Advice on Frozen Water Supply...

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OldTimerAlan

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I hope someone has some advice on this new problem...

We live in NC in a 2-story contemporary (no crawl space). The basement has been finished (carpets, heat, rooms, etc.) for 25 years (house was built in '91). The gas water heater is indoors, in the heated middle of one of the basement rooms, next to the downstairs furnace.

On Saturday the temps dropped to 24 (common here on occasion every winter), and when we woke we had no water. This has never happened before (we've only lived here a couple of years).

We called a plumber and he checked everything indoors, and also out at the 2 water meters (one is for irrigation). He confirmed we weren't getting any water, and he advised us to wait till the temps rose. We also called the city water department, and they sent someone out. He also said there was no problem (he also said several others in town had the same problem).

Sure enough, as soon as we hit 35 or so the water came on.

My questions: Why might this happen for the first time (we get temps in the 20s, and lower, every winter)? And is there anything we might/should do to prevent this next time (we've never had to run faucets all night when it was cold)?

Thanks much for any advice!

Alan
 

Deerslayer

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My question is if the plumber at your home couldn't tell you exactly where it's frozen, then how in the world can I from a keyboard hundreds of miles away.
 

Deerslayer

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I didn't ask where it was frozen.
To answer your questions, troubleshooting 101 will require knowing where it's frozen.
After that the answer to your question of why is because the line got below 32 degrees for an extended period of time.
Preventing it will require knowing where it froze.
 

frodo

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sounds like some plumbing on a outside wall that is not insulated

you did not give enough info for a guess

whole house froze up ?

just 1 bathroom or sink ?



remove wall board, insulate pipes.
 

Deerslayer

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sounds like some plumbing on a outside wall that is not insulated

you did not give enough info for a guess

whole house froze up ?

just 1 bathroom or sink ?



remove wall board, insulate pipes.
Insulating just the pipes does nothing it's a waste of time. Makes them take longer to freeze and they stay froze longer that's it.
 

OldTimerAlan

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Thanks, guys.

Obviously I didn't make myself clear.

Here's the situation:

1. Nothing whatsoever froze inside the house. All the pipes, hot water heater, etc. were fine.

2. We had no water supply.

3. The plumber determined that somewhere the supply line was probably frozen. He did not think there was a leak. Since the line is buried 3 feet or so beneath the lawn, and since the lawn runs almost 200' from the street to the house, he advised us to avoid the expense of hiring a line locator and then digging up the lawn. Based on this, I'm unaware of a way to determine where it might be leaking (if at all).

The plumber advised us to just wait till the temp rose above 32 degrees (and that worked!).

4. We've never had this issue before even though our area does get well below 32 degrees in the winter. (When the water supply froze the outdoor temp was only 24, fairly common here in the winters. Often we get down to 10-15 degrees or so and we've never had a problem before.)

My question: Why might this happen for the first time (our line was not moved, no one has excavated, nothing is exposed, there is excellent water pressure, no lawn spots are wet)? Should we just chalk this up to a one-time thing?

Thanks again,

Alan
 

speedbump

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I don't know if you have frost in the ground up there or how deep it may be. I do know that if you walk or drive on frozen ground or remove the snow, you can drive the frost deeper than it would be normally. So if you know where this line runs, don't walk or drive in that area if possible. This might prevent another occurrence.
 

frodo

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NC freeze line or debth is 6''. i suspect your meter is your problem

the lid offers no protection against the cold air.

look and see what the debth is of your water line where it comes into the house and at the meter

you need for it to be 12'' or more.

on the nights that will freeze, let a faucet run a stream the size of a pencil to keep your line from freezing
 

Deerslayer

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i disagree, if insulated correctly the pipe is protected

the op lives in NC, not Alaska,
Not sure where you are located but here in the Midwest it's just simply misinformation. Not that you intend to mislead but it's simply untrue. The best thing folks can do is insulate between piping and outside wall and leave piping uninsulated on heated space side so that heat from home can warm piping. Insulating just the piping does almost nothing unless you heat trace the line.
 

Deerslayer

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I don't know if you have frost in the ground up there or how deep it may be. I do know that if you walk or drive on frozen ground or remove the snow, you can drive the frost deeper than it would be normally. So if you know where this line runs, don't walk or drive in that area if possible. This might prevent another occurrence.
If his waterline is 3' as he says it's not because of walking or driving on it. It would hav to be zero for weeks to freeze that deep.
 

Deerslayer

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NC freeze line or debth is 6''. i suspect your meter is your problem

the lid offers no protection against the cold air.

look and see what the debth is of your water line where it comes into the house and at the meter

you need for it to be 12'' or more.

on the nights that will freeze, let a faucet run a stream the size of a pencil to keep your line from freezing

This may be on the right track, how deep is your meter? How deep does water line exit? Just curious did meter pit silt in, I ask because meters typically don't freeze because they get heat coming up from the constant 55 degree temp of the earth below. If it silted in and it's only 10" deep your not getting much heat from deep constant temp.
 

frodo

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Not sure where you are located but here in the Midwest it's just simply misinformation. Not that you intend to mislead but it's simply untrue. The best thing folks can do is insulate between piping and outside wall and leave piping uninsulated on heated space side so that heat from home can warm piping. Insulating just the piping does almost nothing unless you heat trace the line.
, sorry, it is not the temperature that freezes pipes it is the movement of cold air around the pipe. goggle it

it is also code to insulate pipes in exterior walls.

freeze code.png
 

OldTimerAlan

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Hi Guys,

Thanks again.

Our plumber did check both meters. Neither was frozen, but he did use his "torch" (no flame) for a while just in case, to no effect. It took a 32+ temp to do the trick.

Both meters are to code here (about a foot underground), and both have the standard (here) metal doors.

I have walked the lawn several times since this event. The ground is soft (not frozen), and there are no wet spots. In 20 years of NC living I've not encountered frozen lawn in our area (the Triad).

I wish I knew where the line came into the house - the plumber indicated it was somewhere beneath our brick exterior (our house was built in '91 on a slab).

The locator here wants $700 to locate it. I'd be tempted even at that price if I had confidence we could prevent the issue, but since this was our only occurrence I'm tempted to just hope for the best (my wife's recommendation!).

Thanks,

Alan
 

Deerslayer

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, sorry, it is not the temperature that freezes pipes it is the movement of cold air around the pipe. goggle it

it is also code to insulate pipes in exterior walls.

View attachment 13964
And again code says the water lines shall be protected from freezing, not that the line itself should be insulated, that it shall be protected with insulation. I mentioned the best way to do that. As long as you can keep convincing folks to insulate just the pipe with black or gray foam I have a job every time it gets cold. I've fixed enough of them I'm done trying to explain it to you, I'm not working with google or theory's here, I fix them every year.
 

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IMG_0152.jpg

This apartment was remodeled by someone using your theory and insulating the pipe. The picture speaks for itself.
 

speedbump

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If his waterline is 3' as he says it's not because of walking or driving on it. It would hav to be zero for weeks to freeze that deep.
I lived and worked in Michigan for lots of years and it was rarely 0°. January and February didn't get out of the teens much and those were the two very cold months. I thawed a lot of pipes with a steamer from the basement of homes. One job in particular was a Bar with an asphalt parking lot. The pipes running out to the well were six foot deep and froze solid. Snow had been removed and lots of cars drove over those pipes. I spent several hours in the basement with a steamer thawing those pipes. So it doesn't have to be zero at all. 32 is the magic number.
 

frodo

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lol blak or grey not installed correctly will freeze every time.
what you are fixing is diy installed insulation.no mitered ends and not sealed,
might as well not even be on there

we use rubbatex and fiberglass,

I repeat my earlier observation, the wind, air moving across the pipe is what freezes the water
if your insulation is not installed correctly you will have frozen pipes.
insulation MUST have mitered ends and be sealed to be effective

i do not know about where you live, but here, the inspector will red tag your job if the pipes are not insulated on the exterior walls

its been fun. later
 

frodo

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I lived and worked in Michigan for lots of years and it was rarely 0°. January and February didn't get out of the teens much and those were the two very cold months. I thawed a lot of pipes with a steamer from the basement of homes. One job in particular was a Bar with an asphalt parking lot. The pipes running out to the well were six foot deep and froze solid. Snow had been removed and lots of cars drove over those pipes. I spent several hours in the basement with a steamer thawing those pipes. So it doesn't have to be zero at all. 32 is the magic number.
all it takes is a couple of hours. at 32 degrees
here is a trick for thawning frozen pipes put the welding machine leads on the pipe. it ill thaw inbetween the leads

worked for me in the mountains,,
 
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