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Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/09/2019 9:24 PM

Greetings all. I have been an email subscriber to cr4 since the early 2000's when commonly heard phrases here were "google is your friend" and "this sounds like a homework question". I work in the wire harness industry in cost estimation and product support. Now I find myself needing some advice.

I am looking for heating ideas for my pumphouse/well system which supplies two homes. I live near Seattle Washington. Sometimes we get snow, the longest is for about a week at a time. Sometimes it is cold and clear, day and night below freezing for more than a month. Most of the time temperatures range around 35-55F during winter. I have had this freeze once but I caught it in time.

The space is approximately 6'x6'x8' containing a 1/2 hp submersible pump and a 5' tall pressure tank. The room will have insulation/sheetrock. The exterior is 7/16th OSP covered by cedar shake siding with water/ice barrier tar paper between.

My current plan is to mount a king electric u24100 208v 1000W radiant heater inside. I might go with a smaller wattage model, i haven't calculated what i need yet. This has a thermostat that goes down to 40F. The breaker for this would be off most of the year and turned on when it gets cold.

I am open to any and all ideas. Thanks in advance.

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#1

Re: Antifreeze protection for a pumphouse

08/09/2019 10:01 PM

You might also consider trace heating tape.

Wrap your pipes and tank with it then wrap the lot in insulation.

That way you get the heat where you need it rather than losing it to the open space with an added advantage of less power usage, although capital cost might be a hindrance.

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#13
In reply to #1

Re: Antifreeze protection for a pumphouse

08/10/2019 10:48 PM

Definitely heat tape on the pipes and use insulation to keep the heat where you want it.

A dragline I worked on had heat tape around the grease lines so the grease kept pumpable during the cold winter nights. Control was by measuring the equipment house temperature as well as the exterior temperature and turning on the heating in areas needed.

Cost of heat tape is a one off and very economical to run.

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#2

Re: Antifreeze protection for a pumphouse

08/09/2019 10:07 PM

Well the first thing I would consider is that the more insulation you have the less heat you will use....the insulation you pay for once, but the heat is forever...so on such a small enclosure I would suggest R-30+ and probably would go at least R-48...which is about 8-9" foam or 16" of fiberglass...I would probably go with 3" of foam board exterior and R-30 fiberglass interior....You could probably heat the interior with a hundred watts...but I would probably go with heat tape strategically placed around the pipe and tank...

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#3

Re: Antifreeze protection for a pumphouse

08/10/2019 1:41 AM

Assuming 45º inside and 0º outside, that is a 45º temp difference.
The total surface area of the pumphouse is 264 ft2.
Three inches of foam board gives R15 of insulation, plus a bit more from the siding and sheetrock.

(264 x 45)/15 = 792 Btu/h of heat required. 792/3.41 ≈ 232 watts.

SE's choice uses more insulation and less wattage; this choice uses insulation that will fit between the wall studs and rafters.

I would look for a 500W ceramic-block type of small space heater. That gives some reserve; and it will run only as needed to maintain temperature. The heater will be 120V single-phase, which you can get by using one phase and neutral of your 208V system.
_______

That is probably simplest. The heat trace option is also good. Because of the smaller area of the tank and the short run of exposed piping, 100W of heat tape should be plenty, along with tank and pipe insulation.

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#4

Re: Antifreeze protection for a pumphouse

08/10/2019 4:37 AM

Two thermostats.

Not my idea, but the advice of an Alaskan coach driver who got home to a flooded basement when the heating did not come on. Two homes can afford back-up.

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#5

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 8:41 AM

I recommend a heat tape as well.

They are frequently used in reptile cages,but there are many other uses as well, such as your applications.

They come in various widths and lengths,and are customizable.

There are wide widths suitable to wrap an entire tank,and narrow ones for piping.

Check this link for more info:

https://www.reptilebasics.com/heat-tape

There are more sources than the one I listed,so you might want to shop around for the best price.

These do not come with a thermostat,but MUST have one installed.

I also recommend a thermal cut off device (TCO) under the tape.

This is a back-up fail safe device that will open the circuit if temperature exceeds it's design limit.

Two connected in series at different points on the tape if you are a belt-and-suspenders guy.

An example is a CANTHERM SDF DF0728.

It is designed to open at 162F,and cost around $1 each.

Be safe, not sorry.

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#6

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 11:33 AM

You could also go so far as a freeze temperature alarm with a battery backup....

https://www.absoluteautomation.com/temperature-alarms/

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#7

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 4:26 PM

Why in the world do you have a pump and water lines above your frost line? How can you have this plumbing and meet local building codes? The frost line of Seattle, Washington is just 12 inches. Dig a two foot deep hole inside this pump house to recess your pump and water lines and then put a proper insulated cover over the hole inside the house.

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 8:36 PM

Redfred,

The pumphouse was built in 1946 and likely met codes of the time. The pumphouse is on slab. The pump is submersible as referenced in my original post. This picture shows the situation.

Thank you everyone who has replied with different solutions, much appreciated.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 9:41 PM

So this should not be a new problem. Do you know how the pipes in this pumphouse didn't freeze and split during any of these days?

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 10:30 PM

There have been portable space heaters doing the job in the past, one electric fan type and one propane type. One of the old wall outlets had some kind of meltdown and was visibly burned out. There was a fire on the opposite end of the structure I suspect came from a homemade smoker. I have refurbished most of the structure over the last few weeks. This pump room is the last part of the project.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/11/2019 8:42 AM

So this is now a classic example of what I call a "financial engineering" decision.

IMHO the "correct" way to mitigate this is to put everything, including that storage tank, below the frost line so even a long term power loss in winter will not freeze any water contained in a pipe, tank or pump housing. However, this solution is expensive and significantly time consuming to implement.

The use of heater tapes wrapped around the pipes offers a frugal solution that will likely prevent most scenarios of freezing/bursting pipes. What I dislike of this approach is two fold:

First, these rarely needed heaters are not monitored for failure. Adding heater tapes and not monitoring can induce a false sense of security. Adding complicating alarm circuitry requires somebody knowing what to do and responding when the alarm sounds.

Second, mixing electricity and water presents a possible shock hazard. Care in the placement of disconnects and GFCI devices must be considered.

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 9:59 PM

A heat tape is the cheapest and easiest way to solve your problem.

They are available in different lengths with a built in thermostat that turns on at 35F and off at 45F.This is the cheapest and easiest way.

Most hardware stores carry them.

Just remember do not overlap the tape.

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#8

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/10/2019 4:36 PM

Self-limiting heat cable (vs heat tape) is the better product for your application. You still need thermometer controls, but it won't overheat and the temperature range is a better fit for keeping a pipe above freezing.

https://oemheaters.com/topic/heating-tape

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#15

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/11/2019 5:02 PM

I've heated larger and colder spaces with a 100w bulb.

..if I were worried about power outages. I'd heat the pipes as well as a local barrel of water with a small immersion heater. ..or simply the ambient heat.

The barrel of water will radiate heat for a long time in these conditions.

If I didn't want to spend a nickle I'd fill the area with 2 liter bottles of water and many blankets of insulation.

I've regulated temp in this way as well.

..more food for thought.

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#16

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/11/2019 7:30 PM

The water is probably coming out of the ground at around 50 degF. There is a lot of heat in water that warm. I suggest an electric valve on a thermostat. When the interior air temperature gets low, the electric valve would open and circulate well water through some radiant coils - copper tubing or even PVC. Drain the water back into the well when it has given off it's latent heat. This is a very low cost solution since all you need is a valve, thermostat and some tubing. When it runs, the heat will be much cheaper than heat from electrical resistance.

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#24
In reply to #16

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/13/2019 6:18 PM

Wow, I'm amazed that the water would be so warm. My well water is so cold, I've given serious thought to using it to rig up an insulated cooler.

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#25
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Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/13/2019 8:42 PM

Map of ground water temperatures:

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#17

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/12/2019 5:37 AM

Self-limiting heat tracing tape attached to small-bore pipework, fed from a thermostat, and plenty of pipe insulation over it and the pipe is also an attractive solution and may well use less power than the <...1000W...> currently envisioned.

Domestic water tanks in the UK, used to pressurise the hot water part of the plumbing, are usually mounted in the loft space and arranged so that, as far as thermal insulation around and over them is concerned, they are part of the house. That way there is no need to trace-heat the tank as it picks up gentle warmth from the house below.

Water supply and waste water processing utilities often don't insulate exterior pipework above 8in/200mm diameter, as there is sufficient flow for there to be no need.

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#18

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/12/2019 10:33 AM

I grew up in Northern West Virginia. We insulated the space that the pump was in and used a 65 Watt incandescent light bulb. With many nights in a row well below freezing we never had the pump freeze.

I specify incandescent because I recently saw cheesy bread being "kept warm" with a CFL.

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#19

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/12/2019 11:11 AM

FireAnt,

Adding insulation to the structure is a good idea no matter what source of heat you use. I agree that the best approach is self-regulating heat tape designed for freeze protection. The next approach is infrared heat because it heats the objects instead of the air.

Self-regulating heat tape uses a partially-conductive polymer containing carbon particles in the space between the two conductors, built sort of like the old twin-lead TV antenna wire. The low level of current flow warms the polymer matrix and causes it to expand, which automatically reduces the current flow and thus reduces the amount of heat. This therefore causes it to regulate its temperature at all points along its length. So, if it is wrapped closely or on top of itself, these areas will warm up a little more, which reduces the heat output in those spots. If it is poorly covered with insulation in some areas these areas will tend to be cooler and will therefore put out more heat.

No thermostat needed. Some versions would allow you to add an indicator light at the end of the cable to verify that it is working. Typically available for 120v input voltage and can be cut to any length without worry. Just follow the manufacturer's instructions closely and properly insulate the splices. Typical high temperature is not much over 50-degF. I mentioned "designed for freeze protection" because you can also buy the same type of product designed for heat tracing, which means it operates with a much higher temperature--you don't want that.

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#20

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/12/2019 12:51 PM

In my well pump pit I use a small (750/1500 watt) milkhouse style heater set on 750 and the thermostat set low. Cheap and reliable. I have had problems with heat tape and incandescent bulbs burning out in the distant past.

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#21

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/12/2019 1:09 PM

I wouldn't have thought of the idea of geothermal heating from circulating wellwater. Perhaps not the quickest/cheapest solution, but maybe the most elegant.

Never having subzero temps is rather enviable.

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#22

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/13/2019 11:14 AM

Here is a caution for you, it appears from the photo you posted that the piping is metallic, if I am wrong and if you elect to use heat trace...

If you have PVC or ABS pipes, make sure you do not wrap the heat trace around the pipes. Attach the trace only to the bottom of the pipe. Why? ABS and PVC pipe do not flow heat like metal pipes do and heat trace on the top portions and sides can cause hot spots because of the difference in thermal conductivity. Many fires have resulted from people wrapping heat trace around such pipes.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/13/2019 5:32 PM

North of 60,

You are right that the "typical" heat trace cable can do the things you describe. Most manufacturers of it caution against using it on any plastic piping. However, the self-regulating heat trace cable I have described is safe to use on PVC, ABS, etc. piping because it automatically adjusts the heat output everywhere along its length. Try it some time.

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#26
In reply to #23

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/13/2019 9:05 PM

Agreed... and I have used the self limiting type. However, as our section of the government where I worked included the Fire Marshal's Office, I have seen the fire reports that back up my warning. These fires have and do happen, hence my note of caution.

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#27

Re: Antifreeze Protection for a Pumphouse

08/16/2019 2:21 PM

While underground piping, etc. would be a more permanent solution, your solution is common and works well.

As long as you insulate properly, your 1000 watt heater will work nicely.

Downsizing your heater might be cheaper, but the smaller heater will run longer (the total electricity use will probably be close to the same).

I place equipment that must remain above 32F to properly function in portable enclosures all over the world, including northern Canada.

How do I do it.....twin 5000 watt heaters (one is a back-up).

The only difference is my systems are site critical and therefore I monitor the temperature.

You're just looking at frozen pipes

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