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

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by LeBlanc, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc Member

    Nov 11, 2007
    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. loafer

    loafer Mechanical Engineer

    Mar 5, 2008
    Mechanical Engineer
    Why not just drain the entire water system? That's what we used to do. RV antifreeze in the traps and toilet bowl after it was bailed out.

    If you locate your drain properly at a low point, the water will siphon out of all the pipes when you open up all the faucets. We had a crawl space under the camp though, so it was easy to set it up so the entire system would siphon dry. If you can't properly drain it this way use compressed air and blow the lines out.
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  4. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Sep 1, 2004
    Yakima, WA
    I would be concerned about RV antifreeze in my water pipes. First, it may very well be toxic. Second, even if not toxic, it would likely impart a very bad taste to the water. I would opt for the compressed air. It would not require a large compressor, but you would have to install a means of connecting the air at the highest point in the system and a drain valve at the lower end and open it before applying air pressure. I would shut the supply valves to toilets, dishwasher, clothes washers off before applying air pressure, although having the drain valve open should prevent pressure build up against them. RV antifreeze in the toilet traps and P traps is fine, but be sure to drain the toilet tank.
  5. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Jul 30, 2008
    Tech. Instructor
    S. Maine
    We winterize about 200 camps a year. Some we blow back and others, because of sags in the piping we anti-freeze. It's easier if you can drain and remove the piping from the water heater. Then you can either cap them or couple the two together and fill with a hand pump ( I use a Silver King ) through the washer lines or the sillcock. Be sure to do the hose on the kitchen faucet sprayer. Pour a bit in the traps, toilet bowl's and tanks.
  6. moisheh

    moisheh Member

    Sep 9, 2006
    Mexico and Canada
    We also have a cottage with a deep well. We do not heat it nor use it in the winter. AF goes only in the drain lines. Compressed air in the water lines. We have a tee in the line next to the pressure tank. It has a ball valve and a modified check valve. Opening the ball valve lets air into the line and the water drains back to the well. When we use the system the check valve closes and does not let the water drain back. There is no check valve by the submersible pump. Maybe one of the plumbers can explain this better. In Canada this is a common mod for summer cottages.

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