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ZAMM Fanatic
2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
What the hell? I set my cabin thermostat at 60 degrees, go away for a few days, and come back to frozen pipes --- in the bathroom WALL!

Fortunately it wasn't hard frozen or burst, and a few minutes with a space heater cranked with the bathroom door shut and it's flowing again.

But how did this happen?

The municipal water district I belong to is great, but being on the top of a hill I get a whopping 5-7psi of water pressure. Not enough to run a dishwasher, icemaker, or even take a decent shower.

So me and everyone else up top has installed booster pumps & pressure tanks. Basically the same setup as someone sucking out of a well uses, except we're sucking out of the water district's pipes. (They're incompetent and can't figure out how to boost the pressure up top without overpressuring people at the bottom of the hill.)

ALL my water piping is in one wall between the kitchen and bathroom. Water comes up from below the slab in copper, which I cut and spliced into PEX to run to my booster pump, tank, water heater, and back to the other side of the cut. I daylighted the copper coming up from the slab, ran PEX along a baseboard to utility closet containing the pump, tank, h20 heater, and PEX back to the wall.

This wall is at 90 degrees to my outside wall, and apparently where it "T's" to the outside wall they failed to do a decent job of insulating between the last two studs. (Outside wall is slanted in at the top) So cold air from the space next to outside wall, by virtue of my mods, was directly hitting my connections.

The answer, of course, is A) Insulation, and B) To SEAL the space containing the plumbing splices FROM the airspace next to the wall, and C) to provide a source of HEAT to the splice area. Adding a vent, so room temperature air can surround the pipes.

This is where a lot of folks go wrong with insulation. Take an outdoor faucet, a freestanding one in the middle of the yard. (No, not a frost-free that you can safely ignore...)

Just wrap something with insulation and all you've done is increase the surface area, and it will freeze even faster than naked copper. Insulation merely SLOWS the transfer of heat. But without a heat does no good at all. Now leave that faucet DRIPPING, so there's a constant source of 34 degree "heat", and the insulation will help enormously versus subfreezing outside temps. Or add "heat tape" to plumbing pipes.... By way of example, the inside of a sleeping bag will quickly be freezing (ambient) without a human in there providing heat no matter what it's rated!

So approximately 2'x2' of fiberglass insulation stuffed between the last stud and the outside wall, seal that space from the plumbing splice space with expansive foam, install a vent, and ..provided the inside of the house is above 34 degrees I should have no further problems.

The "toy" I used to help me figure out what was going on was a laser Infrared thermometer, currently on sale at Sears for $24, an excellent price. When I first measured things floor temp was appx 56 degrees but the copper feed pipe was only a house well over 60 degrees. It helped me locate TWO other cold air leaks I would have otherwise missed.

There's one other "toy" anyone dealing with minimizing heat loss on a house is gonna want, a professional-grade Infrared camera that attaches directly to a smartphone, for a whopping $199. 10 years ago this same IR capability would have cost you well over $10 large.

These can also be used to look at motors, exhaust systems, spot leaks, determine if radiators are working properly, confirm catalytic converter operation, spot hot bearings, only one side of brake pads pushing, all sorts of automobile uses.

It hurts when I pee
1,058 Posts
That stuff you are using isn't PEX........................ It's called CPVC and it's cheap Sh%# (but it's a camp, so I will that that go). It's also a really crappy install if I might add. Sorry, I'm a perfectionist and do this stuff for a living........ :coffeescreen:

Spray foam and condensation from water pipes don't mix....... That will not last long Wad.

What do you use that faucet for, it's to low to be set up for a washer ?????
Is the mold on the bottom wooden trim molding from that faucet or do you have a small leak inside the wall ???
You also have water staining on the wall also..... so you must use that spigot frequently.
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