Water pipe heaters

Discussion in 'Winterizing Your Pond' started by Shdwdrgn, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. Shdwdrgn

    Shdwdrgn

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    I was thinking tonight, the one area of concern I've always had with running my pumps through the Winter is in the water pipes. If the pump stops, there is always the chance of the line freezing up. I was considering tonight the possibility of adding small heaters right in the pipe where the pump connects? My pipes are 2" and begin with a Y that has a threaded cap on top (for cleaning, easy access, whatever), so I'm wondering if anyone has thoughts on some kind of heater that I could modify into a threaded fitting?

    I'm not trying to heat the entire pond with this, I simply want to add enough heat inside the pipes to balance the heat that will be leeched into the ground through nearly 30 feet of pipe. The other issue is the rate of flow... each pump pushes 2900gph. Obviously at that rate I'm not going to be adding more than a minuscule amount of heat to the water, however I'm hoping for a cumulative effect - a little heat over a long period of time, building up a slight pocket of warmth in the ground around the pipes..?

    [​IMG]
     
    Shdwdrgn, Oct 18, 2011
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  2. Shdwdrgn

    Waterbug

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    You can buy products designed for this very purpose. Search for "water pipe heating cable" or water pipe heating tape". Your local hardware store probably carries it. Good ones turn on and off based on temp. They can use a fair amount of electric if this is an all winter deal.

    I kind of read 2 things. One, what if the pump stops. Two, heating the water while the pump is on.

    While pump is on.
    While the pump is on you shouldn't have any problem. The moving water has the same basic temp as the unfrozen water in the pond. The whole pond would have to freeze solid for the pipes to freeze. Maybe you've heard of people running the tap to keep pipes from freezing? Same deal. Common trick in areas where freezing temps only happen once in a great while, like TX and AZ.

    Pump Off
    If the pump stops the heating cable would be effective. You can make it more effective by insulating the pipes. In a perfect design the pipes would drain automatically at least to a point below the ground where freezing isn't an issue.

    Adding a Heating Element
    If you really wanted to stick an heating element in there a hot water heating element would fit. They even have male threads to seal, but you'd probably need a different size adaptor because no one is that lucky. You'd need to rig a thermostat in case the pump shut off. PVC starts to melt at 220F I think. Plus boiling water inside a pipe isn't too good an idea. While the pump is running you would be heating the entire pond. You wouldn't raise the temp of the outside of the pipe even 1/100th of a degree. And I doubt even running 24/7 if the pond temp which change at all. Takes a lot of power to heat water and you're talking about a lot of water completely open to heat loss. So I wouldn't recommend this if I understood the goal.
     
    Waterbug, Oct 18, 2011
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  3. Shdwdrgn

    HARO Pondcrastinator

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    The heating cable I'm familiar with wraps around the outside of the pipe, and a sensor in the cable turns the power on at a certain temperature to prevent freezing. Just something else you may consider. John
     
    HARO, Oct 18, 2011
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  4. Shdwdrgn

    Shdwdrgn

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    Yeah I had heard of the heating tape, but at this point all of the pipe is buried in the ground, and it runs underneath my river area, so its just not feasible to dig up the pipe... that's why I was considering something that could slip inside the pipe at one of the openings.

    Ah well, it was just a thought. I'm not expecting any problems, but I like to consider what options I might have, just in case...
     
    Shdwdrgn, Oct 18, 2011
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  5. Shdwdrgn

    Catfishnut

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    Shdwdrgn,

    If you are pumping that kind of a volume of water, you don't need to worry about heating the pipes. Especially if they run underground, even if they are just a few inches below grade. They will not freeze on you unless you lose power or the pump quits. Even then, it will take a while for the water in the pipes to freeze (especially in a 2" diameter pipe).

    If you lose power, pipe heat tape or any insertion heater won't help you anyway. They will be without power, too, of course.

    Now, if the pump itself fails, you lose your flow, and then the water may start to freeze. My idea here would be to install a water flow switch in each of your lines. If the pump stops, the switch changes state and could trigger an audible alarm in the house. Heck, you could even wire that into your door-bell or something. Just something to notify you that the water has ceased flowing. If it were the pump, you could quickly check out what the problem was and either replace the pump or remove an obstruction.

    You are in Colorado, I am in Nebraska. Our weather doesn't get that bad (cold) for that long. There was one month years ago where the temp here didn't get above 0°F for a high, but rarely does it get below -15°F and stay there. Your flow rate from the pump/s will maintain open water unless we really get doggone cold (like -20°F for days).

    There are some areas where you should be concerned... Small diameter pipes with low water flow and any filter tanks or vessels that are passive and unprotected (unsheltered) and any drain or overflow lines and valves. I would especially be concerned with overflow or drain lines as the moving water won't circulate through them and they could easily ice up and break. If, say a drain line of valve iced up and broke, you would lose your water from the system, then your pump may run dry and kill it and run your pond or tank dry too! Then your fish would go the way of Clarence Birdseye (fozen entree's). NOooooo!

    For those smaller pipes or areas I would recommend heat tape. It is thermostatically controlled and won't turn on until the temp gets too low. You just wrap it around the pipe and tape it in place in a few spots. Add some foam rubber pipe insulation around it to insulate it even more.

    It is all extremely easy to set up and costs very little to purchase or operate. The heat tape does not get very hot, so it works well with PVC or CPVC piping or PEX tubing (it won't melt it).

    Good luck this winter my friend!

    Gordy (catfishnut)
     
    Catfishnut, Oct 19, 2011
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  6. Shdwdrgn

    Shdwdrgn

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    My original pond used 3/4" pipe which was only buried about 4", so in the dead of Winter if the pump stopped for any reason, the line would freeze up. The new pipes are buried a foot deep, so that will certainly help a lot. As for the drain pipe on my filters, I learned a good trick with those years ago... I have a T low to the ground which feeds to the drain valve, but then the pipe continues straight up, above the height of the barrel, and is left open on the top. When it gets cold enough to freeze, the water pushes up the pipe, and worst it might overflow about a quart of water. This has worked great for me the past few years, and stays pretty much frozen solid for a couple months without any damage, so I built the new filters with the same setup.

    If I had lots of money, I would get one of those wifi-enabled monitoring systems that could send an alert to my servers, which in turn could send a text message to my phone. Alas, I am jobless and do not having money pouring out of my pockets, so that option will have to wait for another day. However at some point I may get a tank float hooked to a power switch for the pumps... Because of the way the water flows through my setup, when the water level gets too low, the lower pond will suddenly drop way down, so I could turn off the pumps at that point and avoid any further water loss.
     
    Shdwdrgn, Oct 19, 2011
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  7. Shdwdrgn

    Catfishnut

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    Shdwdrgn,

    Hey, that's a pretty slick idea (your design to relieve the pressure from the drain lines). With a slick finish to the PVC wall, the ice would naturally push upwards as it forms and pop out the open end at the top.

    I am not going to take anything to chance though. I am building a small enclosure around my filter tanks (barrels) that will be insulated on all four sides, top and bottom with 4" styrofoam. I will probably put on an outside layer of some decorative panels to make it look more aestheticly pleasing. I have most of the materials now, I just have to start assembling it before it gets much colder.

    I understand what you say about money issues. I am lucky for the time being, but lots of folks are out of a job right now, including one of my brothers and my sister. Times are not good, but we will all survive and things will get better. We evidentally survived an ice age or two and all sorts of calamities, I think we can survive through all of this mess with all the politics and economics. Just keep looking up!

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Oct 19, 2011
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  8. Shdwdrgn

    Waterbug

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    Frozen pipes don't always break. It's hit and miss. If you ever move your pipes again you can ask your local building for the frost line in your area so you know how deep to go. In western NY I saw it freeze to a depth of 3'. I used to dig holes through that.

    None of the heat cables should ever be buried. For a serious freeze area, like 5A, they probably aren't much help anyways.
     
    Waterbug, Oct 19, 2011
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  9. Shdwdrgn

    Shdwdrgn

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    Catfishnut: The right plants can hide just about anything... paint your enclosure to blend in, and put a lot of heavy plants around it, and it will be practically invisible in a year or two. My barrels are only sunk in the ground to the first band, and then they are exposed on three sides. I simply painted them flat-black, and will be planting some tall grasses and vines around them next year. I've never had any problems with the filters freezing (once you get water moving to them, they'll thaw out fast), but the pipes are still a concern. Maybe I'll wrap some insulation around the pipes where they come up out of the ground.

    Waterbug: You consider zone 5A a 'serious' freeze area? Wow, and here I thought we had pretty mild Winters! :D Our average frost line is around 12", and the area where the pipes are laid will get good daily sun through the Winter months, so most likely I won't have any problems... As I said, just trying to think ahead "just in case"
     
    Shdwdrgn, Oct 19, 2011
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  10. Shdwdrgn

    Waterbug

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    Western NY zone was 6a, froze to 3'. I swore off that kind of climate years ago and now a light frost is a severe winter.
     
    Waterbug, Oct 19, 2011
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  11. Shdwdrgn

    Catfishnut

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    Here in my location of Nebraska (zone 5) our frost line may get as deep as 24 - 36 inches. It all depends on how cold the winter is, how long that cold weather lasts and how much snowfall we have. The more snowfall, the more shallow the frost line. Snow actually is a very good insulator (ask the Eskimos in their igloos) LOL.

    Local construction code here for foundation footings is 48 inches depth.

    For pond piping that has constant flow, I personally would not worry about them freezing here if they were four to six inches below grade. If I were to lose flow for an extended period of time, then I would worry unless they were buried much deeper.

    Any piping above ground and outdoors (unprotected), especially small diameter pipes with minor flow and volume, would certainly worry me. Heat tape and some high R value, thick insulation is going to be my objective for these pipes.

    I am not sure that I am going to get my system completed this season. I am still waiting on some parts and I am still working on the design for my pump and filter housing. I am also running out of good, warm weather. I expected to have it all done by now, but work schedules and my allergies/cold have really made me stumble. Now I also have to get over to another town and repair the plumbing in the house that I am renting out. That is critical and must take priority.

    For us who live in the northern latitudes, we are pretty much at the mercy of mother nature during winter. But, there are always ways to adapt, overcome and improvise! I am hoping to do that in a "passive" or natural manner and not just rely upon electrical power alone to protect my system.

    Maintaining an above ground pond or tank through the northern latitude winters will require a lot of savvy if you want to do it without cheating. By cheating, I mean using electrical power. I think that I can figure out a passive and natural system if given time to ponder the design. I have my mind's gears engaged for this now, please wish me luck.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Oct 27, 2011
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