Can I “winterize” the charged water feed lines in my cottage with RV anti-freeze? Posted in both the Plumbing forum and Well forum.

We have a 1700 square foot lakefront home that we use as a cottage, mostly during the summer. It has two full bathrooms, one kitchen, a washer and dryer, hot water heater and water softener. Water service is provided by a deep well.

The home has hot water heat (I’ve made other posts regarding it), and the insulation is fair, not great. During the winter I turn the well pump OFF, as the heat system is a closed loop. The heat pipes/lines are filled with anti-freeze.

We (reluctantly) heat it during the winter, but we rarely go there. It’s expensive, and that drives me nuts. The one year we paid a company to winterize it, the cost was nearly $400 to close it and re-open it, and we still had a minor problem in the spring. The cost to keep it heated at a minimum level (see the next paragraph) is about the same price, perhaps a bit more.

The well charges a two-inch plastic pipe that runs underground from the well head to a crawl space under my kitchen, along the underside of the floor, and then to a point in about the middle of the home where it enters the home and feeds the water softener, et cetera via copper pipe. This plastic pipe often freezes during the winter, as the crawl space is not insulated and the heat is kept at 46 degrees during the time we are not there.

During the few times we have used the cottage during the winter, I have had to slowly thaw the feed line with a heat gun applying indirect heat. It’s a pain, but it does work. Upon our arrival in the spring, we have not experienced problems with pipes that may have frozen while we left the heat on.

One idea offered by another cottage owner was intriguing. I’d like your feedback.

He suggested turning power to the well pump off and draining the hot water heater. Then he turns the feed valve off at the water heater. Then he suggests installing a tee type valve on the main water feed line. The valve would do three things: First, it would not allow water to go past the valve (like a ball valve or check valve). In other words, the valve would prevent fresh water from the well to feed the line, even if the power was restored to the pump.

The top of the tee valve would have a funnel area and would allow anti-freeze to be poured into it or forced into it with a shallow well pump connected to it. The other side of the valve would be connected to the other side of the main feed line.

He says he’s done this at his cottage and that it works like this: with a small pump, he forces RV anti-freeze into all lines of his house until the faucets, shower heads, toilets, etc. show evidence of red RV anti-freeze coming out of them. After flushing the toilets and ensuring all water feed areas have anti-freeze in them (including the clothes washer), by opening faucets and running the washer for a moment, he says the copper lines in the house will not freeze.

Recognizing it may take 20, 30, 40 or more gallons – at a cost of $4 per gallon – it’s not inexpensive. However, if his idea is not too far-fetched to work, it would save money, even if I had to re-charge it with anti-freeze after using it for along weekend a couple of times during the winter.

Is this a hair-brained idea or a smart idea? Your thoughts?

Thank you.