If you own a home that’s going to be unoccupied during the winter months there are some important steps that you need to take to protect it from the cold. A lot can happen to an empty house as a result of winter damage including burst water pipes which can damage floors and crack woodwork as a result of extreme cold.
If you plan a winter vacation this year or own a summer home in a cold climate you should be taking the following steps to prevent cold weather damage.
Prevent Water Damage – Even though the home is unoccupied it is still important to keep the home moderately heated. Although this may seem an unnecessary expense it is modest compared to the damage caused by water pipes that can freeze and then burst. It’s also a good practice to turn the water off at the main valve and to insulate pipes as well. These simple steps could save you thousands in water damage.
For extended periods of absence during the frigid winter months I also suggest draining the water pipes. The trick to this is to turn off the main water valve and then turn on two faucets; One closest to where the water comes into the structure and the one farthest away.
After the water has drained you should use an air compressor to ensure that no water remains in the system. You can purchase special fittings that will connect the compressor directly to the water system. Start at the sink that is located the greatest distance from the incoming supply, open the water valve, blow out the remaining water and then close the valve. Repeat this process until you reach the sink closest to the incoming water line. When you are done there will be no water left in the system and all valves will be in the off position. If you get your water from a well be sure to drain the pressure tank.
· Remember – the incoming water supply is not the only water that can freeze in the home. Don’t forget about other items such as water softener systems, dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators with automatic ice makers connected to the plumbing, water filter systems and toilets. Toilets can be drained completely using a plunger and RV antifreeze can be used in certain appliances such as the washing machine or dishwasher.
Certain equipment requires a professional to winterize it properly. If you are not an expert I would suggest hiring one to adequately prepare certain systems such as radiant floor heating systems, heat pumps, boiler systems or condensation furnaces. Improperly preparing these types of equipment for winter can damage them and cost you a repair bill that you will not appreciate.
Turn off the Electricity – It’s always a good idea to turn off the main breaker in an unoccupied home. This not only protects your property from an electrical fire but keeps appliances and other items safe from electrical surges during a storm or other unforeseeable event.
Not All Damage Comes from the Inside – Keep in mind that moisture and cold can easily find their way inside as well as insects and other critters if the windows and doors are not properly sealed. A well insulated home helps to protect against this type of damage and will also save you money on future utility bills.
Finally, there’s always the most unpredictable threat of all, the human kind. Consider installing a monitored security system for your vacant home and if it’s possible, ask your close neighbors (if there are any) to keep an eye on the home while you are away. Notifying the police of your planned absence may also be a good idea; especially if your home is located in an isolated area with few or no persons around.