I've bought one of those heat wrap things to try to keep the pipes in the well head from freezing. The previous tenant of the house we bought said that it had happened in the past.

Currently there's just a piece of plywood on top of the well head with some hard foam insulation underneath. The original concrete top turned out to be sitting a few feet away, buried under some leaves.

The previous tenant had rigged up a light bulb with an extension cord over to the house to keep the well head from freezing.

The heat wrap thing I bought is 110 Volts, it uses a normal U.S. 3 prong adapter. The submersible pump in the well head is 220 with two hot (black and red) and a ground wire. I don't want to use a drop cord like the previous tenant used.

I'm missing a neutral in the well head so I can't see a good way to hook up the heater. This is in central NC, so it doesn't get terribly cold. About the coldest it ever gets here is around zero Fahrenheit. With some insulation and a concrete well head, how likely would it be that the pipes would ever freeze?

1 Answer 1


A "heat wrap thing" sounds like the cheese they sell at the big-box shops. Cheap and ugly and not very good. Take it back.

The right way: good heat tape

First, use the good stuff. It's called self-regulating heat tape , that is, it reduces its own power as temperature rises. Effectively shuts off at 150F, which means you won't boil out your pipe if the thing goes crazy. You probably want the highest wattage you can get, e.g. 10 watts per foot, and spiral it nice. Obviously, get the 240V heat tape.

McMaster shows the variety available.

You'll need to make those electrical connections correctly for this wet location.

If you want, you could put a thermostat on it. 240V thermostats are cheap and readily available, used for baseboard heaters. Getting one fit for outdoor use might be trickier.

After the pipe is wrapped with the heat tape, wrap both with foam pipe insulation. You'd only want to do that with the "good" self-regulating heat tape. Otherwise the insulation would only help the cheapie heat tape go into thermal runaway and set the insulation on fire.

The wood housing lined with insulation is a good idea, probably better than the concrete top. The light bulb was a silly way to do it, not least, the bulb will burn out and you'd never be wise.

Try to keep water out of the area. Maybe make a weatherproof cover that goes over lid and walls.

Or maybe light bulbs after all

Here's an alternate way to approach the light bulb method. Install three incandescent lamp sockets. Here's the tricky part: Wire all 3 sockets in series across the 240V. Hot----lamp 1----lamp 2-----lamp 3----Hot. Three matched bulbs in series will run 1/3 the voltage, or 80 volts. So you can use common 120V bulbs. And at the lower voltage, they'll burn exponentially longer. But since they're in series, if one goes out, they all go out. The bulbs will burn at slightly less than half their rated wattage.

  • I agree with the good heat tape but not so much with the 3 light bulbs an extension cord would be safer.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 31, 2017 at 21:48
  • I agree with the good heat tape but not so much with the 3 light bulbs an extension cord would be safer.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 31, 2017 at 21:48

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