Balancing heat loss and keeping pipes from freezing

I have a home in the Northeast that I'm not at that much in the winter but am there enough that I don't want to just shut it down. This is the first winter I've gone through with the house so I'm still feeling my way around. To save on heat, when I'm not there I turn the thermostat down to 47 degrees. We've recently gone through the coldest days of the winter and everything was fine so I'm not worried about that setting being too low to keep the pipes from freezing. But, I want to try to reduce the heating bill further. It has a FHA heating system, half the cellar is finished and heated with the furnace and water heater on the unfinished, unheated side of he basement. Neither the water heater nor any of the water pipes are wrapped and there is no insulation around the FHA ducts. I figure I'm losing a lot of heat into the basement. I was planning on wrapping the ducts, and the water heater but then became concerned that if I did that, then perhaps the reduced heat in the basement could cause the pipes to freeze.
My question is, how do you go about finding that balance between setting the thermostadt as low as possible while also reducing heat loss from the ducts etc., and still keep things from freezing.
George
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snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

<SNIP>
I bet that further reductions are going to pay off minimally. Law of decreasing returns or some such.
More importantly, since you don't plan to be there much, what is "THE PLAN" for when the power goes off or the FHA goes off due to failure??
Personally, I think your focus may be misdirected. (And I don't say that to be mean-spirited.)
Jim
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The gas FHA burner is fairly new, as is the water heater so I don't expect a problem. As far as power outages, I don't live that far away that I couldn't get there in a reasonable amount of time to take action. Also, I have friends in the area that can advise me of power problems.
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do turn OFF the main water valve when your not there, in case things freeze then thaw and flood the home.
i would install some low temp sensors so you know if things get too cold.
power lines fail, furnaces quit working, and other surprises lurk out there.
hard freezing your home can not only freeze and break all your watrer and drain lines but smash your toilet, and ruin your hot water tank.
you need to plan, even if its a light in a window that turns on and flashes if your home gets too cold. a neighbor would be instructed, if that light turns on call me immediately. or give them a key so they can check.
did you know many insurance companies dontr cover a home after its vacant for 30 days. if you have a landline there get a neighbor to make a occasional long distance chargeable call to prove someone was around
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do turn OFF the main water valve when your not there, in case things freeze then thaw and flood the home.
i would install some low temp sensors so you know if things get too cold.
power lines fail, furnaces quit working, and other surprises lurk out there.
hard freezing your home can not only freeze and break all your watrer and drain lines but smash your toilet, and ruin your hot water tank.
you need to plan, even if its a light in a window that turns on and flashes if your home gets too cold. a neighbor would be instructed, if that light turns on call me immediately. or give them a key so they can check.
did you know many insurance companies dontr cover a home after its vacant for 30 days. if you have a landline there get a neighbor to make a occasional long distance chargeable call to prove someone was around
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snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

There is no way to calculate that value. At any indoor temp it's possible to have pipes in outside walls freeze. The outdoor temperature is as much a factor as the indoor temperature. You may not be so lucky next winter if outdoor temps run 10 lower, or if they stay at this years low for longer periods. If you push your luck by setting back to 47, then one of these days you'll find out from experience what your balance point is, and when you do it's likely that all of your savings will be shot to hell. Indoor flooding can cost thousands.
Richard Perry
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snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

No calculations will give what you want. Monitoring will, though. You'd have to watch it on a regular basis to determine what works for you. The perfect setup would be remote monitoring of a few areas of the house and the ability to make changes as needed.
If you have a neighbor that is willing to keep an eye on the house, put some thermometers in four or five places and have him check them every day or two. You need a safety factor in case of power failure, so a minimum would be about 40 degrees. That will give a 12 to 24 hour margin.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

It sure will! When he comes home and water is running out the front door he'll know that he set it too low. LOL! :) I can't believe you suggested the stuff below. If it was your house, would you try it? It's safer to experiment with other peoples shit, eh? ;)
Richard Perry

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I'm not experimenting with other's houses -- I'm living that exact scenario. At work, we have a 300,000 square foot building that we keep minimally heated. It is an old building with steam heat, hot water heat, oil burners, and electric heat in various addition over the years. I'd like to see 35 degrees, but I shoot for 40 as a minimum. I've been doing this for the past five winters and have not had a freeze up yet, even when one of the boilers went down for about 18 hours. This building has minimal insulation also and is two to four stories depending on the section. All is covered with a water filled sprinkler system.
I don't suggest something unless it is practical.
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I live where it goes to - 20f, in 5 minutes my house can be set to safely freeze and turn off the heat. I can turn off and drain all water and fill all traps with antifreeze. It is not hard to set up a house for this and really save.
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