Frozen Line Between Well and House

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Dis384

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Morning all. First post here, long time reader. Thank you all for all the help and information you have already provided me.

I live up in the mountains of CO at 11000 ft and unfortunately came back from a trip to find my cistern not filling.

I have a submersible pump at 365' depth, filling a 400 gallon cistern in the basement.

The pitless adapter is probably 6-7' deep, and the underground line is approximately 175-200 ft of 1/2" copper.

I had a well tech install a "drain back" in the system this summer, as the cistern is top fed and the line that fills it allows air in. When it was installed this summer he turned on the pump, and then turned it off and confirmed he heard it "sucking" the water back towards the well.

But apparently it is not pulling all of the water out of the system as there is water freezing somewhere between the house and the pitless.

I had a welder come out Monday and we thawed the lines out, cistern filled up and wasn't calling for anymore water, and the line was frozen again by Wednesday.

Was wondering if anyone had any suggestions or solutions that had worked for them? Maybe the drainback needs to be installed deeper (Im guessing some of the copper line runs up hill from the house to the well which is causing that water to get stuck in the line and freeze)? Is there not enough air in the cistern when full to allow it to siphon the water back into the well?

Thanks again!
 

Valveman

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Any low spot in that line may hold water and freeze. You may need a larger or more drain back valves. If it drains back fast enough it will create a siphon and suck out even the low spots. Won't happen if it drains back slowly. I would say to just take the check valve out of the pump, but at 300' deep the pump would spin backwards like crazy. You could probably drill maybe a 1/2" hole in the check valve, which would let it drain back faster and maybe not spin the pump.

Other than that they make some heat trace or heat tape that can be slid inside the pipe, but I don't know much about it.
 

Reach4

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Was wondering if anyone had any suggestions or solutions that had worked for them? Maybe the drainback needs to be installed deeper (Im guessing some of the copper line runs up hill from the house to the well which is causing that water to get stuck in the line and freeze)? Is there not enough air in the cistern when full to allow it to siphon the water back into the well?

If the output of the pipe to the cistern is below the water level, that could complicate things. If you could, you would know there is a belly. I guess you already know there is a belly, but you would like to know where and if your attempt of a fix was successful.

How did the welder thaw your pipe? Put a current through the whole length to generate heat?

You might be able to rig up a test to see if you can pressurize that copper pipe to 0.25 psi of air pressure in a static state.

I am thinking about a system where you compress air into a tank while the pump runs, and releases that air on the pump side of a new check valve when the pump turns off. I am not a pro.
 
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Dis384

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Any low spot in that line may hold water and freeze. You may need a larger or more drain back valves. If it drains back fast enough it will create a siphon and suck out even the low spots. Won't happen if it drains back slowly. I would say to just take the check valve out of the pump, but at 300' deep the pump would spin backwards like crazy. You could probably drill maybe a 1/2" hole in the check valve, which would let it drain back faster and maybe not spin the pump.

Other than that they make some heat trace or heat tape that can be slid inside the pipe, but I don't know much about it.
Thanks Cary! Might you have a link to or any information about a larger drain back valve, or what type of valve the well tech might have put in and if I could just stack a few of those? I can't seem to find the service invoice at the moment.

Thanks a bunch, all of your previous posts that I have read through have been incredibly helpful in learning about my well.
 

Dis384

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If the output of the pipe to the cistern is below the water level, that could complicate things. If you could, you would know there is a belly. I guess you already know there is a belly, but you would like to know where and if your attempt of a fix was successful.

How did the welder thaw your pipe? Put a current through the whole length to generate heat?

You might be able to rig up a test to see if you can pressurize that copper pipe to 0.25 psi of air pressure in a static state.

I am thinking about a system where you compress air into a tank while the pump runs, and releases that air on the pump side of a new check valve when the pump turns off. I am not a pro.
Yea the welder hooked up 170ish amps to the line and it defrosted in 30 mins.

I also had the idea of some sort of pressurized blow out, not sure how I would automate it though.

Hoping as Cary mentioned that if I can make the flow of the drain back high enough it will pull back through that that low area (is belly the technical term for that?)
 

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Thanks Cary! Might you have a link to or any information about a larger drain back valve, or what type of valve the well tech might have put in and if I could just stack a few of those? I can't seem to find the service invoice at the moment.

Thanks a bunch, all of your previous posts that I have read through have been incredibly helpful in learning about my well.
I would just drill a 1/4" hole or two in the check valve flapper. I don't know of a higher volume drain valve. You may just have to install 3-4 of the brass bleeders.

Brass bleeder orifice.jpg
 

Reach4

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I also had the idea of some sort of pressurized blow out, not sure how I would automate it though.
Let's muse on that. One thought is to have a timer relay that triggers when the pump turns off. It causes power to be delivered to a small compressor that blows into the well side of a check valve for a programmable amount of time. https://www.zoro.com/search?q=timer relay I have not used such a device. If the power switching ability of the timer relay is not high enough, have the timer relay control a power relay (AKA contactor).

Another idea is that if you think that your copper pipe is sloped properly the whole way, except for one belly, somehow locate the belly, and fix it.

I presume trenching a new line below the frost line is out of the question.

So here is an idea for a test. When the weather is warm enough, see how much pressure it takes to push air thru your pipe. You could make your own fixture to let you blow into a tee. Maybe have a valve on the port that you blow on. Another port feeds the long copper pipe.

That third port of the tee has a clear plastic tube that you place in a glass of water. Before you blow, the water level in the tube is pretty much the same as the water in the rest of the glass. As you blow, and the belly resists air flow, the water in the tube falls below the water level in the rest of the glass.

Now if you find that the pressure cannot sustains, but the pressure with time falls to zero, then there would seem that there is no belly. And having your in-well drain simply drains too slowly.

So in other words, is there a belly, or does the drain-back valve not drain fast enough.

Here is another idea, which may be worthless. Suppose you push a small tube from the port at the tank. You apply low pressure or vacuum, and detect when you hit water. You now know where the belly is, and you dig.

I think that compressor and timer relay has the most chance of successful implementation.

And here is a variation: If your tank can go a day or more without the well pump running, you turn off that pump in cold weather. Then when the tank is low, you go to the well house, and turn on the well pump power. When the pump shuts off, you turn off the power again. You blow air down the copper pipe to clear the water. This would be workable if these cold snaps are fairly rare.
 
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Dis384

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I would just drill a 1/4" hole or two in the check valve flapper. I don't know of a higher volume drain valve. You may just have to install 3-4 of the brass bleeders.

View attachment 91129
Thanks Cary! Just wanted to make sure I understood you right there. You would recommend either pulling the whole drop pipe and pump and drilling the 1/4" hole or two in the check valve at the pump?

Or the other option is installing a couple more drainback fittings next to the current one, which is just below the pitless I believe?

Might try the multiple drain back fittings first as I would only have to pull the pipe and pump up 10 ft vs 365 ft.

Thanks again, have a great day!
 

LLigetfa

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I live up in the mountains of CO at 11000 ft
It is not the elevation above sea level that matters, it is the elevation difference from the wellhead to the check valve snifter at the tank. A bleeder will only open when the pressure at the bleeder is less than 10 PSI so calculate it using 0.43 PSI per foot of elevation.

If the pressure is too high for the bleeder to open, then you might need a small hole drilled to get the pressure to drop. On some drain-back systems they will install several bleeders at different elevations along the path to the tank, assuming of course there is some way to drain it below the frost line.
 

Dis384

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Let's muse on that. One thought is to have a timer relay that triggers when the pump turns off. It causes power to be delivered to a small compressor that blows into the well side of a check valve for a programmable amount of time. https://www.zoro.com/search?q=timer relay I have not used such a device. If the power switching ability of the timer relay is not high enough, have the timer relay control a power relay (AKA contactor).

Another idea is that if you think that your copper pipe is sloped properly the whole way, except for one belly, somehow locate the belly, and fix it.

I presume trenching a new line below the frost line is out of the question.

So here is an idea for a test. When the weather is warm enough, see how much pressure it takes to push air thru your pipe. You could make your own fixture to let you blow into a tee. Maybe have a valve on the port that you blow on. Another port feeds the long copper pipe.

That third port of the tee has a clear plastic tube that you place in a glass of water. Before you blow, the water level in the tube is pretty much the same as the water in the rest of the glass. As you blow, and the belly resists air flow, the water in the tube falls below the water level in the rest of the glass.

Now if you find that the pressure cannot sustains, but the pressure with time falls to zero, then there would seem that there is no belly. And having your in-well drain simply drains too slowly.

So in other words, is there a belly, or does the drain-back valve not drain fast enough.

Here is another idea, which may be worthless. Suppose you push a small tube from the port at the tank. You apply low pressure or vacuum, and detect when you hit water. You now know where the belly is, and you dig.

I think that compressor and timer relay has the most chance of successful implementation.

And here is a variation: If your tank can go a day or more without the well pump running, you turn off that pump in cold weather. Then when the tank is low, you go to the well house, and turn on the well pump power. When the pump shuts off, you turn off the power again. You blow air down the copper pipe to clear the water. This would be workable if these cold snaps are fairly rare.
Thanks Reach! I appreciate all the insights, you clearly like problem solving as I do.

I have my doubts as to if the copper line is sloped properly all the way, it looks like it should be until just before the house, if I were to guess, it looks something like this terrible drawing of mine, sloping mostly downhill from the house to the well, with the exception of just outside the house. Looking at the layout of my yard, I think there is a bit of an uphill section leaving the house before it makes its gradual downhill all the way out to the well. My guess (and its just that) is that it is freezing somewhere just outside the house, in that section that comes up a touch. The side of my house that the well line is coming into also has no snow, so without the insulation from the snow, I'm sure the frost line is even lower.

Reading Cary's ideas, I am hoping that if I increase the rate of drain back, the siphon would be strong enough to pull it out of that section. That would seem to be the easiest way out of this problem. You think a strong enough drain back volume would be able to pull the water up out of that section?

If not, I think the timer relay and compressor will be my best move. The tank calls for water frequently enough and the cold is so persistent here that a manual blow out would be a pretty big pain.

Thanks again!
 

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Dis384

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It is not the elevation above sea level that matters, it is the elevation difference from the wellhead to the check valve snifter at the tank. A bleeder will only open when the pressure at the bleeder is less than 10 PSI so calculate it using 0.43 PSI per foot of elevation.

If the pressure is too high for the bleeder to open, then you might need a small hole drilled to get the pressure to drop. On some drain-back systems they will install several bleeders at different elevations along the path to the tank, assuming of course there is some way to drain it below the frost line.
Thanks LL! Appreciate you taking the time to help out!

I only mentioned the elevation as to give readers the idea of how cold we were talking.

As far as elevation difference, the well line feeds openly into my cistern, which has its own pump inside that pressurizes the house, so I do not have a snifter valve on the line from the well to the cistern, and it can pull air in on its own as soon as the well pump shuts off. I believe the the is some elevation loss from that pipe at the top of my cistern to the well that is draining back some of the water, as when the tech installed the drainback this summer, he confirmed it was draining back just putting his ear to the line, turning off the well pump and he could hear the water pulling back through the line into the well.

I am now just wondering why it is not pulling all of the water back to the well, and how to make it do so. If you look I in the post above I just a moment ago posted a drawing of what I would guess the line to my house looks like. Potentially a little bit (20-30ft) of uphill leaving the house, before a long 125-150ft downhill to the well.

Trying to explore the easiest options first, was thinking of installing either another or more drain back valves, potentially moving them farther down the drop pipe (that should theoretically increase the suction back down to the well correct?), drilling a hole in the check valve at the pump (but I am wary of damaging the pump pushing it in reverse doing that)?

Other than that, either build a system like Reach was discussing, automating blowing out the line, or dig it up and heat trace/insulate it.

Thanks again!
 

Reach4

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Reading Cary's ideas, I am hoping that if I increase the rate of drain back, the siphon would be strong enough to pull it out of that section. That would seem to be the easiest way out of this problem. You think a strong enough drain back volume would be able to pull the water up out of that section?
What is at the tank? Is the copper pipe, or its fitting, always open and always above the water level in the tank? For a siphon to develop, there needs to be easy-enough air ingress at the tank. I expect this is not the problem, but I thought I would bring that up.

The other way this might be being done is to have a check valve near the tank, with a snifter valve admitting air. In that case, maybe a bigger snifter or an added snifter would help. It might be interesting to pull the core of the snifter valve, and mount a combination pressure+vacuum gauge on the valve as a test. Example: https://www.supplyhouse.com/Winters...5-PCT-Contractor-Pressure-Gauge-30Hg-0-30-PSI

Flomatic model 70 looks interesting. https://www.flomatic.com/assets/pdf_files/oem/16016.pdf I just found that.
It looks like this opens or closes in response to flow, rather than pressure difference between the inside and outside of the drop pipe. Actually I find the description confusing... there is talk about 5 to 10 psi, and also talk of 5 gpm flow rate.... So which is it?
 
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LLigetfa

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I am now just wondering why it is not pulling all of the water back to the well, and how to make it do so. If you look I in the post above I just a moment ago posted a drawing of what I would guess the line to my house looks like. Potentially a little bit (20-30ft) of uphill leaving the house, before a long 125-150ft downhill to the well.
Without knowing how the drain-back is setup, if at the well there is a drain-back valve that only opens if the pressure is less than 10 PSI, that much elevation would apply (0.43 X 150 = 64.5 PSI of static pressure just from the weight of the water so a drain-back valve would never open. If the drain-back is a hole drilled in the pipe, the size of hole determines how fast it drains back and whether the water would have enough momentum to get sucked out of a belly in the line.
 

Dis384

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What is at the tank? Is the copper pipe, or its fitting, always open and always above the water level in the tank? For a siphon to develop, there needs to be easy-enough air ingress at the tank. I expect this is not the problem, but I thought I would bring that up.

The other way this might be being done is to have a check valve near the tank, with a snifter valve admitting air. In that case, maybe a bigger snifter or an added snifter would help. It might be interesting to pull the core of the snifter valve, and mount a combination pressure+vacuum gauge on the valve as a test. Example: https://www.supplyhouse.com/Winters...5-PCT-Contractor-Pressure-Gauge-30Hg-0-30-PSI

Flomatic model 70 looks interesting. https://www.flomatic.com/assets/pdf_files/oem/16016.pdf I just found that.
It looks like this opens or closes in response to flow, rather than pressure difference between the inside and outside of the drop pipe. Actually I find the description confusing... there is talk about 5 to 10 psi, and also talk of 5 gpm flow rate.... So which is it?
Morning Reach!

The pipe is always open at the top of the cistern, and always above the water line, the float valve in the cistern shuts off the well pump before the water line would ever reach the opening of the line.

So my thought is its not a lack of airflow allowed in that is preventing the siphon from being strong enough to pull out the water in the belly. So I am hoping that if I increase the flow allowed out of the drain back(s), that could create a strong enough siphon to get that water that is lower.
 

Dis384

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Without knowing how the drain-back is setup, if at the well there is a drain-back valve that only opens if the pressure is less than 10 PSI, that much elevation would apply (0.43 X 150 = 64.5 PSI of static pressure just from the weight of the water so a drain-back valve would never open. If the drain-back is a hole drilled in the pipe, the size of hole determines how fast it drains back and whether the water would have enough momentum to get sucked out of a belly in the line.
Sorry LL, I should have clarified what I meant, by my estimation there is a probably 20-30ft length of pipe from the house that probably goes up 3-5 ft to the high point in the line, and then a 125-150ft length of pipe from that high point to the pitless, which is probably 7-10 ft drop. Hopefully this drawing makes more sense, the line from the pitless to the house in red.

So with only that 7-10' ft drop from the high point to the pitless, I would think I wouldn't see more than 4.3 PSI (10*.43) pressure at that drain back, and because the tech heard it siphoning back to the well, I'm guessing that that the drain back valve is opening, but there is not enough suction to pull the water out of that section from the house.

Thanks again for assistance, have a great day!
 

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Reach4

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The pipe is always open at the top of the cistern, and always above the water line, the float valve in the cistern shuts off the well pump before the water line would ever reach the opening of the line.
This is way different than what we were thinking. We were thinking that a float switch in the cistern controlled the well pump.

If you have a float valve, that would block air.

So describe the setup, that brings water to the cistern, better.
 

Dis384

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Sorry, i am an idiot.

I meant to say I have a float switch, not valve, in the cistern controls the well pump.

My bad.
 
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