Cottage Water Systems In Winter

How To Keep Water Line From Freezing

Like most cottagers and seasonal home owners we have to contend with shutting off the cottage water supply and draining the water system at the camp in the Autumn before the winter freeze up, and then hook it back up again in the Spring. (For the most part, hooking it up in the Spring is much more pleasurable than disconnecting it in the Fall.)

The downside of the above is that it kind of makes the camp a three season place. Yes, you can still use it in the winter months, but usually without running water, which isn’t as much fun, especially for any length of time.

Water Line Freezing

It also means that the cottage season is a little shorter than perhaps it needs to be, if only you had running water. We’ve had occasions, particularly in early Spring, when the water line coming from the lake has frozen overnight, enough to stop the water from reaching the cottage.

Usually this is self correcting as the daytime temps warm up the pipe and thaws it out, or it can be fixed by smacking the pipe a few times to break up the ice. However…..

I am always curious about ways to winterize a cottage water system or make it easier to hook up and disconnect the cottage water supply.

It would be sweet to be able to arrive on Friday night, flip a switch and have water, then flip a switch on Sunday night and have the system drain with no worries about freezing. Having year round running water would certainly enable us to enjoy more time at the camp.

Self Draining Winter Water Systems

With that in mind, I am intrigued with something I just came across, a company out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada that specializes in “self-draining winter water systems” The company is called, Cottage Water Supply

Cottage Water Supply has come up with a cottage water system, (actually two systems) and in fact, they specialize in winterizing cottage water systems that make using your cottage water supply in freezing weather safer.

Essentially Cottage Water Supply have a system that uses specially-designed valves that automatically drain your water supply line whenever your pump stops, keeping it from from freezing in winter.

It’s an idea that is catching on, and have been featured in Cottage Life Magazine. You can read the article here: Here-Cottage Life Magazine Article

You will note I said “water supply line” referring to the water supply “line” or pipe, usually black plastic, coming into your camp or cottage from the well or in the case of many camps and cottages, a nearby lake or river.

There is an assumption that I am making, that assumes the camp or cottage is heated and the place where the water pipes are located are within the cottage or heated area protected from freezing.

Otherwise, even with this system, I would think there could be problems with freezing water in the system, say overnight, if there was no heat.

Water Supply Line Drains

What the Cottage Water Supply system does is ensure that the water in the supply line drains, in particular, that is the waterline that is outside, between the water supply and the building, and most susceptible to freezing.

This is something akin to priming your pump in the Spring. Usually we fill the water supply line with water and then add more to the priming hole on the pump until the system fills and the pipe and system hold the water.

This system essentially reverses this, draining the system, then it fills it again on demand, (when you draw water etc) The Cottage Water Supply system takes care of draining the water and then pumping it back in when you call for it by turning on a tap etc. When no water is being drawn, or run, the water supply line drains back to the lake, avoiding the possibility of it freezing.

That’s a good thing and assures that the cottage water supply line will not freeze. But there is still the rest of the cottage water system to be concerned with.

When we go to the camp in the winter, we would love to be able to turn on the water and use it for the weekend then shut it down, have it automatically drain and forget about it until next time. That is not exactly what this system does.

In our case, I could see this being a useful system, especially now, where we are retired and can stay at the cottage for longer periods in the winter months.

Changes Needed To Our Existing Plumbing

With a system like this, we’d need to make some changes to the existing plumbing, not just the water supply line.

However, having said that, I have often considered what we would do in order to live at the cottage year round, without having to raise it up and add a foundation to the place, which can run into the 10’s of thousands of dollars.

If we were living at the cottage, as it currently is constructed, on posts, without a foundation, provided we moved the water pipes that distribute water to the kitchen and bathroom etc, inside, this system would enable us to have running water year round.

Summing Up

To sum up, here is what I think about the Cottage Water Supply system. This is a great system for anyone who has winterized their cottage and has a basement or constantly heated area where the water pipes are located. This system will keep the water line coming from the well or lake into the cottage from freezing by draining it when not in use.

Water Pipes Under The Camp

Our cottage water pipes are currently underneath the camp, unheated and exposed to the weather. Therefore, if we were at the cottage in the winter, we might have a problem with the water distribution pipes freezing unless we moved them all inside and kept the heat on 24-7 year round, or drained the entire system each time we left the cottage.

For that matter, we’d probably have to drain everything overnight in the dead of winter when the temperatures drop well below freezing.

Need A Constant Source of Heat

In order to make this work for us, we would have to have a constant source of heat inside the cottage during freezing weather. We could move the water pump and the water supply pipes inside, and use this system to ensure that the water coming from the lake to the cottage does not freeze.

I am not going to pretend to be able to explain this system anymore than I already have, I think I have the concept down, but their website does a much better job showing you what their cottage water supply system can do for you as well as explaining how it works.

Get in touch with them and discuss your particular needs, sounds like they can help you come up with a solution.

Don’t forget to check out our list of tips, ideas and info for cottagers:Cottage Tips

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