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Old 02-03-2019, 12:19 PM
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Default Winter Prep Failure- accountability thread



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Various rants, observations, and plans.

Water froze in our cabin. Again. The water worked last on Sunday, January 27, morning. It got down to -10, overnight. Got water out of sink, then flushed toilet and tank refilled. Then, nothing. Should have investigated further. Went home with the plan of returning this weekend.

This past week we had the typical overwhelming lake effect snow and then the untypical -21*F overnight with -10*F daytime high.

Our property is on a paved county road so the snow plow pushes a lot of snow up to the property entrance because our entrance is practically hidden. That's good and bad.

Didn't go after work on Friday evening because it was too cold. Plus,the previous week I was locked out by frozen locks on the gates. It would have been about 8:00 pm when I got there and the entrance would have been snowed in,too. All lame excuses.

I did buy new locks of the same type that was on our conex, that didn't freeze. (So, now I'm wonder, if we HAD to evacuate to the property, what the plan would be. This will require some think time and develop a plan that will work.)

Should have got off my lazy ass yesterday and went up there and took the snow blower with me. (we have a trailer)

Sunday, Jan 27: The well house was still warm and heaters working. It's a drove sandpoint, shallow well. I have been monitoring our electricity use from an app from the electric company and we have not lost power.

Last summer, we made some R-19 batts covered in 6 mil plastic to insulate the interior perimeter of the skirting. The thought process and logic was to keep the underside of cabin warmer to better protect plumbing. We are on propane heat and keep the cabin at 50*F when we are not there. (need back-up emergency heat) The remote temp sensor batts or the device failed. Should have checked it in late December. This is what 'lazy' will get you. Last year, with no extra perimeter insulation, the temp would stay 37*F and above.

We were trying to save propane and I think we did. Last week we were at 40% on the tank and this time last year we were at 25%. Might be a Grannysmith vs Macintosh comparison, tho, with varying winter temps. Can get an idea with the electricity use from last year. Need to look into it further. Even tho we can't truly gauge propane consumption, we could still interpolate furnace run times.

The previous owner said the water line from the well was buried shallow nearer to the concrete pad. However, he could not guess the depth (or didn't want to). The frost line in Michigan is 42". This summer I need to excavate and see what can be done. Last summer, there was plenty of time to dig. 'Lazy.'

Last Spring and Summer, I rebuilt and insulated the well house and added extra heat.

I have a list of 'shoulda-did's'. Including, but not limited to:
Better remote temp sensing in well house and under cabin
Dig up existing water line in yard to know what I am working with
Make the decision to winterize in the late Fall to prevent freeze-up's and haul water
De-laze


We have four, 15 gal water barrels to use for emergency water. I bought them in late October and returned them clean & empty to the property during the weekend of Jan 27. They are being stored in the conex until the laundry alcove is updated to the new improved pantry.

We need a hand pump for them, plus back-up pump.

Delivering them empty was in hindsight, stupid. Could have kept them inside the cabin with little effort. Plus, we have a back-up hand pump for our water barrels at home.

When I go up next weekend, I'll drag the barrels back and fill them. Then carry them back to the property and store inside until the pantry is finished.

Last year when the water froze and took out the well pump, we were using a supply of one gal tea jugs. Still have those and re-fill at home and haul. Will have to ration the toilet to one flush/day.

We have one Big Buddy heater at the property and a supply of propane in the BBQ tanks. Bought two more of the Camping Buddy heaters at Walmart on sale for $100 a piece to supplement if emergency heat is needed. I have one more hose to hook up to a BBQ tank and 1/2 dozen 1 lb cylinders.

This Spring I'll start looking for some kerosene heaters as a back up to the back up. Then, look at installing the wood burner as a longer term source of heat.

We keep 6 gallons of RV anti-freeze on hand for emergency winterization.

I found the drain-down faucet in the underside while installing the insulating batts. This spring, I'll test it and see what it takes to drain the system. If I have to, all the faucets, including the water heater and the drain-down can be opened to prevent bursting pipes.

The interior plumbing is PEX. The supply from the well is PVC. The well to the cabin material is unknown.


Summary: unass and delaze.
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:25 PM
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There is always something to be done. Always. Those temps are brutal, one small air leak next to a water line and viola, ice. I live off the east end of Lake Ontario, lake effect has to be experienced to be appreciated. When we first moved to this old house wind direction and snow became very important to the state of the plumbing. Process of elimination to figure it out.
I have found thawing locks and some WD40 helps. Have resorted to heating the key before. The one lock prone to freezing has a cover on it. Cold is a bear. Good luck.
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Old 02-03-2019, 07:13 PM
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Warm penetrating oil helps with the locks. You drive out the water to keep it from freezing. I keep a small can in the cars. Good job establishing what need to be done, even if it’s just not to be lazy.
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Old 02-03-2019, 07:46 PM
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Lazy is the hardest thing to overcome, my answer is talking to myself. I ask myself just how much work it will be later if I don't do it now.

Sound like your pressure tank was fine, and pushed enough water for a bit, but the line to the pressure tank was probably frozen.
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Old 02-04-2019, 02:25 AM
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A can of de-icer for the lock(s)...

Depending on how deep the ground freezes, may need to bury the line deeper.

Maybe dripping each faucet...
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:04 PM
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All great suggestions, thanks.

Added some WD40, a spray bottle of 90% alcohol , and a propane torch (what could go wrong?) in my tool bag. Plus, the new 70mm disc locks, have weep holes.

This coming weekend I plan to investigate to see if the pump burst or other possible places where the freezing took place. I know the general area where the previous owner pointed to, and indicated the water line was not buried as deep. Maybe a few bales of straw, don't know yet.
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:16 PM
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The propane torch reminded me of something I had not thought about in years! First house we lived in was on a slab so it was a crawl space. The water lines were about 40' in, I remember thawing those #*[email protected] things out.

How much cold and snow have you had? Snow is a great insulator and helps keep the frost from going deep. Was the wind in an unusual direction? You might have an air leak that only bothers with a certain direction wind.
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Old 02-04-2019, 07:56 PM
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10 years ago we took a trip to Alaska. The best part was a trip to a homesteaders cabin. They had the huge cabbage and a hoop house to act as a greenhouse. The daughter of the homesteader said that one year they left the plastic in place and the soil froze way deeper than when they let the snow accumulate on the ground. The snow was that great an insulator.
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Old 02-05-2019, 01:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cat wrangler View Post
The propane torch reminded me of something I had not thought about in years! First house we lived in was on a slab so it was a crawl space. The water lines were about 40' in, I remember thawing those #*[email protected] things out.

How much cold and snow have you had? Snow is a great insulator and helps keep the frost from going deep. Was the wind in an unusual direction? You might have an air leak that only bothers with a certain direction wind.
Hey Cat wrangler---

Congrats on your 1000th post
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Old 02-05-2019, 06:55 AM
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On mobile version, do not see post count, thank you!
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Old 02-05-2019, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cat wrangler View Post

How much cold and snow have you had? Snow is a great insulator and helps keep the frost from going deep. Was the wind in an unusual direction? You might have an air leak that only bothers with a certain direction wind.
Last week was about 18" and -21*F the high was -10*F. Mostly west to east wind, that is how we get snow from the lake. These were conditions at our home. The property is about 150 miles north. Snow accumulations was from weather reports on the web and it was an accumulated of about 15". Two days last week was ~ -19*F for daytime high. This weather is extreme and historical lows. A couple weeks ago, it got down to about -10*F overnight. This is more typical. The water froze during this episode.

The area where the water line comes from the well to the cabin is in the shade during the winter from pine tree's and the low sun.

Saturday morning I'll take a look at the pump to see if it froze. Then go from there.

Congrats on 1000 posts, too!
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Old 02-06-2019, 08:41 AM
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For a seasonal or even evey other weekend cabin in the cold i would drain/blow the system out every time we left. Fix the system so it can be done easily from one or a few spots. Remote on grid can be un reliable and useable solar hours in the winter where it gets cold are almost non existing.

Not sure how your plumbing is setup but a small air compressor can blow a house out real easily with a few ball valves and Tee fittings in the right places. This way your propane would be at 80*.

Everyone with a cabin in the woods should have a woodstove, even in Florida.

You are correct snow in the snow belt is no excuse for not going. Why dont you talk to the town/county who plows the road about them pushing snow in your driveway?
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Old 02-06-2019, 08:45 AM
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Also 37*f is hardly not freezing. All it takes is a cold snap, some wind or a few hours without power to freeze a pipe.

Get the cheap $20 harbor freight temp gun. It can really show you cold spots or areas under the skirting where wind is getting in.
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Old 02-07-2019, 03:21 PM
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A good snow cover might reduce the chances it is your underground line. Below zero is brutal, add the wind and it makes one want to hibernate! And it can blow the snow cover into drifts.
I hate to say this but the long range forecaster I have followed for years thinks your area and the northeast are in for 4-6 weeks of cold, brief warm ups, cold and snow, and more cold and snow. I know Lake Ontario is not freezing and Erie is breaking up so the snow machines can get cranking again in this area.

I hope you have had a warm up and can find the issue.
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Old 02-07-2019, 03:49 PM
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I'm lazy too.
Sometimes, it's just best to work with what you got.

Rather than put all that work into something that you ain't fixing to use...
Drain all the lines, drain pressure tank, shut off well pump.

Mine stays shut off... When it hasnt rained in a while, and my rain barrels are empty, I will turn on the electric to pump, water stuff that needs it, and fill jugs.

After jugs are full, some of the plants are watered enough so they don't die... Shut off well again... Turn shut off valve between pump and tank... So I have the water from the tank to use... When it's empty, use water from jugs...

I don't know what to tell you about your flush toilets... Seems like when it gets cold enough, the water in those will freeze, and that porcelien is brittle....
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Old 02-08-2019, 03:34 AM
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I don't know what to tell you about your flush toilets... Seems like when it gets cold enough, the water in those will freeze, and that porcelien is brittle....
You can (if you have power) place a submersible aquarium heater in a toilet tank, to keep them from freezing and busting a toilet.
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Old 02-08-2019, 01:20 PM
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Sounds like it froze where it came in. Heat tape tight to the pipe, and taped and black snake wrap on top of that should solve your problem. My old mobile had not insulation on the skirting as it was recommended that it needed to breathe due to the heavily insulated bottom.

With the water in wrapped with heat tape and then snake wrap, the water would come in warm at -45 C (approx. -50 F).

Get some water rated Jerry cans. Took a trip up to Tuktoyaktuk a couple springs ago and though it was still dipping below -30 C a couple times, I still had water available, as it took a while to freeze, but was thawed fairly well sitting on the bus heater I installed as auxiliary heat in my truck. I usually carry a 10 liter on my excursions.
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Old 02-08-2019, 05:40 PM
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Quote:
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You can (if you have power) place a submersible aquarium heater in a toilet tank, to keep them from freezing and busting a toilet.
Actually, it wouldn't be the tank freezing up that I was concerned about...

In my scenario, with the lines all drained, you flush the toilet, and there shouldn't be water in the tank... problem is that even after bailing out the bowl, there's still gonna be water in it.
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Old 02-08-2019, 07:02 PM
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Actually, it wouldn't be the tank freezing up that I was concerned about...

In my scenario, with the lines all drained, you flush the toilet, and there shouldn't be water in the tank... problem is that even after bailing out the bowl, there's still gonna be water in it.
That is where I have been taught to put RV antifreeze in the traps of everything. Less toxic and while not freeze proof, certainly helps. It has been a long time since I needed to do that so guess it could be oudated
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by st0n3 View Post
Actually, it wouldn't be the tank freezing up that I was concerned about...

In my scenario, with the lines all drained, you flush the toilet, and there shouldn't be water in the tank... problem is that even after bailing out the bowl, there's still gonna be water in it.
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That is where I have been taught to put RV antifreeze in the traps of everything. Less toxic and while not freeze proof, certainly helps. It has been a long time since I needed to do that so guess it could be oudated
We keep 6 gallons of RV antifreeze on hand just in case.

One of my bud's has a lake cottage they winterize. He pours RV AF in the toilet and drain traps. The cottage has been in his family for many years. Guess the RV AF works, not sure how they winterized before propylene glycol. Probably sopped the water up in the toilet bowl.

Water was working at the cabin this weekend. Low's in the 10's and highs in the low 20's. Our 5 channel thermometer only works on two channels now. Tried new batts, same result. Inside temp and under skirt temp.

As soon as I can, will check the incoming water supply line and make sure it has a heater and is insulated well.

Took austerity measures this weekend: propane down to 25%, 3 weeks ago it was at 40%. 300 gal tank. I'll call tomorrow. We keep the temp at 50*F while not there and 62, when we are there. This weekend we kept the temp at 50. When we left, I reduced to them to 45*F. Sleeping was ok, 4 blankets, flannel jammie pants, long sleeve t-shirt, and sox.
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