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Thread: Heat tape to prevent freezing pipes?

  1. #1
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    Heat tape to prevent freezing pipes?

    Its that time of year and all the news programs are spending half their time on how to deal with freezing pipes. They don't mention heat tape. Seems to me the best thing you could do would be to put heat tape right at the entry. That would be one of the more vulnerable points and help all along the line.

    Since no one recommends it, I suppose I am overlooking something that makes it a mistake. Any ideas?

  2. #2
    Usually when I hear about freezing pipes, it is where they are in an outside wall or a difficult to heat area like a crawlspace or part of the basement that doesn't get much air circulation. The heat from the house can't get to the pipes. Those areas can often be hard or unsafe to put heat tape on. The other vulnerable point can be outside faucets where the ice travels up the line into a supply line. That happened at the old man's house while they were on vacation one year.

    The pipes burst when the freeze causes water to be trapped between the freeze and another barrier in the line, like a valve or another freeze and the water can't compress anything as it freezes. The easiest way to prevent frozen pipes is to let the water run at a light trickle. Unfortunately, it can also get rather expensive.

    The other one is the supply freezing. What can happen here is that the pipes freeze under the street, apparently because the frost is driven down into the soil from the traffic on the road, and there is no snow cover to insulate the ground.

    In our area at least, waterlines always enter the basement from under the slab, which typically is above freezing unless the house is not heated. Adding heat tape there likely won't help as the freezes usually occur either outside the house, or areas too close to outside walls. Heat tape only helps near where it is. Most house waterlines aren't big enough to allow convention and movement of the water.

  3. #3
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    Heat Tape is outlawed around here and Heat Cable is allowed here but heard it is also outlawed in some areas.
    Best to check where you live to know for sure.
    "Remember back in the day, when things were made by hand, and people took pride in their work?"
    - Rick Dale

  4. #4
    The self-regulating heat trace cable is the bee's knees. As it heats up, the internal resistance increases, lowering the heat produced. It can even be wrapped over itself & covered with insulation without overheating.

    I can't believe there is anywhere that it is not legal as it is a pretty crucial component of many commercial & industrial freeze prevention schemes.

  5. #5
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    I can't believe there is anywhere that it is not legal as it is a pretty crucial component of many commercial & industrial freeze prevention schemes.
    This is from an old article, but it is likely why some jurisdictions have laws against its use:

    according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), heat tapes are the cause of approximately 2,000 fires, 10 deaths and 100 injuries every year. Some figures for deaths and injuries are higher and include estimates of property damage exceeding $25 million a year.
    This would make me consider an alternative.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  6. #6
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    Sure, it would be best in poorly insulated places, but of course you can't get to those places. I figured the entry would be the best alternative.
    But if it can cause fires, I suppose that is a really good reason the TV stations don't recommend it. They are not about to risk liability!

  7. #7
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    Outdoor faucets are big culprits here in MN. Best to shut the water off inside the house and then drain the faucet outside. I can't do that for one outdoor faucet we have where the interior shutoff is buried in the overhead basement sheetrock ceiling. For that faucet I wrap it outside with an old towel to keep it from freezing solid - this has worked for many years.

  8. #8
    The older style thermostat controlled heat tapes are dangerous. You have to pay close attention not to get the wires crossed or too close together. you also have to note whether te thermostat should be covered or in free air.

    The three wire self limiting heat tapes are very safe. Most can criss cross the wires with no problems. They barely reach 90 degrees. I have some pipe protected with the self limiting type and I insure they are not plugged in except in cold weather.

  9. #9
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    Self limiting is used in many industries and I believe it is used (at least it was used 20 years ago) in modern hotels to maintain the hot water to each room. In the old days the pragmatic solution was to circulate the hot water system which wastes lots of energy. Self limiting is sometimes used in cold climates as a means to recover a public water supply system that has frozen due to a mechanical malfunction that causes flow disruption. When the malfunction is repaired, the heat trace can be used to thaw the system or it can be used to keep the system from freezing until flow is started again. Of course the frozen pipe must be polyethylene or something that won't break if the water freezes.

    Here is an article discussing the use of self limiting heat trace.

    http://www.modbs.co.uk/news/fullstor...ater_hot_.html

  10. #10
    You could bundle the self limiting a tight ball & wrap it with R20 insulation & it would never overheat.

  11. #11
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    We have freeze proof outside faucets. We never worry about them and can get a bucket of water anytime.

  12. #12
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    When the county ran water to my house 43 years ago, it went too shallow under the road, so it froze twice in the first 5 years. They were able to thaw it with a welder as it was copper. So I tapped the inlet before the meter with a needle type tap. I then ran a 1/8" copper pipe to my sump, which conveniently was beneath the meter. Now about mid January when the frost starts getting deep, I open the valve to just a steady but small stream (just above a drip), no problems since. My sump pump will run occasionally to waste the accumulated water. Heat tape seems to be the solution around here in the mobile home parks. But going under my MIL's trailer to fix things was a nasty story best saved for another day. Actual -15 here this AM by the way, wind chill got to -30 on my personal weather station last night, -25 much of yesterday. Mentioned that to our new pastor, she said when she was assigned to a MN congregation, the -80 wind chill froze her eyes shut once.
    NOW you tell me...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Barry View Post
    Outdoor faucets are big culprits here in MN. Best to shut the water off inside the house and then drain the faucet outside. I can't do that for one outdoor faucet we have where the interior shutoff is buried in the overhead basement sheetrock ceiling. For that faucet I wrap it outside with an old towel to keep it from freezing solid - this has worked for many years.
    Consider putting in a small access panel in the drywall, they are about $12 at HD. While you have it opened up, install a frost proof spigot and never worry again, as long as you remember to remove the hose. https://www.homedepot.com/p/6-in-x-9...PD69/204352596
    Now that the sillcocks are available in sharkbite, install is a breeze if you have copper pipes. https://www.homedepot.com/p/SharkBit...36LF/301969182
    NOW you tell me...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Barry View Post
    Outdoor faucets are big culprits here in MN. Best to shut the water off inside the house and then drain the faucet outside. I can't do that for one outdoor faucet we have where the interior shutoff is buried in the overhead basement sheetrock ceiling. For that faucet I wrap it outside with an old towel to keep it from freezing solid - this has worked for many years.
    My son bought a house in Wisconsin last year. I talked to him about the outdoor faucets, but he never does anything I recommend (as I am just an old fool...). I sure hope he did his faucets!
    Would the damage be to the faucet only, or could it cause a leak inside?

    -----------------
    I worked up the nerve to ask him and he said he did! There is hope.
    Last edited by Wade Lippman; 01-31-2019 at 1:24 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wade Lippman View Post
    My son bought a house in Wisconsin last year. I talked to him about the outdoor faucets, but he never does anything I recommend (as I am just an old fool...). I sure hope he did his faucets!
    Would the damage be to the faucet only, or could it cause a leak inside?
    It could freeze just inside the house and burst a pipe in the house

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