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I live in a second-floor apartment in the US Midwest. For a few weeks per year, I have found that I need to turn on the baseboard heater in my kitchen in order to prevent the pipes in the kitchen and adjacent bathroom from freezing.

I have two sinks, a toilet, a water heater and a shower. I'm not exactly sure about how heat enters/leaves my pipes once it goes into my floor, e.g. whether the pipes go outside above ground, where they are in the walls, whether they are insulated, etc. . But I am wondering whether there is a more energy-efficient way to keep my pipes from freezing than running the baseboard heaters to maintain pretty much constant >=45°F (>=7°C) in my apartment, without any modifications requiring removal of wall/floor.

If the pipes run outside above ground, then I'm assuming insulating them would be an obvious first step. Also insulating my apartment would reduce the power required to use the current baseboard system. Maybe I could use small space heaters and point them at the pipes for my two sinks? Maybe I could install heating coils on the exposed portion of the pipe only? Not sure.

Thanks a lot!

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    It's generally not recommended to keep a house at less than 45 degrees F, for precisely this reason. Any solution that doesn't involve heat can only delay freezing, but may not prevent it entirely. – Nuclear Hoagie Sep 8 at 17:00
  • Thanks! I'll turn it up to 50 if you tell me more of your secrets :) – capet Sep 8 at 17:02
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Leave the faucet open at a trickle. From Consumer Reports:

Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Doing this at the two sinks is probably sufficient (no need to leave the shower or toilet running).

You can use something like this to divert the dripping water into a large bucket, while still having full use of the sink. The dripping water is potable, so you can save it for drinking, cooking, washing, or watering plants.

Faucet with hose diverter

| improve this answer | |
  • Cool, thanks! I'll mark this as the answer tomorrow. – capet Sep 9 at 15:07
  • any ideas of how to estimate the necessary flow rate under various conditions? – capet Sep 25 at 23:49
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    Given the physics involved (pipe length, material, the spaces it passes through, temperature of the water), I think trial and error would be the way to go. – LShaver Sep 26 at 13:35
  • As I do this experimentation, is there a good way to measure when I am getting "closer to freezing the pipes," rather than just waiting for the pipes to freeze? Maybe I could periodically turn the flow up and see whether it seems low? Also is there a good way to inspect exposed pipe to check for ice inside? – capet Sep 26 at 16:24

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