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Old 12-08-2011, 13:07   #1
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Keeping Copper Pipe from Freezing

The boat is fresh water plumbed with bendable copper pipe.
I was thinking of using those foam insulating covers over the pipes especially where it might be the coldest parts of the boat aft, like where the marina water would connect up.
There is no insulation on them now. There are 2 drains at low points to drain the system in the winter.
Boat is in the water year round. Last winter it got cold, real cold, enough so that the bilge water was freezing solid and the lines and tanks were dry so they were ok.
In the past I have not done much except keep a 60 watt bulb in the bilge for warmth.
Never had a problem with the tanks freezing. How about running the electric hot water heater all the time? Electric heat wrap tape?
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Old 12-08-2011, 13:36   #2
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Re: keeping copper pipe from freezing

If you have shore power you can use "heat trace" tape to protect your pipes from freezing but you may be better off draining the system and using non tox plumbers anti freeze if the boat is to be unoccupied for long periods. A power failure would not make your day.
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Old 12-08-2011, 13:46   #3
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Re: keeping copper pipe from freezing

stw51-12p / 12-ft heat tape 120v w/plug - Seagate Controls Systems, Inc.
heat trace tape, yes that would be ideal except for the price.
I think I will end up draining and blowing out the lines and also put on the rubber foam pipe insulation.
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Old 12-08-2011, 14:29   #4
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Re: keeping copper pipe from freezing

Using a light bulb to keep your lines from freezing is a sure way to lose your boat. One large sailboat at our docks was lost for just that reason. Not only are there power surges and outages but, guess what? Light bulbs burn out!

If your bilge water and pipes inside the boat are freezing, then you don't have enough heat on the boat. You either have to properly winterize the boat, or you have to keep heat on it.

BTW, I had 1/2" copper piping also for my fresh water system. Also, marina water should NOT be left connected to your boat when you're away. Another good way to lose the boat.

I lived aboard for 17 years, and have had my present boat in winter conditions for 10 additional years in an area where it gets very cold. That's 27 winters. We sometimes get near zero F temps for days at a time. Often we get ice; once we got 22 inches of ice which lingered for almost two months.

If you have reliable electricity you could try safe electric heating. What worked well for me for many years were those oil-filled heaters which look like radiators, set to the LOW or MED power, not the 1500 watt setting. They must be secured against the boat's movement.

However, these are vulnerable to power outages, too.

Best plan is to winterize the boat properly so you don't have to worry about it.

Bill
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Old 12-08-2011, 14:51   #5
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Re: keeping copper pipe from freezing

the only real way to prevent your pipes from freezing is heat. if there is water in your lines is will freeze.

if you dont want to drain your lines a few things that will help include;

1. keep the water moving (trickling from the tap / circulating)
2. heat tape (get a good timer and keep the tape on for a few hours on / few hours off etc)
3. pipe insulation (will delay a freeze but not prevent it)


you should also remember that water pools in the low points on your plumbing so focus on those areas. if you gravity drain your system, make sure you keep your taps open to reduce / remove pressure.

also, there are some decent biodegradable / eco friendly antifreezes available a cut of which should be added to all traps.

in the event that you do freeze and slip the pipe, replace it with PEX. i assure u... what splits once will split always. PEX is much easier to work with and will withstand much lower temperatures for longer periods of time.

if you decide you want to blow out your lines on a temporary basis (every time you leave the boat) lmk know and i can provide some additional information about the best / easiest way to do so.

gl.

-steve
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Old 12-08-2011, 18:19   #6
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Re: Keeping Copper Pipe from Freezing

PEX is good and can freeze without cracking.
Pex Pipe Vs. Copper Pipe | eHow.com

I was thinking today the pipes could be blown out to make sure any water was removed.

I am not a liveaboard. In the winter I can be gone a week before visiting the boat.
The 60 watt light bulb in the bilge I have done for years.
I have a stainless 70 gallon fresh water tank and a seaward 12 gallon hot water heater and assorted pipes, valves, taco regulator. If I drain the pipes, I might want to keep the tanks full, being so big, it would take long cold snap to freeze those, (I think, have to give some thought to that). Our freezes dont last long, just overnight. Until jan feb then we can get a cold snap that might last a week.
Ice in the boat problems always happen when the outdoor nights get in the 20's and days are cloudy and stay low 30's. In winter we get many days in the 40's.
When the sun comes out, all the glass makes this boat warm up a lot on the inside. I have 2 built in electric cabin heaters with little fan motors, but dont run these much at all. I dont think they would help the bilge much?
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Old 13-08-2011, 04:38   #7
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Re: Keeping Copper Pipe from Freezing

Copper pipes are biostatic and inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Read more: Galvanized Pipe Vs. Copper | eHow.com Galvanized Pipe Vs. Copper | eHow.com

I agree with this. Big advantage for copper vs plastic. Once was looking at a boat, had the plastic pipe, turned on water and the stink was overwhelming. Bacteria or fungus was growing in the plastic pipe. I never have any trouble like that in my copper pipe on the boat.
The stench was extremely bad, like death. Boat broker said pipes just need flushing but you know bacteria - fungus will always be living in those pipes and plastic tanks
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Old 13-08-2011, 06:44   #8
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You will want to be careful on how to interpret "inhibits growth". There are dozens of reasons the copper could have seemed better, unrelated to it being copper. Copper certainly ages better in most applications. However, newer plastics like PEX have many of the advantages of copper and allow more flexibility - but few things can overcome the full expansion of freezing.

Another issue is often people filter water going into tanks, which removes the chlorine, or leave their hot water tanks full, but off. No water tank is sterile so bacteria can grow without something to inhibit it. (Nature adapts). I am looking at replumbing mine, just to replace the now 23+ year old plastic, and removing the plastic manifold with plastic fittings that seem to be the major source of leaks over the last year.

As to your original question - heat tape can have the added benefit of lowering humidity. If your power is reliable. However, no water in the lines makes a freeze impossible. If you choose to use antifreeze - I tried the purple instead of pink this year and hated it. I later found the chemical makeup is different and flushing it proved to be an incredible pain as seems to cling to the aluminum tank.
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Old 13-08-2011, 15:04   #9
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Re: Keeping Copper Pipe from Freezing

my hot water tank is aluminum and the water supply is ss.
I noticed a small galvanic interaction between the copper fittings and aluminum tank threads. So I bought a 9 inch 3/4 Magnesium anode and screwed it into the tank drain. Then when screwing the fittings back on, I coated the threads with permatex #2 sealer. Think that will help prevent corrosion?

copper pipes also keep light out, some kinds of plastic lets some light in, then you get more growth.
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Old 13-08-2011, 15:09   #10
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Re: Keeping Copper Pipe from Freezing

sail it south to warm water. it wont freeze there.
problem solved.
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Old 13-08-2011, 15:22   #11
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Re: Keeping Copper Pipe from Freezing

If you are storing boat for winter, pipe insulation will not keep pipes from freezing. No way.

Drain lines out. Blow out with compressed air. If you have low spots that you can't drain all the water out, get some potable anti-freeze from an RV store and put some into your water tank and circulate into pipes. Much better if you can avoid this as it is hard to get the taste out come spring time (after mucho fresh water rinse).
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