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TravisW 12-09-2009 10:05 AM

Frozen Hot Water Pipes
 
So had my first encounter with frozen pipes yesterday, and had someone come out to free it up. We discovered that some of the piping in my crawlspace beneath the house wasn't insulated very well, so I purchased some foam wraparounds and got what i could.

Woke up this morning to find the hot water pipes frozen again. I'm not sure exactly where the block is, as hot water comes out of none of the faucets. This leads me to believe that the block is between the water heater and the faucets. Is this reasonable thinking? If this is the case, the pipe in my crawlspace is the only thing i can think of as being insufficiently insulated.

Any advice?

AllanJ 12-09-2009 10:42 AM

If it is cold enough for long enough then the pipes are going to freeze anyway, covered or not.

You need electrically powered wrap around heating cable or tape for those pipes.

Or you can let the water trickle from a faucet 24/7.

Small lengths of exposed pipe such as garden hose bibbs don't freeze (if you are lucky) because the pipe itself conducts enough heat from the inside of the house out to the exposed portion. One of those cone shaped covers will help. You were not lucky this time. Enough heat did not conduct from the interior of the house through the affected section of pipe to exceed the heat loss through the insulated cover and prevent the freezing of the pipe in your crawl space.

TravisW 12-09-2009 11:44 AM

Well, its been unusually cold (8F was the temp at 5 am) so I'm really hoping that they're not going to continue to freeze regardless of what i do.

Yeah, I bought some of the bib covers and have all of my spiggots outside taken care of. The only thing I can think of is that i just didn't insulate as well as I needed to. I'm far from a pro at this, so it is likely that i did it entirely wrong, heh.

I've talked to two different plumbers and they both scared me away from electric heat tape for fear of house fires.

So based on your answer, my reasoning to explain frozen hot water pipes, but not cold was incorrect, I take it? Hehe.

Thanks a ton for the info, AllenJ.

TravisW 12-09-2009 12:12 PM

Double checked and the outdoor spiggots that were covered are not frozen. Running full out with no problems.

Yoyizit 12-09-2009 12:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TravisW (Post 364061)
I've talked to two different plumbers and they both scared me away from electric heat tape for fear of house fires.

I'd like to see data on how many of the 3000 house fires/yr in the US are caused by heat tape!

You could build a box around the pipe, insulated on three sides, that mates to your house floor, with small holes in your house floor to bleed warm air into this box.

Meanwhile use a hair dryer to thaw.

fireguy 12-09-2009 12:31 PM

I fear heat tape as I saw too many fires caused by heat tape. Having said that, UL has changed the testing for heat tapes from what they were 20+ years ago. Heat tape now has thermostats that turn the tape off and on. that is a great improvement.

I saw problems with heat tape
1. Installation was not as per the instructions. Wrapping the tape around the pipe can be a problem. The electrical tape used to hold the heat tape in place would come loose and the heat tape would come into contact with itself. The increase in heat could compromise the heat tape insulation and and cause the heat tape to short out. Insulation wrapped around the heat tape caused the heat tape insulation to short out. I am sure most of us have seen an electrical cord that has shorted out. Theoretically, the breaker trips and shuts of the electricity. Breakers do not always work.
2. Heat tape is always plugged in.

I have 1 heat tape in my house. It has no insulation wrapped around it and the electrical tape that secures it is inspected every year, as is the heat tape. The tape is not plugged in until the temps drop to 0F. When the temp rises, the heat tape is unplugged.

TravisW 12-09-2009 02:58 PM

So I figured out where the block was (this time, anyway). So I read a bit more, and learned that i wasn't getting hot water, because cold water wasn't displacing any from the water heater. I sat down and stared at my water heater for a half hour and then realized that it was all on an exterior wall. A hole in the sheet rock and some heat gun action and there was a relieving splash and then the sound of running water. I almost started crying.

AllanJ 12-09-2009 08:44 PM

I'm not sure why but I am told that a hot water pipe will freeze before a cold water pipe.

When pipes run through exterior walls (and ceilings) there should be no insulation between the pipe and the interior surface.

vseven 12-09-2009 09:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AllanJ (Post 364307)
When pipes run through exterior walls (and ceilings) there should be no insulation between the pipe and the interior surface.

I'm so glad I just read this....redoing my basement and was going to add extra insulation. Noticed on both the front faucet and back there was no insulation in that alcove between the joists and I was going to add some. This makes perfect sense....now I know why there isn't any and I know not to.

SULTINI 12-10-2009 07:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AllanJ (Post 364307)
I'm not sure why but I am told that a hot water pipe will freeze before a cold water pipe.

When pipes run through exterior walls (and ceilings) there should be no insulation between the pipe and the interior surface.


Allan that is a myth some one started long ago.

It takes longer to freeze a hot water pipe than a cold water pipe.

More BTUs.

Yoyizit 12-10-2009 10:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fireguy (Post 364094)
I fear heat tape as I saw too many fires caused by heat tape. Having said that, UL has changed the testing for heat tapes from what they were 20+ years ago.

http://classaction.findlaw.com/recal...jan/96062.html

http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Water Guy 12-10-2009 05:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TravisW (Post 364061)
I've talked to two different plumbers and they both scared me away from electric heat tape for fear of house fires.


Quote:

Originally Posted by fireguy (Post 364094)
I fear heat tape as I saw too many fires caused by heat tape.


There is nothing wrong with heat tape. The problem is fires being caused by the improper installation and maintenance of heat tape.
Quote:

Originally Posted by fireguy (Post 364094)
Having said that, UL has changed the testing for heat tapes from what they were 20+ years ago. Heat tape now has thermostats that turn the tape off and on. that is a great improvement.

Quote:

Originally Posted by fireguy (Post 364094)
I saw problems with heat tape
1. Installation was not as per the instructions. Wrapping the tape around the pipe can be a problem. The electrical tape used to hold the heat tape in place would come loose and the heat tape would come into contact with itself. The increase in heat could compromise the heat tape insulation and and cause the heat tape to short out. Insulation wrapped around the heat tape caused the heat tape insulation to short out. I am sure most of us have seen an electrical cord that has shorted out. Theoretically, the breaker trips and shuts of the electricity. Breakers do not always work.
2. Heat tape is always plugged in.

I have 1 heat tape in my house. It has no insulation wrapped around it and the electrical tape that secures it is inspected every year, as is the heat tape. The tape is not plugged in until the temps drop to 0F. When the temp rises, the heat tape is unplugged.

I am a Fire Fighter in Southern British Columbia. It gets cold here. In the past week, we've had temperatures down to 0F at night. Right now its only 20F. It gets cold here. We have literally thousands of mobile homes in a one hundred mile area. I can pretty much guarantee that 99.9% of them have at least one or more heat tapes on their pipes. I have three on mine. In the past 15 years, I have yet to see a fire, or have heard of one that was attributed to heat tape.

I have also seen the problems that Fireguy has seen. Make sure that if you use heat tape you dont overlap the tape and make sure that there are now kinks, and the tape is in direct contact with the pipe. In addition to Fireguy's recommendation on more that you might also want to follow. Make sure that the tape is not being installed around any sharp edges. Always follow the manufactures instructions.

Mick


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