November/ December 2019
If you ever tackle projects outside the city, chances are you’ll need to freeze-protect water supply lines in water systems at some point. This is especially true if you work in cottage country. As baby boomers continue to retire to the lake, seasonal cottages and camps are being converted to year-round homes like never before. This means you might get asked to freeze protect water systems that were never meant to be used in winter, and the job ultimately comes down to the hardware you choose.
Canada is a world leader in heating cable technology for water supply and sewage applications, and Muskoka, Ontario-based Heat-Line, established in 1988, makes the best water line freeze-protecting systems I’ve seen. I first installed their Heat-Line hardware in 2011, so I’ve seen how its products perform over the long haul under actual field conditions.
Retro-Line is one of three Heat-Line water protection systems I installed this fall, and there are three reasons I like this stuff. First, as the name suggests, Retro-Line is made to be fished through existing water supply lines, retrofitting them from the inside out. This system works with all kinds of pipes: black poly, PEX, copper, even ABS and galvanized. It doesn’t require pipes to be dug up, just cut into at some point within a heated space. Push the cable into the pipe (it’ll push up to about 150 feet), then seal up the cut with a proprietary tee fitting that allows the heating cable to enter the pipe while also making a watertight seal.
Want to freeze-protect the outside of water pipes? EXT cable is another Heat-Line option. It’s made to fasten to the outside surface of pipes using aluminium tape, cable ties and or fibreglass tape. Slip the pipe-and-cable combination into an insulating foam sleeve, put the insulated combination inside 4” diameter ABS or PVC pipe for physical protection and your client is set for winter.
Are you installing a brand-new water line? A Heat-Line product called CARAPACE combines polyethylene pipe with a built-in heating cable. This pipe is the same sort typically used for private water supply intake lines in rural areas, except that the heating cable is molded directly into one side.
All Heat-Line freeze-protection systems are based on a proprietary, a self-regulating heating cable that does something you wouldn’t think possible. It’s smart enough to more or less deliver heat at different points along its length, depending on the surrounding temperature at a given spot. So, if there’s a cold spot area where a water line has less soil cover than anywhere else, the cable delivers more heat in that area only. If some part of the pipe run doesn’t need much heat, the Heat-Line cable throttles back the heat output in that zone. This self-regulating feature is why Retro- Line, EXT and CARAPACE can be part of plastic water line systems without fear of overheating. Couple it with a thermostatic control box and you’ve got a system that uses so little electricity that it’s hardly worth counting. Many Heat-Line water supply installations perform for less than $10 per month of electricity during winter.
Freeze-protecting water supply lines is a high-stakes challenge because frozen pipes are such a disruptive hassle. When clients count on running water year-round, but pipes freeze because of inadequate protection, that early morning phone call on a -30ºC Canadian morning isn’t something you want to happen get. If there’s a more thorough, reliable and efficient approach than Heat-Line to water supply freeze protecting, I haven’t seen it yet.