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Thread: Plumbing design for intermittent use

  1. #1
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    Default Plumbing design for intermittent use

    Hi

    I am in a design phase for a a rec property down on the lower Kenai Penninsula. Property already has a drilled and cased well (but no supply line installed). Electricity is close by.

    I am looking for information on designing a plumbing system that I can shut down between uses without fear of freezing damage. I will probably have a skirted, insulated crawlspace through which supply and drain pipes run. I have done some internet research and see a lot of good products for insulating and heat taping pipes. Good ideas. I understand also that it is common practice to evacuate supply lines and put non-toxic RV antifreeze in P traps to prevent damage to the toilet and shower. I do hope to use the system intermittently in winter but wont be keeping the structure heated (wood stove). What I am trying to figure out is some design ideas that will help me quiclky and easily drain the system back below the frost line, and bring the system back on line again when needed. We are looking at pretty rudimentary plumbing needs: a kitchen sink, a toilet, a shower and bathroom sink. Hopefully all in a single wet wall, but might have to do two walls.


    If any of you cabin owners or DIY plummers have advice on dos and donts I would be greatful.

    Cheers Joel

  2. #2
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    No matter what system you choose, you know the most important accessories already.
    Heat tape and insulation as well as a low drain that is easily accessable.

    Works in the Arctic.

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    It is virtually impossible to get ALL the water out of a system. However, the less stuff you have on the system the better your chances. If you have a dishwasher, clothes washer, or water softner the odds are pretty low that you will get all the water out.

    You will want to start out your system by having a pitless adaptor installed in the well at least 10' down. Then dig the water line to the cabin and insulate it with at least 4" of styrofoam and keep it 10' below grade. Turn 90deg and come straight up under the cabin. Use copper for this supply line. Copper can be thawed with a welder or a pipe thawing setup and plastic cannot. Do not be cheap and try and save money by going to plastic. When you hang your pump drill a 3/16" hole right above water line. This will allow the water in your water line to drain back into the well.

    To use a well with a pressure switch is going to require a pressure tank and the associated parts that go with it. I have never had any luck using any type of pressure system and draining it. I always freeze something and it usually takes days to get it thawed out to use, if it will work again at all.

    For drained after every weekend systems I simply like to use a water tank and an RV type pump. Simply hook your well pump to a switch and turn it on to fill the tank. When you shut off the pump leave the valve open on your supply line to the tank (make sure it fills at the top of the storage tank) and allow the water to run back down into the well. This method leaves nothing in the supply line to freeze. Once you are ready to leave drain the holding tank. Remove the RV pump and take it home with you. Open every faucet and blow out the lines with a compressor and a blow gun. Leave the faucets open. Fill P-Traps with RV anti-freeze. You are now good to go.

    When you plumb the place use Pex plastic water line inside. It will resist damage from freezing far better than copper. Try and make sure all your lines drain back down to a common point and install a drain valve there. Drain to that point and close the valve. Use the air blowing to double check.
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

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    For the well, drill a small hole in the line near the foot valve and leave the top valve partially open so water can drain back down to the natural underground water level. I re-worked my valve on the top of the line so that it can't be totally closed. That takes care of the supply line. For inside make sure all domestic water is branched from a low point and that all the branches will flow back to the low point, and simply add a drain there. I use my well to fill a tank and use a demand pump from there so I don't have a pressure tank. If you use a pressure tank it may be more complicated. If your waste drains go to a sewer or septic system you'll need to keep some RV antifreeze around to pour into the P traps when you leave. I use a gray water system so I don't use P traps. The toilet in my cabin is a marine type and has a sealing flush valve so no trap there, either.

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    Thank you for the input. This is just the type of info I am looking for. I do have a couple of follow up questions.. I had indeed thought I would be using a pressure tank in the system. I thought they were simply a tank with a pressurized bladder that would drain/force all the water out once the pump is shut off and the check valve opened/bypassd? Is there residual water that remains in the tank that is difficult to drain? The holding tank/and on demand pump system seems like a good suggested alternative. I guess I may have to rethink this.

    Another question I have is hot water supply. As I mentioned I will have electricity and was thinking of using a small (30 gal?) water heater. Has anyone had problems bleeding these dry? I was thinking if I mounted it on a stand high enough I could drain the tank with a hose down and out the shower drain.

    Thoughts and comments appreciated. J

  6. #6

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    When my customers leave for a short time here they have me rv antifreeze the system you can do this yourself with a little pump and you can get most of it back to reuse later....it is piece of mind when your gone....use pex for the water make sure it is heat traced and wrapped [ insulated with pipe wrap] when the system is in use] i cant tell you how many people have said their systems were drained only to come home to a nightmare...good luck with your project
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel in Alaska View Post
    Thank you for the input. This is just the type of info I am looking for. I do have a couple of follow up questions.. I had indeed thought I would be using a pressure tank in the system. I thought they were simply a tank with a pressurized bladder that would drain/force all the water out once the pump is shut off and the check valve opened/bypassd? Is there residual water that remains in the tank that is difficult to drain? The holding tank/and on demand pump system seems like a good suggested alternative. I guess I may have to rethink this.

    Another question I have is hot water supply. As I mentioned I will have electricity and was thinking of using a small (30 gal?) water heater. Has anyone had problems bleeding these dry? I was thinking if I mounted it on a stand high enough I could drain the tank with a hose down and out the shower drain.

    Thoughts and comments appreciated. J
    I have a Paloma (no longer made) but you can use a Bosch or Ecostar on-demand water heater. The same rule applies, branch your supply line to the heater unit and keep the plumbing so that you can drain it conveniently. The faucet end is a problem at sinks but you can put little drains in under each sink. You'll probably have several drain points to make it work anyway.

    Or....since you have electricity (what a luxury!), you could put a Toyostove or Monitor in the cabin to keep it heated above freezing. (Toyostove makes demand water heaters, also.) You could even hook it to a phone line and turn it up to comfortable before you head that way. Electricity makes the choices easier. Or more complicated. Your choice.

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    By the way, my reference to pressure tanks maybe being a problem is an admission that I have no idea how pressure tanks work, other than the tank has a switch that operates your well pump. I wanted to keep my system simple. That's why I use a manual well switch and a storage tank. For winter weekends my storage tank is a 5 gallon jobsite water cooler and the plumbing doesn't get used. My well and my plumbing are separate systems. In town if my well or plumbing has a problem I call a plumber. At the cabin I'm the plumber so I want to make the system one that I can understand, and one that my wife doesn't need to. That's why my well valve can't be totally closed. My wife closed it once in the winter. Big problem!

  9. #9

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    [quote]
    Quote Originally Posted by AKDoug View Post
    It is virtually impossible to get ALL the water out of a system. However, the less stuff you have on the system the better your chances. If you have a dishwasher, clothes washer, or water softner the odds are pretty low that you will get all the water out.
    I noticed that in all my new appliances, they had a cold weather storage section in the instructions on how to store to prevent freezing in things like the clothes washer, my toyo boiler and the dishwasher using RV antifreeze. The instructions had the amounts of RV antifreeze to use and how to get it in to protect the appliance and how to get it out later for use.





    For drained after every weekend systems I simply like to use a water tank and an RV type pump. Simply hook your well pump to a switch and turn it on to fill the tank. When you shut off the pump leave the valve open on your supply line to the tank (make sure it fills at the top of the storage tank) and allow the water to run back down into the well. This method leaves nothing in the supply line to freeze. Once you are ready to leave drain the holding tank. Remove the RV pump and take it home with you. Open every faucet and blow out the lines with a compressor and a blow gun. Leave the faucets open. Fill P-Traps with RV anti-freeze. You are now good to go.
    Why not just put a valve / drain on the low side, and on the high side put a valve with a coupler for the air hose?

    Shut the water off from the source, open the drain valve and open all the faucets and fixtures (the shower, tub, whatever) let gravity do what it can for awhile. Close all the faucets and fixtures. Close the drain valve, pump up the lines with the compressor to say 50 psi (or no more than water your supply psi is). Open the drain valve and bleed the water from the lines. You could even go along and open up each faucet and fixture with the low side drain closed and bleed off what is there with air pressure.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel in Alaska View Post
    Hi

    I I understand also that it is common practice to evacuate supply lines and put non-toxic RV antifreeze in P traps to prevent damage to the toilet and shower.
    Don't forget the toilet. I've seen the trap on the toilet freeze and split the toilet open. Pour some RV anti freeze in the bowl and flush.

    I haven't figured out how to get all the water out of the toilet's trap.

  11. #11
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    I haven't figured out how to get all the water out of the toilet's trap.
    Shop Vac

    I didn't notice the electricity thing in the first post. The cost to use a Toyo or Monitor to heat a small cabin in the winter is minuscule compared to the pain of draining the system every weekend.
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

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    Thanks for the input everyone. With respect to the suggestion of setting up an alternate heat system to keep the frost off while the cabin was not used. ..

    This is indeed something I have been considering. The thing is the lot is heavilty wooded and the clearing and developing will result in a lot of free BTUs -ideal for a wood stove while there. I am hoping to avoid/minimize unnecessary utility/fuel costs and investments in a secondary heating sytem to heat the cabin when not in use. A monitor would certainly be sweet but it is an investment and a comitment to costs while i am not there.

    One idea I have toyed with was to try to design a small super insulated utility closet within the building envelope or in the crawl space powered with electricity- either the latent heat of a turned down water heater or a very small space heater or heating mat on a simple thermastat to maintain the heart of the plumbing system (eg pressure tank hotwater heater water supply line) above freezing. I could possibly co house these items into a heavily insulated bathroom (taking care of the shower sink and toilet) and simply drain the outgoing supply lines to the kitchen sink while away. I honestly dont know what the costs of maintaining this confined space above freezing with electricty would be - perhaps a monitor would be more efficent in the long run. Has anyone had any experiences with this - using an insulated / lightly heated utillity closet/shed? Thoughts ideas experiences greatly appreciated.

    Joel

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