Frost problem with drilled well

deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
Hi everyone,

I have my water pumped from our deep well with a Shurflo 9300. Problem is my water line gets out of ground to enter our cabin and it is very cold here in northen Canada. We've installed a bleeder valve in the well which was allowing the water to get back in the well when we stopped the pump. The issue is now the water in the well constantly is close to the ground level and over the bleeder valve so the water line can no longer discharge back in the well.

One of the suggestion I had is to install an overflow line in the well, for example at 8-10 feet underground, to make sure the water level would remain under such a level. This overflow line would discharge water in excess into a trench or something like that.

Anyone familar with a drilled well overflow line ? Does it sound like a good environmental solution ?

Thanks for your time
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Comments

  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Everyone here has a well and most use underground water lines that connect to the pump with a pitless adapter.
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    this is what i have but the water line is going to the cabin upward until under it where it goes off the ground. This is where it freezes so the system has to allow the water to go back in the well or elsewhere when we leave for the week. There should not be any water in the line at least where the frost goes down.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Let's just see if I've got this right:

    What you have is a drain back system, only the static level of the water in the well is too high to allow it to drain back and empty the line to the building (which is for some reason exposed). Yes?

    What you want to do is put a drain in he well casing "so many" feet down to keep the static level below a point where the drain back will function. Yes?

    If so, it can be done. it is not cheap or easy to do so because the water has to have some place to drain to. When temperatures go down this becomes increasingly problematic for underground drains of fresh water. The more water that flows out, even underground, the greater the chance for freezing.

    Just my opinion but I think you'd find it cheaper and easier to take steps to prevent the line from being able to freeze. This might be something as simple as insulating and double-walling (or triple-walling even) the pipe at least through the exposed area.

    We just put in a well here and all the line is 5 feet below grade until it is within the perimeter of the foundation. Even there the rise is 2 feet away from the edge of the house, and the crawl space is both insulated and (mildly) heated. It gets really cold here.
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    this is what i have but the water line is going to the cabin upward until under it where it goes off the ground. This is where it freezes so the system has to allow the water to go back in the well or elsewhere when we leave for the week. There should not be any water in the line at least where the frost goes down.

    Usually it would go up only under the house. But anyway, it should be a relatively small part of the pipe exposed. If natural heat from the cabin isn't enough, you could put a heating tape on it to prevent freezing.
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    well it looks like I am at the right place !

    You both understand perfectly my situation and the reason I write is effectively I don't like this suggestion of overflow line neither. Its seems to be a mess.

    On the other hand there is no heat at all in the cabin for days in winter and it is real cold here. the line is correctly insulate I guess but it is not enough for sure.

    Let's talk about heat tape. Is there something that works on DC power ? I also thought about an AC one and use a generator where I'm back at the cabin to heat it for a couple of hours. Any suggestion on this side ? Actually I have 2 100 amp 12 volts batteries and a 200 amp panel. All what is connected on it is the pump and a couple of lights so the batteries are constantly full.

    Thanks again
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Couple of questions before we hit heat tape:

    1). The line from the pump is what? Black vinyl or PEX or metal?
    2). When you leave you shut the pump off and open the taps, yes?

    Heat tape is thermostatically controlled and therefor needs power available on demand. This stuff can cool down very quickly and hit freeze before you know it (especially with even a mild breeze to take away any residual heat in the line). I've not seen any DC specific versions, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. So you'd probably have to run a small inverter which will also demand power and the cycling would be unknown. To my mind this solution would work better in a situation where 120 VAC is 'always available', not set up for one job only.

    I think you mean you have 200 Amp hours @ 12 Volts of battery and 200 Watts of panel. If so, that's not really enough to charge those batteries with. Asking it to run a further load could be asking for trouble.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Further thought:

    Could you build an insulated box around the pipe area in question and install a light bulb there? Technically any kind of resistance load will run the same off DC as AC, and the right bulb at 12 VDC can provide heat, possibly enough to keep the pipe temperature up. This providing you have the battery capacity available to run it. A small amount constantly rather than trying to rely on a thermostat and larger heating element (no inverter, et cetera).
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    Let's talk about heat tape. Is there something that works on DC power ? I also thought about an AC one and use a generator where I'm back at the cabin to heat it for a couple of hours. Any suggestion on this side ? Actually I have 2 100 amp 12 volts batteries and a 200 amp panel. All what is connected on it is the pump and a couple of lights so the batteries are constantly full.

    I use H612 heating cable made by Raychem. It is a polymer tape and its resistance changes with temperature, so it is self-regulating. It may be feasible for your system to support a short run, and this should be enough if you provide good insulation around the pipe and the tape. I recently installed a piece about 6ft long, and it consumed about 20W when I plugged it in. It'll be less if it manages to get warmer because of good insulation around.
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    I think the line is made of Pex and yes I shut the pump off when i leave and open the tap.

    I'm not sure to understand perfectly the idea of the bulb. I build a kind of casing around the line, Ok but is the bulb constantly on would drain my batteries system ?
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Nothguy, I'd need an inverter for that ?

    Is this a "in the line" heat line or it 's wrapped around ?
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    I think the line is made of Pex and yes I shut the pump off when i leave and open the tap.

    I'm not sure to understand perfectly the idea of the bulb. I build a kind of casing around the line, Ok but is the bulb constantly on would drain my batteries system ?

    That's why you need to know if you've got the power available. You can 'afford' 'X' Watt hours per day, so you divide by 24 and put in that big a bulb. It runs constantly, providing a small amount of heat to keep the enclosed space above freezing.

    But I am curious now as to what happens to the pipe inside the cabin? If this too can not drain back into the well then it will also freeze. PEX is highly resistant to damage from freezing. But if you return and the line is a block of ice, what then?
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    it is not perfect but there is valves at low points I can use to drain it. In theory it's Ok.

    I realize that with a small thru the wall propane heater and the bulb system or even maybe a heat line (all depending on my available power) I could really enhance my living and still be off-grid...
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    Nothguy, I'd need an inverter for that ?

    Is this a "in the line" heat line or it 's wrapped around ?

    It is for 120V AC. You just run it along the side of the pipe and then put insulation around. So you need same length as the pipe.

    On the insulated box. If you dig a hole deep enough (say 8-10 feet), and put an insulated box in the hole, the heat coming from the earth may be enough to keep the pipe inside the box from freezing, but it's a lot of work.

    What if you don't drain it every time the pump runs, but only when you leave?
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    NorthGuy wrote: »

    On the insulated box. If you dig a hole deep enough (say 8-10 feet), and put an insulated box in the hole, the heat coming from the earth may be enough to keep the pipe inside the box from freezing, but it's a lot of work.

    This is similar to what I did at my place before I had a basement.
    What worked for me, the water line was buried below the frost line and where it turned up to leave the ground and enter the underside of the cottage, it passed up through a 4 inch plastic pipe that was buried down below the frost line and was insulated ABOVE the frost line right up to the bottom of the floor. The relative warmth of the ground below the frost level would make it's way up through the 4 inch pipe and keep the water line from freezing. The INSIDE of the 4 inch pipe was NOT filled with insulation, so the warmth of the earth could freely circulate. The outside of course was well insulated above the frost level, but not below.
    Free warmth from the earth. Worked perfectly for me, and as far as I know, works great for a friend of mine as well, in spite of the fact that he filled the 4 inch pipe with foam insulation against my advice, as it would block the heat flow from below the frost level. Perhaps in his case there was enough warmth move up inside the water line.
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Thank you all.

    That's what I do to only try to empty the line when we leave. Normally, let's say in the hunting season up to the end of November, the line being insulated can stay with water in without freezing when we are there or not. The problems arrive later, when the temp is colder than -10C constantly.

    You gave me good material to think about.

    Maybe one last question: what do you use to insulate the outer part of that 4 inches pipe ?
  • Ralph DayRalph Day Solar Expert Posts: 927 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    IIRC Tony uses or used to use, a generator and heat tape to thaw out his water line to the lake upon return when the ice allowed transportation. It only took 30 minutes or so to thaw out his water line. Still doing that I wonder?


    ralph
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Maybe one last question: what do you use to insulate the outer part of that 4 inches pipe ?

    I wrapped it with about 8 inches of fiberglass pink insulation, then wrapped that with heavy plastic to protect the insulation. It was in under the building, so didn't get wet. You could also put a box-type enclosure around the 4 inch pipe and fill that with insulation. If the enclosure is tight, would keep critters from building nests in the insulation. :D
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    I wrapped it with about 8 inches of fiberglass pink insulation, then wrapped that with heavy plastic to protect the insulation. It was in under the building, so didn't get wet. You could also put a box-type enclosure around the 4 inch pipe and fill that with insulation. If the enclosure is tight, would keep critters from building nests in the insulation. :D

    Home Depot sells bubble wrap insulation which you can wrap around the pipe to any thickness you want. It is very easy to use and has less problems with condensation.

    Mold resistant spray foam is easy to apply in tight spaces.
  • Coach DadCoach Dad Solar Expert Posts: 154 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    OK… Just to make sure I understand your problem first..
    Your waterline is buried below the frost line. You are having trouble with the water freezing in the pipe that runs from below the frost-line into your cabin. It freezes AFTER you leave your cabin unattended for days but not while you are using the cabin. You are not having trouble when you are there because you have heat on. Correct?

    This is how I made sure that wouldn’t happen to me. (works great)

    I installed a frost-proof hydrant
    http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/CAMPBELL-Frost-Proof-4YFA8?gclid=CLeh4JvnvroCFRGi4AodoxoAiQ&cm_mmc=PPC:GooglePLA-_-Plumbing-_-Hose%20Bibs%20and%20Hydrants-_-4YFA8&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=4YFA8&ef_id=UjxRjwAABEf3CXXx:20131030145016:s

    I connected it below the frost line and ran it into the cabin through the floor. I use the hydrant as my main water inlet and connect the entire cabin water system to it. I have the pipe that runs from the hydrant inside the cabin down to the frost-line insulated and wrapped with heat tape. (I’ve never had to use the tape).

    When I leave the cabin after the weekend, I turn off the well pump, let the water run out and then blow out the water lines with an air-compressor. When I close the hydrant, the water that is in the line drains back down into ground below the frost line. I also give it a shot of air just to make sure.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    I do something similar to Coach Dad I have a tee on the incoming line below the frost line with a cut off. I shut the pump down and open the faucets and open the cut off and turn on a old Wet Vac that is hooked permanently to the incoming Line. It'll suck all the water out in about 30 seconds, never had a issue above or below ground.
  • SCharlesSCharles Solar Expert Posts: 123 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    We had our well drilled a few yr. back and ended up with a "flowing well." Meaning, though we hit water at 328 ft. down, the water slowly climbed the pipe til it continually dripped over the top. This would not work, if left alone, of course as in freezing temp's we'd have broken all sorts of things. We had to take the pipe from the well at a point below freezing level [this might be called a curb stop, I don't recall the terminology]. So, the supply pipe comes up from a point about six feet down in the ground. There is a valve there which I open after we've used the pump to fill our 2200 gal. cistern up at the house, 300 ft. away and 100 ft. up in elevation. I have to close that valve, turn on the pump, fill the tank, then open that valve to drain the 300 ft. line so it won't freeze. It was not an option to bury that line as we only have a few inches of topsoil and then solid rock on a steep hillside. I was able to dig a trench and bury the line six inches or so, but that would freeze.

    It works great. However, it would not work without a huge hassle if we could not store a bunch of water and run the pump only now and then, or I'd be messing with the valve every time we ran the water.

    For many years, we did not have a well but did have the cistern. There was a ten-ft. run of line from the cistern into the house. I did not have a way to drain that line. Once or twice a winter, the line would freeze, even though I had it wrapped with heat tape. This would be a spell when the temp's dropped to well below zero F. Then, it could take days for the line to thaw. Heat tape works; it also works best when additional protection is provided, such as insulation or enclosing the line in a larger-diameter plastic pipe or etc. to protect from moisture, winds, rodents. Rodents ruined our heat tape more than once.

    In other words, heat tape is ok and does work. However, it does fail, or can. I had to replace ours once simply because it quit working, no noticeable damage or anything, it just went bad. Only takes once to ruin some pipe or fixtures.

    We have a PV home, and the tape had to be run from an inverter, as you've mentioned. I never found any DC-powered heat tape solution.

    If there is water in the pipe, and the pipe is in a position to where the water in it can freeze if anything goes wrong, and you live in an area subject to these freezes, eventually you will have a frozen pipe. Only two fail-safe solutions are to have the pipe situated to where it cannot freeze, no matter what, or can be drained easily after use.

    By the way, we had to have installed in the well pipe a rubber disc to keep the water from rising above that freezing level. This entailed pumping water from the well at a rate greater than its flow, then installing the disc, which could be tightened to expand and block and seal the well at that point. Works great. The well-drilling co. makes them as needed. Not inexpensive, but necessary.
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    This is fantastic information.

    Blackcherry, where is that vlave located exactly and how do you proceed to turn it on and off ?

    Coach dad I understand the hydrant has a bleeder valve so this is where the water goes out right into the ground, correct.?

    For both of you are you connected to a pressure tank?
  • Coach DadCoach Dad Solar Expert Posts: 154 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    Coach dad I understand the hydrant has a bleeder valve so this is where the water goes out right into the ground, correct.?

    For both of you are you connected to a pressure tank?

    Correct... when you install the hydrant, put about 5 gallons of stone around the base... the water will drain into the stone.
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    Is this under pressure?
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    The actual valve in a yard hydrant is underground where the stone is: when it is shut off it opens a whole which allows the water to drain from the pipe into the stone. When it is on the whole thing pressurizes just as any other system. It does need to be able to draw air in at the top, but that shouldn't be too difficult to arrange.
  • SCharlesSCharles Solar Expert Posts: 123 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    On my set-up, that underground valve is turned to on and off with a long steel "key," sort of a rod. There is a pipe which sticks up out of the ground, maybe 2" diameter, something like that, that leads down in the ground to the valve and surrounds it so the valve is protected from the soil. You just stick the rod down in there and turn the valve. Easy. The "key" came with my valve. Since I am draining three hundred feet of pipe, I dug a fairly good-sized area to fill with gravel around the valve, plenty of room for all the water to drain. I am a homeowner, not a well pro', but the drillers and pump installers said this is all standard and quite common. So the parts are easy to get and the technology is really good. The installers/drillers provided a lot of it, the rest I was able to buy at a wholesale driller/pump supply house on my driller's account [they added the invoices to my account at the end, pretty nice guys.]
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    This is fantastic information.

    Blackcherry, where is that vlave located exactly and how do you proceed to turn it on and off ?

    Coach dad I understand the hydrant has a bleeder valve so this is where the water goes out right into the ground, correct.?

    For both of you are you connected to a pressure tank?
    I have a piece of 6 " PVC with a cap and a foam plug that push in the pipe before I put the cap on, it's about 3 foot in the ground. The line is a 1/2 hose that is tee'd into the pump line with a shut-off valve on the end of the hose that I open after I have hooked up the vacuum. When I am finished I drop the hose back to the bottom of the pipe, push the foam plug in the pipe and slip the cap on.
  • Coach DadCoach Dad Solar Expert Posts: 154 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well
    The actual valve in a yard hydrant is underground where the stone is: when it is shut off it opens a whole which allows the water to drain from the pipe into the stone. When it is on the whole thing pressurizes just as any other system. It does need to be able to draw air in at the top, but that shouldn't be too difficult to arrange.
    Exactly right..
    Here is a little more info for you Deer Hunter. As Coot say it needs to be able to draw air at the top otherwise it is like having your finger over the straw full of water. The water won't drain. I installed a tee fitting at the pressure tank inlet with a ball valve. I connect the compressor to the tee and open the valve and shoot some air into it with the compressor when I blow out the rest of the system. But just opening it to atmosphere would work too..
  • deer hunterdeer hunter Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    All,

    This is very helpful. This overflow solution is definitively out. I will take some time to digest your ideas. Don't be surprised if I come back with a few questions. I have to say I've been searching solutions like these since a while and I got more here in 24 hours or so than in many months before. Congrats!

    Thanks a lot again.
  • Texas WellmanTexas Wellman Solar Expert Posts: 153 ✭✭
    Re: Frost problem with drilled well

    I saw your thread on the other forum, unfortunately it's not something that I have run up against and being in S. Texas we don't really get that cold. Good luck and I'm glad you got some better information.
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