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Insulate pipes lose heat

I've purposely left about 20 feet of my main uninsulated to heat the basement and pipes for water etc so that they don't freeze. When I bought the house I had an old crown boiler little bigger than my current National of 138k. Nothing was insulated. I added insulation on all 2 inch mains except for the 20 foot near my water heater. Question is I think I'm losing too much heat but if I insulate the remaining pipes I won't have any heat to prevent my pipes from freezing. Don't want to use electric heat but maybe a rad on the wet return but how is that done? Or, my gas lines are accessible maybe a wall heater but don't want to raise my bills by runn one. Will the boiler be enough to heat these pipes enough so they won't freeze the basement is cement block I cannot really insulate the walls too many things in the way

Comments

  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    How warm is it down there now?

    My basement is 74° right now, and the boiler is just about to fire. My mains and most of the runouts are insulated. Before I insulated the pipes it used to hit 80° down there.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • hankwylerjr
    hankwylerjr Member Posts: 105
    It stays at 65. I'd like to get more efficient upstairs heat however.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144
    Unless your basement is very very draughty or has tall, uninsulated exterior walls, freezing -- even in rather cold climates -- is unlikely. I would say to go ahead and insulate the remaining pipe and keep track of it. The "lost" heat from the boiler and water heater will probably be quite adequate.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Hap_HazzardhankwylerjrCanucker
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Do you have a vent damper on your flue? If not, you could be losing warm air up the chimney even when the boiler is off. You might also want to see how much excess air is being vented when it's running and see if you can reduce that. When warm air can escape, the cold air will always find its way in to replace it.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    hankwylerjrCanucker
  • hankwylerjr
    hankwylerjr Member Posts: 105
    @Jamie Hall @Hap_Hazzard not sure about the damper I would imagine there is. I just don't want the basement so cold that she starts complaining about how cold it is near the boiler right where our washer and dryer is. It probably won't freeze but might be chilly still wondering about another option in case thanks
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144
    Ah! The lady of the house is involved! So it is not freezing pipes :) ! There are other options, however. A number of them -- so if insulating that main makes it too cold, come on back, and we'll get the laundry area nice and warm.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    hankwylerjrethicalpaul
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,310
    I find most pipe freezes are caused by a draft that hits a nearby pipe. Some benighted plumber decided to run the water pipes to the second floor up an outside wall in my 100 year old house. One thing that saves this invitation to a freeze up is the steam pipe to the bath radiator goes up that same chase. Even so those water pipes are within an inch of the foundation and sill as the pipes head up the wall cavity.

    I jamed a 1/8" piece of masonite between the pipes and the foundation / sill to shield those pipes from and breeze that might be coming from that sill. In 38 years I've never had a freeze up and there have been a few very cold nights (-10 in the Boston area is unusual) and a couple of power outages of 1+ days in the dead of winter.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    hankwylerjr
  • hankwylerjr
    hankwylerjr Member Posts: 105
    @Jamie Hall Ive priced fiberglass at local big box and its ridiculously priced Ill wait until tomorrow when my plumbing supply is open they are about 2 dollars cheaper per piece. First concern was freezing pipes, secondly or maybe actually the first is will she be complaining about the cold... Ill keep you posted
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    edited December 2019
    It is possible to run a hydronic radiator, or baseboard off the steam boiler for the area in question.

    Or a ceiling mounted steam radiator.

    Happy wife, happy life :)
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Sometimes you can run your return through a radiator and use the remaining heat in the condensate. The nice thing about it is that it doesn't add to the total EDR.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • hankwylerjr
    hankwylerjr Member Posts: 105
    @Hap_Hazzard I see your just a little south of me in PA. This is what I'm interested in something I can run off the wet returns something small so it's comfortable down there it's a small space where the laundry is done. Not sure what I need however. I'm still working on running 1 1/2 to my two new rads
    ethicalpaul
  • hankwylerjr
    hankwylerjr Member Posts: 105
    @Gordy any ideas how to do this? This is exactly what I want to do
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,355
    edited December 2019
    Here is an approximation of how much heat is being transferred. I would be happy to plug in different numbers if my assumptions are way off.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756

    @Hap_Hazzard I see your just a little south of me in PA. This is what I'm interested in something I can run off the wet returns something small so it's comfortable down there it's a small space where the laundry is done. Not sure what I need however. I'm still working on running 1 1/2 to my two new rads

    I think @Gordy and I are thinking along the same lines. You can get relatively inexpensive fin-tube convectors that you can run your condensate through. They're not great for steam, but condensate is just hot water. You'd just need to keep the whole thing below the boiler's normal water line, but if you mount it a few inches off the floor, you can still get some convection going. The only thing I'm unsure of is how long it will stay warm between heating cycles. If your wet return is barely warm by the time the next cycle starts, this idea might not work too well.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • hankwylerjr
    hankwylerjr Member Posts: 105
    yes this route might not work... maybe another alternative is on the horizon. I dont think the cycle is long enough to allow that much heat for my purpose
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144

    yes this route might not work... maybe another alternative is on the horizon. I dont think the cycle is long enough to allow that much heat for my purpose

    If it turns out after you insulate that you really need the heat -- and you may -- the simplest by far is a hot water loop using baseboard or fin tube pumped right off the boiler. So long as you stay low with it, they're almost bulletproof and really simple.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 702
    If you are concerned about the water service pipe or water meter, you can buy an electric heat tape to wrap it. They plug into an electric outlet and turn on at 38 degrees to heat the pipe.

    If you have 20 feet of steam main uninsulated now and the heat's working fine, insulating it isn't going to make much difference.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144

    If you are concerned about the water service pipe or water meter, you can buy an electric heat tape to wrap it. They plug into an electric outlet and turn on at 38 degrees to heat the pipe.

    If you have 20 feet of steam main uninsulated now and the heat's working fine, insulating it isn't going to make much difference.

    to the heat in the basement -- it may make a significant difference in how rapidly the radiators upstairs heat, though.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England