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Thread: should we insulate pipes in crawl space of seasonal camp

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member allycat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Default should we insulate pipes in crawl space of seasonal camp

    We are new owners of a vacation home / log cabin in central Maine. This first winter, we plan to visit once or twice a month, leaving the interior heat at about 50 degrees. The cabin is built on a 3 foot deep crawl space, with blue foam around the inside perimeter of the crawl space; outside is a plywood skirt. Water supply is from a well, so water coming in will be colder as winter progresses. Should we insulate the water pipes in the crawl space, or does the insulation have the opposite effect of keeping the ambient heat in the crawl space from reaching the pipes? The bathroom above the main well line has a Rinnai heater inside it, but we're not sure whether that will generate enough heat below. Any thoughts are appreciated.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    You might want to consider just draining all of the water. if the pipes are sloped properly, this may not be hard to do. Some RV antifreeze in the traps should keep the drain lines from freezing (toilet, sinks, etc.).

    Moving water tends not to freeze, but just sitting there, if there are any air leaks, the pipes could freeze, insulation or not. If the pipes are up in a joist bay, rather than crossing below, if you put some insulation beneath them, the heat from the house would be trapped. You need to be careful about moisture barriers so you don't end up with condensation or rot.

    So, it sort of depends. Maine can get REALLY cold, so you need to take this seriously. Maybe a picture to show how things are arranged under there, or a diagram might help provide better responses.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Yakima WA


    Just remember, insulation does not provide heat. It only slows heat transfer. If it gets really cold, insulation will not protect the pipes from freezing. Think of hot coffee in a vacuum bottle. It will stay hot longer than coffee in a cup, but it will eventually get cold.

  4. #4
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009


    The thickness and air-tightness of the blue foam matters, but as-described as-installed it's probably a code violation in any event.

    Counting on the heating system to prevent freeze-up in the crawl space on an unattended cabin seems like a level optimism worthy of Pollyanna, even if the crawlspace were perfectly air-sealed and high-R to the exterior. You're never more than one power-failure away from losing heat (but we know that the power in central ME NEVER fails when it's actually cold out- Maine has the worlds most reliable grid, right? :-) )

    Draining the distribution plumbing and the water heater, even blowing them out with compressed air is probably the best approach.

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