Cold weather plumbing....longest thread ever

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Alectrician, Dec 21, 2008.

  1. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    I was born and raised in the desert. This is winter in Phoenix.

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    I have a cabin in the mountains that gets about a foot of snow, a couple times a year.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I generally use the cabin to escape the brutal Phoenix summers but I do like to play in the snow when it happens.

    I know nothing about cold winters except that when water freezes, it expands and breaks pipe.


    The facts are:

    Low temp will typically be about 20 defrees F. High will be 40 if sunny, 30 if snowing.

    My heat source is 4 electric wall mounted units with built in thermostats. (high to low) and I don't want to leave them running all thru the winter

    I winterized my cabin by shutting off the water at the meter and letting the pipes drain.

    I vacuumed all the water from the toilet and put some antifreeze stuff in the bowl (not automotive antifreeze :rolleyes:) I was worried about the dishwasher and washing machine valves/hoses so I disconnected them and tried to get all the water out. I put the antifreeze in all the traps too.

    The problem is, when I want to go up for a day or two in the winter, I have to go thru a big ordeal to turn the water back on/off.


    The question is, do I really have to go thru this much effort?

    1. Will the interior of the insulated, 2x4 framed cabin get cold enough to freeze the wahing machine hoses/interior valves? The floor joists are not insulated.

    2. How about the dishwasher which is on an exterior wall?

    3. Toilet?

    4. Traps, specifically tub/shower trap?

    5. I have about 12' of exposed copper supplying the water under the cabin. Will the black foam insulation wrap really protect it from freezing?

    6. If I completely surround my water heater (located outside, on the deck, next to the BBQ in the pic) with a couple/few inches of polystyrene insulation, will it be protected?


    I suppose that the only way to tell is by spending more time there in the winter and measure the inside temps........but that aint likely.

    Any advice from snow dwelling plumbers will be appreciated.

    Thawing Frozen Pipes
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 21, 2008
  2. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    Insulation does not make heat. Given a long enough exposure insulation will have no effect at all.
  3. 220/221,
    Everything that you've described is subject to freezing damage if it isn't properly drained and all traps anti-freezed with RV anti-freeze (including the built-in toilet traps).
    You'll just have to deal with this like everyone else...winterize it properly or repair it. Sorry.
    Good Luck!
    Mike
  4. gardner

    gardner DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    217
    Location:
    Ontario
    Winterize. No amount of insulation will create heat.

    You might be able to save yourself some trouble by making winterizing easier.

    Install a boiler drain valve at the low spot in your plumbing to make draining everything down easier. Install heating cables on areas that are hard to drain -- maybe just the few feet between where your supply enters and where you can put the system drain.

    After draining what gravity gets, I have had limited success with pressurizing the supply system with compressed air. Close all the valves again, pressurize through one of the valves, then go round opening and closing the various valves one by one. I think this would clear the washer and dishwasher supplies -- set the machine to fill, then switch off after the air starts coming through. I don't have a washer or dishwasher at my seasonal property, so I'm not positive this would work.

    Don't worry about vacuuming out the traps, just slosh enough antifreeze in there to displace the water.

    Make a checklist of items to turn off, drain, fill with antifreeze, etc.

    Some other ideas: http://www.cottagelife.com/index.cfm/ci_id/1632/la_id/1.htm
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2008
  5. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    Come on! That's not what I want to hear.

    Looks like some real thermostats are in order. I assume that if I keep the interior above 32F and the water heater on, nothing will freeze except the tub trap and the 12' of exposed copper.

    Do heating cables for copper pipe have thermostats or are they simply on/off?
  6. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,706
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    What if the power goes out? Or your heating fails? Then what?
  7. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

    Messages:
    2,051
    As someone mentioned, you either need to vacuum out your toilet and other traps OR add antifreeze. You don't need to do both.
  8. gardner

    gardner DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    217
    Location:
    Ontario
    They are thermostatically controlled by a sensor on one end of the heating element. You install it with that thermostat sensor contacting the pipe in question. It will come on only just above freezing -- around 5C (no idea in F, sorry).
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,485
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    tape

    41 degrees F. divide by 5, multiply by 9, and add 32. But, it would not be wise to depend on the heating system if there is a possibility of power failure.
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