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What Is Winterization?
The process of winterization helps to ensure your home doesn’t suffer avoidable and potentially catastrophic breakdowns from the effects of cold weather. There are some things that can be done on your own and there are some things that we recommend you leave to a knowledgeable professional.
With the coldest part of the year just around the corner, we think it a good time to discuss how to winterize your home. First, let’s talk about the steps you can take to winterize your home yourself, and then we’ll discuss some of the things to watch out for if winterization isn’t done properly.
Preventing a Freeze
The most basic of winterization steps is simply turning on the faucet. If you find yourself in the middle of an especially cold night or a winter storm, allowing your faucet to drip will keep water moving through your pipes. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Boy Scouts, it’s that moving water doesn’t freeze. We’ll talk later about the dangers of freezing water in your pipes.
The most effective method of letting your water drip is to pick the faucet that’s the furthest from where the water comes into the house. This ensures that water is running through as much piping as possible while you let it drip.
Clearing the Pipes
You may want to consider both turning off the water at the exterior main line and also opening all of the faucets in the home to drain the pipes. This will prevent racking up a utility bill by keeping the water dripping while you’re gone.
If you live in an area where freezing can be a problem or if you’re leaving the house for a while, you’ll want to drain the toilets and the expansion tank. This can be done by opening the top of the toilet’s tank and with the water to the house shut off, flushing the toilet. Some people use an air compressor to blow out the excess air. Anything between 35 - 75 PSI should do the trick for removing excess water safely. After you’ve drained the toilet, you’ll want to pour about a cup of septic grade non-toxic RV antifreeze down the toilets and faucets to prevent sewer fumes from entering the home.
You’ve Got the Power
Consider the idea of stopping power to the house. In a cold season, a home that’s unoccupied is still going to give off some heat and will attract critters. Cutting off the power to the house can prevent fires from faulty electronics and appliances or chewed wires. If you leave the power on, consider simply unplugging your appliances. A lot of people have gas alternatives to electric appliances. If that’s you, don’t forget to shut off the gas supply or shutting off the appliances completely.
Wrap up any Loose Ends
Some things are easily forgotten, so it’s a good idea to go through each room and identify any appliance or home system that uses water. Make sure to drain your dishwasher and replace the water with the RV antifreeze. If you have a refrigerator with an ice maker, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on draining the water from that also. Finally, make sure that your thermostat is set to no less than 55 degrees.
Some police stations will offer the option to file an empty house form with them if you know you’re going to be going away for a while. This is a good practice if your local police offer it.
Other home systems to consider could be washing machines, pools, hot tubs and sprinkler systems.
What are the Dangers of not Winterizing?
Have you ever noticed that jugs of milk have an indent in the side of the plastic? There’s a couple of reasons for this, but one of the reasons is that if you buy your milk in bulk and freeze it, the expanding milk doesn’t turn into a milk bomb as the plastic expands with it. The basic concept here is that frozen liquid expands – and this can be a huge problem inside water pipes that run all through your home.
Water damage can not only ruin furniture, appliances and electronics, but it can cause expensive damage to building materials, such as wood and drywall. This type of damage can lead to mold and become a breathing hazard for those living in the home.
Following these tips will keep you and your family safe during the cold season. The winterization of some appliances is easy enough to do, but systems are best left to a professional, especially if you don’t have the tools or the know-how.