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Michigan Homesteading and Home Improvement Forum about building, buying, and caring for second homes or properties in MI, and general home improvement questions.

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  #1  
Old 10-06-2010, 07:08 PM
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Default How to protect well pit from freezing?

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I have a cabin on the Little Manistee. This will be the first full winter we have owned it. The cabin is built on a concrete slab; the well pit (pump, hot water heater, etc) is about 6 feet below grade under the slab and the exterior metal access cover on the adjacent covered porch, above. In other words, the cover of the pit is about 1/2 concrete slab and the other half a metal access plate exposed to the outside that lifts up to gain access. The floor of the pit is mostly dirt.
The cabin can be heated 24/7 with thermostatically controlled propane heating system that I recently installed; however, there is no way to divert any of that heat into the pit. Historically, prior owners have simply drained the system and put antifreeze in the toilet and sinks to prevent freezing. What this meant was that everytime you went up there, you had to crawl down in the pit, prime the pump, etc to get running water. Interestingly, jugs of primer water kept on the dirt floor never froze.
I think I can keep the pipes in the cabin (sink, toilet, shower, etc) from freezing with the central heat. I'd like to keep the water system primed so that I don't have to climb down in the pit in the dark when we go up there in the winter. No one ever had to address this before because there was no central heating system for the cabin.
What would you suggest for the pit? Heat tape...styrofoam cover over the pit area...or just keep biting the bullet and climb down into that thing in the dark on Friday nights to re-prime the pump?
I'm open to all suggestions.
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Old 10-06-2010, 07:22 PM
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I use a small electric heater in my well house It is insulated and i keep the heater on low I have never had a problem with freezing.....
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Old 10-06-2010, 07:27 PM
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With that depth of pit it shouldnt freeze if the covers tight. We have a well pit on one farm thats about the same depth, and just covered with planks and it has never froze. Your idea of putting styrofoam would give you extra protection. If the water jugs didnt freeze the well wont. In the winter snow over a well pit will provide a lot of insulation. If you have the outside cover off for any length of time the well or pump can freeze pretty quick.
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Old 10-06-2010, 08:24 PM
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Frostex heat cable wrapped in foam pipe insulation, tape it tight. Cover the hole.
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Old 10-06-2010, 08:25 PM
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Frostex heat cable wrapped in foam pipe insulation, tape it tight. Don't use the Home Depot brand called Frost King, will be dead in a year or less. Cover the hole.
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Old 10-06-2010, 09:14 PM
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I would insulate the metal part of the pit cover and the well pit will never freeze. Put a check valve on the pipe in the pit between the pump and the ground and you shouldn't have to totally reprime every time. Run the outlet of the pump 4' underground to a hydrant. Hook the cabin water system up to the hydrant with a T. When the hydrant is off, water is kept 4' under ground. You can blow your cabin out the spicket of the hydrant, then shut it off.
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Old 10-06-2010, 09:16 PM
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If it were me I would make a low ceiling (just above anything that would freeze) out of styrofoam. I worked on water wells for 9 years and most of time even a 40 watt light bulb would keep pits warm enough to not freeze. The only bad thing about any sort of heater, bulb, or heat tape is that if the power happens to go out it will most likely freeze. I would say that keeping the pump primed and losing power may mean that on your next visit you may end coming up north and have to replace a pump that froze and cracked.
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Old 10-06-2010, 09:30 PM
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If the bottom of the pit is dirt, insulating it well up top should keep plenty of heat in the pit assuming it is deep enough.
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Old 10-12-2010, 11:08 AM
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We have a well pit outside and about 4' -5' underground. It looks like a septic tank without a bottom. We have the hydrant as stated above to drain the main feed to cabin and we leave the power on to the pump to maintain the prime. Our pump guy told us the worse thing we could do is turn off the pump. We put bails of straw on the access hatch to prevent freezing and it does a good job. The snow will actually insulate the ground, but if it does not snow , the straw will insulate it. Don't use hay, the deer will eat it, oops. The pipes in the cabin are set up to drain so we do that every time we leave in the winter. We keep the main in the cabin shut off in case someone walks by the well pit and opens the hydrant, this avoids the cabin from filling with water. Close the main only after you have back drained from the hydrant, this allows the water to flow easier. Put RV antifreeze in the traps and toilet. Leave all faucets open for any water that may be left.
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Old 10-12-2010, 06:23 PM
tdejong302 tdejong302 is offline
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I would put a couple lights in the well, put a tarp over the cover and a piece of insulation over that. Put something over the tarp and insulation to prevent drafts and blowing away. And if your well doesn't loose prime shut off your pump. Open all your faucets to help drain and poor anti freeze in toilets. I leave my heat on but its set at 50 degrees. Has worked well for years.
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