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We have a home in a cold location that is unoccupied during much of the cold season. (We're talking -30 F temperatures here.) It's well insulated and we keep it heated, but up in a far corner of the house, in a laundry room, the temperature can drop to about 10 deg less than the rest of the house (which we keep around 65).

The potential problem here is that the pipes for the washing machine run inside that exterior wall. Again, it's well insulated, but a 2x6" wall is only so thick, and I worry that pipe may freeze. The way we currently try to keep it warm isn't smart, IMO. There's an electric baseboard on that wall, and I set it to a spot where it keeps that room a minimum of 63-ish degrees. It kicks on for much of the winter, sucking a lot of juice, just in the hope that heating the drywall in front of those pipes will keep them above freezing when it's -30 or -40 outside.

I was pondering running a line from our boiler to a new register up there, when I realized maybe I could run hot water directly through the at-risk pipes themselves.

I wonder if running a hot-water recirculator designed for systems with no return line (as we have none) wouldn't be a smarter and more energy efficient solution. Something like this one: https://youtu.be/Jd0IsylW4Cc

There's a utility sink up there which would be a perfect spot to stick a bypass, and it's the furthest line in the house (and bonus, it's behind the shower we use, so it would save us on water not having to wait for that to heat up.) It's probably a run of 30 feet. If I understand things correctly, that would run the warm/hot water through both the hot/cold lines as programmable intervals. I figure a couple of times per hour would do the trick, and we have a pretty efficient (and low cost) water heater with a huge tank.

This would save me a ton of worry, and it would also let us heat the home to a lower temp (50s) without worrying about that one pipe run. (All the other pipes are inside walls or under the heated slab.) I imagine I could get system and my plumber to install for about $500, and between the excess fuel burned keeping the home extra warm just for this pipe, and running the baseboard as a backup, this would probably pay for itself in overall energy savings in a year or two.

Edit: FWIW, prior owner lived there for 2 decades without freezing up this pipe, but I don't know where they ran their temps and the baseboard all winter. (Pipe they ran into an unheated attached garage did burst -- that I have seen -- and it was disclosed during sale. I removed that line -- was to an unnecessary hose bib -- and capped the line in the interior wall.)

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    This isn't an answer, just a comment. I've dealt with frozen pipes that burst in my vacation home and it did a LOT of damage. Now, when we aren't there we turn off the water to the house to be safe. In your case, given those very low temps, I'd be winterizing it by turning off the water and use an air compressor to blow out all the lines. Then you could lower the temp without worry and save some energy bills. Mar 11 at 16:42
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    A prolonged power outage would scupper your recirc plan, too. You might consider, instead, putting valves on the supply lines for the washer in a warm area, then putting drain lines in. This way, you can shut off and drain just the washer plumbing. This would allow you to use the water in the rest of the house whenever you needed to without impacting it. Or, if you need to do laundry, it's simple to shut off and drain just the pipes at risk. If there's no water in the pipe, it can't freeze no matter how cold it is or if the power's off.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 11 at 17:14
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    Far more effective/efficient given the statements of the question to provide valves and drains to (easily) drain and blow clear this section of pipe during the at-risk unoccupied season.
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 11 at 17:26
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    I wouldn't consider a shut off and drain at the low point for the washer hookups to be that big a deal. Water will flow down hill all by itself so there's no need to blow water out of the lines (which would be a royal pain). But, it's your place. Sounds like you just want us to approve of your plan, which Ecnerwal has done in his answer, so you're good to go.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 11 at 17:45
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    Depends on pipe layout, (sometimes the wall piping is not set up well to drain itself, so water remains trapped) but even if you do need to blow (or vacuum) it, the trick is merely to set it up so that's no big deal, and then it's just part of the 5 minutes before you leave and when you arrive, rather than being a huge hassle.
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 11 at 18:09

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Yes, that would work, (so long as you have power and hot water.) Not the best solution, but it would work.

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