Frozen pipe prevention...heat tape, insulation, or both?


Old 12-06-10, 06:55 PM
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Location: Indianapolis IN U.S.A.
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Frozen pipe prevention...heat tape, insulation, or both?

Hi folks...

In the interest of NOT having frozen pipes again...I got some heat tape this evening, along with some foam insulation. The heat tape has a thermostatic element, does NOT wrap around the pipes, rather it lays along the top, taped with E-tape. Instructions say up to 1/2" fiberglass insulation can be wrapped around the pipe and tape.
The tape doesnt get "hot", but does warm up. Am wondering if the foam would be safe to use, or should I find some fiberglass?
Heat lamp thawed the freeze last year, just want to PREVENT a freeze this year.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-06-10, 08:12 PM
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Hi where are your pipes you are trying to protect? There may be a better solution.

Mike NJ
Old 12-06-10, 09:50 PM
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I tend to agree with Mike as an understanding as to the cause can yield a better solution.

If the problem area is in a cold location, ie passes through an unheated area, then wrapping it with insulation and adding a heat source may be correct. But if the problem area is on the fringe of a heated area, insulation may be best when just added between the pipe and the cold. That would allow the heat that is there to protect the pipe.

More details.

Old 12-07-10, 02:03 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Like Bud & Mike said "need more information on location"
I would recommend not using foam insulation if the thermostat in the heat strip goes bad it could melt the foam
Old 12-07-10, 09:34 AM
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Not exactly your situation, but I used foam insulation on a water supply line without a problem. We were living in our RV while building a log home. Rather than use a typical potable water hose, I ran a PVC pipe from the yard hydrant to the RV (about 50 feet). I didn't bury it; it just laid on the ground. I used the type of heat tape you're talking about, covered it with the foam insulation, and held all in place with plastic wire ties. We got through a winter with several below-zero nights without ever having the pipe freeze.
Old 12-07-10, 08:46 PM
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If the manufacturer does NOT recommend rubber insulation but specs fiberglass insulation, it is NOT advisable to use rubber. Maybe it will work BUT... If there ever was a fire, or damage such as frozen burst pipes, caused by your heat tape NOT being installed according to manufacturers instructions (tested and approved), your homeowners insurance will very likely NOT pay any claims related to the improperly installed item. Just food for thought.
Old 12-08-10, 06:32 PM
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The pipes in question are in an as-of-yet UNheated garage, in a corner which is bounded by walls that have living space on the other sides....make sense?? To hide the plumbing, bladder tank, and H2O softener (at her ladyships request), I built a stud and drywall wall around all the stuff. Am thinking now perhaps insulation and a cover might help keep heat from a lamp IN and cold wind/breeze/etc. out. Have decided NOT to bother with the foam wrap insulation. Insurance reply got me thinking....

The fiberglass wrap insulation that was on the pipes sort of fell apart when I applied the heat tape. All this plumbing is close to the concrete floor.
Old 03-25-11, 01:15 AM
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If these utilities are located adjacent to heated living area, and bounded on the garage side by a stud wall, why not insulate the stud walls on the garage side, and put some louvers in the walls on the house side, and include this little room as a part of your home's heated area? Or just put in a heat lamp, as you said, or a really short piece of electric baseboard with a thermostat set to 50. You could mount it vertically, to make it fit. This wouldn't be subject to burning out like the heatlamp bulb (which you'd want on a thermostat too, by the way.)
Old 04-08-11, 02:58 AM
Join Date: Apr 2011
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heat tape and pvc pipe

Hi, I am a professional pipe fitter and we use trace heat tape on pvc pipe, under insulation, with no problems. I would say however that rather than using pvc pipe you are best using ABS as it is not so brittle at low temperatures - it will happily go down to -40 deg C! (I think that is the same as -40F) - check out PVC Pipe and PVC Fittings. Delivered from largest UK stocks. ABS pipe and fittings. Pipe, fittings and valves. Economy and Industrial ranges. for more info on the plastics, Bob
Old 04-08-11, 08:46 PM
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barra bob

Welcome to the forums.

I only see 3 problems with your suggestion about ABS in this application.

First, ABS isn't pressure rated.

Second, it can't be used for potable water.

Third, supply lines are generally either 1/2" or 3/4". The smallest ABS you will readily find is 1-1/2". Having that large of a pipe is going to require more effort and more energy to keep it from freezing when the water isn't moving through it.
Old 04-08-11, 08:46 PM
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I am not a plumber but from my knowledge:

The way I am interpreting this is you don't just have pipes running up an uninsulated garage wall cavatie but have a softener and bladder tank housed in an uninsulated garage corner that is supplied from a well or P.W.S.?

Does your well, or public supply run into the garage? If it is running into the garage how deep is the pipe from the street or well? What is your frost line?? Your outside lines may be patially freezing but from use stay partially unfrozen untill they reach the outside air in the house runs. I cannot imagine if it is running into a garage that is buried very deep unless it comes up from the slab which I havent seen before.

Do you have a basement that this could be relocated too? It may sound like a big deal but sweating a couple pipes, putting in some pvc elbows isnt that big of deal....unless the problem lies outside to start.

If it must stay where it is I would see what is freezing up first. Is it the supply line entering into the garage or the runs in the garage? In my opinion heat tape is a bandaid for the problem. Your masking what really needs to be done and problems can happen again in the future. If your talking heated tape on copper....what if there is a break in the tape and the copper gets energized with the current for a second? Not a chance I like to take.

If you are just taking about the runs up an uninsulated garage wall, can you remove the sheeting between the garage and house and put these runs in the insulation between the inside house sheetrock and outside sheeting? As long as your house is heated I cant see this way freezing up. Also insulate the pipes with the foam wrap to prevent any sweating of the pipes leading to mold problems. Even though house insulation would be covering this I tend to go overboard.

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