I have a heater in my garage that runs off it's own zone on the house
hot water system. This will be the first winter. My concern is that
it might freeze if I lose power. I don't want to put Glycol in the
entire house. A co-worker told me about a heat exchange system that
essentially isolates the one zone and would only result in minimal
water being lost if a freeze did burst the pipe. Can anybody give me
more insight into this?
Zoning would minimize impact on the house system but frozen pipes in the
garage would expand and crack the concrete floor. Best plan is to try to
find a system that allows glycol in the garage zone. What is wrong with
glycol in the entire house system? Saves a lot of hassle. That is second
best plan. There are options to glycol such as percentage alcohol
mixtures that wouldn't cause as much damage as gylcol if there was a
Alternatively, if your garage pipes are not already installed into the
concrete you could use an installation for the pipes that prevents pipe
expansion from cracking the concrete - place a thin layer of something
around the pipes so they can expand a bit without breaking the concrete.
Maybe a 1/16-inch thick layer of foam? Then use polyethylene pipes which
can stretch just enough that they don't crack when frozen water expands.
The water would freeze and block the flow until it thawed. You would have
to heat the garage with temporary heaters to thaw the pipes which might
be a hassle.
Another option - put an auxiliary heating system in the garage to prevent
it freezing if power fails. Kerosene heater? Small generator that you put
outside and run a cord into garage to run a heater? Require you to know
power is out and operate manually. A ceiling fan also run by the
generator would make sure there is not a layer of frozen air along the
floor if you running just a small heater. A larger generator would allow
a heater in the garage and one or two in the house to get you through a
long power failure.
If you super-insulate the garage and don't open the doors when power is
out then it should last against freezing almost as long as the house
itself. Good insulation would allow a small heater to prevent freezing.
If it is an attached garage and the house has a basement against at least
one wall of the garage then there will be a lot of heat stored in the
ground under the garage which should add a few hours to any freeze-up
I was looking at large emergency generators that automatically turn on in
case of power failure. I got estimates from $8,000 to $5,000 for our
house (5,000 sq ft with a 5-ton, a 3-ton geothermal heating system and 2
separate 200 amp boxes). If your house is smaller and less complicated
you could get it cheaper but I don't know by how much. These use inter-
connection to the house power supply and expensive bits so they come on
when required, turn off when power is restored and only serve the
necessary electrical loads. Would protect the whole house for a long
power failure. We pay a lot for insurance which would cover any damages
so it is hard to say if these systems are worth it.
Wow, thank you for taking the time to type all of that. Let me
explain in more detail what the setup is. The garage is attached to
the house. The heater/blower (about 2' square) is hung from the
rafters. There are 2 plastic (poly?) pipes that come out of the
shared wall behind it (~12-18 inches) that feed the water to it.
That's it. The garage is on a slab. So the only pipes that are
vulnerable to the cold are the ones coming out of the wall and
whatever runs inside the heater/blower unit itself, which are probably
The exchanger that was described to me by a co-worker would go in the
basement somewhere. The napkin drawing presented to me showed the
heat pipes coming from the boiler looped through a unit of some type
that passed heat to a similar unit facing it via some kind of radiant
method. Then the water passing through the receiving unit would flow
to the garage. The benifit here being that this water could be
treated with (a small amount) Glycol. This way the main system would
not have to be treated and any leakes elsewhere would not have Glycol
in it. Make sense?
Sorry, I just assumed you were referring to an in-floor radiant system. I
am in the process of designing my mechanical system for a swim-in-place
pool in the basement. You are referring to a water to water heat exchanger.
In my travels through the internet I found the heat exchangers at the site
below which do what you describe. I am going to get two of the pool
versions to get the desuperheaters from my geothermal system to heat my
pool water. Same concept as you describe. I think the internet cost was
You could google heat exchangers and perhaps find a cheaper one.
To do the circulating of the glycol to the garage heater you could use the
Grudfoss circulating pump at the site below. I used one for my house's hot
water circulating loop and it has worked fine for 2 years now and is dead
quiet, if that matters. I ordered mine from a plumbing supply in town. They
have a large selection of circulating pumps and you should check the
literature, or phone them, to ensure that glycol is an OK liquid for that
pump. Find one without the thermostat or timer option because those
features don't apply to your application. You will have to wire the pump to
start when the heater does.
Get a circulating pump that has about 1 gpm near the middle of the pump
performance chart and a head of about 5 feet. In the size you need, these
pumps draw about 25 watts and are high quality construction. If the power
spec is over 25 or 30 watts it may be too large. Stick to the UP series -
they are small and should be cheapest ones. I forget the naming convention
but the letters at the end of the pump name sometimes refer to the type of
plumbing connections; threaded, brazed, flanged, etc. Careful how you
specify them - I got one that was way too large the first time around and
If the circ pump is too small you won't get enough heat transfer. A rule of
thumb is 1.5 to 2.0 gpm per ton of heating capacity. A ton is 12,000 BTU
and 1.0 Kilowatt is 3413 BTU so you could get the garage heater capacity
from it's plaque and calculate the required flow. You should allow for the
fact that the heat exchanger will have less than 100% efficiency and try to
find the efficiency in their web site, if not use 70% and the 2.0 gpm/ton
value - should be close. Insulate all the lines or you will take a hit on
efficiency. Over-sizing the pump is bad if high flow velocities damage the
garage's water to air heat exchanger. The pool exchanger seems pretty solid
from the descriptions. Over-sizing also wastes electricity.
The circulating tubing size is tough to design without knowing more about
the system but I suspect that 3/4-inch will be more than large enough. You
could likely use 1/2-inch if the runs are short. Use only ball valves or
plug valves. If you do use a different valve then go to 3/4-inch for sure.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.