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Frozen Pipes

I live in an old house (about 200 yrs old) in Virginia. The pipes keep freezing and I don;t know what else to do. They are already insulated, I leave the faucet running at night, and I keep the cupboard doors open under the sinks. Most of the time that works but this morning I woke up and everything was frozen. We have a crawl space under the house, no basement. Any ideas?

Re: Frozen Pipes

If you haven't already done it, try to make the crawlspace as air tight as possible. It could be just a couple places where the wind is whistling in and freezing a short section of the pipes. Make sure all ventilation louvers for the crawlspace are closed. You could even wedge a piece of 1/2" foam board on the inside (or outside if you don't care how it looks and can't get to the inside) of these louvers if you have them to cut down on air infiltration.

Some other random ideas off the top of my head...

Is there a way to safely place a small ceramic or oil filled radiator heater in front of the sink on the coldest nights?

Is there access to the crawlspace from the living space where you could place a small fan to circulate heated air under there for a while?

Others will be along and have some better ideas I'm sure.

Re: Frozen Pipes

I am not sure that my advice will be much better as I don't have a great deal of pipes under a crawl space just in my addition. I do agree with the above poster that you need to shelter your pipes from the cold. That you have insulated your pipes is a good thing. When you insulated did you use zip ties to get your insulation as tight as possible against the pipes? If not I think I would as insulation only works well if there are no gaps. Just make sure not to over tighten the zip ties as that will damage your insulation and also cause gaps from puckering. If the pipe insulation were indoors then I would say use tape instead but since it is under a crawl space then zip ties are really better.
The best pipe insulation is of course the foam kind you can get at the home center with other insulation being o.k. but not nearly as good.
To shelter your pipes in the future I would use hard foam insulation that is sold in squares at the home store while still keeping the insulation you already have on your pipes. Make a square out of the insulation and set it up as close to the pipe as possible then fasten the insulation up as best as you can using nails string etc. The hard foam will better protect your pipes. You can also use insulation strapping to help hold it up that is also sold at stores.
I would hold off on trying to insulate further right now as the temperatures in Virginia and the greater Washington D.C. area have been very cold. In the mean time you can buy what they call electric pipe heat tape that will keep your pipes warm. You plug it in when your pipes get very cold and it wraps around your pipes. Only thing is I don't think it gets real warm but with insulation on your pipes I wouldn't keep it plugged in too long. Best to ask someone at the store where you buy the heat tape and I think maybe that should be a plumbing supply house as getting good help from a home center can be problematic at times or if one is not available in your area look one up and give them a call. A good plumbing supply place I have heard of is I think called Ferguson in Washington D.C.. Ferguson sells all kinds of plumbing supplies and for big things will deliver. As for blocking your vents under your crawl space that is o.k. for a while but I wouldn't keep them blocked all of the time. Good luck and please keep us posted:)

Re: Frozen Pipes

The previous poster is right on about the heat tape for your pipes. It really works. I lived in an old Victorian home in Ohio about 45 minutes south of Lake Erie. The back yard lead right into a huge open field coming from the west...BBBRRRRR My kitchen and bathroom were actually a closed in back porch with a crawl space. The floor was very cold. We put heat tape on the pipes and then insulated them. We also got bales of hay and lined the outside of the room around the foundation. We then used the idea of the first poster with the hard foam because we were trying to keep the floor warm. Inside the home I added a large area rug to cover most of the floor and try to help hold in the heat.
When using this tape remember to unplug it in the warm weather.
Hope you have good luck with this.

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