frozen barn pipes

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  #1  
Old 01-22-09, 05:04 AM
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frozen barn pipes

Hi there,

Every winter it's the same old story! My pipes in the barn freeze and I have to lug water out from the house.
I'm tired of it!

We had a frost free installed at one point, but while my darling husband hired a plumber to fix a underground leak, they UN installed it and replaced it w/regular pipe to save money. grrrr..

ANYWAY. I'm not up on the up with the venacular, so bear with me as I explain this. This is just a plain old standing PVC pipe with dual brass spigots on top, coming up from the cement flooring. Cold water only.

I have fears of using heat tape on this pVC pipe in the barn. Does anyone know how to keep the water flowing in the cold winter months? And if it DOES freeze despite my best efforts, what's the best way to defrost them so that I can have running water out there?

Thanks for any advice ya'all can give!
 
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  #2  
Old 01-22-09, 06:46 AM
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Supply line should be below local frost level. You don't say where you are located, but it's easy to Google for the frost level for your area. If you are in a frozen winter wasteland such as in Moscow, then frost line is at about 60". If you are in Chicago, then it's about 36". Some folks recommend putting styrofoam sheathing on top of the pipe for extra precaution. If you don't know your frost level or line, call your local Cooperative Extension Agent. It is usually recommended that supply lines be buried below the frostline.

You can insulate the the PVC coming out of the concrete floor with a pipe sleeve from the hardware store, but the freezing can be taking place in the underground line if above frost level. Placing a heat lamp in the area of the pipe in the barn may be helpful. Too, leaving a small stream of water running can keep water moving in the pipe.

You can also unhook any hoses from faucets and shut off your barn's water and drain the pipes after each use. You can also purchase a commercial faucet cover at the hardware store.

If pipes are frozen, open the faucet. When they thaw, pipes tend to burst because the pressure has no place to go. Don't store feed or anything that you fear getting wet in the area of the faucet and potential flooding.

If the pipe is frozen only in the area above concrete in barn, you can open faucet and use blow dryer or heat lamp or electric heater to expedite thawing. Otherwise, you will have to wait until it warms up. If the pipe is frozen in the ground because it's above frost line, then you will have to wait until the soil temperature warms up.
 
  #3  
Old 01-22-09, 12:24 PM
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Heat tape is a godsend. Of course burying the pipe below frost level and using frost-free spigots are the best answer, when there's piping above ground in unheated spaces, the heat tape works well. Usually it's taped to the pipe, then foam pipe insulation around the whole thing. Most (all?) heat tape is usable with PVC piping.

The heat tape doesn't get very hot, you can put your hand around it, so it's not a fire hazard. Still, in the barn that I help out with, we unplug the heating cable in the spring, and replace it after 7-10 years, mostly because when they fail, they just stop working, and you don't know until a pipe freezes/breaks.

Good luck!
 
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Old 01-22-09, 01:05 PM
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barn lady, i would recommend you get a yard hydrant installed. they are designed to drain the water out of the pipe and into the ground 3'-4' in the ground so that much of the pipe does not have water when you shut the hydrant off. but until then as mentioned and hairdryer might work but could take a very long time. also dont leave your faucet open. that will just cause an area to have ice on the ground and if the line freezes or is already froze it will not help stop it from spliting since the ice is expanding in the one area already . the only thing that will stop the spliting is to unfreeze the pipe asap. ice can excert over 4000psi as it expands
 
  #5  
Old 01-22-09, 01:23 PM
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According to American Red Cross and others, "Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe." Prepare.org | Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
 
  #6  
Old 01-22-09, 03:22 PM
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Do you happen to know where it froze? Let me know, and perhaps I have a CHEAP solution that will solve your problem.
 
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Old 01-22-09, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by twelvepole View Post
If pipes are frozen, open the faucet. When they thaw, pipes tend to burst because the pressure has no place to go.
Are you sure?

When ice forms, the given volume of water expands when ice is made. You would think that as it thaws, it would reduce back to the lesser volume in the state of water. I have presumed pipes leak after iced simply because the rupture already is there in the pipe - but since it is frozen no water leakzs out. Then as it thaws, the ice reverts back to water and can get out the split.

If someone sped up the thawing action on frozen pipes with a hairdryer and and the faucets were closed, would THIS burst the pipe? I would not think so, even though you are probably causing more pressure to build with the application of heat. The pipe should be able to handle that pressure increase.

I think that what you have heard is that by opening a faucet on the frozen line, just after it barely has frozen, will allow the still freezing ice to have somewhere to expand more towards. But not that the damage occurs in the thawing process from not opening a faucet.
 
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Old 01-22-09, 05:43 PM
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Twelvepole is correct, in some instances. If the ice has completely blocked to supply source from the faucet and the heat is applied in a manner that thaws the ice downstream (closer to the faucet) of the blockage from the supply then extremely high pressures can indeed develop that will split the faucet or the pipe. That is why when you thaw frozen pipes you ALWAYS open the faucet and thaw from the faucet back towards the source.
 
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Old 01-23-09, 09:01 AM
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Furd, well the more detailed explanation about thawing from the open faucet back towards the source make sense.

In actual frozen pipe cases I am familiar with, and those encountered by many others, say where pipes are frozen somewheres under the middle of some trailer, I think most people just go in there and start thawing where they know the problem has usually occured. Since water cannot compress, you'd think I would have had a case load of split pipes that only occured as I thawed, and I have not. According to what you are saying, it would seem like the heated ice would build pressure and force the pressure against either direction where the water would have to start compressing up against either still frozen ice or the water that has no place to go.

And since this has not happened to me, I am wondering if in reality other factors likely come into play, such as since the water reverts back to water, that first off the volume is reduced, which then can allow the heated water some wiggle room, if you will, to be able to expand in that space, without consequence. And also perhaps that the applied heat becomes dissipated along the pipe some, into the ice on either side of where you say hold the hair dryer.

Perhaps if a person held a TORCH in just one location and did not move it, until the temp in that one spot got extremely high, that then this could have a chance at greater consequence than the typical method of say using a hair dyer by sort of waving it along 3 foot stretches at a time, where perhaps the ice gradually thaws and reduces it's volume within that space, gradually, which reduces the likihood of rupture.

But what you say does make scientific sense, I'll give you that. There are cases where runaway water heaters with non-working pressure relief valves have caused water heaters to either explode or take off like a rocket ship. Supposedly they have flown out of the basement right thru the roof. But with water heaters, as opposed to water pipes, there is way more volume inside/circumference metal wall, compared to house plumbing pipe, which has far less volume/wall circumference. And this is maybe why pipes might not rupture, in reality, as easily as water heaters, with applied heat.
 
  #10  
Old 01-23-09, 09:26 PM
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Thank you everyone. Great ideas. Maybe I'll try the heat tape again. I never had the patience to stand there with a hair dryer, but have been wondering if a heating pad or similiar item would work. The heat tape is probably a better option, especially if it has a shut-off thermostat, huh?

I'm not sure WHERE it freezes, but would love your CHEAP idea, Chuckret.

We had a frost-free,underground installed originally. That was when my brilliant husband allowed a new plumber to replace it w/a regular system. I'm thinking of biting the bullet and having another frost-free underground hydrant installed. This is nuts, every winter, and I'm not getting any younger, ya know? It's all about making things EASIER.

Thanks for all your help!
 
  #11  
Old 01-23-09, 11:54 PM
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The frost-free hydrant is the proper fix if the operating valve and supplying piping is below the frost line.
 
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Old 01-24-09, 11:11 AM
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Barn Lady,

The newer and safe type (albeit it too has been around for many years now) heat cable works on a different principle than the old fashion antenna wire-looking heat tape, and only draws from 3-6 watts per foot in cold weather. The inner rubber-like insulation starts to conduct current between the hot side of the cable and the neutral side only when that substance gets cold! Since it only generates a warm type of a heat, it is okay to criss-cross valves with it, without the danger associated with the old antenna wire-type that would get hot and burn and short out from doing that. Many fires have been caused by that old heat tape. Many resulting in total losses of the properties involved, and probably some deaths! Most the better heat cables now also have another feature where they are encased in stainless steel braided wire mesh to help guard against rodents chewing into it.

But because this heat cable generates warm and not hot, it is imperative that the cable be wrapped around the pipe per the instructions regarding the number of coil turns per foot run and also be adequately insulated with fiberglass, then wrapped again with a plastic wrap (the fiberglass and outer wrap comes as a kit, in a roll)- or use that foam tube stuff, where each tube is like 3 feet long.


Personally, I haven't had to heat tape now in years since all my projects were done with the cable and still work.

You might get some more info on heat cable if you visit a website dealing with either Frostex or Frost King heat cable -two brands that come to mind from years back.

The hydrant method may be best suited for you, but at least you might have learned something about the better type heat cable and perhaps somewhere this might fill your needs.
 
  #13  
Old 02-03-09, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by BARN LADY View Post
Thank you everyone. Great ideas. Maybe I'll try the heat tape again. I never had the patience to stand there with a hair dryer, but have been wondering if a heating pad or similiar item would work. The heat tape is probably a better option, especially if it has a shut-off thermostat, huh?

I'm not sure WHERE it freezes, but would love your CHEAP idea, Chuckret.

We had a frost-free,underground installed originally. That was when my brilliant husband allowed a new plumber to replace it w/a regular system. I'm thinking of biting the bullet and having another frost-free underground hydrant installed. This is nuts, every winter, and I'm not getting any younger, ya know? It's all about making things EASIER.

Thanks for all your help!
What have you wound up doing? If you could post a pic of that standpipe, I might be able to make some suggestion.
 
  #14  
Old 02-06-09, 09:04 PM
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Have you tried turning a large bucket over the faucet and hang a metal trouble light with a 60 to 75 watt regular light bulb on the faucet? The heat from the light bulb should be enough heat to prevent the faucet from freezing. I hang the light under my porch for my faucet. Hope this helps you.
 
  #15  
Old 09-13-09, 02:13 PM
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Red face Long time, no freeze....

Hi there! I forgot my log in info for the longest time so never made it back here. Now I"m trying to plan ahead so I don't have frozen pipes this winter!

I was just rereading the old suggestions. Great info in there. Thank you all...I love the ideas and the links. I'm going to check out the heat cable vs. the heat tape and think about the light bulb-theory. I am paranoid about leaving stuff plugged in at the barn but ......gotta do what ya gotta do, right?

I ended up plugging a heated bucket into my horse's stall and lugging water out by the gallon-jugs. I tried the insulated spigot cover 'hood' and that didn't help any.

This year, I'd like to avoid that altogether and am looking in advance for suggestions to prevent my barn water pipes from freezing Does anyone one know about how much it might cost me to have a frost-free underground spigot installed?

Got any other suggestions?

Thanks a bunch!
 
  #16  
Old 10-23-09, 05:28 PM
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Julie

If you still haven't decided, I would suggest spending the money and have a water line from the house placed 4 feet underground. (frost line here in Minnesota) Then have them install a barn/yard hydrant right outside your stall in your barn about 1 to 3 feet from where you plan to put a water tank. if they install a hydrant tall enough to hang over the bucket or tank, then no hose needed. Much easier that way.

You can then fill the tank or bucket when needed and not worry anymore about frozen pipes. But be sure your chunk of hose is no more than 3 feet and can properly drain after each use. If you're in a frozen tundra like ours, you will need a tank heater plugged into a timer. We set ours to heat the water (and oftentimes ice) twice a day for a few hours while they eat their hay. Horses usually don't drink between meals, so keeping it plugged in all the time is a waste and very costly...$50.00 extra a month to be exact.
Good Luck...hope that helps
 
  #17  
Old 02-19-11, 02:39 PM
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stop frozen pipes in barn

A good friend of mine had a similar problem in a metal building not connected to their home. They had a cold water pipe that kept freezing. Not wanting to dig a trench to put in a hot water line, she tapped into her homes hot water line and ran a high pressure hose out to the shed. In the shed they connected a redytemp to both hot and cold lines. Anytime the redytemp sensed near freezing temperatures it automatically came on and circulated the warmer water from the hot water line through the cold water pipe back to the home. Once warmer water reach the redytemp it would stop then start again if the water got close to freezing. In the summer she'd just rroll up the hose. No more frozen pipes or carrying buckets back and forth.
 
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