking up boulders in the winter.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 20,790
    oreo123 said:

    Its not my place as I would open things up and do it right the first time.

    Every time water goes from liquid to solid it expands ~ 3 percent. Pipes can only take it so many times before they split. Then the walls will be opened.

    Do you think that if those pipes were insulated they would not freeze? In the Boston area it can dip to a couple below zero. Then there is the wind chill.

    This all started when they ripped out the radiator heat and went to HVAC.

    Opening some of the walls will require removing kitch cabinets.

    Hard saying, not knowing. Insulation alone may not be enough to prevent the pipes freezing. Insulation slows energy transfer, it cannot stop the cold from reaching the tube, it just slows the heat transfer.

    Drafts or infiltration are usually the bigger contributing factor, as Carl mentioned.

    I guess rerouting the pipes is not a viable option either?
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,147
    I doubt very much that a bit of heat on that pipe to the third floor coming from the basement is going to help any (and, by the way, who puts just cold water to a sink on the third floor? The maids didn't need hot water, did they, so why bother?). As @STEVEusaPA the only real solution is to open it up, insulate heavily on the outside and have the pipes right up against the inside. If it were mine, I'd probably re-pipe it all in PEX while I was at it, as that is a little more forgiving of being frozen.

    The alternative is to keep the water running just a smidge and hope, and set aside the cash to do it right when it freezes.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,141
    Hello, Would it be out of the question to run PEX in some of the most vulnerable places? ;)

    Yours, Larry
    Zman
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,544
    Based on what you said, they took out a working system, replaced it with a non working system, & are unwilling to apply reliable band-aids to fix the resulting issues? Leave the faucets dripping.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,147

    Hello, Would it be out of the question to run PEX in some of the most vulnerable places? ;)

    Yours, Larry

    Yes. That's exactly what I would do -- plus the insulation I suggested. You might be able to fish the PEX without taking the walls apart completely -- but it would still be liable to freeze. PEX, however, takes freezing better than copper. It will still burst, just not as fast...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,139
    If those walls with are on side of house where appearance doesn't matter,consider insulating walls on outside. Then he won't need to plaster&paint.

    In the good old days burlap between pipe and masonry wall reduced freezing significantly.
  • Leonard
    Leonard Member Posts: 903
    edited February 2017
    I'ld say maybe easiest to re-run the pipes in an interior wall ( one not exposed to winter outside). Agree with running a flexible pipe like pex. For vertical runs can minimizes opening up wall to maybe 1 small place per floor, ~ 4ft off floor. How about running it near chimney or sewer vent if it runs inside house, they usually have a sort of clear run to attic.

    I've fished alarm wires from basement to attic. They have some 8+ ft drills that you can bend once they enter the wall. So you can drill thru any wood cross braces. Just search for electric and gas lines first, especially knob and tube. The long drills come in sections maybe 3+ feet long. Think I've seen ones with 3/4 + inch dia cutting tip.

    One risk of adding foam or blown in insulation to wall cavity is if pipe happens to rest against cold outside wall , rather than warm inside wall, then adding insulation will just make it freeze faster. Insulation has to go between pipe and the cold