I live in Maine, and it can get cold in the winter. My house has baseboard hot water heating and three heating zones (basement, first floor, and second floor). We have a mudroom/entry room that I believe was added to the house after it was originally built - it has many windows and cools easily. It also has a long heating register, which is on the first floor zone.

The thermostat for the first floor zone is well-located in a central spot. Typically, all works well. When most of the first floor is kept at a comfy 68 or so, the mudroom is probably in the mid or upper 40s.

A problem has arisen, however, with the installation of a wood stove on our first floor. The stove works well and can heat the whole house. However, when it is operating, it raises the inside temp enough so that the baseboard heat doesn't come on. The problem is that if it is sufficiently cold outside, the temperature out in the mudroom can drop into the low 30s (or potentially lower if I don't keep a careful eye on it). I obviously don't want this to happen because i don't want the pipes that supply the register in the mudroom to freeze.

What suggestions do you have that might address this problem?

Some ideas I've had are:

  • Remove the baseboard heat from the mudroom (possible, though I'd like a little heat out there)
  • Put the mudroom on its own zone (a bit of a costly undertaking, but perhaps the best solution)
  • Put a thermostat out in the mudroom set to, say, 35 - it would be connected to the same first-floor zone as the indoor thermostat. The whole zone would kick on when either thermostat tripped. Would add more heat than wanted inside...but might be workable?
  • Install some sort of shut-off valve on the pipes that go out to the mudroom so that I can manually drain those pipes and shut off water in them when I am running the stove. (I suspect this is a bad idea)
  • Install some sort of standalone heater. (I am reluctant to do this - there isn't a great spot for one, and it seems like a less elegant solution in that it adds an additional complication rather than fixing the existing problem)
  • Would not a fan to circulate the heat into the places where it is needed be a simple fix? it would also even out the hot spots, or other cool spots, created by the centrally located wood stove. It will not need to be on high, just something to move the air around.
    – Jack
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 14:16
  • @Jack a fan is a good idea, but I don't want to lose the heat out the mudroom door (which would have to be open to move heat from the warm indoors into the cooler mudroom) Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:33
  • DA01s suggestions are the way to go then, whether the electric resistance or rerouted with the basement. Though I would prefer the hot water baseboard, if the basement doesn't come on enough to keep it from freezing, that would be still be bad as you know. So I would have to go with the electric baseboard, if a cable can make it there.
    – Jack
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 2:18
  • I have a similar problem with my woodstove, and up to this point I just have to be mindful that it's cold enough out that I need to make sure the baseboard heat circulate so the water keeps moving. I actually use IFTTT.com to text me when it gets below 10F outside, as that's when I start to have problems. Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 14:47

8 Answers 8


Some different ideas:

  • Remove the baseboard water heater and replace with electric, thereby creating it's own zone. If the only pipes in this room were for the radiator, you wouldn't even need to set the heat, as there are no more pipes to worry about.

  • Add insulation to the mudroom

  • Keep mudroom door open when using wood heater

  • Splice your pipes and add the mudroom baseboard to one of the other circuits that will be running even when wood stove is on (basement, likely).

  • I like these ideas. I hadn't thought of switching it to the basement zone. Though replacing entirely with an electric baseboard might be more practical. Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:35
  • I chose this as answer as it presents a few different options - certainly, there are others, but this is a good start Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 12:56

You might want to consider trace heating, using heating cable.

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There are lots of different brands available with built-in and add-on thermostats, plug attached or hardwired. Simply install the cable following the manufacturers instructions, set the thermostat, and stop worrying about frozen pipes. Most cables are designed to work with both metal and plastic pipes, so it's a fairly versatile solution.

  • intriguing. Using heating cable hadn't occurred to me. I'll have to do a calculation to see how much I would need and how much it would cost ($ and energy) to operate on an ongoing basis, compared to the other solutions. Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:40
  • Note that most heating cables have very low heat output - you have to wrap insulation around the pipe and the cable for the cable to be warm enough to prevent freezing. Since the pipe you are trying to heat is meant to radiate, putting insulation over it would defeat the purpose - at that point you might as well remove the radiator entirely and allow the room to freeze.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 13:19
  1. You can replace the water in the system with antifreeze. A special product is made for this.

  2. Install a thermostat that only turns on the circulator. Simplest way would be add 2nd circulator controlled by 120v thermostat (electric baseboard thermostat). There is probably a way to do it using existing circulator too. This way you are not wasting money heating a house that is already hot from wood stove.

  3. You can get an electric heater that mounts on the wall and is less that 1" thick.

  • 1
    Tempted to down vote just based on the link to ehow.com
    – Tester101
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 15:44
  • Boilers that I've seen trigger the heat when the water in the boiler cools down, which would happen whenever you run a circulator. I think this would eliminate #2 as an option for most systems.
    – TomG
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 2:33
  • I think the idea behind #2 is good, personally. Basically just wire a second thermostat in parallel for the same zone, so that if the mudroom gets too cold it trips the same zone. Is that stupid/dangerous? I've actually thought about doing this, myself, using a RaspberryPi computer to trip a relay for the parallel connection. I would want to program it so that if the weather is below 10F outside then the circulator runs every other hour for 5 minutes, enough to get the water moving, even if it trips the furnace to run... Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 14:50

I would add a thermostat set for 35-38 degrees for the zone. It's not likely to run very often, but would be the surest way to head off frozen pipes. Keep in mind that the baseboard, being on the outside wall, and probably below windows, will be in the coolest spot in the room when you choose your thermostat setpoint.

If you have all the heat your need from the woodstove, you might also consider whether you can use a small fan to move some heat into the mudroom.

  • is this idea the same as the third idea I mentioned originally? Essentially, have two thermostats for the zone, one inside and one out in the mudroom. Both set at different temps, and either one turning on the heat for the whole zone when it's temp threshold is crossed? If it is the same, I'm curious to know if the wiring for this is done regularly and/or easily. Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:43
  • Yes, assuming your existing thermostats are 24 volt, the wiring is straightforward, just hook the R and W terminals on the two thermostats together -- R to R, and W to W -- (if you also have A/C on the same thermostat you want to be careful that the new thermostat is off whenever you are in A/C mode). If you have line voltage thermostats, you should consult a qualified electrician.
    – TomG
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 2:40

I know you posted this quite a while ago, but here's a very simple solution that no one mentioned. You don't need another zone or extra thermostat. Just add an extra aquastat, a simple, strap-on, single action type. Install it in the mudroom and strap it to the hot water pipe right next to the baseboard. Connect it directly to the circulator, in parallel with the other connections. set it for, say, 40 or 50 degrees or so. Now, when the pipe temperature drops below 40 degrees in the mudroom, the aquastat will turn on the circulator, and hot water (very hot water) will flow into the pipe keeping it from freezing. It will turn off quickly. This will be very efficient as you won't have to wait till the the room gets warm. You'll get just enough heat to keep the pipes from freezing, only when you need it. The installation couldn't be simpler. No plumbing. Just have to run one wire. I have a forced air hydronic heating system with hot water coils in my air handler in my attic. I have exactly this arrangement to help keep the pipes from freezing if the heat fails or is accidentally turned off in the winter.

  • I haven't tried this solution, but I think it might be the simplest and best option Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 12:54

There is a product made specifically for this problem. It is called ThermGuard and is a tiny microcomputer that attaches to your thermostat. It is programmable to run the heat zone for a specific number of minutes with a programmable delay.

For instance, you can program it to run for 3 minutes every two hours. This will circulate enough water to keep the pipes from freezing. Anti-freeze can be dangerous to your domestic water supply as it is connected to the boiler system to keep the water at pressure. If the anti-backflow device fails you will have poison in the drinking water. Anti-freeze also corrodes the components in the boiler system.

The ThermGuard device has non-volatile memory so it keeps your settings even when switched off. When the weather is not threatening, you just turn the unit off. Turning it back on restores all your programmed settings.

I have 3 in my house because I use a wood stove to heat in Montana. I have had my pipes burst twice...once when I wasn't home and it flooded the basement.

  • 4
    A quick Google search shows that someone with the same name as you created this ThermGuard. If you're affiliated with the product you're promoting, you must disclose that affiliation. Please see the help center for more information.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 19:32

When it is very cold and you are heating with your wood stove, turn on the water circulation pump from your main furnace. This will ensure water is always circulating even though the main furnace is not running. You may need a bypass switch to the current aquastat for this to work. Good luck


I wired a switch in parallel that allows me to run the ciculator independent of the thermostat. I turn the switch on when the weather drops below 32 degs to ensure the leg that runs in a crawlspace does not freeze. This is a one zone system. I could attaching a thermostat and eliminate the need to manually turn on the switch, but this has worked well for a few years and it is the equivalent electricity of an 80 watt light bulb. I have mixed CI radiators and baseboards and when the pump is on 100%, the system heat balance is also improved.

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