Winterize a Michigan house, is water shutoff at inside water meter sufficient?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by mnalep, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

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    It will drain the whole house.
     
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    After draining the meter, and what you can, insulation could keep the pipe out of the ground to at least that first valve and drain from freezing. The ground and incoming pipe is a low level source of heat. What I don't know is how much insulation would be needed. The pipe and meter that extends into the cold air will be a source of cold.

    Even if the water was turned off at the Buffalo box, there would still be water to the level that you could drain, it seems to me. Some kind of box built with XPS insulation and supplementary insulation plugging the leaks would be good. A temperature sensor inside could help gauge the effectiveness, which would be seen as cooling while the basement is warm. Overdoing the insulation would be fine. Maybe a garbage bag of loose insulation placed over the pipe base would be more than enough.

    I am not a pro. I have not done this kind of thing.
     
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

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    I don't mean to start a war here, but insulation will not prevent pipes from freezing in a prolonged period of freezing weather. Insulation only slows heat transfer, it does not provide heat. See my previous rant on this. Also, that drain cap may or may not drain the whole house. If there is a low spot in the plumbing, water would remain even with that cap removed. RV anti freeze in toilets and P traps will protect them.
     
  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    I am not offended by your comments, even when I am wrong. In this case, I think I am right that the basement floor, basement wall, and incoming water pipe are sources of heat. This water meter and low pipes are well below the frost line. I think that insulating the pipes away from the cold air in the basement would be effective. This is quite different from trying to insulate a pipe going through a cold space. It would be interesting to put a remote thermometer sensor with the pipes under the insulation to check on performance. My comments in this case are not based on experience.

    I certainly agree that whatever cannot be drained should be protected by RV antifreeze.
     
  5. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Redford, Michigan
    Thanks for all your replies. I was planning to put RV antifreeze in all traps and toilets too.

    I was just wondering, assuming I can get the water shutoff at the street, it seems to me there would still be water in the pipe going into the house between the city shutoff and up to that meter shutoff (that is in front of the meter) wouldn't it? (I mean, if you just shut off water at the street valve, that still leaves water that was already in the line still present, right?)

    Is some extra step needed to insure that pipe coming out of the basement floor is drained? Does leaving that drain cap evaporate the water left in tat pipe?

    Still waiting for the (Detroit) city water dept to call me back.
     
  6. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, yes, no, no.
     
  7. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Thanks Reach.

    If after shutting off the water at the street, water still remains in the short pipe coming out of the basement floor going to the valve in front of the meter, then what is the advantage to shut off at the street versus at the meter?

    It sounds like after shutting off at either location, there will still be water in that pipe that could freeze?

    (I see how the basement would not flood if the water is off at the street. But it would also seem if that pipe does not usually freeze with water left in pipes after the street shutoff is closed, then that pipe does not typically freeze? Otherwise people would still be repairing that pipe often, and would have devised a means to empty the water out of the pipe from the street to that valve?)
     
  8. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    I think you are thinking right.

    What do you think about the insulation comments?
     
  9. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    I like the idea of insulating it, and using a remote temp sensor to monitor it. I recall seeing some kind of remote temp monitor on the web a few months ago, but will need to try and find my bookmark for it. It was not cheap and required a phone to collect the temp info. via a probe, and then call another phone to display temp readings. I'm thinking the hardware was like over $100 bucks though. Plus the cost of a dedicated phone and it's service charges. So like $200 total. Kind of pricey! Wish there was a simple temp meter that just captured the lowest temps over a few days, and then I could drive over and inspect the readings.

    It seem this pipe section freezing must not be a likely even though, as even the poster from Canada said they just shut off at the inside meter.

    Seems this kind of information might exist somewhere on the web, wouldn't you think?
     
  10. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    I was expecting that the insulation would work, and that a visit would be involved in checking the temperature as a sanity check and to quantify the success. Many of the units intended for a home, that have a remote temperature sensor intended for outdoors are remarkably cheap.

    I had never considered a unit that would phone in temperatures via a cellular network.
     
  11. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Reach4, I have not seen a remote temp sensor like you mentioned. Do you have a brand/model in mind?
     
  12. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    I am still confused about that last bit of supply line going into the meter freezing.

    I understand the logic stated that it would freeze, and Gary's strong analogy of a water bottle with a jacket simply freezing if left outdoors in the winter, is logical.

    I also could see how ground heat could extend up into that pipe for a short distance from the ground, especially since it's indoors with no cold air blowing on it. (Standardairconditioner mentioned that in Canada the snowbirds just shut off the valve in front of the meter, seemingly without incident).

    I'm also dwelling on the thought that if water is still left in that few inches of pipe, even if the street shutoff is used, how is the freeze potential different than just shutting the valve just below the basement meter?
     
  13. DaveHo

    DaveHo Member

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    Shut the water off in the basement. Build some type of enclosure around the meter & shutoff & then find a way to heat that enclosure. A regular incandescent light bulb should work. Of course you still need a way to keep tabs on it in case the heat source fails.

    You'll need to use compressed air to blow out the lines. However, short of loosening the connection on the house side of the meter, I see no way to drain the line above it.
     
  14. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    The benefit of having to water shut off at the street is that it will prevent the place from flooding if that section in the basement freezes and/or the line develops a leak.
     
  15. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Well I looked around the front lawn for a street shutoff box, and could not find one.

    I did dig up a patio block that was part covered with dirt hoping it may have been a shutoff box cover, but it wasn't one. There was only more dirt under it.

    I was thinking I could get a metal rod and start poking the lawn ever 6 inches or so until I find a box cover?

    But I did notice a stamp that looked like 'DPW' on a piece of cement that's part of a narrow walkway near the curb. I assume 'DPW' means 'Detroit Public Works/Water'? But there was no cover next to that cement, and the walkway is 1ft by 3ft long. They wouldn't have put a box under that large of a piece of cement, would they?
     
  16. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Cacher-chick, I get that the basement flooding would be prevented, but why design the plumbing such that regardless which shutoff is used, that pipe could still freeze? Replacing that pipe would be a pain too.
     
  17. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    mnalep, click Inbox above.
     
  18. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    This is the 1 foot by 3 foot piece of concret that runs next to the curb. It looks like 'DPW' stamped on it, and some number? Would the city put that large a piece of cement over a shutoff?

    IMG_20151211_145157.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2015
  19. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    I took another picture of the input water pipe coming out of the floor going into the meter and the first gate valve.

    Were pipes made like that back in the 1920's? I've never seen pipes that were rounded in this manner. Or are those bulges evidence of prior freeze?


    IMG_20151211_152915.jpg
     
  20. themp

    themp Member

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    Raleigh, North Carolina
    Can you call the city and ask them what is the procedure to shutoff your water supply? They have to have a way for a house to be disconnected so no water can be used. In front of the meter in our water main box is a valve that a lock can be put on it so that it cannot be turned on.

    If they say something like we turn off the valve before the meter in your basement and then remove the meter, then you know there is no shutoff anywhere else. If they have another option then they will find a shutoff outside of your basement.
     
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