To Plug in or Not to Plug In

So, the high today is going to be twenty.  We have, in our garage, a cord that you can plug in that supposedly goes to some doohickey on the pipes to keep them warm enough to keep them open.  We have never tested said doohickey, so we don’t even know if it works.  But, if ever we were going to try it, it seems like today would be the day (though I had water this morning, so…).

And yet, my power bill last month was almost twice what it was the month before, and I have not yet begun to pay for the TVA’s inability to foresee that people who run power plants need to keep them from destroying the lives of their customers…

And can I just sidetrack a minute and say that, while I in general believe that nuclear power is fine and wonderful and I have many dear friends who are where they are today because of bills nuclear power paid, if the TVA wasn’t going to do any better a job than they seem to be doing with our coal plants, thank the gods those are coal plants and not nuclear.  It’s one thing–and don’t get me wrong a terrible thing–to make half-assed repairs on a coal plant because it’s less expensive, but you pull shit like that on a nuclear plant?

Here’s the thing.  The TVA has been, in many, many respects, wonderful for the South and, by extension, wonderful for the country.  And I am a hippie liberal and so I believe in government programs.  But it may be that the TVA has served its purpose and that it’s now time to downgrade it from government behemoth to just another power company and open up the doors to competition.

There may be other power companies out there who can do it better, safer, and dare I say cheaper, and we ought to have the option of buying power from them.

Anyway, where was I?  Plug the cord in on the off-chance it’ll help the pipes and pay whatever that might cost or just assume it doesn’t work and hope for the best?

8 thoughts on “To Plug in or Not to Plug In

  1. Leave the cold water running instead. One tap at each end of the house away from the water heater, on a steady tiiiiiny stream.

    As for the TVA, did you know that TN is the only state in the country where you must have a licensed plumber hook up a gas stove to existing gas pipes, because the TVA has convinced the legislature that gas is oh noes!@ dangerous! I don’t say that it’s an institution that has outlived its usefulness, but I think it needs some oversight.

  2. The cord is probably to heat tapes (I know bunches about heat tapes, having lived in Illinois and now living in MN, you need them if you don’t have a heated basement or heated, insulated crawl space under your house). Depending on how many feet of water pipe you have, one heat tape probably doesn’t cover all of the pipes you have, so plugging it in isn’t going to do you much good.
    Like nm said, leaving a tiny trickle of water running is your best bet. As long as the water is running, it shouldn’t freeze, at least, not at 20 degrees. I have seen water pipes freeze, even with the water trickling, when it got down below zero (I’m talking temps below zero, not counting what the wind chill was). I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that (at least, I hope you don’t).

  3. A drip should prevent pipes from bursting (which frankly is all you probably have to worry about). A drip doesn’t move enough water to stop water from freezing outright but it’s enough to release pressure in the event that some of the water in the pipes does freeze (and it’s that pressure, not the ice itself) that typically causes frozen pipes to burst).

  4. Our pipes did freeze here once; we left water running downstairs, but the upstairs pipes froze and took about half a day to unfreeze. That’s why I suggest leaving a trickle in two places on opposite sides of the house — that way any pipes that are close to the outside wall will have water moving through them.

  5. From my own experience, it’s a almost totally safe bet that the heat tapes were put on the pipes because the pipes froze once before. Plug it in. If it trips the breaker, it’s bad and you should unplug it and reset the breaker.

    The best thing to do is put some of that foam pipe insulation around the hot and cold water pipes under the house. (OK, if there’s a crawl space, that is. If it’s on a slab of concrete, just insulate pipes where you can see them.) The insulation is pre-formed and slit down one side. Some versions have sticky in the split to reseal them.

    Pipes that go through the crawl space can be the bigger risk. Plumbers are usually smart enough to run the pipes closer to the inside of the exterior walls so, in theory, there’s insulation between the pipes and the outside.

    Most houses will have (yes, math is involved, sorry) 3/4″ diameter pipes running at least as far as the hot water heater, and frequently that size is the main water line for the house. Pipes that branch off to go to the toilets and tubs and sinks are usually 1/2″.

    You’ll have to estimate how long the pipes are under the house which usually means going under there. Then go down to the Joelton hardware store and have Harry get them for you. (Tell him I said hi).

    TVA tried to build a nuke plant in Hartsville. Inspectors who tried to report defective concrete were harassed and threatened until the whole thing finally got press coverage. TVA abandoned it unfinished and then charged its customer base the cost of paying off the construction loans.

  6. .if the TVA wasn’t going to do any better a job than they seem to be doing with our coal plants, thank the gods those are coal plants and not nuclear.
    __________________________________________

    The Watts Barr Nuclear facility is barey 10 miles from the spill and TVA runs it. Things could get much worse sister.

  7. > But it may be that the TVA has served its purpose and that it’s now time to downgrade it from government behemoth to just another power company and open up the doors to competition.

    Let Enron run them? Fortunately the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) does some serious inspections and controls on nuke plants. Yes, this means that there is a form to fill out to change a lightbulb in a nuke plant. IMHO, that is what it takes to run a nuke plant ‘safely’. You can’t trust any organization to run such a plant, if that organization has any interest in running it more cheaply. Only a disinterested regulator can fill that role, and even there you have to watch out for “regulatory capture” (especially when the bosses of the bosses of the regulators are in bed with the corporations).

    > the only state in the country where you must have a licensed plumber hook up a gas stove to existing gas pipes

    Visit New Jersey; you won’t be allowed to pump gasoline into your car. Only an expert (gas station attendant) can handle such a dangerous substance.

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