Can I “winterize†the charged water feed lines in my cottage with RV anti-freeze?

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by LeBlanc, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

    Can I “winterize†the charged water feed lines in my cottage with RV anti-freeze? Posted in both the Plumbing forum and Well forum.

    We have a 1700 square foot lakefront home that we use as a cottage, mostly during the summer. It has two full bathrooms, one kitchen, a washer and dryer, hot water heater and water softener. Water service is provided by a deep well.

    The home has hot water heat (I’ve made other posts regarding it), and the insulation is fair, not great. During the winter I turn the well pump OFF, as the heat system is a closed loop. The heat pipes/lines are filled with anti-freeze.

    We (reluctantly) heat it during the winter, but we rarely go there. It’s expensive, and that drives me nuts. The one year we paid a company to winterize it, the cost was nearly $400 to close it and re-open it, and we still had a minor problem in the spring. The cost to keep it heated at a minimum level (see the next paragraph) is about the same price, perhaps a bit more.

    The well charges a two-inch plastic pipe that runs underground from the well head to a crawl space under my kitchen, along the underside of the floor, and then to a point in about the middle of the home where it enters the home and feeds the water softener, et cetera via copper pipe. This plastic pipe often freezes during the winter, as the crawl space is not insulated and the heat is kept at 46 degrees during the time we are not there.

    During the few times we have used the cottage during the winter, I have had to slowly thaw the feed line with a heat gun applying indirect heat. It’s a pain, but it does work. Upon our arrival in the spring, we have not experienced problems with pipes that may have frozen while we left the heat on.

    One idea offered by another cottage owner was intriguing. I’d like your feedback.

    He suggested turning power to the well pump off and draining the hot water heater. Then he turns the feed valve off at the water heater. Then he suggests installing a tee type valve on the main water feed line. The valve would do three things: First, it would not allow water to go past the valve (like a ball valve or check valve). In other words, the valve would prevent fresh water from the well to feed the line, even if the power was restored to the pump.

    The top of the tee valve would have a funnel area and would allow anti-freeze to be poured into it or forced into it with a shallow well pump connected to it. The other side of the valve would be connected to the other side of the main feed line.

    He says he’s done this at his cottage and that it works like this: with a small pump, he forces RV anti-freeze into all lines of his house until the faucets, shower heads, toilets, etc. show evidence of red RV anti-freeze coming out of them. After flushing the toilets and ensuring all water feed areas have anti-freeze in them (including the clothes washer), by opening faucets and running the washer for a moment, he says the copper lines in the house will not freeze.

    Recognizing it may take 20, 30, 40 or more gallons – at a cost of $4 per gallon – it’s not inexpensive. However, if his idea is not too far-fetched to work, it would save money, even if I had to re-charge it with anti-freeze after using it for along weekend a couple of times during the winter.

    Is this a hair-brained idea or a smart idea? Your thoughts?

    Thank you.
  2. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Lubbock, Texas
    RV antifreeze will work if you can get it into all the places it needs to be. Another option is to use a bleeder orifice valve about 5' down the well, with no check valve anywhere after that. Then when you turn off power to the pump and open up the faucets in the house, the water will drain back to the well through the bleeder. If all your water lines are sloped upwardly from the well, it will drain them out very well. If you drain the ater heater as well, then you only need the antifreeze in the toliets and anywhere else that doesn't drain.
  3. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

    Bleeder Orifice Valve

    Valveman: It's been a while since my last post, but I've been thinking about this for a while. Now that the bitter winter is here, I wish I had done this during the summer.

    If I understand correctly, this is something that is installed within the well casing. Correct?

    A neighbor had a new well installed/drilled 3 years ago, and on top of the 5 inch well case there's a lever. Although the neighbor doesn't know what he had installed, he says when they leave their cottage on Labor Day, they turn everything off, open faucets, turn that lever 90 degrees, then install the "lighthouse" back over the top of their well casing that protrudes about 1 foot above ground. In the spring, they've had no issues.

    Is it possible/likely the lever actuates a bleeder orifice valve? I'd call their installer, but he's no longer listed and is out of business.

    Our well is 295 feet and it also has a 5 inch plastic case that protudes about a foot above ground. It feeds the house by entering a crawl space under a portion of the house at a northern corner. I doubt it's buried more than a foot at that point, and the supply line is 1.5 or 2 inch (I think) black plastic. It has frozen in the past and I've applied indirect heat to thaw it. The crawl space is very short and as I get older it's more difficult to access.

    Next year I will trench from the well to the house (about 15 feet) and insulate the supply pipe. I'd also like to have installed a device that allows water to drain back to the well.

    Last year I left the heat on 46 degrees, turned the well off, opened all faucets, and prayed. No problems with busted pipes, but I did not use the house during January through March. It is likely the supply line froze, but it was fine in the spring. This year we plan to use it for a few winter weekends, and I'm leery.

    Two questions: On average, how much should I expect to pay to have a plumber or well expert install the bleeder orifice valve device (in the spring), and what materials offer the best insulation properties for this type of situation?

    Thank you.


  4. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Lubbock, Texas
    A bleeder orifice or auto drain installs a couple of feet down in the well. When the pressure is low, they open and let everything drain back down the well. It is not a big job for a pump installer with a hoist. A service call to install a tee with the bleeder is all you need.
  5. dechef

    dechef New Member

    Elliot Lake, ON
    yes you can

    I run a small lodge and have pumped RV antifrezze into my line every year with a small electric "pony pump" from canadian tire.
    I plumped in aanother tap as close to the cabin shut off valve as possible , like 2 inches. I put a gardena quick connect garden hose adapter on that.
    SO i switch off the main supply valve to the cabin, open tapes to relieve the pressure, connect a hose to the quick connect adaptor, to the pump and the intake goes into the anti freeze.
    get a long extension cord , plug it into the pump which is next to the antifreeze which is next to the quick connect with the hose on it.CLOSE all the taps Take the other end of the extension cord and go to a tap in the kitchen say, open the tap, plug in the extension cord and wait for the RV fluid to come out the tap, close the tap and unplug the extension cord which has miraculously become a remote control for the pump.
    I also put a connect tion on the top of my hot water tank so that i can by-pass the tank and put antifreeze in the hot water lines too. Let me know if you want more details , works great
  6. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    northfork, california
    You could simply install a 3 way valve at the top of the well head and open it when you shut it down.

    If your plumber gave the lines a bit of slope, it should all drain down, or enough to not cause issues.

    Heating has distinct advantages in that you wont get mold and condensation in the structure. Perhaps try heating to 35 or 40' F

    Note this valve is rated to -20 degree fahrenheit! $40 and US made too.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011
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