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Old 08-25-2008, 09:23 PM   #1
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Heat Tape on Pipes and Pressure Pump

Trying to figure out an easy way to keep pipes and pressure tank and pump from freezing in winter. We own a cabin in the mountains where temps sometimes don't get above freezing for a week or more. We only go up about every other weekend and it's a big hassle to have to drain everything and put anti freeze in the pressure pump and tank. The pressure pump and tank are in the crawl space under the cabin. A couple of guys that worked on our well told me to put heat lamps on timers in the crawl space but that didn't sound too safe especially when we're not there. Anybody have any experience with this heat tape or heat cable? Is it safe to use when no one is there? The pipes are regular white PVC. Can it be used to wrap around the pressure tank? Any advice would be appreciated.


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Old 08-25-2008, 09:59 PM   #2
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I've seen them used in crawlspaces and vacation homes on water pipes to prevent freezing in the winter. If there's a power outage and you don't know it for some reason, you're out of luck. I haven't seen them used on the tank.

I'm like you, I do not like the heat lamp idea one bit.

Do a google search for frozen pipes and you'll find several products.


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Old 08-26-2008, 08:25 PM   #3
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Self-regulating heat tape would work here, it's much safer than heat lamps.

Basically, it's heat tape that will always maintain a certain temperature. If it's warm outside, the heat tape uses very little power, the colder it gets, the more heat it makes. It can be installed under insulation, wrapped around itself, wrapped directly around PVC, etc. It's very easy to work with.

Because it's self-regulating, it doesn't need a thermostat, it can always energized.

The only bad part is it's sort of spendy, but considering you install it once, then never even think about it again, it's worth it.

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Old 08-27-2008, 08:51 AM   #4
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I had a house that burnt to the ground in '89 from heat tape installed by the previous owner. Bought the house in June, fire 12/5/89. The fire inspector said a heat tape in the crawl space came on and didn't shut off. I have to assume it wasn't as good as the ones today. Just the same...I've witnessed first hand what they can do...and personally I won't go there.

With a few well placed valves, is it possible to drain most of the system? Or if you can't drain it, the valves could isolate the pressure tank and pump from the rest of the system that could be blown out with pressurized air. For the rest, could you build a nearly air tight (keep a couple of small holes for ventilation) insulated enclosure around the pump and pressure tank? Think of it like a cube around your pressure tank and pump. I've built something similar at a different house, different application, out of 2.5" styrofoam, with touch and seal foam products from Fasetnal.com to glue the foam together. You could build it out of insulated plywood, makes no difference, the foam is easier to cut for lines and wires. The foam will handle condensation better.

If you can build an enclosure, could get a thermostat that would provide the on/off capabilities for a light bulb(s). If the area is enclosed a 60 watt light bulb works well. With the air exchange controlled, the light bulb will work well. I'm with ya on the heat lamps...they put out a lot of heat...and way too intense.

As a side question, will a heat tape work on a pressure tank and pump? That seems like a lot to try an keep warm. I can see on a pipe where the tape would work....but not sure about wrapping the pressure tank and pump.
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Old 08-27-2008, 11:33 PM   #5
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There are 2 types of heat tape; constant wattage and constant temperature (also known as self-regulating).

The constant wattage type will produce a certain amount of temperature rise regardless of how high the temperature gets. If the heat has nowhere to go, the temperature will continue to rise even to the point of fire. This type must be controlled by some sort of thermostat, and cannot be overlapped when installed. It's not suitable for use on PVC.

The constant temperature type will maintain a constant temperature regardless of conditions. If the heat has nowhere to go, it simply doesn't heat any more. It can be powered continuously, overlapping is OK, and it doesn't get hot enough to damage PVC.

The constant temperature type is really nothing more than a strip of positive temperature coefficient semiconductor, also known as a 'PTC thermistor'. A PTC thermistor has the unique ability to increase its electrical resistance upon a temperature rise. As the temperature goes up, the resistance also goes up, and the current goes down. Less current = less heat. Likewise, as the temperature goes down, the resistance goes down, and the current goes up. More current = more heat.

I wouldn't recommend the constant wattage type to be installed anywhere it's not monitored, the self regulating type can be installed then forgotten about.

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