Insulating Water Drums : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

I'm planning on storing several 55-gallon plastic drums of water in my barn this winter and I don't want them to freeze. I figure I'll buy some insulation to wrap the drums with, but I don't know how thick the insulation should be. Got any suggestions? I'm located in north central Ohio, so it can get pretty cold here at times during the winter months.

-- Gentleman Farmer (, November 15, 1999


You may find that no matter how thick the insulation is, the drums will freeze.

While insulation retards the transfer of heat, with the drums outside and exposed to below freezing temperatures, the temperature of the water will *eventually* reach the freezing point without some internal heat source.

McMaster Carr and others (Langley?) sell a variety of drum handling and specialty equipment. One item they have is a thermostatically controlled drum heater that will strap on the outside of the drum. (usually shown placed on a metal drum center section, although the lowermost is best for drums standing upright. )

Covered with your insulation, the heater could be set a minimum, minimising the electrical usage and keeping the drums slightly above freezing.

A non-electric alternative is to utilize the heat of the ground. If you can dig a hole deep enough to get below frost line, the drums can be kept there indefinitely. Even an outside bulkhead door access to your house cellar may be enough "below ground" to keep the drums from freezing.

Burying your drums may not be an option or a tough one at best. However, my mind goes back to "mulching in" carrots to keep them fresh and unfrozen in the garden even with snow blowing about. If you bury the drums with the tops level with the surface and then cover them with several inches of insulation (even leaves), you can get the frost line to raise up similar to the carrots and keep the drum from freezing.

Surrounding your drums with hay if you have it may work. Hay like any live organic material degrades in storage by virtue of "biological decomposition" and this decomposition releases heat similar to compost. (Hence the source of "spontaneous combustion.") Many bales of hay around the drum may do the trick by itself but it's more of a gamble.

Hope this gives you some ideas...

-- Joe (, November 15, 1999.

If you really are a farmer and have a heap of cow/horse/whatever manure around the place, you can dig your barrels into the manure pile and the water will stay warm from the heat of the decomposing pile. When I was a farm kid doing barn chores in cold upstate NY I used to warm my feet by kicking a hole in the manure pile and snuggling my booted feet down into it for a few minutes. May sound icky, but it was heavenly. Another idea, which I have not tried, is to put the water barrels into an enclosed space that you heat with the hot ashes from your wood stove. Have two ash buckets, and switch them off. Put the hot one in a niche you have created for it in the center of your space. Nonflammable brick around the bucket, and a lid on it. I saw neat plans for heating a coldframe this way. Not sure how much space/water it will heat, though. One would have to experiment.

-- Shivani Arjuna (, November 15, 1999.

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