We got home from spending Christmas with my family in Maryland on Sunday night, and before the end of the day on Monday, I had a feeling we would be spending some time without water as our water pressure dropped to a trickle. We tried leaving the water running at a trickle overnight, which usually works to keep pipes from freezing in our southern climate, but we still woke up Tuesday to no running water. No big deal, though. We keep drinking and washing water stored up for times like this, and we had a homeschool activity all day Tuesday, so I figured if the pipes were frozen we would come home to running water after the afternoon sun warmed things up. No such luck. Still no water Tuesday night, and we got home after dark anyway, so we opted to check things out in the morning. When I finally got down to the well house Wednesday morning to take a look at the pipes, I found that what I think was an old water softener system and an elbow joint had broken right off and the pipes were frozen solid.
We could have called a plumber at that point, but since I hate to pay someone else for something I could learn to do myself, I decided to forget about replacing the water softener since it was old and probably not working anyway, and ordered some pipe, elbow joints and a heat lamp for my husband to pick up on his way home from work. If you ever need to figure out what size pipe to buy, make sure to measure the inside diameter of the pipe for the correct pipe size. For instance, 3/4″ pipe measures about 3/4″ from the inside edges of the pipe, but about an inch from the outside edges, so you could get confused and order 1″ pipe when you need 3/4″. Fortunately I already had a hacksaw and some pipe cement and primer left over from setting up our water catchment system. Those water tanks I set up were great for providing water the flush our toilets by the way, yay! (I’ll do a post about how I set up that system soon.)
So first I shut off the breaker to our well, then ran an extension cord to the well house and set up a little heater to thaw out the pipes. After the pipes were thawed I turned off the two valves on the pipes, just to be extra sure that I wouldn’t be sprayed with cold water while I was working. Then I cut off the pipes as evenly as I could, and cleaned and dried the ends to prepare them for the pipe cement.
After my husband got home with the pipe and elbows, I cut the horizontal piece to size and glued the elbows to that on each end first, then glued that section down to the two vertical pieces. I left the heat lamp and heater on for a few hours so it could cure at as close to 60 degrees as possible, then turned everything back on, and voila! We now have running water again!
Preventative measures: I now have an infrared heat lamp set up to keep the pipes in the well house from freezing again, and I piled leaves around the pipes to provide some extra insulation. We will also be leaving a faucet running during cold nights to keep the pipes to the house from freezing at night. I plan to replace the heat lamp with heat tape soon to improve energy efficiency.
Every time I lose something so convenient, yet commonplace (here in the USA anyway), I become even more thankful for it. I have been in the habit of thanking God almost every time I run the washer or dishwasher, but now I will have a reminder to thank Him every time I wash my hands! Now that’s a LOT of thanksgiving!
UPDATE: That part I thought was an old water softener was actually a sediment filter! It is meant to keep sand and other large particles from proceeding to the house and clogging faucets and such. Well, I realized this after some of our faucets got a little sandy and I ended up having to replace a shower head, but at least we didn’t have anything too drastic come of my misidentification. It looked like an easy fix- just buy the filter and install- and I would have done it myself and made a tutorial, but we had to have the plumber replace our water tank for the well anyway, so he offered to put in the filter I had purchased for only a little bit extra cost, and that saved me lots of time. =)