Ground Heat


Snow on Foam

We got about 4.5″ of snow. The snow on the ground melted away completely. The snow on the 2″ thick piece of pink foam melted much less leaving some remaining. Both the ground and the foam were exposed to the sun. This little observation demonstrates something very interesting – it is not the sun that is melting the snow but the heat coming up from the earth. Warm toes.

Of related interest, when I move a large round bale in the middle of the winter the ground under the bale is soft. It isn’t frozen. Growing up I remember hearing people talk about the frost depth being 3′. The reality on frost depth is quite shallow here on the mountain because of our early deep snows the frost only penetrates about 3″ to 4″ down. The snow acts to insulate the ground from the cold winter air.

I’ve discovered this as I often end up digging holes through it in the middle of the winter. That top few inches of frozen soil is like stone. But under that the soil is soft and easy to dig even by hand. Fortunately the tractor backhoe cuts right through that top layer of rock hard frozen soil.

I used this principle to protect our water line when I buried it about eight years ago. We could only go down 6″ in some places before hitting ledge. By placing 4″ of closed cell insulation above the water lines and then 6″ of dirt we were able to protect our water lines from freezing.

I also used this discovery to protect our earth air tubes so that the warm of the soil heats the winter air for our home.

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Outdoors: 42°F/27°F Sunny, 1/2″ snow
Farm House: 54°F/46°F
Tiny Cottage: 56°F/50°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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5 Responses to Ground Heat

  1. karl says:

    we don’t get that much snow here. it doesn’t stay cold for very long either. they say that i should bury my underground water here at eighteen inches. digging in the ozarks is extremely difficult. i bury my non-critical underground water at the most twelve inches. although i always cover the top of the pipe with bubble foil insulation. something i gleaned from my frost protected foundation research. it should raise the frost line to above the pipe. your findings support my theories also.

  2. Karl, the bubble foil is a good idea. A layer of closed cell insulation like 2″ foam board used on foundations would be a good addition to it. Make the board about 2′ to 4′ wide extending on either side of the pipe ditch. Then the coolth has to creep further to get around the insulation to your pipes. (Actually the heat from the pipes has to go further to get away to escape to the cold winter world.)

  3. Karl says:

    Hey Walter,

    Thanks for spending so much time developing this informative site. very helpful.
    Wondering you thoughts on bottom hay bales for pigs. I feed my horses the better bales but have somewhat moldy bottom bales left. Would pigs do ok on those? Also what percentage of hay can the diet compose? We don’t have access to the dairies like you do so I was planning on just hay and grain, and day old bread products for a few feeder pigs. Housing them on the garden spot to build the soil here in the high desert of Idaho.

  4. Anabelle says:

    I love your scientific thought process, your observations about everything. You are truely a renissance man. We need more people like you instead of hordes of corporate drones. Please, please run for president!

  5. Sorry, I would want to be dictator. Then there would be dissent. Can’t have that! Next things get messy. Best I stay at my level of competence. See Peter’s Principle.

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