Best Pipe Insulation and Heat Cable/Tape

Depending on where you live, you may have to deal with frigid temps all the time, or it may just be a cold snap every now and then.

Or maybe you live on a tropical island and you don’t even own a winter coat!

You know what sucks? Frozen pipes.

If you’re really lucky, they freeze and thaw without bursting and it doesn’t cost you a fortune.

When they burst, they can cause extensive property damage. Think about flooding your house or basement, ruining drywall, ceilings, furniture, electrical appliances. It can be a nightmare even with good homeowner’s insurance.

Even in the best case, if the pipes don’t burst, it’s a pain in the butt. Nothing kills a busy weekend full of obligations or plans like having zero water service. You can’t shower, do stuff in the kitchen, wash clothes, and if unlucky you may not even be able to use your toilet. Ya might only get one flush (I’ve been there).

If you come here to ChainsawsToday looking specifically for content about chainsaws, cool. But I get dragged into more handyman stuff than you can shake a stick at, and I recently helped an elderly lady harden her plumbing against cold weather. She had been dealing with the nuisance and the risk of frozen pipes for several years, and for a minimal amount of time, effort, and money I was able to help fix that for her.

I figured I would drop something on the website to help others looking for the best options for pipe insulation and heat tape.

Pipe Insulation

Insulating risky pipes is one of the easiest and most inexpensive options.

Any pipe or connection that is above ground is at risk. Some areas to watch out for…
pipes in a crawlspace
pipes running from a well pump into the ground
outside hose bibs or spigots, and the pipes running to them

Depending on your location and how cold it gets, underground pipes can be a problem too. The frost line varies by region, and hopefully your pipes are a) buried deep enough to be below the frost line, and b) insulated down to that point.

Foam pipe insulation is a great option.

Foam pipe insulation is a gold standard – click HERE for bulk pricing

This is generally made of closed-cell polyethylene foam. It usually comes with a split down its lengthwise run, which makes it very quick and easy to install. It’s flexible, pretty wear resistant, not easy to tear or tear up. It’s not terribly expensive. If installing it somewhere it could be exposed to wind, I would recommend adding spots or even entire strips of tape to seal the slit once installed, that way it can’t blow off.

Also, for connections and T’s, you should probably butt pieces up against one another and seal them with tape.

Purchased in bulk, this will cost you around $1/ft.

Insulating tape is another option.

Winding insulation tape around your pipes for protection – click HERE to see bulk deals

It insulates just as well, or in some cases even better than the split foam tube option, but it’s harder to install.

When I say “harder”, it don’t mean like rocket science. You just have to wrap the roll around each pipe carefully, with (ideally) an even and precise overlap.

Costing this option is a little tricky. Because you’re wrapping it around the pipe, linear feet on the tape roll doesn’t equate to linear feet on the pipe. Plus you need overlap. A rough rule of thumb is assume a 30′ roll of 2″ wide tape will cover around 15′ of 1/2″ diameter pipe. With that assumption, the cost is about the same as the foam insulation.

If you need to up your game, pipe heat tape or heat cable may come into play.

This is basically like a heated blanket for your pipes. You can wrap the tape or cable in a spiral around each pipe, or in some cases you just run it straight down each length. Most kits come with tape or anchors to fasten it around the pipe. You then plug it into an outlet, and when powered a resistance heating keeps the material warm and prevents freezing.

Heat tape can protect pipes even in the Arctic – click HERE to check latest pricing

Nobody wants to stomp around in the middle of a snowstorm plugging their pipe heaters in. I usually recommend plugging them in to one of the small, cheap wifi controllers like this, and that way you can turn each on and off with your phone. Some of the more expensive versions come with thermostats, which is even nicer.

There are a couple of drawbacks to going the powered route. Number one, there are only so many plugs and outlets that can be managed. If you have more than a couple of runs of this, it becomes like a Clark Griswold Christmas Vacation thing where you are just itching to blow a fuse or trip a breaker. And of course electricity costs money, so your power bill may suffer.

On the other hand, if temps are sub-zero and brutally cold, insulation without a heated option may not be enough.

One final item I’ll throw out there, I use a heat lamp in my well pump house. My well pump and reservoir sit under a little 3’x3’x3′ plastic dome. The dome has some insulation on the underside, but not much, and it’s crumbling away anyway from age. I had a problem with some components freezing a few years ago during a cold snap, so I set a heat lamp out there and wired it to a wifi outlet controller.

Of course you have to use an “old school” incandescent bulb. Modern day LED bulbs are too efficient, and produce too little heat to have a protective effect. Any time it gets below about 20 degrees, I turn the well pump house heat lamp on the prevent problems.

A heat lamp in my pump house – click HERE to see pricing

Best Chainsaw Hearing Protection

Let’s get serious for a minute.

Hearing damage can be irreversible.

In many cases, once it’s lost, it never comes back. Also, it can be cumulative. The more exposure you have to loud noise, over time it will absolutely begin to affect your hearing.

Listen, when I was younger, I was invincible. It’s not that I didn’t realize things I was doing would affect my body. I just didn’t care. I figured hell, one day we all get old, I’ll worry about that later.

I wish now that I had taken better care of my body. Better care of my joints. Better care of my skin relative to sun exposure. And definitely better care of my hearing.

How loud are chainsaws?

The average chainsaw is 106-120 decibels. Battery saws tend to be a bit quieter. And some saws are much louder.

That Supmix 62cc saw I reviewed a while back was loud enough to wake the dead!

Anything over about 80 decibels may require protection. Here’s the standard chart that relates how loud something is to the exposure limit, or length of time it might be sustainable:

Even if you are just running a chainsaw for a minute, just to clean up one branch or knock the knob off one log, you should be wearing hearing protection. It just isn’t worth the risks of going without.

Here’s what I would recommend, going in stages of effectiveness.

Stage 1 – the bare minimum

Foam Ear Plugs

Foam ear plugs like these Mack’s Ultra Soft ear plugs are a good product.

They are pretty convenient to carry. You can stuff then in your shirt or pants pocket, put a pack in your equipment bag, etc.

They are pretty comfortable. Because they’re so light weight, they don’t really bother your ears. They are soft and usually don’t cause any problem or irritation even if you have to wear them for hours at a time, or all day.

And they are reasonably effective. If inserted properly, they have a NRR (noise reduction rating) of 33 decibels. So if that saw your are using is 120 decibels, these ear plugs could reduce it to 87 decibels. That’s still a little sketchy if you look at the chart, but much better than nothing at all.

Mack’s foam ear plugs are a good option – check HERE for Amazon pricing

Stage 2 – a better option

These ear muffs from Decibel Defense are an upgrade option to Mack’s ear plugs.

One of the inherent problems with ear plugs is they aren’t terribly stable. They can be pulled out or knocked out, and there is a bit of technique to roll them up and insert them into your ear canal. These ear muffs do away with all of that.

Also, they have an improved NRR of 37 decibels. This provides just a little extra protection compared to the 33 decibels from the foam ear plugs.

These are very comfy, with soft, thick cushions that go over your ears. They of course are a good bit heavier than just the bare minimum foam ear plug. Another drawback, if you’re working in a hot environment these can add to your heat stress. I’m one of those guys who sweats a lot, and sometimes it feels really good to pull the ear muffs off and let myself cool down!

These Decibel Defense ear muffs are a good upgrade option – click HERE to check latest Amazon pricing

Stage 3 – best option

A helmet/visor/muff combo is really an advanced protection system, and is often times one of the best options.

I covered the Husqvarna helmet a while back in a post about their nice protective apparel kit.

I’m still a big fan. It is very well-optioned and thought out.

It has a tiny bump out at the top of the visor that acts as a sun shield. That little feature is so nice to have during certain times of the day when the sun is brutal.

They are very comfortable. They have an Egyptian cotton sweatband inside, and ya’ll already know how much I sweat. I might not want to wear a helmet on a hot day, but the Husky helmet at least bends over backwards to make it as comfortable as possible.

They have plenty of adjustments for size and fitting. And the best part is their face shield. It has a fine mesh which does a surprisingly good job of keeping sawdust from flying up into to your face and your nose.

One drawback here is that their earmuffs are only rated to a 24 decibel reduction. That’s pretty standard across most forestry helmets. I know it sounds crazy, but I typically stick ear plugs in and wear the helmet for any kind of extended use activity.

Husqvarna has an amazingly comfortable helmet/visor/ear muff combo – check pricing HERE

I should probably do some reviews for more safety apparel, given how frequently we all see folks getting hurt in the industry. You may have already checked out my article on chainsaw gloves, and shin guards.

Be safe out there, folks!

The Best Gas Powered Log Splitter – My Review of the SuperHandy 25 Ton Log Splitter

Some of you guys have contacted me about my review of the Superhandy chipper saying I should check out their log splitter. So here we go!

Gas Powered vs Electric

I have been watching with great interest as electric log splitters have gotten better and more available over the years. There are a lot of great things you get with electric, even though it has some drawbacks too.

But at this point, the electric log splitters that are out there just aren’t powerful enough for what I need.

I may do a review sometime in the future of a smaller electric version, but based on the kind of work I do, and the size of the logs I generally have to split, I stuck with gas-powered.

If you have more of a light duty situation, and don’t need to split larger diameter stuff, then electric may be okay for you.

The Basics

There are a zillion different log splitters out there.

Some cost tens of thousands of dollars. I have seen log splitters so fancy they do everything but tie your shoes!

Hey, I’d be happy to have a log splitter that would auto load big heavy logs and save my back. Sure, I’d love to own one that was 100 ton and could split wood rounds six feet in diameter.

But I haven’t won the lotter yet, so I wanted to buy a splitter that was affordable but would get the job done.

You typically want to pay attention to the tonnage listed, which will be directly related to the size of the logs it will split.

The diameter and the length of the logs will make a difference. Bigger is typically better, but that capacity tends to cost more money, so it’s smart not to buy one bigger than you need.

Why I Chose the SuperHandy 25 Ton Splitter

The SuperHandy 25 Ton Splitter – this is the one I recommend – Click >>HERE<< to check the latest prices on Amazon

I landed on this SuperHandy 25 ton unit for several reasons.

I really liked their woodchipper – check out my review of that here, if you haven’t seen it already.

The capacity is decent – with the 7 hp engine and 25 ton hydraulics, they claimed it could split up to 20″ log lengths and up to 16″ log diameters.

There are a couple of “extra” features I liked. The flat free tires are a big deal. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to do some work and been delayed due to a flat tire on a wheelbarrow. Flat free tires cost the manufacturer more, but it’s a great feature to have in my opinion.

I also liked that it can be converted to split either horizontally or vertically.

It has a 2-stage gear pump, so it’s pretty efficient and not a gas hog.

With a 12-second cycle time, they claim up to 600 logs split per hour. I’m not out there to win a race or anything, but I didn’t want something with a super-slow cycle time. I need to get some work done!

My Review

I might as well tell you, my biggest gripe about this thing is the assembly.

I’m no dummy, I’m pretty handy and can put pretty much anything together. But when they say it may require two people to assemble… they ain’t lying.

I did get it put together by myself, but at various points I wished I was an octopus with eight arms. It’s not that it’s super complicated to assemble, but there are enough big/heavy parts to bolt together that you really need someone else to hold the parts while you get the bolts started.

This thing is quite beefy. So that’s good, in the sense that it will take a licking and keep on ticking. But don’t forget that means many of the components are commercial/industrial grade, so they are heavy.

The engine starts easily and has plenty of power. I really did split big, knotty chunks 16+ inches in diameter. I did on occasion jam the thing up, but I would either pull the hydraulic ram back and re-jigger the log and retry it again, or I would throw it off to the side to bust up with a maul later. That pretty much happens with any splitter, and I feel like this one does great considering its size/price.

The hydraulics work fine, and (so far) have no leaks.

I split several cords of wood over the course of two days, and ran many tanks of gas through this thing. It worked flawlessly!