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    Baseboard heating pipes burst help (26 Posts)

  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 12:42 AM
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    Baseboard heating pipes burst help

    Hello, I live in MN and in December my pipes broke in my apartment. When I was first contacted by the manager of the apartment building I was told that there was a bad ring. I was then later told that my pipe froze and burst, and then later told that it was because I had furniture along the wall. I have never turned my heat below 60 and the rooms have never been cold. I have been reading different articles across the internet and trying to figure out how what they are saying could happen. The building is from around the 60s. The room that it happened has always been a little cooler but never 32 degrees. This is a corner unit and there are baseboards along the 2 exterior walls. My questions are
    1. Would it need to be below freezing for the pipes to burst? If so about how long would it need to be that temp for the pipes to freeze and burst?
    2. Would furniture along the wall cause pipes to burst? Obviously there are 4 walls, 2 have heaters along them, the other is a closet and the door so that leaves 1 wall to put furniture along otherwise.
    3. What is a ring?
    4. Would the pipes freeze with hot water going through them? The place where it broke hot water was emptying into the room.
    Please help!!!
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 8:37 AM
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    burst pipes

    what sort of heating system is this--steam, hot water? were the freezing/breaking pipes only in your unit?
    i do not see how the placement of furniture could have caused some sort of freezing situation, with any heating system. in heating terminology, i can't think what a "ring" is. how do you control your heat? if with valves, could you have turned the valve completely off against the instructions of the management?
    if there were some sort of weakness in the system which would require the furniture to have been arranged in a certain way to prevent freezing, then i am sure that the management would have given you instructions.
    can you post some pictures of the area in question with furniture? if there is any problem with radiation and furniture, the opposite would be true: that the radiators could be unable to give up their heat, making them hotter, and the room colder.
    because of the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water, hot water pipes can freeze before their cold neighbors, and the same could be true for hot water heating, or condensate return pipes, after the boiler had shut down for the night.
    did anything "smell fishy" in the managements explanation?--nbc
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 9:36 AM
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    baseboards

    Hello, I do not know if they are steam or hot water. It is controlled by a thermostat. There is individual shut offs I believe in each room. There is a thing that looks like an older out door knob on it. Everything sounds fishy with it. The day after it happened a lady came to the door from the management company and said that I would have to pay for it because my window was open. I told her that my window was not open because when the caretaker got there she could not even open the window because it was frozen shut. She said well then it is because you have furniture along the wall and that 9 out of 10 times when pipes freeze it is the tenants fault.
  • Brad White Brad White @ 9:32 AM
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    To your questions

    1. Would it need to be below freezing for the pipes to burst? If so
    about how long would it need to be that temp for the pipes to freeze and
    burst?

    A. Typically, the space immediately surrounding the piping needs to be below freezing, not just "at" freezing (32F or 0C) to get the process going. The time it takes depends in the mass of water. Keep in mind that to cool a pound of 60 degree water to 32F takes 28 BTUs. To make that pound into ice takes another 144 BTUs. Short sprint to a long finish. Now, many pipes *do* freeze but not to the point of bursting. There is a slushy period, a solid freeze and then a solid freeze with crystalline expansion. So it takes some time and deep cold or a moving cold airstream to get it to a burst. How drafty is the space in question?


    2. Would furniture along the wall cause pipes to burst? Obviously there
    are 4 walls, 2 have heaters along them, the other is a closet and the
    door so that leaves 1 wall to put furniture along otherwise.

    A. So someone thinks you own a hermetically sealed couch? MOST furniture has air space below and behind it, enough to get air across the element. If the element is "calling" and hot water is flowing through but there is not enough airflow across it, yes, the room may not warm up as well but the pipe and surroundings will be hotter than if the couch were not there. Your cat knows this.  It does not hurt to pull the couch out a couple of inches.



    3. What is a ring?

    A. You are not married, are you?  :)

    I think in the context the ring was mentioned to you, it is in the league of  a "thingy", a "whachamacallit", a "thingamahoozy" or a "gizmo". This translates from the Swahili word for, "I have no idea but it makes me sound knowledgeable".

    It could also refer to an "O-Ring", but given that you do not likely live in a pre-1986 Space Shuttle Rocket Booster, this would not likely be your problem. If your house is a tall cylinder with "Morton Thiokol" labels under your mailbox, we can talk further.



    4. Would the pipes freeze with hot water going through them? The place where it broke hot water was emptying into the room.

    A. Moving water rarely freezes. Even an icy stream has a running core. Yes, Niagara Falls once did freeze solid and yes, that was before the Red Sox won the World Series, but it was very cold for very long. But as described in the first question, moving water greatly reduces the chance of freezing and more so,  freezing solid.

    As for the leak now, it is not the freeze that displays the leak. It is the thaw. A 40 degree day after a week of -20 weather is not the time to call your plumber for a chat, no more than you would call he or she at 11:00 PM on a Saturday night after the kids are in bed. He or she will be very busy.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
    This post was edited by an admin on March 15, 2011 9:37 AM.
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 9:46 AM
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    Baseboard heaters

    Hello, Ty for the info. It was about 8 degrees out side and it was about 80 in here as normal with the heat set at 60. We did not notify the care taker that this had happened. She came to the door and said that no one in the building has heat. We have since talked to lots of people and they said that their units were very hot. And yet when she walked in the door she went straight to the room that it was flooding in. I was not home my kids were. I think they are just trying to make me pay for it. Which I wont. I am on the middle floor and it is always so hot in here even with the heat turned down to 60. TY for the sense of humor. Needed that!
  • Mark Eatherton Mark Eatherton @ 10:16 AM
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    Stand your ground...

    If you didn't turn any valves off, then you are in the right. The loop was probably air bound (common problem) which allowed the water to stand still, and freeze and break the pipe. There is probably also a place where the cold was allowed to infiltrate into the room, thereby causing the pipe to freeze and burst in the first place.

    I agree with Brad regarding the "ring". They haven't the faintest idea what they are talking about, unless someone used a ProPress fitting, which DOES have "o" rings in them, and if it failed, it was acting as a pressure relief due to the freezing water (Been there, seen that, makes a GREAT freeze burst protection device). If this is the case, it indicates that they have had previous "issues" with this baseboard zone.

    You crack me up Brad. If your engineering business goes to hell in a hand basket, you have a great future in the comedy business :-)

    Maybe we (you, me and Holohan) could get a weekend radio show. Something similar to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers...

    Hmmm. Frick, Frack and the Steamster.... The Drip Brothers :-)

    Call us with your Comfort issues.

    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 9:46 AM
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    Baseboard heaters

    Hello, Ty for the info. It was about 8 degrees out side and it was about 80 in here as normal with the heat set at 60. We did not notify the care taker that this had happened. She came to the door and said that no one in the building has heat. We have since talked to lots of people and they said that their units were very hot. And yet when she walked in the door she went straight to the room that it was flooding in. I was not home my kids were. I think they are just trying to make me pay for it. Which I wont. I am on the middle floor and it is always so hot in here even with the heat turned down to 60. TY for the sense of humor. Needed that!
  • Ex Maine Doug Ex Maine Doug @ 3:54 PM
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    "A. Moving water rarely freezes."

    But when it does....
    I went to college at RIT in Rochester NY.  Our Printing/Photo building had huge air handlers in the basement to provide the high air exchanges required by the equipment and labs.  When it got cold enough the moving water did sometimes freeze and burst the copper pipes in the air handler HW coils.  Now you could park a car in these things they were so large.  It was sad to see all the splits on the pipe when the fins were peeled aside and one knew we were going to be cold upstairs for a bit.
  • Brad White Brad White @ 4:18 PM
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    No question about it...

    Oh, I have seen it too, believe me.

    This is why I qualified in my first item,
    "So it takes some time and deep cold or a moving cold airstream to get it to a burst".

    Every rule has an exception. I hope she is not living inside an AHU! :)
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 5:30 PM
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    OK Break this down...lol

    The time it takes depends in the mass of water. Keep in mind that to cool a pound of 60 degree water to 32F takes 28 BTUs. To make that pound into ice takes another 144 BTUs.

    So what does this mean...what is a BTU?
  • Brad White Brad White @ 6:03 PM
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    BTU

    Is not the Boston Teacher's Union. Well, yes it is. But not here.

    Sorry for the jargon! I can and do write for a wide audience and have to remember that.

    British Thermal Unit. The amount of heat required to change the temperature of one pound of water by one degree F.

    A wooden kitchen match burned end to end is about one BTU.

    The average adult emits about 200 BTUs per hour to a space (not including moisture or latent heat.)

    So in terms of time, what I was pointing out is that you can get your water to the freezing point IF the space is colder than 32F but to get the water to freeze takes longer by a factor of more than twice.

    In all of this I suspect that you have a strong draft driving cold outside air across the piping and that the water was not moving for a time. I cannot for a moment given what you have said, imagine that you could have caused this. I think your management company is not playing fairly, from this vantage point. There is nothing you would have done differently, right? So there!
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Rich Davis Rich Davis @ 11:11 AM
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    Maybe I Missed It

    I probably missed it but, what pipes burst?  Was it your heating pipes or your dhw, water pipes? 
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 5:25 PM
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    Baseboard heating

    Hello, I guess I did not put that in my posting other than the title. It was the baseboard heating.
  • icesailor icesailor @ 9:09 PM
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    Bursting Pipes:

    I see and repair a lot of broken pipes. In over 40 years, I've seen about every kind of broken pipe and why. And the excuses folks use to get the blame off them and on to someone else. So, in one word,
    BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Someone screwed up and someone is trying to blame you. The heat was off in your apartment. PERIOD!!!. Why isn't for me to say. But, first the room has to get cold. Then, cold enough to freeze. If the windows faced the NW, and the windows are drafty, AND the heat is off, cold air convection can fall down the wall and freeze the heat elements. But if the heat was running normally, it should never freeze up.
    There's some missing parts to this story.
    The only time I have seen this happen "normally" is when someone turns the thermostat down as low as it will go. If the building was designed to keep the rooms at 70 degrees when it is zero outside, lowering the thermostat to 40 degrees is the same as (theoretically) having an outside temperature of 30 degrees below zero.
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 12:17 AM
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    BS...lol

    Someone else told me that the build up starts else where and it could have been where it decided to build up, in my apartment. I don't know that I buy that either. My heat was on and it was very hot in the building, even hotter than it normally is, according to other tenants. First they said that it was because my window was open, then because there was furniture infront of the floor units, and now they are saying that it was because my storm window was open. They are trying to say that the reason is that they know that my window was open, which it wasn't was because there was no steam in the room...Now to me if the window was open and it was cold outside, I think that the weather record said that it was 8 degrees, and the water that was on the floor was hot according to everyone that was in my apartment that night, including the caretaker, that would have created steam if the window was open.
    So they send me a bill saying that they know that the window was open, and that I owe. Then they send me a letter saying that they talked to the caretaker and the window was closed but the storm window was open. Yes this is true the storm window was open. But it has never been able to be closed. So it has been open for the year and a half that I have lived here. I think they are trying to bully me into paying for their bill or lose my housing. It is really driving me nuts!!! I have never had problems here with any of the management, never a complaint, they have always fixed things right away with exception of the storm window, and it is a super quite building. Then the pipes break and this crap happens!!! GRRRRRR
  • MikeL MikeL @ 8:42 AM
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    Undefined variables & orderly process of elimination

    I'm not a frequent contributor here, but wanted to help.  I'm at the point in my 40 plus year career as a plumbing / heating professional where I don't assign fault or blame but try to focus on effective solutions to the challenges that are our work, and it can be interesting and fun to find the causes for the effects. 
    I don't think all the variables are defined that could contribute to a frozen / broken heating loop as has been described. I have seen many frozen baseboard heating loops in warm apartments. Sometimes a floor length window treatment / curtain shut tightly can direct enough cold air onto the baseboard to freeze it while the thermostat is satisfied by a powerful lamp. Many times there is enough heat from adjacent apartments to satisfy the thermostat, especially if the thermostat is set low. I have also seen a wall mounted air conditioner ( right above the baseboard ) without an outdoor cover and a loose indoor cover direct frigid air onto the baseboard and if there is even a temporary flow loss the pipe can freeze.
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 10:04 PM
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    TY for the response

    Hello, That is exactly what I would like to do. They came in and immediately put the blame on me. I know for a fact that my window was not open. Nor would the furniture make it freeze...lol I would like to try to figure out what happened for a few reasons. I need to know how to respond to these people and the second thing is that I need to know what caused it because they gave me no instruction as to what caused it. If I am the one who did something to cause it I need to know what it was so that I can correct either what I have done wrong or what they need to fix.
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 10:04 PM
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    TY for the response

    Hello, That is exactly what I would like to do. They came in and immediately put the blame on me. I know for a fact that my window was not open. Nor would the furniture make it freeze...lol I would like to try to figure out what happened for a few reasons. I need to know how to respond to these people and the second thing is that I need to know what caused it because they gave me no instruction as to what caused it. If I am the one who did something to cause it I need to know what it was so that I can correct either what I have done wrong or what they need to fix.
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 12:30 AM
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    wrongful accusations

    who is this ty you mention? is he the manager? please direct him to this site for a discussion as to what went wrong, and more importantly how the same thing could be prevented from happening again.
    i am sure that it is not your fault, especially as there was no instruction from the management as to how furniture should be placed.
    obviously, they have had many problems such as this if they can say," that 9 out of 10 times when pipes freeze it is the tenants fault".--nbc
     
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 2:04 AM
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    TY means Thank you

    The manager will not accept any call or contact from me...not even my rent...lol This should be fun. It is pretty sad. They are trying to evict me. I have been here for almost a year and a half, paid my rent on time, and I have never had a complaint against me. Now look at me, my pipes break and due to their own personal agenda they are trying to make a family homeless. Good thing I will have a day in court.
  • bill bill @ 3:05 AM
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    Dear J....

    You are so fortunate to have so much support here. At least you don't have a fuel rod in meltdown!! Take care and love life.
  • Brad White Brad White @ 4:34 AM
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    Fuel Rod Meltdown

    Bill- don't give management any more ideas! :)

    "Nine out of ten times, reactor meltdowns are the tenant's fault..."
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 9:13 AM
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    the end of the line

    you probably need a lawer at this point, and send your rent in perhaps by registered mail for the next month? do you have remaining time on your lease, or are you month-to-month?
    are they treating anyone else in this despicable fashion?
    have a look in the landlord-tennant law [probably online in some minn. state site], and see what the proper procedure should be to protect yourself in this case.--nbc
  • joisjewelry joisjewelry @ 9:31 AM
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    Not worried

    No they are not doing this to anyone else, at this property anyways. I'm not worried about court. I have the laws behind me. It just sucks feeling like this in my home. I am month to month but they can not evict me because it is retaliation for me exercising my rights. They were dumb enough to submit pictures of my unit that was not from the day of the pipes breaking. That means they were in my apartment with out me knowing and did not leave notice. Plus I can show that I have always paid my rent and there has never been a complaint, so I think I'm in good shape there. I hope the judge will see that I did not Intentionally break my pipes as they are claiming. I don't know anyone will who would go. I think I'm going to break my pipes today so I can get a big bill...lol Gonna try to stick it out here because every where else rent is so much more expensive.
  • Jean-David Beyer Jean-David Beyer @ 10:05 AM
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    I have the laws behind me.

    A friend of mine had the same attitude. She was being stalked by someone she knew. She went to court to get an order keeping him away. She did not prevail; she had no attorney because, she said she was in the right, what he was doing was illegal, etc.

    He then sued her for making false claims against him. His lawyer had quit because of non payment, and he represented himself. The judge seemed disgusted. He did not prevail either. This went on for years.

    You can never assume that just because the law is on your side that you will prevail in a court.
    This post was edited by an admin on March 17, 2011 10:06 AM.
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 6:44 PM
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    month-to-month

    i don't know why if they want you to go, they don't just give you a 30 day notice to quit, which is unfortunately for you their right. just so you know, the 30 days notice runs from rent paying date to 30 days later. if they gave you a notice today, the 30 days starts on april 1st.
    in the case of a discriminatory lease termination, the lessee may be able to hold out longer. good legal council is always recommended. isn't there a law school with a legal clinic near you?---nbc
    here is a link to perhaps some helpful information:
    http://rhol.org/rental/slumlord.htm
    This post was edited by an admin on March 19, 2011 9:51 AM.
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