A common condo type in Boston neighborhoods like The Back Bay, Beacon Hill, The South End, The North End and even Southie is the below ground level unit. This is a front and/or rear unit that has a portion of the unit under the front steps. Water pipe freezes are common in this unit and The Mass Energy Lab Insulation install team, has seen great success in the field, with stopping pipe freezes in these types of Boston Brownstone buildings and we want to share these before and after pictures with you, of an insulation job done right by one of our clients, Katherine that lives in the Back Bay in a brownstone.
Condo Associations particularly loves these types of insulation projects for their buildings in general because of the fact that its a cost-effective capital improvement that can be made to the building that allows you to lower the cost of energy in the building as well as any damage to the water utilities.
Insulation for Water utilities located under the front building steps are a common problem that we solve in Boston MA Brownstones
If you see this "before" picture above. One of the main issues with the utilities such as uninsulated water pipes and uninsulated hot water heaters being located in the stairway area is the tremendous amount of heat loss that occurs as well as that the water pipes can freeze in extreme January or February cold days when the outside temps with wind chill can get as low as -10F. This is when we want to prevent water pipes freezes.
To properly stop a water pipe freeze with insulation, you need two things: 1. Insulation 2. Heat. Keep in mind that 32F is the freezing point. The goal of the insulation is to prevent the (less than 32F temperature) air from getting to the water pipe AS WELL AS ENABLE the (above 32F temperature) air from your home to get to the water pipe to keep it from freezing.
The reason why most plumbing water pipe insulation projects don't work in the Massachusetts temperatures is that the water pipe insulation is installed around the pipe but there is no plan for heat to still get to the water pipe and stay there. The insulation design needs to account for this to ensure water pipe freezes don't occur.
Home Water Pipes are often wrapped with insulation like this to prevent pipe freezes
So when this Boston homeowner, who had been living in her Kenmore Square Brownstone called us, she explained to us that the plumber had put in some water pipe insulation around the water heater and pipes. She also explained to us that she would love the door to the utility closet open on the most extreme days or use a space heater to stop pipe freezes when we have freezing low temps. The only thing she experienced however was major home heat loss. The heat would just rush out into that utility room and the cold air would blow into the home to replace it, leading to super high energy bills and water pipes that keep freezing in those typical New England frigid winters.
Even the water pipe near the cold floor was insulated here
SO WHAT KIND OF HOME INSULATION DID WE ACTUALLY INSTALL TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM? We installed closed cell spray foam insulation in this case and installed a louvered vent into this door to make sure the heat from the home gets to the water pipes and stays in that area. All the while, we protected the floors of the home, protected the water meter, as well as protected the hot water heater. This is the key to the best type of foam insulation projects.
What we found to be the best solution for stopping water pipe freezes.
Its been 4 years since the actual insulation installation and the water pipes have not frozen since. We didn't even need to install the heat tape around the water pipes. As a Professional Massachusetts Insulation Contractor, we are licensed Massachusetts Construction Supervisors and we are able to pull permits with the City of Boston. In this case, we actually followed the Massachusetts Basement Insulation Code to install the closed cell spray foam insulation at R-21. Our experienced spray foam crew was able to ensure that the spray foam doesn't expand to engulf the pipes in insulation. This is because we wanted to make sure that the heat continues to get to the water pipes.
We have since gone on to insulate our homeowner client's roof with closed cell spray foam insulation as well and prevented ice dam problems as well as heat loss through the attic. In Brownstones, every inch of space in the home is important real estate and the top level now has a comfortable study and guest bedroom that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Do you have water pipes that keep freezing in your bathroom, kitchen, washer dryer room? Would you like to have a no cost insulation assessment by a licensed Massachusetts Insulation Company at your home, around your schedule? Would you like to work with an experienced Massachusetts spray foam insulation company that delivers results? Then click on the link below to schedule a 15 minute phone call to discuss your insulation project now. We'd love to hear from, brick walls and all!