Vacant Rural Home ... turnoff water or leave on when Water boiler heated?


Old 03-10-11, 06:08 PM
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Vacant Rural Home ... turnoff water or leave on when Water boiler heated?

We recently purchased a rural vacation home that remains vacant most of the winter. The home has propane boiler/water heat. We only occupy it a few weekends over the winter months, but keep it heated. The home is in NE Minnesota which gets very cold. We have a drilled well for water.

I am new to water-boiler heat. I am educating myself and just read about "water makeup" for the heating system. What is the risk to the heating system of turning off the home's water pump? In other homes (not boiler water heated), the usual thing to do when leaving for extended periods is to turn off the well's water pump to prevent continual water flow in the event that an interior water pipe freezes and breaks.

It seems like a Catch 22, which is higher risk ... pipe freeze or boiler running too low on water? We do have a temperature alarm that will call us if the interior temp drops to 45 degrees.

Looking for a seasoned expert opinion on which side of the fence to take.
Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-10-11, 08:15 PM
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I am not a fan of anti-freeze for the boiler, but if it were my home I would put anti-freeze in the boiler, and winterize the potable water pipes during the winter.

This way during the winter leave the heat off. The pipes for the boiler will not freeze.

Then winterize the potable water by blowing out the lines with a compressor, draining water heater, and adding antifreeze to the toilets and traps.

Then when you visit you can use the heat but dont use the water unless your going to winterize again, or the temps are above freezing.

It seems like a Catch 22, which is higher risk ... pipe freeze or boiler running too low on water?
You dont want pipes freezing, or the boiler running low on water. If low water cut off shuts down the boiler then the water and/or heating pipes could freeze. If your choice is to leave the heat on then at least fill it with anti-freeze and make sure there is a low water cut off. (boiler anti-freeze not the auto stuff)

Also just turning the well off will not prevent pipes from bursing. The lines must be blown out with a compressor thoroughly.

Mike NJ

Last edited by NJT; 03-11-11 at 03:01 PM.
Old 03-11-11, 05:31 AM
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First, make sure you have a low water cut off installed on your boiler. What that does is shut the boiler down should a pipe break and water drain out of the system. If the boiler fires with no water, it will burn the house down. If you shut off the well pump, then you don't have to worry about a flood if soemthing in the boiler system breaks because of freezing. Double check that you have a back flow preventer installed to prevent boiler water from migrating into your domestic supply lines.

I'm not sure I would go the antifreeze route. From what I understand you have to be very careful about the ph of the water when you do this because it can damage the pipes and system if it becomes acidic.
Old 03-12-11, 06:31 AM
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The rural home

I have about 50 o/o cryotek in my HW boiler and I just checked and the PH is about 8. As long as you add a little inhibitor when needed , about every few years, there is a test kit for this, you will be OK.
Yes there is a reduction in heat exchange with antifreeze, but it is far better then loosing your boiler and piping.
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