How to Unfreeze a Valve

It isn’t always possible to have water inside where it will keep from freezing. Maybe you’ve got a barn or shed that isn’t heated. Maybe your water reservoir is up higher on the mountain like ours is. Some people put in electric heaters but I would rather not if I can avoid it for a number of reasons including ongoing costs, installation costs and just not wanting to have wires running all over the place. Thermal mass and insulation is how we keep our water from freezing. An insulated 100 gallon tank of water being supplied by a spring (+45°F) won’t freeze even at -45°F if it is getting some usage. For our spring house we have 6″ of insulation and that has kept it frost free even during the longest, deepest cold spells.

Our whey tank is another example. It is 725 gallons which means it has a lot of thermal mass. We insulated the outside with the Reflectix foil-bubble-bubble-foil wrap, as sheet of Typar housewrap to protect the foil and then a snow bank on the north and west sides to buffer it from the wind. In an ideal world I also would have put on closed cell foam insulation but so far it has done fine without it. I would also loved to have buried it but the tank clearly says on the outside “Do not bury tank!” – oh, well.

Fortunately the tank gets emptied about every two or three days and then refilled with fresh realtively warm (36°F) whey thus importing new energy. The whey in the tank never freezes although on very cold mornings I do need to use hot water on the valve to unstick it. I feed a 1/2″ hose up through the opening of the 1″ pipe by the valve and pour in hot water through a funnel. That is what is happening in the photo above. The hot water drills right through the ice and warms the brass valve so I can turn it. About 1/2 gallon unfreezes the valve and lets breakfast flow to the pigs. The key here is that the green hose is a small enough diameter to slide up the valve fittings and allow the now cooler water to flow out back past it.

The valve is insulated but if it gets cold enough over night, especially if the tank was empty the afternoon before, then the valve will freeze. Since that photo I added more insulation around the outside of the valve which has helped.

Outdoors: 23°F/2°F Partially Sunny
Farm House: 56°F/45°F seven logs
Tiny Cottage: 52°F/43°F Outside plastic kitchen window

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to How to Unfreeze a Valve

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s no wonder Holly is always cold, I’ve been watching the temps and it’s never real warm in the farm house even with the fire. Your cottage seems to do very well with nothing, it’s going to be super with the little woodstove. She’s a real trooper, I would probably complain all the time, as I am the ‘cold mom’ in our house. Can’t wait to see the finished cottage!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi there. I found your blog while looking for some information on raising poultry in VT. I am trying to find a local source for fertile hatching eggs to start our own little flock. You seem to know what you are doing…know of any? I live in Fairfax Vermont by the way.

  3. I’m not aware of any hatcheries in Vermont but there is a Vermont Poultry discussion list on Yahoo. You might be able to find eggs there. Sometimes we have fertile eggs but not right now.

  4. Kristianna says:

    Your post reminded me of what happened here yesterday: I went out the back door and the water spigot was on full blast, just running water onto the ground. EEK! I turned it off, and asked around who might have left it on. No one had turned it on. Well, the night before my oldest son took the hose off of that water spigot. I think the spigot was left on at a time prior to the removal of the hose. Since there was no hose with a valve to stop water the frozen spigot melted during the day and water just started pouring out.

    By the way, my son took the hose off that spigot so he and his father could put together a snow-making machine. That is how desperate we have been for some snow the children can play in. The did make a bit of snow. I posted about it on my blog, but didn’t post much detailed information since I don’t know too much about it.

    Take care,


  5. Don says:

    Have you ever posted an your vision for what your new home will look like? I know that the cottage is a small part of your grand plan, but I am wondering what other ideas are coming next.

  6. Kristianna, you’ll have to post the plans because I know a lot of people, including some here, who wish they could make snow. We usually have three or four feet of snow pack by now but only have about four inches. :( I tried plowing up snow in the south field for a snowboarding jump but didn’t get much.

    Don, ah, that is a secret… :) Stay tuned! (How else am I going to keep this a page turner!?!)

  7. Lisa says:

    You have a really nice blog. I’ve been reading through it for some time and I am really impressed with your tiny cottage. I keep coming back to see the progress, can’t wait to see how it progresses!

  8. Thanks for sharing this great post! Very helpful! :D

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