Cabin Well-Line Insulation Redo: Add Heat-Cable & Temperature Probe

Pipe Heater cable and USB temperature sensor

36″ Pipe Heater cable and USB temperature sensor added while insulating above ground Well line section

This year I redid the Well-line insulation on the above ground section for the high-pressure water line for my submersed Well pump . I included line heaters and a temperature sensor that plugs into my cabin ‘server’ PC. I write about the protection given by the Easy Heat pipe warming cable and the data from the Well line sensor in an separate page on remote temperature monitoring cabins and vacation homes.

I had cut away the old insulation when I repaired a break in the high pressure Well line. The rehab goal was to protect the line in the spring and fall shoulder-seasons at my 3-season cabin.

Oops, I Froze & Blew the High Pressure Well Feed

High pressure well line repair and corrugated ~earth tube~

High pressure well line with new section. Run in a corrugated tube down into ground to the pitless valve in the well casing. There may be an earth tube effect, with warm air rising in that outer tube.

Fall before last I messed up on winterizing, a section of the water line froze and ruptured. As a result I had to repair a section of above-ground Well water-line last spring. This should not happen again: At the end of Camp season in Fall I made sure to drain the Well-line by briefly opening the pitless adapter down in the wall of the Well liner, as I describe in a post.

For my first two winterizations I had carefully drained the water system which is currently feeding just the kitchen sink, but  I did nothing for the well line. I had simply and wrongly assumed that the water was pushed  back down the Well pump line when I pressurized the drained cabin system using my air compressor. Strangely its not a topic in most guides on winterizing. The above ground line froze and a section ruptured in the second winter.

Heater cable on foil wrapped Well line

Heater cable strapped to Well line. Foil wrap evenly distributes heat

You can see the spliced in pipe section in one of the under camp pictures. Stores sell short sections of the high pressure 1” plastic line for just this purpose! I used a heat gun to make the pipe a bit more malleable while I pushed in connectors. I double clamped everything so hopefully nothing ever pops off.

I’m running the cabin as a three season camp so my goal is to safely extend the season with the water on at the kitchen sink. The 1” water line runs up in a 4 inch corrugate plastic tube, you can see where I had to cut it away. Since I had to cut away the corrugated plastic outer tube I thought it best to rehab the Well-line insulation from the dirt floor of the crawl space up to the cabin floor boards.

Redoing the Above-Ground Well-Line Insulation

Boxed welline

Protective box centered on fiberglass wrapped Well line.Box was next filled with Roxul offcuts.

I created a box with multiple layers of protection: An outer box, pipe wrap on the line, Roxul scraps filling the void in the box.

In the process of redoing my well-line insulation I added a heater cable and a temperature sensor. The 120V 36″ pipe heating cable is suppose to be straight but I couldn’t avoid overhangs if it was straight and those are also warned against, so I did wrap it but with a gentle spiral. The plastic 150psi water line is wrapped in foil since plastic doesn’t conduct heat like copper. For good measure I put an extra layer of foil over the heater line. Hopefully there will be no hot spots. On the top of that I strapped a USB temperature sensor. Its about the size of a thumb drive. Wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag with the mouth pointing down, just in case there is a pipe rupture. It links to the PC with a USB cable that is male A to female A since its essentially an extension cable for the PC socket. BTW: The Temperature sensors should not be plugged directly into the PC, they pick up heat from the innards of the box.

Well line box

Well line outer box cut & assembled at home. Top box fits between floor joists

The 15ft USB cable and the heater cable power line snake up into the cabin through the hole that the water line uses. That hole is not mouse proof, but then nothing in my cabin is!

The pipe and heater assembly is wrapped with foil backed fiberglass insulating strip. That is not great insulation but its helps keep the heater and sensor lines snugged up to the water pipe. The Roxul insulation I put  in the surrounding box is much more effective.

I built a box around the line and filled that with Roxul offcuts. Gee that was a bit more complicated than a sentence makes it sound. The water line ascends in a diagonal at a right angle to the joists.

Well line box as knockdown kit

Some assembly required: Box for Well line was made at home and moved to camp as a knockdown kit after test assembly.The box was cut and test assembled at home with some essential dimensions known, like the approximate distance from the dirt to the floor joists. Then I drove it up to camp as a knockdown kit to be built into  the confined space. The wood is all pressure treated lumber for longevity.

I had to think in 3D and design a second piece for wood surround. That second box is adjustable for height so that I could force it up flush with the floor boards. Some bolts act as pegs in pre-drilled holes to position the smaller top box. I made some construction bars to temporarily align things.  I was piecing it together solo but really needed a third hand. The last thing to go on was the front piece held on with bolts attached to side bars on the box. I can get back into the box in about 15 minutes. I just hope I don’t need to.  I may need to adjust that top box when I start trying to lift and level sections of the cabin.

How well do the Well-Line Insulation and Pipe Heaters Work?

I turned on the heater cable and set up the Well line monitoring on Columbus Day, the traditional water-off day for this area. You can see how  the heater cable was maintaining a >40F minimum in the water-line’s insulated box in a separate remote monitoring page on the site.

The goal of my Well-line insulation is to both keep the cold winds out with the outer box and the warmth in with the insulation. I’m now thinking there is some protection simply from an earth tube  effect – warm air from down in the ground coming up that 4″ corrugated tube visible in the second picture in the post. In January, with the pipe heater cable off, the well line was warmer than either the cabin or the outside in the night. The data show that I can push the edges of  my season. What I still can’t protect against is a prolonged power outage so I turned the water off on Veterans Day weekend.

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