How Long Before House Water Pipes Freeze?

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Speedo66, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Transient

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    Got a house I'm not living in right now, and no electricity. Temps are forecast for the high 20's-low 30's for a few days. No heat since Sandy.

    I can't get down there every day to service a generator, so how long do I have between running the generator (and bringing the house to normal temp), assuming the house is reasonably well insulated?

    Any steps I should be taking to reduce chances of pipes freezing? Will just opening the taps with water supply off drain most of the pipes? What about toilets? Don't want to get too crazy with anti-freeze in the toilets because it's a septic system.
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  2. ig_88e

    ig_88e Been here awhile

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    If you can heat the house up a bit and then shut it up tight, I bet you can go a few days.

    I'm guessing since you have septic, you also have a well, so no water without the generator? Otherwise I'd say leave the taps cracked so some water stays flowing. Longer to freeze that way.

    You could try to drain the pipes but I'm not sure it's worth it. Will freeze in the low spots anyway.

    What I would do is valve off the house from the pressure tank, so if you do get a leak, it isn't a high volume. Worst case possible would be freeze, blow a pipe, then have the power come back on and you return to a flood...
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  3. Gerg

    Gerg Gergy Bear

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    Shut off the supply and drain as best you can. Low spots will freeze but there should be enough expansion space to keep from breaking lnes. Flush toilets then use a plunger to push as much water out of the bowl that you can OR use RV antifreeze. It's non toxic and won't hurt your system. Also make sure you pour a little down the sink traps.

    I don't think regular antifreeze will hurt your septic system.

    Greg
    #3
  4. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    20s and 30s you say? If you can get the interior up to 75-80* in one shot then leave it, you'd probably have 48 hours or so if the house is reasonably well insulated. My crappily insulated house will drop from 72 to 58 in about 10 hours with the heat turned off when it's in the 20s outside. Otherwise, I agree with shutting the supply off and draining everything you can and using just a touch of RV antifreeze in each drain.
    #4
  5. sailah

    sailah Lampin' it

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    +1 open all the faucets too
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  6. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Transient

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    Yes, it is a well water system.

    Water has already been shut off, I'll open all the taps, and try to plunge to remove the rest from the toilets. Will try and obtain RV antifreeze.

    Thanks to all for their advice.
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  7. rapidoxidationman

    rapidoxidationman Easily trainable

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    Antifreeze in the drains

    An air compressor can make quick work of pushing all the water out of the pipes - then you don't even need to think about it until you want to. I've winterized more than a few houses and they've gone through -40*F winters with no problems the following spring.

    A 2 bathroom house can be done within a few hours if you're going slow. If it's on a well and has a water hydrant by the well (or at least between the well head and the house) then the job is easier.

    Don't forget to protect your appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers, and ice makers... and your water heater too.

    PM me if you want more detail.

    Good luck!
    #7
  8. Dave in Wi

    Dave in Wi Long timer

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    Everybody beat me to it, but +1 on the RV antifreeze in the drains. Don't forget the toilet tank.

    Shut off the water and blow out the supply lines. Work from the fixture the farthest away from the supply. Drain the water heater and tank if you have one, keep those open as you blow the system out. Then you will have done all you can.
    #8
  9. ragtoplvr

    ragtoplvr Long timer

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    You also need to pull out the washer and lower the drain hose as far as possible. Then add some rv antifreeze until it runs out the drain hose. Takes about a quart. Dishwasher, same thing. There is always residual water in one. When you drain the house, you also need to drain the water heater, make sure it is off or it will burn out when power is restored. I turn off most systems except lights with the breakers anyway.glitches when power is restored are not uncommon. I would leave the well off too. You should have 48hours before freeze will occur in well insulated house at temperature you describe.

    A portable air tank can do a passable job of blowing out lines. My old lake house we made specifically to drain, all the lines were sloped. Open the water heater, open a faucet, and open the drain valve at the water meter. fill the toilet and traps with RV antifreeze. Next spring, use some RidX to restart the septic.

    Rod
    #9
  10. rapidoxidationman

    rapidoxidationman Easily trainable

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    You can use the water heater as a pressure storage tank when you're blowing out the lines with compressed air... just takes a few $$$ worth of hardware to adapt the compressor fittings to it.
    #10
  11. GreaseMonkey

    GreaseMonkey Preshrunk & Cottony

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    apologies, but I am not completely understanding what you are wanting to do here-

    Are you going to be moving back into your house once power comes back on, and just want to minimize any freezing damage that may happen until that point?

    Or are you wanting to winterize this house which is going to have no heat until spring, and need to figure out how to do that without power?

    If this is the home you live in, and you are just waiting until your power comes back on, as long as temps stay above 25 you will have no issues at all with any piping that is not located on an exterior wall as there will be enough latent heat to keep things from freezing enough to cause any leakage.

    Now, if this house is going to stay empty then you've already had some good suggestions for draining everything. My only input then is to go and do a thorough drain ASAP so you don't get into a situation where some water partially freezes and prevents that line from draining.

    Also, if you have not done so unplug everything possible during a power outage as when it comes back on you can get some pretty big surges. As mentioned you can trip the breakers too but I'm a pussy and pull the plugs on the fridges, washer, dishwasher etc as well.
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  12. Skinner

    Skinner Mr.KTM

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    Leave all of the window coverings open to let the sun in and help heat the inside, maybe lay dark colors in the sunlight
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  13. chollo9

    chollo9 Screwed the Pooch

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    Man, the pipes in my shop aren't a problem unless it gets in the low 20s and there is NO insulation of any kind. I don't think you need to worry about a thing.
    #13
  14. HOT DAMN!

    HOT DAMN! ♪ ♪ ♪

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    ^This.

    I didn't gather that you were looking for winterization advice, so temporarily unless you are going to experience multiple days that never get out of the teens/twenties you have nothing to worry about.
    #14
  15. SeaDog

    SeaDog Adventurer

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    Don't forget to disconnect outside hoses, (garden hoses) from the bibs.
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  16. muddywater

    muddywater Been here awhile

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    Ground is still warm, overnight dips in the temp shouldnt be a problem. Sunny days will help also.
    Run a wick type kerosene heater and open all the cabinet doors under the sinks. Most heaters will run 24hours on low, and dont need electricity.
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  17. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Transient

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    The effort to keep the pipes from freezing was the result of losing power from Hurricane Sandy. Four trees on my property falling on the power lines will do that, not that they mattered, the whole area was out anyway.

    I am happy to report that after almost 2 weeks, power was restored last night. We had a few nights where the temps dipped into the 20's, but rose back into the 30's during the day, so no damage was done. I obviously fared much better than those unfortunate enough to have lost their homes, so no complaints.

    Thanks to all for sharing their knowledge and experience.
    #17
  18. 100mpg

    100mpg Self Imposed Exile

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    i got here late but the sun would warm up the house during the day. glad you got your power back!
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  19. GreaseMonkey

    GreaseMonkey Preshrunk & Cottony

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    As mentioned, I'm glad your power is back up and running.
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  20. oldgnarly

    oldgnarly n00b

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    "it's a septic system".
    RV antifreeze, safe for septic systems.
    #20