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  1. #1
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    Default Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    In an unoccupied house where freezing is known to occur, and water pipes becoming frozen, has anyone installed recirculation pumps on cold and hot water lines for the purpose of just keeping the water circulating to prevent the water from freezing in the pipes? Instead of letting the water just run and be wasted, just keep the water moving every few hours?

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Jerry

    I have not heard of that, but it might work. The one possible problem is power-outage during a cold snap. Then things can go downhill.

    Many years ago, I did some building in the mountains S.E. of L.A. Most of the homes up there used a main water shutoff valve that simultaneously opened a drain valve to allow the water in the supply piping to drain out. All of the supply piping had to be installed on a slope and you had to remember to turn off the water and open valves to allow air in the other end, but we never had a burst pipe.

    I believe today there is electric resistance wire and tape that can be wrapped around supply pipes that work off of a thermostat. Of course, piping would have to be accessible and power outages would be an issue there as well.

    This is why I live in Sunny California. I don't have to worry about things like that. Catching fire and/or shaking off into the ocean are different matters.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    This is why I live in Sunny California. I don't have to worry about things like that. Catching fire and/or shaking off into the ocean are different matters.
    And we why we live in Sunny Florida. All we have to worry about is being blown across the county, but at least we usually get lots of warning.

    My plan is to circulate hot water back to the water heater through the cold water piping, not only putting hot water in all of the piing, but heating the piping too. that would make it take a lot longer to freeze. And, yes, power failures for a day or more in duration might create a problem ... but owning any house anywhere creates potential problems.

    I would put a connection between the hot and cold to each sink, with a 1/4 turn shut off valve, with a tap to a recirculation pump at the water heater with a shut off valve to isolate the pump when not needed. When we are not there, shut off valves would be opened, when we get back, open the shut off valve (there would be 4 shut off valves: master bathroom; hall bathroom; kitchen; water heater).

    Plumbing is not accessible as there is insulation under the floor with everything up above that inside the thermal envelope, which should also help reduce the risk of freezing (leave the heating system on as low is the thermostat allows, maybe 50 degrees?).

    Just doing some thinking about possibilities of things I may need/want to do.

    We had an apartment rented up there during the winter in 2018 and the pipes would freeze on the coldest nights, thaw out during the morning as the sun warmed things up, and the water would start running again. Most of the locals have told us 'YOU were here WHEN? That's the worst winter we've had in years.' ... our type of luck.

    Thus, I am hoping, that 'frozen pipes' does not mean 'burst pipes' as I don't recall anyone saying they had or knew of burst pipes, just frozen pipes.

    As an example, in Gainesville, FL, when I lived there, we had two record long freezes (I think it was the winters of 1982-83 and 1983-84) and many apartments (and homes) with burst pipes. So even Florida has freezing pipe issues. Heck, in 1969 in Gainesville I had an old house (built in 1894) with a crawlspace to low to get into, and the pipes would freeze every night that got down to freezing, thaw out around 8 am and allow a dribble through, then enough to was up with, then eventually enough water through for a shower.

    In February 1978, the thermometer I had mounted outside on a tree read 9 degrees ... at around 8 or so in the morning ... now that is cold, especially in Florida. That's why I like living near the ocean ... the ocean breeze helps keep the temperature from hitting the extreme highs and lows.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Jerry,

    I am trying to imagine if water would be guaranteed to flow through all of the pipes in the manner that you hope. I am not sure if I can make this clear, because it isn't really completely clear to me, but here goes.

    Since the hot and cold are not a continuous loop, I think that the line with the lowest friction (probably closest to the water heater) will be the one through which water will circulate and the others will get reduced or no flow. It seems to me that the only way to deal with that would be to ensure the crossovers at the bathroom and kitchen are small enough to allow a significant difference in pressure between the entire hot and cold to circulate through the remainder of the system. Without doing the math (in which I am incompetent), I wonder if 1/4" crossovers would restrict flow enough to force water to go through the other crossovers. 1/8" crossovers might be better. That size would still allow water to flow while restricting flow to have enough pressure difference.

    Do you know any engineers who can do the calculations for you?

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Gunnar,

    I don't know what percentage of the water will flow through which pipes, but I am sure that some water will flow through each pipe, enough water flow to not freeze.

    Another option I've considered (but went with the extra connection/shut off anyway) is not putting one at the kitchen sink.

    The reason is that the house is a split bedroom plan, living area (which includes the kitchen, with the water heater in the laundry, which is next to the kitchen) is beteeen the two bathrooms.

    Making a presumption that the house is plumbed the typical way ... as cheaply as possible (least amount of piping) ... circulating the water to the master bathroom in one direction and to the hall bathroom in the other direction should put circulating water through the entire plumbing piping (except stub ups to the toilets, showers, clothes washer - which are all up into the thermal envelopes) and to the hose bibbs (which are also in the thermal envelope except their penetration through the exterior walls to outdoors.

    At least that is my thinking as the only houses not plumbed that way (least amount of piping) would likely be ones with a manifold system.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Jerry,

    I have seen a pump installed in the far bath of homes that pulls water from the hot water side and pushes into the cold side as a way of getting faster hot water to the bathrooms on the far end of homes. Here is a link https://www.homedepot.com/p/Undersin...T-E1/100037011
    Just set up to circulate water from dusk to dawn, I think that may do what you want.

    //Rick

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Rick,

    I thought about using those, however those have a sensor that only opens the connection when the water temperature drops below a set point, and closes when the water temperature reaches a set point.

    I'm not sure those will come on often enough as the water which is cooling is at the supplies to the sink, not in the floor, and I'm not sure those would run long enough to push the hot water all the way back to the water heater and put hot water in the pipes.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Rick,

    I keep thinking of what may work best and I keep going back to those pumps and the sensor at the sinks ... with the water circulating the wrong way.

    I am sure that the pump, pumping hot water, will not pump enough water through to heat the water in the water lines and the piping itself when the sensor opens, but ... if ... if the pump was pumping cold water ... the hot water in the water heater would be pumped through the cold water pipes all the way to the two farthest sinks, and then pumping enough longer to satisfy the sensor to close and stop the water flow.

    The water at the sink will take just as long to cool as it would if the hot water was pumped, but once the sensor opens again ... cold water is pumped through the hot water piping, back to the water heater, and hot water is pumped back into the cold water lines.

    The drawback I see is that 'cold water is pumped through the hot water piping', thereby putting that at risk of freezing instead of the cold water piping freezing.

    Which takes me back to just putting in valves at the sinks and a timer on the pump to pump hot water through both the hot and cold water piping, heating both cold and hot water piping and putting hot water circulating through the entire system while the pump is running.

    Any thoughts on pumping the cold water side through the sensors as described?

    Or just go with the open valves and timer pumping hot water through the entire system?

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Here in KNoxville we have had periods where there were extended freezing temps and long power outages in some areas. While not common, it usually produces tons of houses with split pipes.
    When we had a cabin in CA foothills to Sierras, we just shut off the water and drained pipes after each visit. Not so much for freezing, just general "I don't want a water leak when I'm not here".

    Any system you put in to try to circulate water would be subject to power failures, and then system failure. Seems much less complicated to shut off the water and drain pipes after each visit.


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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    When we had a cabin in CA foothills to Sierras, we just shut off the water and drained pipes after each visit. Not so much for freezing, just general "I don't want a water leak when I'm not here".

    Any system you put in to try to circulate water would be subject to power failures, and then system failure. Seems much less complicated to shut off the water and drain pipes after each visit.
    Probably the way to go. It's just that the main shut off valve is in the crawlspace where the water service was stubbed up, instead of outside at the foundation wall where it should have been (before entering the footprint of the structure, but it is where it is, and is not convenient to get to).

    I suspect the water service and main shut off valve was run there as, in the crawlspace and even being vented, the crawlspace will likely be warmer than outdoor air, making it less subject to freezing.

    I guess I could put in a drain valve next to the main water shut off valve, make a long valve opening/closing tool so I can turn the water off from outside the foundation wall and turn the drain valve open to drain the system, then close the drain valve, and run the drain line outside the crawlspace so: a) the water does not drain in the crawlspace; b) I can see when the water is through draining and shut the drain valve. Just seemed like more work, but probably the best way to address it.

    Okay, if I do that, here is a follow-up question: if I drain the piping system, but not the water heater, and there is a power failure, how long before the heated water cools down where it would freeze? I think it has a 30 gallon water heater, but I am considering putting in a 40 gallon, although 30 gallon is supposed to be okay for two people (we have a 50 gallon water heater here).

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    The main water valves in our area are almost always in the crawlspace. Obviously. there is a valve at the water meter too.
    When they winterize homes here, they will drain the water heater, open all the faucets and outside hose faucets. Outside hose faucet will usually drain most of the water out. Leaving the faucets open, will allow ice to move should any remaining water freeze.
    They typically will drain toilet tanks and put antifreeze in toilet bowls as well. I've seen many split toilets in foreclosures.

    - - - Updated - - -

    The main water valves in our area are almost always in the crawlspace. Obviously. there is a valve at the water meter too.
    When they winterize homes here, they will drain the water heater, open all the faucets and outside hose faucets. Outside hose faucet will usually drain most of the water out. Leaving the faucets open, will allow ice to move should any remaining water freeze.
    They typically will drain toilet tanks and put antifreeze in toilet bowls as well. I've seen many split toilets in foreclosures.


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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Jack,

    Thank you for the information.

    I guess I am missing something as I was presuming that a house with no one living in it but which has heat on and water heater on was a no more risk of freezing that a house with people living in it which has heat on and water heater on ... with loss of power resulting in the same risk of freezing to both was my presumption.

    Thus my 'keep the water moving on a regular schedule' idea.

    Are there a lot of toilets breaking from freezing in houses with people living in them and the heat on with power failures?

    Not having lived in freezing cold ( http://www.villageofmayville.com/ and http://www.villageofmayville.com/upl...chart_2017.pdf ) since I was a kid, I'm trying to figure out what I am missing on that aspect.

    We will be there in January for a short while when we close, I will take a thermometer with me to measure the temperature in the crawlspace compared to the outdoor temperature and compared to the indoor temperature. Curious as to what the differences will be.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 12-17-2020 at 03:28 PM. Reason: added snowfall chart link
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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    The main water valves in our area are almost always in the crawlspace. Obviously. there is a valve at the water meter too.
    I forgot to mention that this is a seven home subdivision with a shared well, each house pays $10 per month for sharing the well. There is no meter. However, paying $120 per year for water is not bad (each house is on its own septic tank and system).

    Someplace ... someplace ... there may be another shut off valve to each property, but where that valve may be located is not known at this time. It also may be that the only shut off to each house was the one stubbed up in the crawlspaces.

    So many things are unknown at this time.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    In an unoccupied house where freezing is known to occur, and water pipes becoming frozen, has anyone installed recirculation pumps on cold and hot water lines for the purpose of just keeping the water circulating to prevent the water from freezing in the pipes? Instead of letting the water just run and be wasted, just keep the water moving every few hours?
    Morning, Jerry. Hope this post finds you and your family well, as well as all the InspectionNews members.

    Reflect on that through for a moment.
    When the water changes from a liquid to a solid, it starts in just one place. With just a couple of water molecules getting stuck together, because they're cold and not moving around quickly, water will freeze in one place long enough to stop the circulation of water throughout the system I consider.

    Typically/usually/normally potable domestic water supply plumbing pipes are emptied used air pressure, as well as water traps and even sometimes catchwater basins, to prevent frozen water expansion which can/will damage the pipes.
    Water expands up to 9% percent it's volume minus oxygen and minerals...

    Anti freeze is used in place of water in water pipes and in some of the lowest potable domestic water supply pipes to prevent freezing. Typically/usually/normally water is forced out of the pipes with air pressure in every zone.

    Water is an amazing element. Water is called the "universal solvent" because it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. Some Great lessons to be learned from water, how water damages homes and how to much moisture in an atmosphere can proliferate microbial growth in a space.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by ROBERT YOUNG View Post
    Anti freeze is used in place of water in water pipes and in some of the lowest potable domestic water supply pipes to prevent freezing. Typically/usually/normally water is forced out of the pipes with air pressure in every zone.
    Robert,

    I have heard of putting anti-freeze in traps when "winterizing" a home, but not supply piping. That would contaminate the water supply. Where is this done?

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Robert,

    I have heard of putting anti-freeze in traps when "winterizing" a home, but not supply piping. That would contaminate the water supply. Where is this done?
    Afternoon, Gunner. Hope this post finds you well.
    I am going back to my younger days. In 3 season homes, any water that could not be blown out under certain rental cottages, due to poor plumbing pipe armaments', antifreeze was use, although not often.
    Yes its a bad idea. They did not consider that the entire pipe must be filled with water under pressure for frozen water expansion to break the pipes.
    The same action is taken at the start of the season. Water was run throughout the piping to insure no contamination remains. Water was left running for a long time.

    I encounter several homes a year that are unoccupied. All water is removed/drained from supply pipes/lines and waste pipes traps dry out within a month. I ask the buyers agent to turn on the system. Typically the municipality is called over to turn on the water supply in front of the home. I help organize starting the supply plumbing buy leaving all faucets open and stationing at least 1 individual at each location to insure a smooth process.

    Thanks for you reply Gunner. I concur. Bad idea.
    Robert.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Robert,

    I have heard of putting anti-freeze in traps when "winterizing" a home, but not supply piping. That would contaminate the water supply. Where is this done?
    Hopefully nowhere!! That's just crazy.


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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    Hopefully nowhere!! That's just crazy.
    Put in toilets traps seal all the time. Non toxic. WinterProof. WinterProof. Water System Antifreeze features BurstGuard. for protection to -50?C (-58?F)
    Non-toxic formula so it's safer for children and pets
    Non-staining
    You guys must live in warm climates.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by ROBERT YOUNG View Post
    You guys must live in warm climates.
    It is now 6 pm, and still 61 degrees F outside.

    Asheville, where the second house is located, is currently 42 degrees F outside.

    What temperature is it there in the frozen tundra north?

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by ROBERT YOUNG View Post
    You guys must live in warm climates.
    It does snow in California, that is if you are in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but not most other places. While it will get down to freezing temperatures overnight around here, frozen pipes are extremely rare. A cold snap maybe 25 years ago resulted in frozen and ruptured incoming water supply pipes in a number of homes (our main shutoffs are exposed at the exterior). But a freeze like that is extremely rare, and given climate change, even more unlikely now.

    The upside of living in California is that I don't know what an ice dam is, I don't have to shovel snow, my ice scraper is buried in the bottom of the trunk, and I don't have to heat my engine block overnight.

    The downside of living in California is that a teeny starter home that needs work is currently over $600k, gas prices are some of the highest in the U.S. and the place burns down every summer.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    It is now 6 pm, and still 61 degrees F outside.

    Asheville, where the second house is located, is currently 42 degrees F outside.

    What temperature is it there in the frozen tundra north?
    Evening, Jerry. Hope this post finds you well.

    Montreal, Quebec Canada. Today, I awoke to -9C or 15.8F. It peaked to a balmy -4C.
    Yesterday -11C and the day before -13C with wind values -25C.
    Up until the beginning of the week we got below 0C on several occasions. There is no snow on the ground to speak of and Skim boarders were still making use of the large body of water where I moor my boat seeing conditions haven't form ice on the water unit Tuesday night when temps dropped below -20C with high winds.
    Still quite nice to inspect the lot, grounds and exterior but the winter is just starting. More chilling times lie ahead.
    Hope that helps.

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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by ROBERT YOUNG View Post
    Put in toilets traps seal all the time.
    That's got nothing to do with putting antifreeze in the distribution system, which was what you described earlier.


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    Default Re: Part-time houses in areas with freezing temperatures

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    That's got nothing to do with putting antifreeze in the distribution system, which was what you described earlier.
    Dom. Apply it to whichever system you want.

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