Going South? How to Winterize Your Home

by Carmen Corbin on November 29, 2011

It’s a few months after your retirement, and you and your spouse have been making plans all year long to escape the bitter cold and go south for the winter.  You’ve bought an RV, lined up a sweet spot right near the ocean, and packed up all your fishing gear.  The two of you are so excited, you even bought matching T-shirts that say “snowbirds.”  Then, just a couple of days before your departure, it suddenly dawns on you… how do I winterize the house?

According to the experts at This Old House (www.thisoldhouse.com), the major concern is preventing frozen pipes.  Here are a few of their recommendations on how to protect your plumbing system if you plan on letting your house “go cold”:

  1. Turn off the main water shut-off valve in your home and drain all your pipes. 
  2. Turn off and drain your hot water heater.
  3. Flush the toilet and drain any remaining water from the bowl and tank.
  4. Protect everything with non-toxic antifreeze (known as RV antifreeze).  Pour about half a cup down each sink.  For the dishwasher and washing machine, pour about 1/3 of a gallon into each appliance, and then run each one for a partial cycle to circulate the antifreeze.  Finally, pour about 1/3 to 1/2 gallon into each toilet bowl to maintain a liquid seal on the septic/sewer outlet.
  5. Turn off the main electric breaker.

If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, make arrangements for a plumber to help winterize.  Another option is to leave your heat on very low while you’re gone (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit), insulate your pipes and hot water heater, and leave a couple of faucets on at a trickle. 

Other Helpful Tips

Be sure your gutters are completely cleaned out before you leave to prevent ice build-up.  Also, remember to have any lawn irrigation system winterized in the fall before temperatures plunge to the freezing mark.  No matter how long you’ll be enjoying your southern stay, it’s always a good idea to have a friend, neighbor or relative check in on your home and property periodically just to catch any small problems before they become big ones.

For more information on how to properly winterize your vacant home, contact your local plumbing professional or home improvement contractor.

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