Do you know any cheap way to prevent my pipes from freezing also when I am gone in December for 2 weeks? What do you thin of straw?

Hi folks.
I bought a little house in middle of rural Missouri. My neighbor lives in his house next door for 50 years, and he told me that my house has a history of frozen pipes. Unfortunately, I have to travel in December, and the house will be likely empty for two weeks. He told me that I should get straw bales and put them around the house to prevent freezing. But is that enough? But a friend of mine told me that I might get bugs inside using organic stuff around the house.
Through the purchase of the house, I have not much money left anymore. I can afford an expensive pipe prevention system right now. I also had to buy a new water heater and pipes because the former owner allowed the pipes to freeze last year.
Do you know any cheap way to prevent my pipes from freezing also when I am gone in December for 2 weeks?
I appreciate your advice.
Johnny
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snipped-for-privacy@myway.com wrote:

Drain them.
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dadiOH
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wrote:

Drain the pipes, or leave the faucets trickling so there is water constantly flowing through the pipes.
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snipped-for-privacy@myway.com wrote:

It depends to a great extent on where the pipes are located and how much protection there is. Straw bales are used often to help insulate from the outside. The common advice, when I lived where it got extremely cold, was to leave open the cabinets under sinks and to leave a trickle of water running. Keeping the house heated to a decent temp is important, of course, but even when heated the pipes in some locations are subject to freezing in extremely cold weather.
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snipped-for-privacy@myway.com wrote:

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On Wed, 12 Sep 2007 14:06:12 -0000, snipped-for-privacy@myway.com wrote:

Would Wrap-On pipe heating cable work for your needs? The tag on the cable at my house says it comes on when temperature is about 38 degrees. Checking with a search engine will give you some idea of prices (also other brands). You mention a history of frozen pipes; perhaps this would be a long term solution.
http://www.wrapon.com /
BEH
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On Wed, 12 Sep 2007 14:06:12 -0000, snipped-for-privacy@myway.com wrote:

As several have said, the cheapest- and possibly most surefire way to prevent freezing is to drain the pipes. [also, if you *don't* drain the pipes & empty the toilets you might want to look into a remote sensor that will call you if your furnace quits so you can have a plumber/neighbor drain the water before it all freezes]
Chances are the pipes freeze in one location. i.e.- One el, or one section of pipe that is exposed more to the cold than the warmth. You can probably find that spot by looking on the outside walls for signs of repairs, attempts at insulating, or warming it up.
If you can locate that spot, then do a better job than the last folks did at protecting it from the cold- or providing heat to it by opening a wall, or adding a heat source. We had a pipe that was run to an upstairs bathroom on an outside wall. I remediated the problem somewhat by venting that stud cavity for a couple winters with a soffit vent at the bottom and top. Then I re-ran the pipe on an inside wall when I had the chance.
The straw, BTW, might not be a bad idea just for the comfort of the house. If your foundation is uninsulated, then consider getting it insulated at some point. In the meantime straw is [used to be] a cheap alternative. Price straw bales every year, vs doing it right one time & insulating the foundation might be a better option.
Jim
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Agree with the above. It's impossible to suggest the correct permanent solution without knowing a lot more. Like is there a basement or crawl space? Any plumbing in the attic? How is the piping run?
It could be that only one run of pipe is the problem, in which case you could better insulate it, put heat tape on it, re-route, etc. Or it could be as simple as leaving the kitchen cabinet doors under the sink open during very cold weather, when the house heat is turned down. Or it could be that the entire crawlspace has a breeze blowing through it. Also the bailed straw won't do a thing if it's a pipe in an outside wall that runs to a second floor.
For the short term 2 week thing, as others have suggested you could drain the system. But that may not be that easy either, depending on how the plumbing is done, accessibility, etc.

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But if you do be REALLY careful should they still freeze. I missed watching the Bengals play in the in '82 Freezer Bowl on TV because I was out in -40 wind chills doing a fire investigation. Super at an appartment complex had put straw in the crawl space to try and keep it from freezing. When that did not work in the extreme cold and the pipes froze, the maintenance dude went under with one of those small hand held blow torch thingy's to thaw it out. The inevitable occurred and we got called to out to figure out why 10 apartments in 3 building were now pretty much charcoal briquets. BTW: The fire started about 10 feet away from where the guy was working, the heat travelled down the copper pipes. He had at least cleared a path right next to where he was working.
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The very minimum is just shutting off the main water supply.
Most of the Freeze Damage is caused when the temperatures rises again the the water floods everything. (We routinely shut off the water heater and the water pump when we intend to be gone for more than 24 hours.)
But just shutting off the main supply and opening both hot and cold faucets at the lower/lowest level will eliminate most of the potential for damage.
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It will eliminate the potential for flooding related to a freeze, but it won't eliminate the potential for water to freeze in some section of piping, and burst the piping, which will have to be replaced later. Nor will just opening the lowest faucets correctly drain any hot water heating system, hot water heater, etc that he may have.
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If you don't have neighbors with a view of your house, ignore the rest of this post.
I've left my Michigan home for up to 3 months of wuinter for years. Here's what I do.
1- Shut off the water and drain as much as possible. 2- Use a wet/dry vac to suck the water from toilets leaving only what can't be sucked from traps. 3- Add RV antifreeze to all traps. Usually requires less than 2 gallons. 4- Set furnace to 50 or 55 degrees depending on what your stat allows. 5- I bought a line-voltage electric heating stat with a bottom setting of 40 degrees though 45 would have been low enough. Cost me about $15. I wire it to turn on a red light in a window that neighbors can easily see. Place the stat on or above a register.
If the furnace fails the light comes on to notify the neighbors. It's not important how quickly they response because of the long lag time for the house to cool down enough to freeze any pipes. I'd guess you'd have a couple of days if it closes at 40 degrees but that's a worst case.
If the power goes out the neighbors will know since they've also lost power.
I know its not 100% foolproof but this setup has served me well for many years.
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