Main water pipe freezing in unheated garage.

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Old 01-23-14, 07:40 PM
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Main water pipe freezing in unheated garage.

So, I have attached pictures. Basically, I am leasing a retail building, and this winter (here in NH) has had some very cold nights. There is a garage attached to the retail store, and this is where the main water feed is, about a foot away from a non insulated garage door with a draft in the corner. The pipe froze to make a long story short. The pipe was not insulated either. The water meter broke and the main ball valve.

I talked to my landlord, and he said he has never had the problem for 14 years.
However he heated the garage. Heating the garage is stupid because it is not insulated well and would cost me too much money.

So I looked for alternatives, I bought some frost king heat cable from HD, and plugged it in, it worked. Or at least seemed to. I wrapped some insulation around the bottom there (I used a roll of fiberglass instead of foam tube because there are so many valves and things (ground) down there the foam would not fit over it).

So, it froze again, and it is below zero now outside. The garage reads 40 degrees, except right near the door it is MUCH colder. This is because there is a poured concrete floor that I had poured, the landlord never had this. And it has a step between the back of the garage, basically boxing the pipe and the garage door in the front so the cold air gets trapped there. In addition to this, the concrete ground slab is basically outdoor temp. To top it all off, I bought some Frost King heat cable form HD and because of the way it is made and according to the instructions, you run it linear to the pipe versus wrap it, and the temp. sensor make the actual cable start 3 inches off from the concrete. Leaving unheated pipe to get cold form the ground. I assume the cold air form the garage leak is not doing much since I did wrap the pipe in fiberglass insulation then plastic.

In the pictures, I removed the insulation from around the base so I can use a heat gun to try to thaw it out. No damaged pipes, it did not seem to freeze past the ball valve (where the heat tape starts). I can tell because the ball valve still moves and closes. The first time it froze and broke the valve and meter, the valve would not move until it thawed.

So I fear that the pipe is freezing at the concrete and below the concrete. I waste time, have no water, and am trying to find a solution to this.

I came across in pipe heating cable from Pentair:
Pipe Heat Cables | WinterGard | Pentair Thermal Management Solutions (formerly Tyco Thermal Controls)

This goes inside the pipe, in theory I could get it below the concrete. But I am looking for a long term solution where I do not need to deal with it again as my retail store is an AQUARIUM store, and I NEED water!

Please advice, THANKS!

P.S. I fear heating the garage is a WASTE of money and will not even prevent freezing since it seems to freeze at concrete and / or below.
 
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Old 01-23-14, 08:44 PM
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Adding to this: I had to use the heat gun for about two hours to thaw it. All aimed at the concrete base. I think it is freezing below the concrete. I just kinda thought it through, and the in pipe heat cable wouldn't work well. You would need to pout it BEFORE the main valve, making it hard to get on unless water was gushing up into the air. It is a push fitting though.

And lastly, I sued Great Stuff foam on the door spaces to see if blocking the wind would make it not freeze tonight now that I got it thawed. The temp is going to be 0-9 degrees, and feels like -5 - 1 degrees. Until Saturday when it gets back up to 32 degrees.
 
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Old 01-24-14, 02:53 AM
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Can you post pictures (not closeups) of your set up? It may help us to formulate an answer.
 
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Old 01-24-14, 05:30 AM
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Even down here in NC my warehouse building currently has a air temp of 30f. The concrete floor in the middle of the building is 41f while near the perimeter it's only 36f so I can see how your pipes are freezing in NH. As you've already found out it is possible for the pipes in the concrete to freeze. I have heat in my warehouse but it's a steel frame warehouse with at best R5 insulation and heating it long term is not an option so I agree that heating your garage is not a good option especially since it's the floor you need to keep warm and most of the heat will be heading up and out the ceiling.

---

One solution is to simply let the water run during extremely cold periods. You can buy an inexpensive no contact infrared thermometer and aim it at the concrete around your pipes and the pipes themselves to let you know when you need to let the water run. It's wasteful of water but if this is a once in 15 years event it's possibly the most economical.



Your heat tape on the pipe is a good idea. You can take it a step further and heat the concrete slab. An infrared heater aimed at the problem area of the floor. You can also get heated floor mats and place on the floor in the troubled area. They are available in different sizes and wattages and most are waterproof.



Even with everything inside the building protected against freezing there is still the potential for the water line buried underground to freeze during extreme and prolonged cold. Leaving the water running is the best short term protection.

PS: I got a chuckle that you "sued" the foam company.
 
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Old 01-24-14, 03:29 PM
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yayaya "used"*. Now being an aquarium and reptile store, i can get infrered heat lamps easily, brilliant idea mate! Sorry, i forgot the pics, right? I'll add them shortly. Yeah def. around the concrete is the problem area, and a leased building at that, this is stupid. I appreciate all the help though. Pics are coming.
 
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Old 01-24-14, 05:51 PM
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oh I got a laser temp thing for reptiles too! I'll use that!
 
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Old 01-24-14, 06:59 PM
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Pics.

I used my laser, and the floor close to the door (with great stuff spray foam block holes) is between 28 degrees and 32 degrees. Right next to pipe is about 31-33 degrees. Surrounding temp is 32-35 degrees. Temp on my raised concrete floor in center of building is about 36-44 degrees.

I personally like the ceramic heat emitter lamp idea.

And I know that insulation is ****, but I can not find anything better that fits easily around the pipe, fittings, valves, etc.. There are so many odd parts there I can't use regular foam pipe insulation.
 

Last edited by MonopolyBag; 01-24-14 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 01-25-14, 05:56 AM
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With those temps you need to get some heat into the concrete near the pipe or leave the water running.

Do a search for "wrap on fiberglass pipe insulation". Most big box home centers carry it. It's basically the same stuff you have with fiberglass insulation in a 3" wide x 25' long strip that makes it easy to wrap around curving pips and valves.

Seeing your table saw and tools makes me think you could build a simple three sided box to sort of close off that corner and enclose the meter, pipes and concrete right below. The box could help catch the heat from a heat lamp and get that area warmer without trying to heat the whole garage. In an emergency I use cardboard boxes. It does not take much. Just something to help hold the heat in that area. You have to be careful to not set your box on fire if you make it of wood, cardboard or foam board while rigid fiberglass panels are more idot proof fire wise.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 12:09 PM
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Right, I was considering a box. Something removable, because if I am not heating that area, then the box could actually keep heat out.

Now another question, if I wrap that pipe with a better heat cable, closer to the base, rather than the frost kind starting 3 inches up, do you think this may produce better and possibly enough heat?

My concern with something like a box and heat lamp is: #1, fire; #2, I need to keep an eye on the weather, and it only takes one night where I miss how cold it will get or the weather is wrong and it could freeze.

Again, this is a commercial building, I am here 11am - 8pm. Not here on Mondays. I would rather plug a heat cable that works in and leave it on for a number of cold nights rather than be turning on and off a heat lamp.

And yes, the fiberglass insulation pre tubes you are referring too are better, but I run into the same issues, they do not fit over the fittings and other parts easily.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 05:38 PM
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I would go with the heat tape on the pipes and a floor heating mat, both controlled by a thermostat and not having anything flammable in the area. And, don't forget simply turning the water on and letting a tiny stream run can do a lot to prevent freezing. I hate to see you go to too much trouble and expense for a problem that has not occurred in the previous 14 years.
 
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Old 01-26-14, 10:59 AM
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Right. But the landlord did heat the backroom (probably a waste of money). And I did then pour that concrete "wall" that only helps trap cold air there.

On the flip side though, since when have we had 8 days in a row of cold, windy weather that was around zero every night and day temps. rising only a few degrees more?

The heat mat, how can I put this around the pipe? Can I? Can it be cut? I use heat mats in reptiles as well, and usually they are rectangular and I wouldn't see it being close enough to the pipe to keep that concrete temp. high enough. What were your thoughts with that heat mat? At least with the ceramic heat emitter I could aim it directly at the concrete abutting the pipe.
 
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Old 01-26-14, 02:33 PM
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No, heat mats should not be cut. Your ceramic heater sounds like a better idea. Use heat tape and insulation on the pipes and the heater aimed at the floor to heat the concrete. Look on the bright side... spring is getting closer and closer.
 
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Old 01-26-14, 06:04 PM
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Yeah, but Spring is not a solution, as spring nears, then summer, we are only that much closer till the following freeze.

Thanks for your help though.
 
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