View Full Version : Pipe from Well freezes every winter

10-22-2004, 09:43 AM
I have a vacation home in Vermont and every year, usually February, the pipe from the well freezes underneath the house and I don't have water until the spring thaw. The pump is fine and there appears to be heating tape on the pipe but it's probably shot.I don't have access to the crawl space so I need to come up with a way to drain the pipe so it doesn't freeze when I'm away this winter (I don't want to tear up my bathroom floor). A local plumber suggested a dry hydrant outside at the well so that the water could drain back into the well. Was wondering if anyone knows if this is the way to go or are there other options for keeping the line into the house from freezing. The well is 190' with a submersible pump.
Thanks for any advice

10-22-2004, 09:58 AM
A simple cure (if the proper conditions exist) is to send a flexible small tube into the pipe, far enough to get past the problem area and with the aid of a small drill pump ,suck all the water out.
Make sure you turn all pump power OFF, etc, before doing this. Drain all other lines.
Like I said,its a good easy cure, IF the right conditions are ok(such as no sharp bends in elbows,etc.

10-22-2004, 10:13 AM
I have the same situation. I located a pit far enough towards the pump to get below the frost level (my pipe slopes towards the well) and installed a drain, as your plumber suggested. You will have a much deeper frost line than here in DE.

10-22-2004, 10:38 AM
Thanks for the replies. Both suggestions sound good. I guess the best thing would be to install the dry hydrant so I could shut off the water supply at the connection to the well and then use a drill pump to drain out the line under the house. It doesn't seem possible to use just the drill pump since it seems like it would want to continue to drain the well if there isn't a valve to close at the well. What I'm trying to say is what would stop the drill pump from continuing to drain the well if there isn't a stop at the well. It'd be great to only have to use a drill pump since installing the dry hydrant is kind of pain since I'll be digging down to were the pipe enters the well (about 5 ft). Thanks for the advice it's very helpful.

10-22-2004, 11:32 AM
I think you are misunderstanding the drill pump. He is (I think) talking about a small pump on a drill motor, where you stick a hose or tube down the supply line, and suck all of the standing water out of the line. You'd have to open up something, maybe a union or something to do this, and, as indicated, wouldn't work if there were bends, etc such that you couldn't get the tubing down far enough. You'd also have to consider what that might do to contaminating your water line. You'd have to remove that tube and seal things back up each time you used it.

10-22-2004, 12:36 PM
I am curious how it is that these lines freeze every year and yet do not break? What kind of pipe?
I live in a cold climate too and one of the things I work on all the time is trying to come up with better and easier ways for people to winterize their "cabins".
I don't think I would be for draining anything back into the well. Not quite sure I follow the "dry hydrant" idea...Okay, you install a hydrant in the normal way near the well head somewhere. Power to pump is off, pressure tank, WH, house lines drained. Is the plan to open hydrant, hook a hose to the hydrant, a drill pump, and a hose back to the well head, open faucets in house, turn on drill pump, and pump water from the house main line up through the hydrant and back into the well head? This should work IF there are no bellies or sags in the pipe under the house where you start sucking air. Any water trapped in lower spots will stay there and can freeze. And if the drill pump has the ability to lift the water. A drill pump has a very limited ability to lift water--that is what keeps it from draining the well. If a drill pump could lift the water from a 190' well, we wouldn't put in expensive 220 v 1-1/2+ hp pumps way down there in the ground ;-) Also, I don't know why it would be called a dry hydrant since it wouldn't really be.
Hube's idea is good, but like he said, only if there are no nineties or sharp bends.
No access to your crawl space? Seen crawl spaces that I wondered why they had an access since no one who weighted more than 80#s could possibly get down there, but never a crawl space with no access. Don't think that you should tear up your bathroom floor either, most people do not have access holes in their bathroom floors. How about a closet, under a staircase, a pantry? I find that lines under homes freeze when the crawl space is not tight--you go down there in the dark and can see NO light, which means no place for cold air to come in. The ground actually puts out quite a bit of heat. I don't believe that I have ever gone into a crawl space that is completely tight and repaired freeze breaks.....
The Pipewench

10-22-2004, 06:12 PM
Thanks again for the replies. The idea of the dry hydrant is that it would be connected to the pvc pipe about a foot from the well. When the hydrant is closed, so to speak, it would allow the water to drain back into the well (a one-way street, basically). This is what the local plumber told me and I'm a novice as far as these things are concerned. I do wonder that if there is any pressure in the well line, even with the pump off, that would keep it from draining back into the well. I don't think there are any As for Deb's question about crawl space access, there really is no access under the bathroom and that is where the HWH and pressure tank are. The only line I have outside of the bathroom goes to the kitchen and that's easy to drain. The bathroom is always heated with a propane heater by the way so I don't drain the HWH or the toilet. I try to get to the house every couple of weeks so I'm trying to avoid a process that would be too involved. Thanks again for replying your expertise is appreciated.

10-23-2004, 11:17 AM
What you have said about the dry hydrant does not make any sense. Can you elaborate a little further? I hate to see you go the hassel of putting a bury hydrant in if it is not going to do what you want and I just cannot understand what the plan is or how it is going to work and this is stuff I deal with all the time.
The Pipewench

10-23-2004, 12:32 PM
I too don't understand your thinking on this "dry hydrant".
Since you say this is a Sub pump, then it more than likely has a check valve in it.
For this so-called dry pump (???)to work this check valve will have to be removed to afford any "drain back"
On my original idea for you to check out if you can do it, the drill activated pump (its approx a $ 6 pump that goes on a regular electric drill) will only suck water as far as you insert the flexible tubing. A 45 degree T installed on the line at or near the pressure tank will accept the flexible tubing and then run as far as you think it will freeze .
Again, this tube will not suck your well dry, it will only suck the water only as far as the end of the tube is inserted.
As far as contamination, a simple wiping with a cloth with some bleach on it kills any bacteria that may be on the flex tube. We have done this procedure many times on various sesonal cottages in the Canadian north (muskokas) where the winter temps get down to the sub zeros. Of course these lines had large radius fittings and we had no difficulty inserting the tube .

Bob's HandyGuy
10-23-2004, 04:21 PM
Can't you rig up a fitting where you could blow out the lines with compressed air? They do that to sprinkler systems every winter here in Michigan.