Freezing pipes - the science

19
Found 2nd Mar
I can't believe I'm posting this but in order to prove to colleagues that I am not mad, can someone please confirm the following to be correct and maybe even explain the science behind it?

This morning, our mains water pipe was frozen solid. There is no insulation on the first few metres. Someone directed a heater at it to thaw it out. Makes sense so far. I was then asked why I didn't apply insulation to the pipe, in it's frozen state, in order to warm it up. I explained the insulation would prevent the heat from the heater getting to the pipe and it would insulate the frozen water, keeping it frozen for longer. This was met with a puzzled look and I was told I was wrong because the insulation would actually heat the frozen water on the basis that when we are cold, we put a jacket on.

I tried to explain that unlike us, the pipe can not generate it's own heat so we were in fact slowing the thawing process down but I received a look of disbelief.

So, am I mad or is that as obvious to everyone else as it is to me?

Thanks in advance,

Mark
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You are correct sir the insulation won't warm a pipe once it's froze but will prevent a pipe from freezing up before hand
Edited by: "Splice" 2nd Mar
19 Comments
I think your friend is the mad one
You are correct sir the insulation won't warm a pipe once it's froze but will prevent a pipe from freezing up before hand
Edited by: "Splice" 2nd Mar
Yes and no, they have a point that the insulation would keep the heat onto the pipe for longer (carefully of burning the insulation when heating it) as if you put a sofa in front of a radiator you would get slow dissipation of heat from the sofa. You're also right in that applying directly to the pipe would unfreeze it quicker and then maybe apply the insulation.

And to answer your last question,
yes
Insulation simply protects what’s inside from the elements outside the insulation. Cold on inside, it’ll stay cold longer. Insulation has no heat source, it just keeps it away from the temperature the pipe would be effected by. You would need to insulate with a trace heating cable to artificially heat it up
Thank you. I will enjoy showing them all your comments whilst maintaining a smug look!
Joey.Bloggsy21 m ago

Yes and no, they have a point that the insulation would keep the heat onto …Yes and no, they have a point that the insulation would keep the heat onto the pipe for longer (carefully of burning the insulation when heating it)


Er no, the insulation (if applied before heat) would stop the heat getting to the pipe.
Even if it's a fairly large heater it's likely to be affecting half a meter or less and applying insulation to the rest of the exposed several meters of pipe would help retain the heat transmitted through the water/pipe walls.
God ! what are they teaching them at school the last 30 years :-)

might be worth concidering why the pipes froze in the first place. Often it not simply a case of lagging them although that should stop it happening agian you will still be having cold spots in that area so see if you can stop that by applying something to the outside walls or cavity etc.
just tell them to think of a thermal flask

cold in cold out
hot in .. warm out
mark111153 m ago

Thank you. I will enjoy showing them all your comments whilst maintaining …Thank you. I will enjoy showing them all your comments whilst maintaining a smug look!



Ask them how a pipe freezing kit works without the coolant spray,
33361850-FOpnh.jpgYour trying to do the opposite, without any source of heat or cold inside the lagging it will have no effect.
Good idea to lag in the future though to stop it getting to freezing.
Sounds like you have dumb colleagues. Bet you are brighter than them at work

Now that you have resolved the problem, do yourself a favour and get some pipe insulation.
You don't mention what colour the theoretical insulation is......

In general, better to thaw then insulate but the adding insulation first could also be a valid comment in certain circumstances. You're both right
Which snowman would melt first?

A one with a coat, scarf and hat or a naked snowman?
mutley146 m ago

Sounds like you have dumb colleagues. Bet you are brighter than them at …Sounds like you have dumb colleagues. Bet you are brighter than them at work Now that you have resolved the problem, do yourself a favour and get some pipe insulation.


This comment alone was worth the post. I'll show them this and remind them constantly about it. Thanks!
Paddy_o_furniture2nd Mar

Which snowman would melt first?A one with a coat, scarf and hat or a naked …Which snowman would melt first?A one with a coat, scarf and hat or a naked snowman?


So many unknown variables Not the black and white question it appears to be... or is it
How does a cool box work then, perhaps your friend could answer that.
Paddy_o_furniture2nd Mar

Which snowman would melt first?A one with a coat, scarf and hat or a naked …Which snowman would melt first?A one with a coat, scarf and hat or a naked snowman?


hmmm ,does the naked snowman have a hot gf?
The insulation will help retain either heat or col depending on what state the liquid is inside the pipe. The insulation could gradually warm the pipe by protecting it from outside air/wind but it’s far more effective to heat it up and then cover it.
I remember doing a science experiment in junior school when I was about 8. We wrapped ice cubes in different materials and guessed what would melt first. One was wrapped in faux fur and we thought that it would be the fastest to melt as the fur would make it warm, in fact it was the opposite. The ice cube that had no wrapping was the one that melted first as the wrapped ones had their coldness contained to make mini fridges.

so tell your friend that experiments have been done by some kids about 20 odd years ago and it confirms that you are right
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