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Old 02-14-2016, 05:45 PM   #1
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Running faucets during freezing climate


Not sure this is the best subforum.

To give a quick description of the layout of my townhouse. I am an end unit so 1 wall is interior and 3 are exterior. 1 of the exterior walls is where my kitchen sink is and 2nd floor bathroom sink, tub and toilet (master bath is right above the kitchen). The washer and dryer are in my master bath but towards the middle of the unit. I also have a half bath on the interior wall. In the basement, my hot water heater, main water line in and boiler are on the interior wall below the half bath.

The half bath piping goes up from the heater and boiler in the basement. Those pipes are in a warm basement. I assume the washer piping goes up from there as well since the washer, half bath and boiler room all line up.

The kitchen and master bath sink, toilet and tub piping looks like it goes from the boiler/heater room, across the basement ceiling through the garage ceiling and then up to the kitchen and continue up to the bathroom.

My kitchen sink and master bath is not getting cold water right now. Hot water does work. The half bath and washer get both cold and hot water.

My assumption is the piping that is in the ceiling of the garage is not insulated enough and has frozen. I checked the piping in the basement ceiling and it is warm around the pipes. There is a fist sized hole in my garage ceiling and I can feel cold air.

On to my question, I want to manage the amount of damage from this frozen pipe. What faucets should I leave dripping tonight as tomorrow will be another cold one?

My thought, let the cold in the half bath drip to alleviate some pressure hopefully stopping the pipe from bursting. Also, leave the kitchen sink cold open. And finally the master bath sink let the hot water drip to prevent that pipe from freezing.
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Old 02-14-2016, 05:53 PM   #2
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I'm going to add one more question...what can I do to alleviate pressure from building back to the main valve? Opening faucets should help with pressure building up from the block to the faucet but I assume pressure will also build from the block back towards the water into the house.
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Old 02-14-2016, 06:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h22lude View Post
My kitchen sink and master bath is not getting cold water right now. Hot water does work. The half bath and washer get both cold and hot water.

There is a fist sized hole in my garage ceiling and I can feel cold air.
What type of pipe we talking about here?

Depending on type of pipe, the sooner you get the pipes unthawed the less chance of damage you will have. Use hair dryer, heat tape or lamps to unthaw pipe. Once you have all the water running leave the faucets open a little during the extreme cold snap.

Get the pipes running through your garage properly insulated/protected, or reroute them if possible or you pipes will continue to freeze up during cold snaps like this. Just a suggestion.

Others will be along with more suggestions/advice.
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Old 02-14-2016, 06:24 PM   #4
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The pipes are copper.

The problem with trying to thaw them is the part I think is frozen is in my garage ceiling so I need to cut some of it out. My development had a lot of ice dam damage from last year. We have a good general contractor that is here every day. I'm going to call him tomorrow morning to see if he can help.

If we do need to cut out the ceiling, I will definitely be putting better insulation around the pipes. I believe there is the foam style around them now but last night it was below 0. I don't think those cheap foam covers help with temps that cold.

I did forget to open the faucets last night. Lesson learned.
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Old 02-14-2016, 06:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h22lude View Post
The pipes are copper.

The problem with trying to thaw them is the part I think is frozen is in my garage ceiling so I need to cut some of it out. My development had a lot of ice dam damage from last year. We have a good general contractor that is here every day. I'm going to call him tomorrow morning to see if he can help.

If we do need to cut out the ceiling, I will definitely be putting better insulation around the pipes. I believe there is the foam style around them now but last night it was below 0. I don't think those cheap foam covers help with temps that cold.

I did forget to open the faucets last night. Lesson learned.
The foam style insulation would help some but you need more than that if they are going to be running through an unheated garage.

Good that you got your contractor coming out tomorrow to check it out. If all the townhouses were set up the same way, you won't be the only one with frozen pipes.

Hope you get everything thawed out and running soon.
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Old 02-14-2016, 06:55 PM   #6
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I didn't want to bother him today. He works about 12 hours a day Mon thru Sat. I didn't want to bother him on his 1 day off especially since this has nothing to do with the repairs he was hired to do. I did talk to a neighbor who is on the board. He talked to the contractor a lot and just happened to need to call him today. The contractor did tell him he has received a good amount of calls from people in this development with frozen pipes.
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:15 PM   #7
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Just some additional information.

You mentioned a hole and you could feel the cold air. Air flow can be delivering cold air from outside right to those pipes. I'm not there, but I would consider taping a piece of cardboard over that hole.

Then, any pipes that run through that area, hot and cold, where you can get some water moving, let them run a bit as they are transporting some heat to that area. Even cold water it warmer than a frozen pipe. Just trickle the hot water if it is flowing.

Then, when it comes to insulating pipes, put the insulation between the pipes and the cold, but omit the insulation between the pipes and the warm floor above. Again, I can see what is there, but you see the objective.

Then, air leakage around the perimeter of the house, where it sits on top of the foundation is common and could be delivering that cold right into that garage ceiling. Garage ceilings are very often poorly insulated.

best,
Bud
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:34 PM   #8
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The foam style insulation, in this instance, was a common mistake made by many builders. It is insulating the heat source, which is the garage structure, from the pipes. If the heat source was running water through the pipes then the foam insulation would be great.

To be successful in this area any one of three solutions is possible. 1) The insulation will need to be above the pipes so the pipes can benefit from the garage heat. 2) The pipes will need heat trace cable with the foam tube insulation to cover, or 3) once thawed a small stream of water running as the heat source and pipes insulated.

Last edited by SeniorSitizen; 02-14-2016 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:01 PM   #9
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The basement is heated, the garage is not. Sorry I should have made that clearer. The pipes in the basement and garage both have the foam style insulation. I did notice the foam didn't go all the way around so they must have installed the wrong size. I would think even a little gap in insulation would cause freezing in these cold days. I think it got down to -15. I'm just hoping the pipe froze in the garage and not in my wall.

Tonight into tomorrow is going to go from 10 to 50 so it should thaw the ice block.

Not sure if this can be answered in here but if I turn off the main water valve, how will that affect my boiler and hot water heater?
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:21 PM   #10
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Tonight when the outdoor ambient temperature is about at its lowest take a temperature reading near the garage ceiling and another reading in the garage attic. Maybe this will tell you where those pipes would rather live, on the warm side of a wall with insulation between them and the cold or the cold side of a wall with or without insulation.
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:22 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h22lude View Post
Not sure if this can be answered in here but if I turn off the main water valve, how will that affect my boiler and hot water heater?
If you turn off your main water valve, then you will have no water at all. Nothing will work other than the boiler.

The boiler would still run, you would have to keep an eye on it as the water auto-feed feature will not work, but everything else will have no pressure to work, including your water heater.
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