Monday, January 19, 2009


Fri evening as I flipped on the light in the foyer, I noticed a small wet spot on the ceiling. I knew exactly what caused it.

Just a few weeks after having moved into our house, we noticed a wet spot on the foyer ceiling so we called the builder who came out immediately. He determined that the HVAC (located on the 2nd floor) was not draining, and the condensation had overflowed the drain and leaked onto the foyer ceiling.

The builder called the company that installed the HVAC and they sent a guy out immediately. They determined the drain was not clogged, but rather, the end of the drain pipe had gotten frozen. They wrapped the drain pipe with a thick, insulated foam to prevent this from recurring, and then repaired the damaged drywall ceiling in the foyer.

Remember last summer when I wrote about harvesting the condensation from the HVAC to water our roses? Yep, its that that same faulty design of draining the water outside the house that causes the end of the drain to freeze when we get several days of temps below 32 degrees.

So I took an old butter knife and chipped away the ice that had formed on the inside of the drain pipe. Unfortunately there was no gush of backed-up water exiting the drain pipe, so I figured it must be frozen beyond the neck, which I couldn't reach with the butter knife.

I looked inside the little uninsulated storage room that is integrated into the side of the house and found where the drain pipe leaves the heated house and runs through the unheated storage room. The pipe is wrapped in a thick insulated foam, but apparently it wasn't designed for several days of temps below zero.

Then the idea struck me. I grabbed a small electric space heater and an extension cord from in the house and brought them outside to the storage room. I placed the heater inside the small storage room, shut the door, and ran the extension cord to the outside electrical socket. I hoped to heat the storage room enough to thaw the frozen pipe, which would allow the back-up condensation to flow.

It worked! When we returned from dinner with 'the usual suspects' I could see droplets of water beginning to drip from the drain pipe! Despite Spouse's fears that the electric space heater might burn down the house in the middle of the night, I demanded that we leave the space heater running all night long. Sat morning the storage room was toasty warm and there was evidence that the drain pipe was now thawed.

Sun afternoon the small wet spot on the ceiling was gone. YES!!!

Crush du Jour: Josh Brolin


A Lewis said...

oh man, i don't envy you guys at all with any sort of water issues...we've had numerous of them in the past and they are a pain in the arse. glad it worked out for you!

Kevin Richardson said...

haha cool post (pardon the pun!), clearly you're a DIY natural! lol!

Anonymous said...

Tell spouse not to worry on the space heater. All of them have thermal shutdown and tipover shutdown protection on them now.

A better solution, I assuming you can get at the line is to put a pipe heater on it. You can find them at the home improvement stores.

cb said...

I'm glad to see that you are trying to earn that new tv and mattress!!

Joy said...

I didn't know about pipe heaters or those safeguards on space heaters. Good to learn. I have problems with my roof/ceiling that are too much to go into here now. I think I'll blog about it. I'm glad you got this solved.

Josh Brolin - another good choice!

Anonymous said...

Such a handy (and wise) DIY'er! Glad the house didn't burn down. :-)