Waterpipes; Not buried and Not Frozen?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Haggis, Sep 5, 2004.

  1. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

    Mar 11, 2004
    Northeastern Minnesota
    Anybody here up on a way to NOT bury water pipes and keep them from freezing in the frozen north?

    Herself finally has asked that water be run to the house; I would certainly like to have running water in the barn. She's only 50 and it's not too far to the well, but something about -45 winters and fetching water has got her thinking. I can understand having water in the barn for the livestock, but runing water to the house? ..., She's gone soft.

    I've heard folks say that their pipes have frozen as much as nine feet down around here in winters when there wasn't much snow. I don't mind digging down that far but I do mind the mess it will make of the yard and the idea that it may not help anyway.

    I know that there are folks who live in areas with permafrost; how do they deal with the problem of keeping water pipes from freezing?
  2. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    You could try lots and lots of heat tape. Probably cost you a fortune to run though.


  3. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    May 20, 2004
    SE Missouri
    I've known folks to cover pipes with straw bales and kept them from freezing. Not sure how cold you could get and still have them be ok.
  4. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    May 22, 2003
    Zone 7
    haggis, since the frost level where I live is 6 inches you may want to get another opinion regarding your water lines. :) To prevent the water from freezing I would consider running 2 lines. One from the well and another back to the well. When the conditions get to where the water lines would freeze at the depth you have them buried you need to open a solenoid valve on the return line and pump the water back into the storage tank or well. To go back into the well the main water pump could be used. To go into the storage tank you could use a fractional horsepower recirculating pump. You could bury a sensor to detect the temperature at the buried depth and use that to automatically activate the round robin pumping system. One trick that I do know that works is to prevent the pipes from bursting is to install inside the pipe a length of flexible tubing, as long as the run is, and to seal each end of the flexible tubing. When the pipe freezes the flexible tubing will give and the expanding water will have a place to expand and that prevents the water pipe from bursting. When I was in the pork business I would do this where the drinkers had the water lines exposed above ground.
  5. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    Putting the water line inside a larger tube or pipe helps a lot. Having the ends of the larger pipe arranged so warm air can be blown through it when the ground frost creats a problem would be just peachy. Water lines freeze around here when the frozen earth starts thawing in the spring. I don't know why, but the frost goes farther down when it is thawing on top.
    Having the line in a tube would allow it to be taken up if need be without digging out the whole shebang again.
    Haggis, have you considered who will be trotting outside for water if Herself gets to ailin'?
  6. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    May 9, 2002
    Standard burial depth here is around four feet, but we did have a winter back in the 70's with extended -40 degree weather with little or no snow, that froze lines down to six feet that had never frozen before.

    That's pretty much an aberration though, how often does something like that happen? Once in a lifetime?

    I did put mine down six feet and I have had success in insulating my mobile homes without heat tape. I take R-19 insulation 16" wide and loosely wrap it around the water line, tape it together with duct tape. Then I wrap plastic around and more duct tape. Haven't ever had one freeze up yet.

    I tried straw bales once and it didn't work long because the bales got wet, froze and then froze the lines. Might work if you cover the bales so they can't get wet.

    If you are worried about burying your pipe and making a mess in the yard, rent or hire a trencher to dig your lines in. They only cut a trench about four inches wide.
  7. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    We live with waterlines which surface in several places and in an area which regularly hits -35. The secret is the basement cystern, or deep kitchen sink. In short, the water is gravity fed and run continuously. If you need a pump, the pump would have to be on more or less all the time. But the continuously cycling water system works like a charm and is the old New England way of having water run to the house with pipes that run either on the surface, or just below.

  8. Oilpatch197

    Oilpatch197 Well-Known Member

    Apr 18, 2004
    SouthEastern Illinois
    maybe have a return line back to the well house and have a recirculation pump on it, so the water is ALWAYS moving, thus it shouldn't freeze, kinda like a river during winter, where the current is the water isn't frozen. would that work?
  9. stickinthemud

    stickinthemud Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 10, 2003
    SW PA
    Keeping the water moving is the answer. Dad is from Montpelier VT & tells about the hurricane (in November '28?) when the Winooski River flooded and swirling water dug a huge pit in the street near their house. The broken water pipes were not repaired until spring. A neighbor was on a different water main and ran a hose to their house. All thru a Vermont winter they let a trickle of water run and it never froze up.