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Plumbing question: No cold water, need to wait.

Posted on 2011-03-04
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hey guys,
I need your input and eventually hire someone to fix it.

Two stories condo complex, about 40-50 units. A lot of people complain, inculding myself, when openning a cold tap, need to wait a long time until it actually gets cold.  About 60+ seconds I'd say.  Real 60 seconds, not new york 60secs.

The warmer the weather, the longer we have to wait.  Thus we are wasting water and our HOA fees going up.

What could be the problem and what would it take to fix it?

Thanks in advance!!

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Question by:Tiras25
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 250 total points
ID: 35038848
The cold water pipes probably travel alongside the heating and/or hot water pipes too and things aren't that well insulated.  Assuming the cold water is coming from the roof when you turn the tap on you have a length of warmed water stuck in the system that has to leave your tap before the fresh water arrives.
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aleghart earned 250 total points
ID: 35039053
Happens in retrofit projects where pipes are run on exterior of building.  They bake in the sun and heat up the water.  Your 60 seconds is what it's taking to clear out the sitting water and get fresh water from the supply lines that sit underground.  They stay cold because they're buried in ~50-5F soil.

In the winter, you run the risk of freezing the pipes.  Where I am in southern California, it never gets that cold.  So I see pipes on the outside of apartment buildings and condos all the time.  Much cheaper than running the pipes indoor, where you have to build soffits to hide the pipes.  And you know HOAs...cheaper contractors usually win out.

The water consumption costs should't affect your HOA dues. I broke a main and lost something like 30,000 gallons.  It was around 12 cents.

If your hot water pipes are also run outside, you will have the opposite problem.  You're wasting energy because the pipes are cooling down to ambient air temperature, so during cold weather you wait for the water to get hot.

Look for pipes on the outside of the unit.  They should have some sort of fascia to cover them from the sun (and make them look pretty to the HOA).  Hot pipes should have foam covers.  On the inside, the retrofit pipes are usually covered up by soffits...strange dropped ceilings for no apparent reason.  Sometimes they make a central hallway 1-foot shorter.

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Expert Comment

by:aleghart
ID: 35039062
If you've ever opened up your wall under a sink, you might notice old pipes that are cut off, sticking out of the slab.  New pipes will be coming from overhead.  Clear indication of a retrofit installation...they're not going to pay to bust up the slab to replace pipe.
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Expert Comment

by:Michael-Best
ID: 35080797
Cause:
Poor or no insulation on the cold water pipes.
Fix:
None, unless you wish to spend heaps on re-piping / insulating pipes.
(normally only hot water pipes are insulated unless situated in freezing climates)
Workaround:
Store the initial water in a bucket for other use like washing, etc. or if it is cold drinking water that you want then cool water in the refrigerator just for drinking.

Hope this helps.
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