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Why Should You Worry About Winterizing Your Home?

We here at Avery Plumbing, Inc. witnessed the destructive force of too many hard freezes and the effects on plumbing in our community last winter. This year we want to educate homeowners about proper winterizing procedures. We think leaving the heat on as the precaution against broken pipes is a risky proposition. Last year when the power went out, as it frequently does up here, many homes pipes froze and broke which led to massive water damage in vacant homes. The following information will help prevent costly property damage.

1. Turn off water. The first step is usually easy; locate and turn off the main water shut off valve, preferably one that is outside. If the property is supplied by a well, then also turn off the breaker to the pump system.

2. Water heater. After the water is off, turn off and drain the water heater. There are a couple of different procedures that could be followed to accomplish this step. Temperature controls on gas water heaters should be set to the off position, as well as closing the gas valve. Electric water heaters should be shut off at the breaker. A faucet or spigot will need to be opened to allow air to flow in as water is drained out.

3. Drain supply lines. Water should then be drained from the entire water supply system; faucets and fixture shut off valves should be left open. If the house is on a well, the pressure tank should also be drained.

4. Blow out the water supply lines. Though gravity may be sufficient to drain the plumbing to many homes, standing water will remain in some pipes. Though the water is no longer under pressure, the remaining water will freeze and may strain some fittings, CPVC, copper and galvanized which can lead to breaks. We recommend that water be blown out of the water supply lines with an air compressor. Many do-it-yourselfers skip this step, and most get lucky. If the house is to be winterized by a handy man or plumber, verify their level of thoroughness by asking if they blow out the water lines. Using special fittings to connect a compressor to the house plumbing, the water supply lines would be cleared of water by systematically closing and opening faucets and valves starting with plumbing fixtures most distant from the compressor and working backward.

5. Other items to drain. Water softeners, filters, and water treatment systems also need to be drained ( the brine tank in a water softener can usually be ignored ).

6. Anti-freeze. Once all the water supply lines are completely empty, flush the toilets until they are empty, then winterize toilets and other drain traps by filling them with a special non-toxic RV type anti-freeze solution (pink in color).

7. Other appliances. Keep in mind that water also runs through many appliances such as the washing machine and dishwater, as well as the water supply line to the ice-maker in refrigerators. Each one of these will also need to be drained and/or disconnected. Some professionals also recommend anti-freeze be poured into the bottom of the dishwasher and washing machine.

8. Turn off electrical. Turn off all electrical breakers to appliances as well as any other unnecessary breakers, and post a reminder note at the panel to make sure the electric water heater and other appliances aren’t turned on before the water is turned on.

9. Heating systems. You wouldn’t think that a furnace would contain water, but some do. High-efficiency furnaces ( also called condensing furnaces ) generate a significant amount of condensation from the water vapor in the flue gases. These systems, as well as air conditioners, have a condensate drain line. Sometimes the condensate drains into a floor drain, but if there’s no drain available, the condensate drains into a small pump which pumps the fluid uphill into the plumbing drain. Though there is less chance of damage, these should also be looked at.

10. Special heating systems. If the home has any sort of a more elaborate heating system such as a hot water boiler, heat pump, or radiant floor heat, then we recommend VERY strongly that is be handled by a HVAC professional familiar with these systems. These heating systems sometimes circulate water instead of a freeze resistant fluid, or may interconnect with the plumbing system and/or hot water heater. It should not be assumed that these systems could simply be turned off without danger of damage from freezing!

11. Last of all, post signs in conspicuous locations “Winterized – Do Not use Plumbing”, just in case there are unexpected visitors.

We think winterizing is best handled by a professional. Call us at Avery Plumbing, Inc. and let us take care of your winterizing needs.

This is a basic list. Methods may vary according to your configuration and fixtures/appliances. Things such as a missing stop and waste valve or a circulation pumps and check valves may complicate winterizing.