Frozen Water Pipes From Well
By a guest blogger
So, here in the area west of the Winds, it gets a bit chilly in the winter. A layer of permafrost develops beneath the ground and sticks around until April/May. When the mud puddle water disappears, that is a sign that the permafrost layer has just about melted.
What does this have to do with water lines from your well to your pressure tank?
Well, this winter I learned a bit, and would love to share it with you to save you some real trouble. After a few days of a warm spell in February, we suddenly turned our water faucet on in the kitchen and we didn’t have any water. Upon investigation, the yard hydrant still worked just fine, but it seemed that water was not getting from the well to the pressure tank.
The way most wells work is that the well is a deep hole in the ground. At about 6 to 10 feet beneath the surface, there is a pipe that runs from the well to the pressure tank, sometimes under the home and sometimes in a separate building.
We contacted Jeff the well guru, and he suggested putting a 100 watt bulb down the well shaft to the point where the line leaves the well on its way to the pressure tank. We let the bulb sit for a few days but it did not start the water running. Next trick by way of Jeff was to put a metal trash can over the top of the well, and to put a heater or construction light under the trash can as well. We did this for a couple days and the well casing was too hot to touch. Still no water.
Jeff said that the next step was to have a steam heater used, or perhaps a welder. Two men in the area West of the Winds do this. Buck was very helpful and was thrilled when he learned that our water line that entered the pressure tank was copper. He arrived with his two huge welding machines and hooked up to the well pipe and the pipe entering the pressure tank. After 15 minutes of running a bunch of “juice” through, the copper lines heated up and the iced portion broke free, allowing water to flow!
The next step was to set up a constant flow of water through the pipe for the rest of the winter, a stream just over the size of a pencil. This is because the permafrost still existed and would immediately begin freezing the pipe again. It is important to run the water into the yard at a lower elevation that the house, and to NOT leave the water running inside. This is because there is a lot of water flowing 24/7 for the next months, and this would over-fill the septic tank’s limited space.
So, why did our pipes freeze?
As it turns out, when there is pressure from above, the permafrost is driven downward. Each time you drive your car over the ground above the pipe, perhaps the frost is driven down another quarter of an inch. Depending on the soil consistency and other factors, Buck mentioned that he had even seen a time when a rabbit trail had caused the water pipe to freeze! So, for the rest of this winter, ther eis no reason not to walk or drive over the water line, the permafrost is already surrounding the pipe, and the harm is already done.
Next winter though, we have some options/gambles.
Play is safe and spend some money on prevention:
We could have the area above the water pipe dug out with a mini excavator, and when we get to at least a foot of the pipe, put blue board insulation in, at least two feet wide, then cover the hole back up. Even doing this, it would be smart not to drive or walk on top of that area in the winter.
A bit of a gamble:
To save the time, work and expense of above, we could also just not walk on the area or drive over it next winter. We could even stack snow on top of it to provide more insulation, and make sure nothing rabbit-sized or heaver walks across. This “might” work just fine.
Think like a government employee:
We could also do a really stupid thing and do exactly what we did before, hoping that the freeze does not happen again.