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View Full Version : Our Nelson Waterers Froze



BunithGrace
Jan. 31, 2010, 05:10 PM
:no::no::no:

It's been especially cold here in NH (down to 15 degrees in the barn), but I can't believe it!

The heating element is working perfectly, so that means it must be down the line somewhere.

We called Nelson's helpline and they were closed (yesterday, Sat).

We had these professionally installed when our barn was built this past Spring, and it's out first winter with them. Everything was going splendidly....

Luckily the horses had not run out of water and I also hang extra buckets of warm water all winter, so no big deal with them.

We are going to call tomorrow, but any Nelson people advice? Should there be insulation all the way down the hole? These are the one's we have:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=32587370&l=0ac60bd897&id=13002359

blaster
Jan. 31, 2010, 06:26 PM
We had these professionally installed when our barn was built
.
Should there be insulation all the way down the hole?



I don't have nelson's but something is not logically making sense. If you have water in a pipe that is above the frost line (24" below the ground dirt in MD, I am guessing 24-36" in NH), you either have to heat it or drain it or it will freeze.

When you say "insulation" all the way down the hole, I think you'd probably need to heat it somehow as water is always going to be in the supply line?

saddleup
Jan. 31, 2010, 09:01 PM
Mine froze in the barn in December, when our temps lingered in single digits for days on end. I called Nelson, and was told basically the same thing...frozen down in the line somewhere. I just hung heated buckets for a few days for my horses, and the auto waterers thawed out fine and started working again on their own.

I had visions of broken pipes and flooding and all sorts of evil things, but they started up just fine. We get into the teens at night here, though, and they don't freeze, so I'm surprised yours have frozen. This is the first year mine have frozen, but the coldest snap I remember, too.

MistyBlue
Jan. 31, 2010, 10:43 PM
Could be the main water line inside the insulation pipe coming up from the floor...or could be the small line inside the waterer *if* that line is coiled too far from the heating element.
Turn the water off inside the barn or to that waterer.
Open your nelson, remove the bowl. There's a balance cage the bowl sits in...on top of a bar over the heating element. On that bar on both sides are the ends of a small round metal pin about the same thickness as a pencil, in each end is a cotter pin. Remove one cotter pin, slide that little bar out and you can lift out the balance cage. If you couldn't turn off the water in the barn to that waterer...you should be fine since it's frozen. ;)
Now looking under the heating element and around the inside of the waterer you'll see a large black water hose coming up from the pipe underneath, a clamp on the end and a coupler attaching that large black rubber line to a smaller thin water line. (there's also a water shut off there) Feel along the smaller water line with your fingers, squeezing it. If that froze, you can feel the ice inside the line. Use a blow dryer aimed inside the unit for a few minutes to thaw that line out.
If that line feels flexible and clear, feel under that on the thicker line. Again the blowdryer aimed inside the unit will thaw anything out, but the further down the line that it's frozen the longer you have to blow dry in there.

Once you've got it thawed...you need to reposition the lines because they shouldn't have frozen in 15 degree weather. My inside ones have easily handled weather to those temps without problems and my outside one is set in concrete sonatube and doesn't have any insulation beyond using geo-thermal heat and it's stayed unfrozen in week long windchills well below zero.

When you reposition the water lines...make *sure* none of them touch or are close to touching the heating element. (even the bottom of the element) or they'll melt and flood your barn. They need to be somewhat coiled to fit right, I've found coiling them loosely along the inside of the unit's walls next to the styrofoam lining works well. When they're first being used through winter it takes a little moving around of the lines to find the optimum location where they don't freeze and they don't melt.

Good luck, hope this helps!

Mary in Area 1
Jan. 31, 2010, 10:57 PM
[quote=MistyBlue;4654547] they shouldn't have frozen in 15 degree weather. My inside ones have easily handled weather to those temps without problems and my outside one is set in concrete sonatube and doesn't have any insulation beyond using geo-thermal heat and it's stayed unfrozen in week long windchills well below zero. quote]

Ditto to all that here in Vermont! We haven't had any problems outside or inside with our Nelsons (we have 26 inside and 15 outside!)

Hope you get it figured out.

BunithGrace
Feb. 1, 2010, 06:41 AM
Thanks everybody for your help.

MistyBlue, we tried your GREAT suggestions, brought the computer down to the barn with me, and it appears the water is frozen well down the line. Thank you SO much for your help - you know your stuff!

It's an insulated line but a four inch tube and once we determine there has not been a link, we think we should add insulation down the 4ft. blue tube once it thaws.

BunithGrace
Feb. 1, 2010, 06:44 AM
I don't have nelson's but something is not logically making sense. If you have water in a pipe that is above the frost line (24" below the ground dirt in MD, I am guessing 24-36" in NH), you either have to heat it or drain it or it will freeze.

When you say "insulation" all the way down the hole, I think you'd probably need to heat it somehow as water is always going to be in the supply line?

Blaster, you are correct. It is insulated, but it's obviously not enough. It's the kit that Nelson sent, but we are going to have to add more because there is too much air space around the pex, and the horses did not drink enough with it being so cold, so it was never warmed up from new water coming into the lines - I'm sure that also added to the problems.

Rabtfarm
Feb. 1, 2010, 08:28 AM
We have been frozen up here in Maine, but the nice thing about Pex piping is that it will stand some freezing-refreezing. We have to air clear our waterline to the barn daily during the freezing season as it's above ground but it got so cold that even then it froze up! Had to wait for the winds to die down before I could salamander heat the area where the pipes froze. All I know is that if there is any place where the cold air can hit the pipes with any wind at all it will freeze up, so it should be fairly easy to find the suspect areas. Foam insulation is messy but very effective. Spring must be coming...BTW: very nice new barn! Looks like an A&B indoor...

MistyBlue
Feb. 1, 2010, 08:47 AM
Bunith...you're welcome. Glad to be a help.
There's a couple tricks to adding more insulation in the pipe.
You can buy pipe insulation...it's grey foam and has a slit cut down one side. It comes both self sticking or not and easily wraps around water lines as well as pipes. The nice thing is you can run it right down inside the pipe from the top of the unit with a little wiggling. Just pop open the slit all the way down the side, reach it through the waterer and get one end wrapped around the main line in the pipe. Then gently keep sliding it down, the line should stay inside the insulation. Some electrical tape on top to hold it in place. (the pipe insulation looks like dark grey pool noodles, they cost about $1 each and are fun to chase your horses with :lol:)
Or if you have a very handy electrician in the family or feel like hiring one, you can have a short length of heat tape wired into the electric element inside the waterer and run that down the main line in the pipe. If it's hard wired into the heating element, it will only turn itself on when the heater turns on...or under 40 degrees. It doesn't generate heat, it's a thick coated double cord that emits a light electrical pulse, enough to vibrate the water so it doesn't freeze. It would need to be taped or zip-tied to the main water line though. And I'd also add a pipe insulation pool noodle over it too. That set up will keep your water from freezing in the lower lines in arctic conditions, but it won't be cheap or easy to do. Regular pipe insulation noodles work fine, it's what I use and my water lines come from above and are out in the open, not in insulation tubes.
For now until you get it fixed...just go into the stalls, dump out the bowl and refill it a few times daily to keep the water running in the lower lines.
And I agree...that's a lovely barn!

BunithGrace
Feb. 1, 2010, 08:56 AM
Rabtfarm and MistyBlue,

Thanks again for the help - I'm going to bring the computer down to the barn yet again when we go to put in the insulation. Hubby was also thinking the foam might work well down inside the long tube, but the foam things sound like they will do the trick as well. For now we are waiting and hoping it warms up enough to thaw whatever area is frozen. I still have the heaters going and I keep refilling the pan during the day. The horses have been using their heated buckets (they are only in at night) and doing fine.

It's a new barn and house and we have lots of "fun" things we have been fixing as we go along! Hopefully next winter we will have it all sorted out. Thanks again for your advice from both hubby and I!!!!

BunithGrace
Feb. 1, 2010, 08:59 AM
Nevermind! Hubby says no to foam because he wouldn't be able to get it back out if a pipe ever burst. Going to get the foam things MistyBlue suggested.

columbus
Feb. 2, 2010, 01:11 AM
I can tell you of MY learning curve for the Nelson waterers. Do not clean the bowl unless it is about 32 degrees...other wise leave it alone. Definately do not empty and clean the bowl on Superbowl Day on the coldest day of the year. I DID have the element go out on my primary waterer...I had another waterer and swapped out the elements and it was fine. I have a friend who raises TBs and he does not like the Nelsons like mine with the balancing bowl though he swears by the Nelsons he has though he has modified them over time. My Irish Draughts put their foot in the waterer the first winter but don't bother it anymore and I am guessing they disturbed the balancing bowl and caused slow filling. At below zero cold that caused the waterer to freeze. The problem in my system is the sand...I can't use a filter for the sand as there is a lot of sand in my water. It plugs the filter, slows the rate of fill and it can freeze out of the fill valve. Removing the filter works for me. My friend with all the different waterers uses a light bulb in the waterer base. He has fixed up all his old waterers so that there is a light bulb socket wired in. At night his horses are in the stall so he covers the waterers and uses a light bulbs heat to keep his waterers going...his are old Nelsons and other makes so he is an expert. I have found the company to be very responsive and they have a lot of pride in their product. PatO

BunithGrace
Feb. 2, 2010, 06:44 AM
I can tell you of MY learning curve for the Nelson waterers. Do not clean the bowl unless it is about 32 degrees...other wise leave it alone. Definately do not empty and clean the bowl on Superbowl Day on the coldest day of the year. I DID have the element go out on my primary waterer...I had another waterer and swapped out the elements and it was fine. I have a friend who raises TBs and he does not like the Nelsons like mine with the balancing bowl though he swears by the Nelsons he has though he has modified them over time. My Irish Draughts put their foot in the waterer the first winter but don't bother it anymore and I am guessing they disturbed the balancing bowl and caused slow filling. At below zero cold that caused the waterer to freeze. The problem in my system is the sand...I can't use a filter for the sand as there is a lot of sand in my water. It plugs the filter, slows the rate of fill and it can freeze out of the fill valve. Removing the filter works for me. My friend with all the different waterers uses a light bulb in the waterer base. He has fixed up all his old waterers so that there is a light bulb socket wired in. At night his horses are in the stall so he covers the waterers and uses a light bulbs heat to keep his waterers going...his are old Nelsons and other makes so he is an expert. I have found the company to be very responsive and they have a lot of pride in their product. PatO

One of our heating elements was defective when we got it in and tried to turn it on this first year, and we sent it back and they replaced it. The heating elements are luckily working just fine now, but it did freeze further down the line. It's warming up here now, which is great so we are going to try blow drying down the line today and see if it will unfreeze.

Both horses waterers have the same problem, so I'm sure it has to do with the fact that there just isn't enough insulation down the pipe, and with the fact that they were not drinking enough and re-flushing the lines with warmer water, it froze. They go out during the day and I haven't been cleaning the water pans, flushing the lines myself, so there you go.

I'm hoping the pex withstands the freezing and we don't have any bust pipes once we get it going again! Fingers crossed!

columbus
Feb. 3, 2010, 12:20 AM
I was frozen 2 times with no problems except having to make alternate water plans. Once thawed on its own it was fine. Pato

BunithGrace
Feb. 3, 2010, 06:35 AM
Awesome to hear~! Thanks!

millerra
Feb. 3, 2010, 11:26 AM
To prevent freezing down the pipe (has happened more than 1X, more than 1 winter here), we have found 3 things to be successful/helpful: 1) heat tape wrapped/twisted as far as you can get down the pipe (hole) 2) a lightbulb (on) in the box of the tank (inside) - it can be a small light bulb (25 watt) but it makes a world of difference; and 3) pile snow around the tank to help w/ insulating it.

I apologize if someone has already mentioned these. I haven't read the entire thread.

[we often hit stretches where it doesn't get above zero for days at a time]

waterguy
Feb. 3, 2010, 03:18 PM
While a certain amount of insulation is good, it can be overdone is you eliminate the air space that is between the waterline and the riser tube it comes through. The air space is there to prevent frost from going through the insulation to the waterline and if it is touching, frost will go through it. Your best bet is to have a self regulated heat cable installed on your water line. They do not need to go through the thermostat, only come on as needed and are usually only 6 watts per foot so they are not big energy burners. Another thing that could be happening is that the water is freezing or slushing up before it gets to the vertical line going to the unit. This is a typical problem with new installs that were not trenched deep enough below the frost line. This ice or slush in the water line cannot pass through the small valve and becomes confused with freezing in the supply line directly below the unit. This problem is even more pronounced in a Nelson with the small outlet for water and even a small amount of ice or slush cannot pass through it. There is less of a problem with waterers that have bigger valves. Again make sure you have an air gap and go to the hardware store and ask for a self regulating heat cable. Good luck.

Rabtfarm
Feb. 3, 2010, 09:54 PM
As a volunteer Fire Captain for 15 years I went to too many structure fires caused by heat tape to use them UNATTENDED in my barn..so go ahead and use heat tape, but you had better be there while the meter is spinning. I have been using the light bulb under the sink but it is double covered with a GFI outlet feeding it. It is funny how only certain locations of pipe freeze(and it's often seemingly not terribly logical). I have one plastic water valve that freezes despite blowing out the waterline...that one will be replaced! I did set up plastic pipe to all the buckets and they have not frozen up because they are set up up to self drain.(I do have to hook up the hose to them daily during the freezing season but it's a short hose that tucks away under the sink to keep warm). Only one more month til warmer weather!

waterguy
Feb. 4, 2010, 10:31 AM
In over 30 years with self regulated heat cables, and I'm talking 10s of thousands, I have never seen one of them start or be the cause of a fire. At 6 watts per foot the warmest they would ever get is around 100 degrees. A thermostatically controlled heat tape that is wired directly may cause a problem, but that is not what I am recommending.

Thokki
Feb. 5, 2010, 08:44 PM
My frost free hydrant is outside the barn and the part above ground is wrapped with heat tape. I drop a paper feed bag over it to keep the wind off a bit. It routinely goes down to -15F or lower here and so far this winter all has been running fine. I detach the hose that runs to the stock tank so the hydrant will drain properly. Usually I can get the water to drain out of the hose to the tank before it freezes. If not, I just bring it inside for a while. I wondered why the heat tape on the hydrant riser never felt warm even though the indicator light was on! A light electrical pulse? That would explain it, LOL. The floating stock tank heater wasn't quite doing the job when it stayed -17 for days in a row, so I added an aquarium bubble stone and now there is never any ice.

BunithGrace
Feb. 6, 2010, 07:35 AM
Good news! They are back working again just fine. Hubby added pipe insulation all the way down the length of the huge pipe and hopefully that will keep the freezing at bay, and I will make sure I flush the lines daily, especially when it is cold and the horses are outside and they are not using them.

These are indoor waterers, and the coldest it has gotten IN the barn has been 13 degrees.