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Thread: Winter Camp Water System

  1. #1

    Default Winter Camp Water System

    Up here in Maine we call cottages "camps". As in "This weekend we're goin' uptah camp!" I recently purchased a building lot in ski country and plan to build a very simple 16' x 24' camp. We will be using the place on weekends in the winter. I want to design a simple water supply from a drilled well. I have seen some plans for self-draining systems, but at this point I'm assuming my supply line to the camp will be under-ground below frostline. I don't wan't to heat my camp during the week, and I don't want to deal with heat cable. I want to be able to drain my traps (and seal off any possible gases from entering the camp), and drain my supply lines. I'm thinking of putting a tee in the supply line and a valve that I could blow air through to clear the bit of supply line between the pressure-tank and frost-line. The rest of the supply lines will drain by gravity. I don't think it will be a good idea to use the pressure tank in the winter - adding water to it when I get to camp and it's
    -20 F out doesn't seem like a good idea. Can I put a bypass around the pressure tank and use the pump directly to fill a holding tank in the camp? Any ideas are appreciated.

  2. #2
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Here are some things you can do to minimize freeze prevention effort.

    1. Use a submersible pump so you don't have to worry about draining a jet pump.

    2. Put the line from well to tank below the frost line.

    3. Put a tee where the well-pipe turns to the pitless adapter, and put a drain valve on that tee that can be operated from above ground. You can probably put a boiler drain in the up-pointing run of the tee and operate it with a shaft that goes through the well cap.

    4. Use a bladder tank, which is easy to drain.

    5. Pipe the water supply, both hot and cold water, so all pipes can be drained easily. Include a valve at the highest spot to admit air when the pipes are drained.

    I suggest using 1/2" copper for water supply pipes in the house because it will be a lot easier to avoid low spots in the pipes.

    When you shut down the system:
    1. Turn off power to the pump.
    2. Open all valves and faucets, including all shower control valves.
    3. Open the drain valve in the well
    4. Open all drain valves in the water supply lines.
    5. Make sure the water heater is drained. The water heater should have a vacuum breaker to avoid risk of collapsing it if you drain it without opening a hot water faucet.

  3. #3
    Well Driller, pump installer, engineer pitless's Avatar
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    I make a pitless unit that is purfect for this use. The pressure tank and controls fit in the pitless unit. You can install a yard hydrant next to the well and install an underground stop and waste valve so you can drain the cabin.
    You will still have water at the yard hydrant year round.

    you can find more info at www.pitlessunit.com

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by pitless View Post
    I make a pitless unit that is purfect for this use. The pressure tank and controls fit in the pitless unit. You can install a yard hydrant next to the well and install an underground stop and waste valve so you can drain the cabin.
    You will still have water at the yard hydrant year round.

    you can find more info at www.pitlessunit.com

    Very interesting. Let me see if I undersand this. The pressure tank/pitless adapter/controls are all located inside the well, below frostline protecting the system from the cold and avoiding having to drain the system? I think I have to go about 5 feet down up here - it's friggin' COLD in maine! What diameter drilled well is needed for this system? Also, Maine is the second wettest state in the country and the water table is often very high. My well at home is often full to the top - above the pitless adapter. So my question is, can this system be submersed? I've thought about the frost-free yard hydrant as a means to operate a valve below frostline, but isn't there water left in the line above the valve? Wouldn't this freeze and cause damage to it? Also I'm not sure how to configure a stop/waste valve that would be easy to access (5 feet underground). Any ideas? I was thinking I could use diaphragm hand pump and connect it to the yard hydrant and pump air into the line, forcing the remaining water out a open faucet in the camp.

  5. #5
    Well Driller, pump installer, engineer pitless's Avatar
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    The body of the pitlessunit is 12" and has a connection to fit your well.

    I am from Nebraska and we are currently up to a balmy 20. The Pitless Control Modules have operated at -20 with out problems. I currently make up to 8' bury units.

    If the water table gets that high I would not recommend using the pitless unit. We also make a buried tank eliminator which house a Cycle Stop Valve, pressure switch, tank, and relief valve. This goes on the water line leading from the pitless unit. The valve, tank, switch etc. can be removed from the top. Does the ground get satuated to the surface? If you are in a boggy, swampy area this may not work for you either. The buried tank eliminator can have a cap on the bottom which has a drain if the ground gets occasionally damp.

    A stop and drain valve like I mentioned has a riser that comes up to the surface. It looks just like a curb shut off in town it has a hole in the side so that when you shut the valve off the use side drains. You use a "key" to turn the valve off and on. These can be purchased or some people make their own. Some people also make their own risers. The best style of valve to buy is called a Minniapolis pattern. The best brand is Ora-seal. It has o-rings to seal it and is easy to turn.

    The yard hydrant has a hole at the bottom and when it is shut off the riser drains. Just put a bucket of gravel at the bottom of the hydrant.


    They make yard hydrants that are self draining for winter use.
    Last edited by Terry; 09-20-2009 at 10:56 AM.

  6. #6

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    Thanks so much for the advice. I need to further evaluate my site before I decide what system to use, but I will definitely keep your ideas in mind. Do you have any diagrams of how set up these systems?

  7. #7
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pitless View Post
    I make a pitless unit that is purfect for this use. The pressure tank and controls fit in the pitless unit. You can install a yard hydrant next to the well and install an underground stop and waste valve so you can drain the cabin.
    You will still have water at the yard hydrant year round.

    you can find more info at www.pitlessunit.com
    The pitless tank system will work, and the advantage of putting it fully underground in the well has been described, but there has been no discussion about the fact that it requires a variable speed drive pump and the pump must be running whenever there is significant water flow such as a few seconds at a bathroom sink or flushing a toilet.

    What is the installed cost? What is the power consumption per 1000 gallons for such a unit over the range of uses from lavatory flows of about 0.5 GPM to 5 GPM?

    It is hard to imagine that the system will work any better, or be easier to install, than a boiler drain or stop-waste valve in the well casing and a bladder tank in the cabin. I prefer the drain in the well to a drain underground in a bucket of gravel that has been described because (1) The gravel drain under ground may not have the capacity to drain the water from the cabin, and (2) A stop-waste valve underground is a path for contamination of the system on the user side of the valve (the cabin in this case) and such installation is prohibited by most codes where the user side of the valve is connected to a potable water system.

    If one does a comparison of features and cost for the equivalent parts:
    1. Bladder tank, 30 to 40 gallons depending on pump size, and a drain valve in the well with an operating rod sticking out the well cap.
    2. Pitless tank with variable speed pump system - Does anyone have a quote for a system?

    Finally, I would be reluctant to install what is a comparatively high-tech system such as a variable speed constant-pressure pump system in a semi-remote area where the local people may not have either the parts or the knowledge to service it.

  8. #8
    Moderator valveman's Avatar
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    The pitless unit works very well with a simple and inexpensive Cycle Stop Valve. Lets don't get off on energy savings for a house well. We have been all through that, and it has been said many times that the average electric bill for a house well is only about $5 per month. So even a system that causes a 200% increase in the electric bill, which is does not, will not make that much of a difference.

    I think everyone forgot that he said the water level was above the pitless. The only way I can see this working is to use the pitless unit buried tank eliminator, with the small tank, CSV, and pressure switch, because it is in a sealed enclosure next to the well. You can still install a bleeder orifice below the pitless adapter. To drain the system, simply shut off power to the pump, and open a faucet at the house. When the pressure tank is drained and there is no more pressure in the system, the bleeder will open and allow everything to flow back into the well.

    The bleeder will also work if the pressure tank is in the house but, the Pitless unit makes a really nice set up, and it is all underground.

  9. #9
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    I agree that the difference in power cost is negligable. However, the equipment and installation cost for the "pitless" variable speed pump "constant pressure" system is probably $1000 more than a 1/2 HP standard submersible with back-drain in the well and a bladder tank.

  10. #10
    Moderator valveman's Avatar
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    Again, the small tank that comes with the Pitless Unit works great with a CSV. I would not use a Variable Speed Pump either.

  11. #11

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    Some interesting ideas - I appreciate all of them. My main concern at this point is how to deal with the pressure tank. It seems there are some easy ways to set up my supply line so it drains, but I worry about the pressure tank being somewhere where it will go way below freezing. Obviously I intend to drain it after each weekend spent at the cabin, but I worry about the rubber bladder the next time I go to use the cabin. I'm sure there would be some residual water left behind that would freeze, and I wouldn't want to force water into the cold (brittle?) bladder. What about a bladderless tank? Is there any way that could work? Or how about not using a pressure tank and pumping directly into a gravity-fed holding tank? Keep in mind that this is a VERY simple cabin I don't need anything fancy. I plan on using a woodstove for my hot water needs in the winter. I'm not a plumber - just a jack-of-all-trades kinda guy. Does anyone know where there are any diagrams/schematic drawings of any of these set-ups? Not having ever done this, a picture would help a lot. Any helpful web pages?

    The prevailing wisdom on the internet is that heat-tape should be used. I would really like to avoid this. I trust mechanical things more than I trust electronic things. Again, I really appreciate the help!

  12. #12
    Rancher
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    Quote Originally Posted by tajco200 View Post
    The prevailing wisdom on the internet is that heat-tape should be used. I would really like to avoid this. I trust mechanical things more than I trust electronic things.
    Heat tape is far from electronic.

    Rancher

  13. #13

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    Perhaps I meant heat-cable. Most of the units people use in this neck of the woods incorporate a small control panel that is plugged in. It regulates the temp. and so forth. If the power goes out you're up the creek.

  14. #14
    Rancher
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    Quote Originally Posted by tajco200 View Post
    Most of the units people use in this neck of the woods incorporate a small control panel that is plugged in. It regulates the temp. and so forth. If the power goes out you're up the creek.
    Not familiar with the control panel version... but yes if the power goes out, you either need a backup, or you're up the creek.

    Rancher

  15. #15
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob NH View Post
    I suggest using 1/2" copper for water supply pipes in the house because it will be a lot easier to avoid low spots in the pipes.
    This is exactly where I would run PEX as carefully as possible to avoid any low spots. However, if it didn't fully drain down one time it would not split and leak like copper would, Warm it up and the water is running again!

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