Once again, Mr. Tight-Watt comes to the rescue with the answer to a Smart Choices newsletter reader’s question.
Question: My kitchen pipes freeze every winter when temps reach 10 degrees F or below. The pipes are located between stationary cabinets and an outside wall. The only heat source in the kitchen is a small baseboard in the breakfast room approximately 12 feet from the pipes. How would you economically solve this problem? –Donna, a Smart Choices reader
Mr. Tight-Watt called on Bill McAnally, McAnally Consulting in Fort Dodge, to answer Donna’s question.
Bill’s Answer: It sounds like your home has walls that are under-insulated or not insulated at all. There may be an air leak behind the cabinet allowing air to blow across the pipes and cause them to freeze, or the lack of insulation in the wall is letting the closed-off cabinet to cool enough to freeze them as well.
There are a few ways to improve your situation.
• First, check under the floor. Look in the basement or crawlspace to see if the cold air is hitting the pipes before they come up into the cabinets. There may be a lack of insulation at the point where the floor joists meet the exterior of the house. This is usually the spot that causes the most problems.
• Second, the easiest fix is to combine insulating the pipes and insulating the back wall of the cabinet. Use a 1-inch-thick section of extruded foam glued to the back of the cabinet and then covered with 5/8" water-resistant gypsum board. Don’t forget to insulate the pipe that is between the room floor and the cabinet floor. Use the pipe insulation to protect the pipes in this 4" space.
• Finally, leaving the cabinet doors open may help if you choose not to make any long-term repairs, however the possibly of having a pipe burst and cause thousands of dollars of repairs would lead me to make the necessary improvements now.
Do you have a question for Mr. Tight-Watt? Ask your question and also find all of the previous answers he has provided to readers!