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What should i do in this case?

chowchow
chowchow Member Posts: 56
Just a thought if i ran out of fuel oil and couldnt afford to buy any, or there was a fuel oil shortage, what steps would i take to keep my pipes from bursting and flooding my home? I know i should turn off the main water valve first then i guess open up all the faucets in the house, but would i have to drain my boiler of all its water also? I have a tankless coil boiler, should i also put antifreeze in the toilets and sinks? I just wanted a step by step guide to help if something like this did happen. And the way this crazy world is this might not be far off. Thanks in advance.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,972
    Exactly how far you need to go depends on whether you have steam or hot water heat. I'll get to that.

    This will assume that you do not have a generator and that you are, in fact, out of oil.

    Domestic plumbing. If you are on city water, turn off the water at the house entrance. Open all the faucets all the way, and flush all the toilets. Open any drains or hose bibs on the domestic water. Turn off the power to the water heater and drain that. Get some RV antifreeze. I say again RV antifreeze. Do NOT use automotive antifreeze. Plunger the toilet bowls to get as much water out as you can, then add enough RV antifreeze to each one and to the tank for the toilet to make about a 50/50 mixture. Then add RV antifreeze to all sink and shower and what have you traps.

    This will give you a good chance that you won't have frozen pipes. It is NOT a guarantee. There may well be low spots in the plumbing which will hold water. They may freeze despite your best efforts.

    So... to turn the water back on, close all the faucets and drains and what have you. Turn the main valve on, but listen for any evidence of water leaking and be prepared to turn it back off again. Go around and open all the faucets and let any air out. Particularly the hot water. When you get no more air, turn the power for the water heater back on.

    Now the heat. For either type of heat, turn off the power to the boiler.

    If you have steam heat, unless it is an extended emergency, the basement where the boiler is is unlikely to freeze, so you don't need to do anything. If it is an extended emergency, open the boiler drains and any drains on the wet returns. There's no need to do anything else.

    If you have hot water heat, this assumes you do not have glycol in your system. You will need to drain the system completely. Open any drains you can find in the basement. Go around and open the air release valves on all the radiators. If there were any radiators which were turned off or turned down, open the valves fully.. If the expansion tank is mounted with the water connection up (air on the bottom), disconnect it and empty it. Close the connecting valve to the domestic water.

    To restart the system, you will need to refill it and purge all the air. Take your time. Like the domestic water, there is a chance that not everything will have drained, and you may have some frozen pipes despite your best efforts.

    Or make sure you have a properly connected whole house generator, enough fuel on hand to run it for a couple of hours a day for a week or so, and enough fuel oil in the tank...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    chowchow
  • MikeAmann
    MikeAmann Member Posts: 992
    edited February 2023
    My oil-fired boiler is not even connected right now and hasn't been all winter (life got in the way).
    But because of the insulating and air sealing that I have done previously, my pipes will not freeze.
    We recently had a short spell of below zero weather and the lowest temp that I saw in the house was 33 degrees, and warmer than that in the basement.
  • chowchow
    chowchow Member Posts: 56
    edited February 2023

    Exactly how far you need to go depends on whether you have steam or hot water heat. I'll get to that.

    This will assume that you do not have a generator and that you are, in fact, out of oil.

    Domestic plumbing. If you are on city water, turn off the water at the house entrance. Open all the faucets all the way, and flush all the toilets. Open any drains or hose bibs on the domestic water. Turn off the power to the water heater and drain that. Get some RV antifreeze. I say again RV antifreeze. Do NOT use automotive antifreeze. Plunger the toilet bowls to get as much water out as you can, then add enough RV antifreeze to each one and to the tank for the toilet to make about a 50/50 mixture. Then add RV antifreeze to all sink and shower and what have you traps.

    This will give you a good chance that you won't have frozen pipes. It is NOT a guarantee. There may well be low spots in the plumbing which will hold water. They may freeze despite your best efforts.

    So... to turn the water back on, close all the faucets and drains and what have you. Turn the main valve on, but listen for any evidence of water leaking and be prepared to turn it back off again. Go around and open all the faucets and let any air out. Particularly the hot water. When you get no more air, turn the power for the water heater back on.

    Now the heat. For either type of heat, turn off the power to the boiler.

    If you have steam heat, unless it is an extended emergency, the basement where the boiler is is unlikely to freeze, so you don't need to do anything. If it is an extended emergency, open the boiler drains and any drains on the wet returns. There's no need to do anything else.

    If you have hot water heat, this assumes you do not have glycol in your system. You will need to drain the system completely. Open any drains you can find in the basement. Go around and open the air release valves on all the radiators. If there were any radiators which were turned off or turned down, open the valves fully.. If the expansion tank is mounted with the water connection up (air on the bottom), disconnect it and empty it. Close the connecting valve to the domestic water.

    To restart the system, you will need to refill it and purge all the air. Take your time. Like the domestic water, there is a chance that not everything will have drained, and you may have some frozen pipes despite your best efforts.

    Or make sure you have a properly connected whole house generator, enough fuel on hand to run it for a couple of hours a day for a week or so, and enough fuel oil in the tank...

    Thank you jamie for that much appreciated very thorough. If i open up my boiler drains i think i know where the main one is on the bottom do i attach a hose and drain into my sink? If i open it up will it pour out the stored water on to the floor? And steam and hot water heat i dont know which i have, i have floor radiators which let out heat from my boiler but i dont know if its steam or hot water. How would i be able to tell? Thanks again. I dont think i have air release valves on my radiators, never saw any type of valves on them.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,475
    If somehow you have electricity and a shop vac, that can be used to pull the water out of the low spots in the piping or at least enough that it won't form a plug and burst the pipe. The piping is supposed to be drainable but that is rarely enforced.
  • chowchow
    chowchow Member Posts: 56
    mattmia2 said:

    If somehow you have electricity and a shop vac, that can be used to pull the water out of the low spots in the piping or at least enough that it won't form a plug and burst the pipe. The piping is supposed to be drainable but that is rarely enforced.

    My house was built in 1962 i dont know if my pipes have drain plugs to drain excess water from them, are you talking about using the shop vac which i do have to vaccum up water in the boiler room or in pipes throughout my home?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,475
    If there is a low spot that doesn't have a valve with a waste cap or something similar where the water won't drain by gravity, you can valve things off such that you are pulling through that section and pull most of the water out. You can do it with compressed air too but fewer people have a compressor big enough to do a good job.
    chowchow