Insulated Well Pump to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Winter
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Insulated Well Pump to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Winter

Preventing water-lines and external water well pump-houses from freezing is important. Lining the above ground pipes with a heat-tape and proper insulation can prevent your waterlines from freezing, causing expensive repair bills.

Preventing Frozen Water Line Pipes in Winter

Many homes in the rural and suburban regions of many northern states have their own water well. Usually these are lined deep holes that extend below the natural water table, with pipes that connect to water pump which supplies water on demand to the house. The pipes are usually buried deeper than the frost-line for your region but the actual pump house and associated pipes near the surface are not. They require protection from freezing.

Electric Heat Tape

The use of electric heat tape is usually required for above-ground pipes associated with external water wells. A heat-tape is a length of plastic-coated wire that plugs into the AC and emits a steady heat throughout its length. Most modern heat-tapes contain an internal thermostat to prevent overheating and damage, and a visible 'red dot' light to indicate that the light is functioning.

The heat tape is wrapped around the pipe and secured in place. Next, the heat-tape wrapped waterline must be insulated with un-backed fiberglass roll insulation. Un-backed (no aluminum foil or paper backing) fiberglass is wrapped around the pipes and heat tape, and secured. The amount of wrapping should be more than the minimum R-value for the home. If the pipe is wrapped several times, the R-value is higher than 'one layer' of insulation would provide. Eight inches of fiberglass wrapping will exceed even R-19 rating.

The wrapped pipe is next wrapped with plastic sheeting vapor barrier, and the seams are sealed with duct tape. The will help prevent moisture from entering the dry fiberglass wrappings.

Generally, heat tapes used in the manner are turned on and left that way until spring, when all danger of freezing is past. Or if the external pump house itself is fully insulated, a 100-Watt light bulb can be left turned on in the immediate vicinity of the exposed pipes and left on. The light-bulb emits enough heat to prevent the formation of frost, and prevents freezing. There is however, always the risk of the light bulb 'blowing out' leaving the pump house susceptible to freezing.

Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitters

Use of a Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter as commonly used in the reptile pet trade would supply a safe, constant heat and eliminate the risk of a light bulb blow-out. Ceramic heat emitters are coils of wire encased within a ceramic core, and emit steady heat without light. In similar wattage as light bulbs, they do not use any more electricity than a similarly-rated light-bulb (a 200 Watt Ceramic Heat Emitter = 200 Watt Light Bulb) except that the energy is not being wasted as visible light, but is being released as infrared heat. This is also more efficient as the heat output of a 200 Watt Ceramic Heat Emitter is greater than a 200 Watt light-bulb and for the reason stated.

At any rate, home improvement includes preventing submersible pumps and associated water supply lines from freezing in winter weather. If you have an external water well or water pipes that are exposed above the frost-zone in your region, take the necessary steps to prevent water-line freezing.

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Comments (2)

Well done. All of us up here on Walch's Mountain have wells with pump houses that we heat electrically.

Thank you. :-) Growing up in rural NY, some of my fondest memories were playing in my neighbor's yard. Their house was atop of this steep hill overlooking their flat front yard which bordered their horse pasture. In one secluded corner pf the yard, under some apple trees, was this two-sided wooden lean-to structure with tar-papered roof, a heavy screen cover, cement wellhead and insulated pipes as described in the article. As a child, we'd take the screened cover off and catch frogs that got into the well... looking back now I see problems with this: first, frogs in drinking water is not very sanitary (they had filters in the basement prior to home-use and, -must be the screen was not keeping the critters out!) and more to wit, we kids were climbing head-first into the well, hanging by our belt buckles upside-down to catch the frogs... had we fallen in we'd have been stuck head-first in several feet of water and likely drown.... :-( Anyway, this article brought me back to a place I have not visited in some decades... it was a trip down memory lane. :-)