Prevent Freezing Pipes Without Heat

In FHB Podcast Episode 635Jerry writes to share his experience renovating a bathroom in a 20th century home in Ann Arbor, MI, where he installed a shower hookup in an exterior wall. Fearing freezing, they insulated with rock wool and EPS foam to prevent pipes from freezing without a heater, monitored temperatures with a data logger, and recorded stable conditions despite temperatures as low as -6°F. He shares temperature data and construction details, and humorously mentions the longevity of the data logger.

Jerry's full question:

Hi all, I just wanted to share a real-life story. We had a situation where we were remodeling a bathroom (in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area) and knew we needed to install a shower fixture in an exterior wall. The house is built circa 1900 and has board siding and several layers of exterior siding.

From the inside, we taped up all the gaps in the board siding and covered the new pipes with spray foam; we stuffed a data logger between the hot and cold water pipes; finished off the insulation with rock wool and set the data logger to record hourly. We were naturally concerned that the pipes would get too cold and freeze. I wanted to share the data we got with you. In early January we reached temperatures of -21°C and the logger recorded 12°C. That's not an insanely thick wall construction. We managed to get about 5cm of EPS foam behind the pipes and sealed the gaps with canned foam.

I'm sending you a quick graph I made showing the lowest temperature recorded each week, as well as a picture of the construction. (Please excuse the crazy framing.) This poor data logger will record for about a year and a half and then run out of memory, so we might get one more winter dataset. Everything should be fine until the next ice age.

As always, I love the show,

Listen to the full episode

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