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Thread: How to heat copper pipe downstream and non-accessible?

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member lithnights's Avatar
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    Default How to heat copper pipe downstream and non-accessible?

    Let's assume you have a 10 foot piece of copper that is in an outside wall and non-accessible. The pipe is prone to freezing a couple times a year (basically when it is down around 15 degrees or so). The pipe before that 10 foot piece is in a heated area (basement) and IS accessible.

    Is there any product that can be hooked up to the accessible pipe that would be able to somehow heat up the non-accessible 10 foot run?

    I know there is heat tape and other wraps that heat up pipe that it is directly wrapped around. But is there anythng that will warm up pipe that is 10 feet down the run?

    Thanks!

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    Plumber patrick88's Avatar
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    I have not seen anything that you are looking for. I would reroute the pipe to a heated location.
    I'm just starting to work with an old friend of mine to bring solar electric and hot water systems, wind turbines, Flex Fuel Boilers, batteries, hydroponic gardening, books, pellet grills and more. Also the parts for DIY installation.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    A hot water recirculation system might do what you want. you could probably set it up with a thermostat so it didn't run all the time, but depending on the layout, this may not work at all.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Up here in cold country there are people who will use an electric welder to thaw pipes that are under ground.

    You could make or acquire a transformer that could be connected to both ends of that pipe and put some power through it. Someone would have to make the calculations and it might turn out that it is not practical or that you would not want to have such a device in your house.

    Are you on a well or a municipal water system? If you are on a well with the usual variation in pressure, I have a solution that will probably work.

    If you install a small bladder tank, such as the tanks used to protect closed system, so that the pipe is between your existing tank and the new tank, then variations in pressure when water is used or when your pump cycles will cause flow through that section of pipe.

    It will work only if there is some use of water somewhere that results in a change of pressure in your system. If there is an older man in the house, tell him to flush the toilet when he gets up in the middle of the night.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If along that run, it is going to a sink or someplace where there is both hot and cold, a recirulation system would work. If it is say just a run to a hose bib, it wouldn't.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  6. #6

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    A copper pipe that keeps freezing is likely to become a burst pipe that floods the premisis. Each time copper freezes hard enough, it stretches a little. Usually, about three times is all it takes to burst.

    If it's in a wall, the copper should be on the room side of the insulation, rather than being insulated from the heat. If there's space in the wall, a small grille could be put at top and bottom of the stud space or whatever it is to allow air to flow through the wall.

    However you do it, it must be done, you cannot leave the pipe unprotected.

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default tank

    Any movement between the new and old tanks would just be a shifting of the static water. There would not be any new water so it would stay at its original temperature and keep getting colder until it froze.

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    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    where does this pipe go to? If there is a hot water pipe nearby, I'd go the hot water recirc loop as Jim mentioned.

    david

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    Plumber patrick88's Avatar
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    I would reroute the pipe to a heated location.
    Reroute is the best choice. It never needs to be plugged in and the pump or motor never fails. It tends to be the cheapest option of all options. If walls need to be opened or any other such damage it is still cheaper than adding mechanical options.
    I'm just starting to work with an old friend of mine to bring solar electric and hot water systems, wind turbines, Flex Fuel Boilers, batteries, hydroponic gardening, books, pellet grills and more. Also the parts for DIY installation.

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    DIY Senior Member lithnights's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks for all the replies.

    I'll try to answer the questions all at once.

    The pipes go to an upstairs bathroom where they split off to the toilet, single sink, and shower.

    Rerouting is not an option. Getting them to where they are now was an $800 job (the contractor removed an inner wall, built the empty space, put the pipes through there, and installed kitchen base cabinets, granite countertop, tile backsplash, and wall cabinets against that wall. Changing that wall would destroy our kitchen which we just spent tens of thousands of dollars to do. I hate to say it but the pipes aren't going anywhere.

    The pipes have only frozen once but they have only been there one season (kitchen was redone last winter).

    I would prefer not to use a transformer and run power through it. And I'm not sure how I would connect it to both ends of the pipe.

    I imagine the water recirc would be an idea but I'm not sure of the details of that. I would be willing to do that.. I imagine it would involve installing the recirc in the upstairs bathroom where the pipes end up.

    My initial thought is to go into the dead space from the outside by removing the siding and the piece of plywood that is there (covering an old window opening). I would think filling that space with batt insulation (or blown) would be an efficient way to keep it warmer. I know that you can only hold off the cold for so long but I'm in SE PA so it doesn't get tooooooo cold.

    So it looks like the recirc or insulation..or both!

  11. #11
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    A recirculation system will give you instant hot water in that bathroom (and maybe at other locations depending on how the pipes run). Basically, although the details differ depending on the system chosen, you install a check valve and crossover at the sink or fixture furthest from the water heater in the area where your problem is, then the pump. If you don't have a dedicated return line, it runs hot water back through the cold water line through the cross-over. Grundfos, Taco, Redi-temp, and others make systems to do this. Some put the pump at the tank, some put it under the sink (which would require power there), so there is some choice. Some of the systems allow you to put a crossover at each sink, so that you get the benefit everywhere. Use the search function and you'll get a bunch of hits for reference.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Senior Member lithnights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    A recirculation system will give you instant hot water in that bathroom (and maybe at other locations depending on how the pipes run). Basically, although the details differ depending on the system chosen, you install a check valve and crossover at the sink or fixture furthest from the water heater in the area where your problem is, then the pump. If you don't have a dedicated return line, it runs hot water back through the cold water line through the cross-over. Grundfos, Taco, Redi-temp, and others make systems to do this. Some put the pump at the tank, some put it under the sink (which would require power there), so there is some choice. Some of the systems allow you to put a crossover at each sink, so that you get the benefit everywhere. Use the search function and you'll get a bunch of hits for reference.
    I've seen the recirc discussions in the past (I believe I had asked about it last year or so) so am a bit familiar. My only issue is getting power to under the sink. The stud area behind the sink is a bit tricky (the waste pipe is there, the hot and cold run horizontal across that area, and there are studs everywhere since the bath has been redone twice in the past. I had it completely open last year when I redid it so I at least know where everything is. I am wondering if that lack of power is going to hinder me from going forth with that idea...

    Thanks!

  13. #13
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithnights View Post
    ...go into the dead space from the outside by removing the siding and the piece of plywood that is there ....
    drill 2 holes and blow in cellulose insulation.

    Then, put a recirc loop as Jim described.

    It is not funny to read that it only froze once in the first 365 days. At that rate you will have to spend $20000 to fix your rotting house in 2010.

    david

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    General Contractor Carpenter toolaholic's Avatar
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    Default Jadnashua ,great idea!!!!

    The Grundfis recirc., pump

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    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    The small bladder tank system that I described, and that someone said won't work, would work as follows.

    When there is a change in pressure, water will flow between the tanks. The small amount of water in the cold pipe will flow to somewhere that is warmer and will become warmer, while warmer water from a warmer place will replace the water in the cold place that was in danger of freezing.

    The cycle will be repeated every time the pressure changes. When the pump runs it will add a new charge of water to the tank, through the cold space.

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