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Manually Add Water?

wildrage
wildrage Member Posts: 187
We've had some brutal cold that broke on Monday. I visited my Mom, and came back Tuesday night. My house has no water. I'm a little puzzled as to why my line is frozen (likely from the house to the street), and am waiting on a few plumbers' lists to get it thawed. This is sort of ironic, because during all the cold, I took the liberty of insulating some of my water pipes, and monitored then all closely.

That being said, what do I do if my boiler needs water? I have an autofeed with a manual switch that I've been using, that's piped into the condensate return.

Is there any other way to manually add water (if it comes down to that), if I can't get someone out here to thaw the service line?

The only thing worse that not having water, would be not having water or heat :-\

Comments

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    Find an opening on the boiler, the skim port, removal of the relief valve anywhere that will allow you to pour water into the boiler using a gallon jug and funnel or tube.
    Insulating those water pipes, in the house may well be the cause of the lines freezing. If enough heat can't get to them and no water is flowinng for long enough, they will freeze in the kind of weather we've had.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    edited January 2018
    With you not there to move water thru the water service line and as the frost continues to go down into the ground, (actually heat coming out) the line could freeze up after the ambient temp came up.
    It is worse if no snow cover on the ground.

    Once you are thawed I would keep a small stream running overnight.....the size of a pencil lead.
    Very common practice here in northern NE.

    Note: you could pour water into the dry return where a main vent is.
    Provided of course that dry return is sloped to the boiler return.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,885
    If you have a drain somewhere on a wet return of the boiler with a hose bibb on it, you can just take and old hose, cut off about six feet or so from one end -- the end with the female connector on it! -- and hook it to the drain, then strap the other end to something high enough so that when the boiler is firing it doesn't back the water out (28 inches above the water line for every pound of pressure). Then stick a funnel in that and pour -- you can leave it in place if you trust your pressuretrol! -- and you can add water any time you like.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    Plumber just came with a line defrosting machine, then gave up. Yay for me.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,885
    wildrage said:

    Plumber just came with a line defrosting machine, then gave up. Yay for me.

    Yeah. That's sort of a nuisance. Happened to me last week -- just before the cold. We all thought that it was the well pump which failed (after all, it is 58 years old -- a Sumo) which would have been a bore. Only to find out that the old Sumo had the starting and running capacitors in a control box in the barn, and the start capacitor had an overload protector inside the control box. Which had tripped. Don't know why... but it's been fine ever since we found it. There's always something new to learn...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    It's probably frozen out towards the street. Is your water meter outside? I would call the city or County (whoever provides your water and ask them to come out because you have no water. They can try to turn it off at the street and if they can't, they'll know its frozen and may try to do something to thaw it before the water main bursts. Of course this all depends on how many water mains they are already trying to fix, that have already burst.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,297
    Welding machine will thaw it but you have to know what you are doing
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,885

    Welding machine will thaw it but you have to know what you are doing

    If it's metal. Wouldn't be the first time that a portion of the service lateral was plastic...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    edited January 2018
    @Fred Water meter is inside, right near boiler. Steady 65 degrees all the time. The city says it's my responsibility. I had a plumber come in today with one of those de-icers. They got 25 or so feet out and couldn't go any further. They weren't sure if they hit the main or a bend in the pipe, and gave up. They weren't very good plumbers.

    @EBEBRATT-Ed The guys that were out here mentioned that, but they also said that I have a 2 1/4" service line and that it would 'take forever', as I said, they were crappy plumbers. I've used them in the past and had bad results. Only used them because my regular plumber was booked up.

    @Jamie Hall I hope not :(

    So as I stated above, a large plumbing company in the area came out today, cut the pipe for my service line, and used a machine that heats water and uses a head with a jet on it to blast through ice. They got roughly 25 feet out and couldn't go any further. They weren't sure if they hit the main, or just a bend that they couldn't get around. They gave up after a little over an hour. Very annoying. Oh yea, and then they charged me $400

    I'm going to try to contact both my regular plumber and the water company in the morning. The next 2 days will bring 50 degree weather, but I doubt that will do much for the frost line, and when it gets cold again this weekend, it'll probably just drive it down further :(.

    It looks like if I need to add water, the blow out valve is the path of least resistance. Are there any risks with taking it off? The last thing I need is for it to strip a thread or break off in there :(
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    This may be an easier boiler fill:
    If your water heater is full, (most likely) and the drain valve is working (sometimes iffy). Then a hose between the WH drain and the boiler drain.....you need something with 2 female ends such as a washing machine hose added to a regular garden hose for needed length.
    Turn off and leave off the energy supply to the water heater until your supply comes back on.

    Open a hot water faucet upstairs to let air in to the WH tank.

    With the hoses connected open the water heater drain first, then open the boiler drain and watch the sight glass.

    The water heater will drain down until its level of water matches the level in the boiler, so be careful to not overfill the boiler.
    A few gallons is all you may need. FWIW
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Do any neighbors have frozen water lines?
    If both attempts got 25 feet and the main is still flowing for others they probably did not get to the main.

    Do you have a 2" iron pipe water service or copper?
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    JUGHNE said:

    Do any neighbors have frozen water lines?
    If both attempts got 25 feet and the main is still flowing for others they probably did not get to the main.

    Do you have a 2" iron pipe water service or copper?

    @JUGHNE

    They told me that it was a brass service line. The machine they use seems to have a flaw - it's a thin tube that they feed through, and its very difficult to put force on it to go around bends. They also said that if they kinked it, the line would be ruined. I watched them try to pull it in and out, and push it in further, but once you've got 25 feet out, you don't have much leverage. Maybe the other plumber will have a better machine. I was annoyed because they basically gave up and left. I think they should have stayed until they got it working, but that's just me.

    Unfortunately the hot water heater is empty. If I try to feed water through the boilerdrain, what will prevent it from just pouring out due to gravity? I'm not an expert in fluid dynamics, but I would think that without pressure, the water wouldn't go in through the hose, but pour out, or am i missing something? Maybe I need to lift it up high?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    If the water heater is in the basement it seems unlikely that it would be empty unless you have some syphon action to perhaps a basement sink. It needs pressure to push the water out the top, but gravity will let it empty out the bottom.
    Just opening the WH relief valve might tell you that there is some water in and the pipes above it. You won't get much doing this test but it would confirm there is water in the top of it.
    Opening the WH drain may confirm that there is still water inside.
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    edited January 2018
    Jus to update you all, they used the pipe melt machine on my water lines for 5 hours today, and no dice. Water department confirmed that the line was frozen at the main because they couldn't turn the key at the curb stop.

    They'll start digging up the street on Monday morning. Thankfully, I'm not responsible for cost.

    Hopefully I'll have water soon :-\
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    wow...dont think I'd ever turn my water off again in the winter if that's the case...
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    edited January 2018
    Jugne, that’s a genius idea about using the water in the water heater, but you might want to keep the water heater on, and full of water, just to supply some waste heat in the basement.
    Maybe 5 gallon jugs from the store would help.—NBC
    JUGHNE
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,885

    Juggernaut, that’s a genius idea about using the water in the water heater, but you might want to keep the water heater on, and full of water, just to supply some waste heat in the basement.
    Maybe 5 gallon jugs from the store would help.—NBC

    If you keep the water heater on... make absolutely sure that it's full of water. The last thing you need at this point is to burn the thing out by running it dry!

    And... I'm very glad that 60 years ago when the new water lines around the places I care for were run that they were laid 5 feet deep... despite come pretty formidable boulders!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    I can see that I have to proofread everything I type here, as spell-check can change all the nonstandard names to something else.
    Apologies to Juggernaught-I mean Jugne.—NBC
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Nicholas, no problem, actually Juggernaught has a better, more sophisticated, ring to it.

    Jamie, we shoot for 6' bury here. 5 1/2' probably OK. 5' maybe OK if line is busy with moving water.
    Town next to us did some new street work and installed dips for water drainage. They ended up taking perhaps a foot of soil off the top of 6" mains. Freeze up in the wintertime. I think they had to give people discount on water use so they would keep some water flowing constantly.

    Watched a water line repair in the Twin Cities, It looked like maybe 10-12 bury. A brother in Fortuna ND, (near Canadian border), said plumber told him everything was buried 12'.
    Brother in Mississippi said everything was buried 12".
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    edited January 2018
    I'm sitting here waiting for 9am to call the water department to be sure they are actually coming out today...bah.

    I had initially set the water heater on vacation mode, but then just completely turned it off, as I didn't want to take any chances with another catastrophe.

    I set up a 6' garden hose on my boiler drainage valve, then realized that the drain isn't operating. Looks good, but opening it does nothing. Sigh. Another Spring project.

    I have a steam trap on the wall with a large vent installed on it, that leads to an underground return, over to my condensate pump . I poured about 1/4 gallon of water down it, and the condensate pump popped on, and magically I had 3/4 of a site glass left. I need to operate at 3/4 sight glass when the pump is empty, which translates to a little less than 1/2 when the pump is nearly full.

    I just hope that I get water back today :(. They say that I need to be here when they do the work in the street, but I don't have water....so it's a sh*tty catch 22. Pun intended.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,885
    Port-A-Potty. I admire your patience and restraint!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    I got my water back today. 5 hours of digging, and then only about 10 mins before I was back online.

    Water guys noted that all the fill below my brick sidewalk is just medium cut gravel. Not good for insulation. I ran outside and asked if they could fill it with dirt, but they already had it filled :(. On a plus side, they installed another access port in the middle of the street, where I connect to the main...so if it happens again, just a matter of hooking the pipe thaw machine to my curb stop, then the one in the street.

    The guy told me that 10 years ago the city was very frantic to spend some grant money, and installed a storm sewer on top of the water lines. Apparently a PVC pipe full of frozen air doesn't help with the insulation either.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,885
    Bravo! Take a nice hot shower, followed by a long soak in a hot bath. Does wonders for the soul...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,297
    @wildrage Glad your back up and running.

    I was visiting my son in California a few years back 50 miles outside of 'Frisco. We were sitting in front of his house having a beer and I glanced over at the outside water service. "Won't that freeze in the winter" . "There's no winter here, this is California"
    Canucker
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    Great! Glad you have water again
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    Glad water is on. Not glad it took you 400+ bucks in plumbers only to be city issue. I wonder if you can get them to pay that bill too.

    Btw, what ever happened to that ceiling rad riser leak from a few months ago over your dining room? Did I miss it being fixed? Was it the union?
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
    When I installed a city water connection to get off my well at my last house, I remember something about heath code that required at least a 2' vertical separation and 8 or 10' distance apart.

    But hey, they are the city, they make the rules.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    edited January 2018
    A few years while visiting in Thailand, the small resort town we stayed in had a newish Hilton on the road with the best beaches of course. They were the only place that had brewed coffee.
    Would go there every morning. The town had combo sanitary/storm sewers, with 2 x 2 grates you walked over so you could see the flow of everything. The sewers were about 2' square concrete tunnels. Inside one of these tunnels visible thru the grate was the 6" water main going up to the Hilton......why dig another trench.....worked like a counter flow steam main you might say.
    The coffee was still good though.
    MilanD
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    MilanD said:

    Glad water is on. Not glad it took you 400+ bucks in plumbers only to be city issue. I wonder if you can get them to pay that bill too.



    Btw, what ever happened to that ceiling rad riser leak from a few months ago over your dining room? Did I miss it being fixed? Was it the union?

    Ended up being a failed old repair with a cheap chinese elbow. Fixed rather easily. I still haven't gotten around to closing up the ceiling though :).
    MilanD
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    Sometimes that 'industrial' exposed utilities look is all the rage... Simple solution - just don't look up :)
    Canucker
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
    > @MilanD said:
    > Sometimes that 'industrial' exposed utilities look is all the rage... Simple solution - just don't look up :)

    Steampunk? :p
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
    MilanD
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,297
    @JUGHNE , Think I will skip Thailand and boil the hell out of my coffee for a while