1. PF Contest - Win "Conquering the Physics GRE" book! Click Here to Enter
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How best to warm a cold attic

  1. Feb 14, 2015 #1
    In January 2014 we had a pipe break on the third floor adjacent to an attic space which housed water pipes to the baseboard heat. After over 400,00 in repairs and eight months of not being able to use the house, we are facing another prolonged cold spell. The pipes in the attic do have insulation around them, but the space is still very cold. The contractor's solution to avoiding another problem is opening a four foot door from the heated bedroom to the attic space.....Claiming that this will keep the pipes from freezing. I wanted to set an electric heater in the attic space and close the door between the bedroom and the attic and try to maintain an above freezing temperature. One can see light at the eves in the attic so the cold air is seeping in from the outside. I am a cynic and second guessing the contractor. This property is on the ocean and subject to very strong winds.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    It's not possible for us to determine with certainty whether this will keep your pipes from freezing, but I'd guess that either one would help.
  4. Feb 14, 2015 #3
    Hmm. Attics are supposed to be cold in the winter. You don't really want to have your attic like it is part of the rest of the house because that can cause the snow to melt and form ice jams on the roof. This is one reason why attics are well ventilated. I know that if I tried to heat my attic all of the heat would escape from the soffet vents and be lost to the outside.

    Where are the pipes? Are they in the attic or between say, the attic walls and a bathroom?
  5. Feb 14, 2015 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Get an opinion from another contractor.
  6. Feb 14, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Very peculiar.
    But anyways, we would need to see images of exactly where in the attic the pipes are located to best solve this problem.
  7. Feb 15, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    One possible solution - keep the water moving in the pipes.
  8. Feb 15, 2015 #7
    Yes. I had to do that in an apartment when it got below about 10 degrees F because the pipes ran under a crawl space that was not well insulated. Let the faucet drip.
  9. Feb 15, 2015 #8
    You do not mention why the pipe broke? Was it due to the water freezing in them, which seems odd since you say are for the baseboard heat, in which case the water should be moving and heated, and do not shut off any heater. Are the pipes old and corroded, in which case you will have to look at the rest of the system to see what shape it is in.

    With 40,000 in repairs, that may have already been done. Check your bill of repairs.
    If unsure, as already mentioned, talk to another contractor. Do NOT heat the attic.

    If freezing was the problem, you can consider heating cable, but make sure all building codes and insurance guidlines are respected before persuing that avenue prior to that type of installation.
  10. Feb 17, 2015 #9
  11. Feb 17, 2015 #10
    Thank you for all your suggestions. Had a HVAC company survey the area. And his suggestions were:

    Close the four foot door to the attic as cold flows to warm and nothing to be gained.

    The house is zoned in six areas. The third floor thermostat is at the top of the stairs to the third floor and since hot air rises, the baseboard heat is being satisfied by the warm air from the first and second floor.

    He suggested further insulation of the attic; some areas register 11 degrees.

    He suggested that we not move the thermost! but place a sensor control in the large closet adjacent to the bedroom where it will not be affected by the heat traveling up the steps.

    Yes the pipes for the baseboard heat are in the attic. Even though we seldom use the third floor, we must keep the area warm so that the water in the pipes is moving and then there will be no problem.

    For now I have lowered the temperature on the second floor thermostats and raised the third floor.

    The broken pipe in January 2014 was at the baseboard heat in the closet adjacent to the attic wall. We had insurance, but not sufficient to cover over 400,000 in damages. This why I am paranoid
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook