One of the most serious problems that can arise with hydronic underfloor heating during the winter is frozen pipes. In some cases, the ice will eventually melt and the pipes will recommence working as they should. In others, the blockage could be more serious and could lead to serious water leak and damage inside your hydronic system. In this article, we have outlined the most popular causes of frozen pipes and how this problem can be avoided.
Whilst frozen pipes can occur anywhere within the system, they are most common in areas where the space around them gets cold (such as uninsulated spots or sections that extend beyond the foundations). They generally occur if the boiler is turned off for an extended period. This could be due to malfunction, breakdown, loss of power (which shuts the boiler off or trips the breakers), lack of fuel supplies and other utility problems.
There are actually several steps that can be taken prior to winter that can help to prevent frozen pipes in hydronic floor heating. These include:
▪ Insulating your home
It is important to note that a well insulated home will have fewer issues with cold spots. If there aren’t any cold spots, the likelihood of the pipes freezing decreases significantly.
▪ Insulating the pipes
It is also possible to insulate the pipes directly using pre-made insulating jackets or by wrapping them with fiberglass insulation. Pay particular attention to pipes in areas with limited or no insulation.
▪ Apply heating tape
These are lengths of wiring that contain heating elements. Wrapping them around the pipes and plugging them in generates enough heat that they are prevented from freezing.
▪ Sealing your home
Go around and seal any cracks, gaps and openings where cold air can get into your home. Some of the most overlooked areas include foundations, outside walls, basements and crawl spaces.
▪ Running a small amount of water
Having the system on at all times (at a very low temperature at least) can actually help to prevent freezing, as it keeps the water moving through the pipes. This also reduces pressure in the system.
▪ Opening cabinets
If there are any cabinets or cupboards through which pipes pass (particularly if you have radiators), try leaving them open. This will allow warmer air to reach them and provide insulation.
▪ Taking precautions
If you will be leaving your home for an extended period (such as going on holiday), shut off the water supply completely. This will leave only a minimal amount in the pipes to cause issues.
We hope that the information provided above has given you a better understanding of why frozen pipes occur in the first place and what you can do to decrease the likelihood of your hydronic floor heating being affected. When the mercury starts to drop, keeping your family warm should be a top priority and this is impossible if the system is experiencing a problem. Keep in mind that frozen pipes could also lead to other issues, such as leaks.