Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

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Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

Postby FrancesNewell on Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:13 pm

Do any of you have photos of the heating wires and/or other heating solutions that you've used?
Photos of your umbrella?
I am trying to get a mental picture of this.
I'm not kidding about possible fire hazards!
One frayed wire, one spark in the wrong place could do serious damage to wood!
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Re: Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

Postby JohnGouwens on Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:53 pm

Hi, Frances! First, we're talking about a low-voltage heating wire, such as is frequently used on water pipes, hence designed to be well-insulated, and something already in common use elsewhere. Second, this is applied to the rack of chimneys, all metallic parts - nowhere near the wood keys, so a fire hazard is really pretty unlikely.

I am going to collect the other comments from the GCNA e-mail exchange about carillons freezing now.
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Re: Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

Postby JohnGouwens on Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:08 pm

I have harvested the following from the GCNA E-Mail list, which reflects many people's experiences!

December 27, 2013:

Freezing up of the carillon (initial post from John Bordley):

Several times each winter, when there is a lot of moisture and freezing conditions, the umbrellas become frozen. We are seeking a simple solution, perhaps an outdoor stip heater, that could melt the ice. It occurred to us in Sewanee, that others of you must have had this problem and solved it.

Your ideas are solicited. Perhaps moving to the discussion area is the way to go on this discussion, but I am not sure how to get that process started.

John Bordley

First response came from Gordon Slater:

Rick Watson, while working at Verdin, installed a heating wire in the weather board (just below the umbrellas) of the Peace Tower Carillon in Ottawa. It has been perfectly successful. I believe that another name for this long, thin heater is a "pipe tracer", since it is primarily used to keep water pipes from freezing.

Gordon Slater.

Then I responded:
Thanks, Gordon! I've long thought a solution just like that would work really well. I'm glad to hear it did! (Our tower is enclosed enough that it is very rare that the action freezes up like that.) The carillon at Grand Valley State University in Allendale used to get enough lake-related weather that they had some problems with the action freezing up also, and what was done there was a wooden box was built to go over the umbrella board to keep the wind off of it, and a heat lamp or two was installed to keep the wires et al just a little warmer. The long heating wire would probably be easier to carry out, but both reportedly work.

- John Gouwens

Julianne clarified that GVSU situation:

Hello All
It works in Allendale and Grand Rapids. I believe that Eijsbouts made the same type of installation at Michigan State university as well.

Julianne Vanden Wyngaard
GVSU Carillonneur

Ray responded about the latter:

It's been unnecessary at MSU because of our enclosed chamber.
Ray McLellan
MSU Carillonneur

Gloria Werblow added her experiences:
Hi to everyone,

In Williamsville we get had been iced only three or four times in my 36 years of playing. Sometimes light tapping on the baton will loosen the mechanism. If you have no other recourse, you might try de-icer on the umbrella rack.. If you decide to go into the bell chamber and spray de-icer, please remember to stand upwind.

Gloria Werblow,
Carillonneur, Calvary Episcopal Church, Williamsville, NY

Dave Johnson:

During my 20 years at House of Hope, the instrument has iced completely and resolutely only twice--at least to my knowledge--on a Sunday morning, when it mattered. I suppose I said something unseemly--"Drat" maybe--and left the tower. So the bells were silent. Shortly, the sun appeared and the condition resolved. The wire and box ideas sound excellent, but their utility at HoH seems marginal. We don't exist on the freezing rain margin to the extent that many of you do. We experience it, but not even on an average of one good debilitating occurrence a year.

Several times each winter I'll encounter a random frozen bell. In these cases, I'll lightly tap the key as Gloria recommends, while simultaneously holding the wire firmly to prevent anything but minimal movement. This has almost always worked. When it hasn't, I've given up--it's too easy to bend or break something. If somebody's cantus firmus suffers, tough!

I've never tried de-icer, but given Walter and The Dude's experience, I aggressively endorse Gloria's warning.

Dave J

From Lisa Lonie:
I had a "first" on Christmas Day when slivers of ice dropped into the cabin after I freed the frozen transmission (by tapping the batons). The night before (Xmas eve) I had the heat on for about 12 hrs. Condensation must've built up on the wires in the playing cabin then froze overnight.

Dennis Curry weighed in:

Because the Kirk belfry is quite open to the elements, and we are now further compromised by introduction of interior building humidification, the first play on a winter morning is often a challenge. I usually arpeggiate in the key of the opening piece to check what works and what needs the extra umpf to break through the icy winter grasp. I have not found any bad abuse to the mechanism after years of this method, but I am interested in trying the heat tape to minimize the need for calling in the Coast Guard during a major freeze.

Then there is the condition of snow laden bells ... thunk thunk thunk.


A humorous response from Bob Ampt and Amy Johansen:
Well, to me the solution is simple……just move your carillons down here, where we have never had this problem!

Merry Christmas to all of you, and see you in Belgium.

From Amy, Rob, Emily and the Sydney Carillonists

Adrian Gebruers joined the fun:
I'm not convinced: perhaps the best weather location for carillons is in the mid latitudes, such as Belgium, The Netherlands ... and of course Ireland!

Adrian Gebruers

Marc van Eyck responded:
The only time we had iced umbrella’s in Belgium was some years ago after more than 30 years of waiting. We had snow blown by the wind and ice inside the bell chamber, on the roof of the cabin in Leuven (Sint-Pieters church) – see picture:
(Sorry, I can only post links top photos, and this was a photo pasted into the text.)

Light tapping as Gloria Werblow did in Williamsville was we needed to do to get the keys going. But I can imagine, when umbrella’s get stuck by frozen melting snow water or descending condensed water, tapping wouldn’t be enough and more force could certainly damage somewhere the transmission. Ice can be very hard, so I would do what Dave J. would do (give up) or add heating wires (Rick Watson).

Merry Christmas and happy new year. Hope to see you all in Belgium next year.

Marc Van Eyck & Ria Verlaenen – Wilsele Leuven Belgium
By the way, Carlo, Adrian and some other colleagues asked to see the Oudenaarde Carillon (with Vema System) during the WCF congress period . I understood the WCF congress itself is not going to schedule Oudenaarde on the program. If I could have an idea of the number of carillonists who want to see Oudenaarde, I am willing to organise the visit by myself; it would be a pity being less than 60 miles from Oudenaarde and not be able to go there.
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Re: Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

Postby JohnGouwens on Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:56 pm

By the way, I think this needs to be stated more clearly. The ice doesn't in fact form in the umbrella (normally) but rather in the chimneys, the tubes through which the wires pass to go from the playing cabin to the belfry. It is the chimneys (and maybe the plate to which they are attached) that need to be warmed. (Note Lisa Lonie's comments about ice sliding down the wires.)

My worst issues with carillons icing up were with the School of Music carillon at Indiana University, where the instrument is just slapped up on the roof, with no cover or walls at all. I found that carillon frozen up often, and when I did jar them loose, I normally encountered conical pieces of ice sliding down the wires (and also dripping on the console), and in fact the ice was clearly visible in the ceiling, just where the wires passed into the chimneys. At Culver, I've had the action really freeze up seriously just once in 33 years (in the ferocious, cold conditions of winter 1982). Occasionally, I have to loosen a few notes at other times, but not often.

Note, also that a humidification system can aggravate this problem (though of course there are many good reasons to have good humidification in a church). I understand that House of Hope church has an excellent humidification system, in part to take care of several tracker organs, some of them antiques, in the building.

As for snow and ice on the bells themselves, good luck! I get snow on the trebles at Culver when there is snow and wind at the same time. Then, indeed, it is very clunky, but usually, after playing awhile, the snow shakes off enough so the instrument sounds almost normal.
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Re: Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

Postby MelissaWeidner on Wed Jan 01, 2014 1:13 am

A Dampp-Chaser dehumidifier rod (used in piano climate control systems) would probably work. In pianos, its function is dehumidification via heat. At 25 watts, they are not a fire hazard. A rod or rods could be used in a carillon to melt ice. It could be plugged in manually as needed, plugged in with a timer, or plugged in to a thermometer that would automatically activate it at a certain temperature. Rods may be obtained from your local piano technician/tuner. http://www.pianolifesaver.com/english/systemcost.php
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Re: Heating to prevent icing and freezing bells

Postby JohnGouwens on Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:35 am

Interesting thought, Melissa! Something would need to be used to hold it up against the chimneys (maybe along the base). Since it isn't designed for outdoor use, I still would feel safer with something designed for water pipes.
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