Checklist for Winterizing A Vacant Home

A Snowbirds Checklist to Winterizing Your Vacant Home Before You Fly South

A lot of people like to head South once winter arrives, but what happens to their homes during this time. In many cases, these homes are left vacant for several months, and if they aren’t properly winterized they can suffer serious damage during that time. If you are a snowbird who is planning on spending the winter someplace warmer than your own home, here are some things you should be doing so that you don’t come home to a costly repair bill.

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How to Winterize your Vacant Home

1. Shut Off The Water

The biggest problem that plagues homeowners who don’t winterize their vacant homes is that the water in their pipes freeze and burst which can lead to expensive pipe and water line replacement being needed. Therefore, the first thing that should always be done before leaving home is to shut off the water. For most modern homes, this is as easy as shutting off the main valve, if you can't locate the main valve you may need to contact your landlord if you rent your home, or an experienced plumber if you are a home owner. If your home’s water is supplied by a well, you will also need to shut off the breaker to the pump system.

2. Shut Off The Water Heater 

Once the water is shut off, it’s time to shut off and drain the water heater. If you have a gas water heater, simply turn the controls to the “Off” position and shut off the gas valve. If you have an electric heater, you will need to shut it off at the breaker. Once the water heater is shut off, you should be able to drain the water by opening a faucet or spigot.

3. Drain All Supply Lines

Drain all the pipes, sinks and faucets of water by turning on the faucets after the main water is shut off.  If your house uses a well, you should drain the pressure tank as well. You shouldn’t have any water in your pipes before you leave your house. Blow out your pipes with an air compressor to make sure that they are completely drained.

4. Have your Sewer Lines Inspected

The period before winter can be particularly challenging for sewer systems. The varying temperatures cause the pipes to expand and shrink, often leading to cracks. When the weather gets colder, these cracks can widen due to the pipes contracting, potentially causing significant issues for homeowners. It's important to get your sewer lines inspected and repaired if needed before the winter season, especially if you plan to be away for the holidays. By ensuring your sewage system is in good condition beforehand, you can avoid concerns like flooding and leaks, allowing you to focus on enjoying festive meals and quality time with family.

5. Use Antifreeze to Prevent Frozen Toilets

Once your pipes are completely drained, flush your toilet until there is no more water left. Fill it with antifreeze, preferably a non-toxic RV solution. If your toilet or pipes drain slowly, you may want to consider having your drains cleaned before you leave.

5. Empty your Septic Tank

When leaving for the winter it's advisable to empty and inspect your septic tank if you have one. This process involves removing all the waste and greywater, which could freeze in the colder months.

Typically, a septic tank should be emptied every three to five years. If it's time for your tank to be pumped, it's best to do it before the onset of cold weather. The reason for this is that freezing temperatures can cause the ground to harden, making it difficult to access the tank for pumping.

6. Turn Off Electrical and Heating Systems

Most of your electrical systems won’t be needed during the winter if there will be nobody in your home. Heating systems should be turned off as well. Furnaces can collect condensation, so they can be affected by freezing as well. Once your heating system is shut off, inspect it to make sure that it is completely dry.

7. Leave a Notice About Your Winterized Home

Finally, you should leave a sign in your home warning that it has been winterized and that your water, electricity and heat are not turned on just in case you have any unwanted visitors staying in your home.

Winterizing your home is a simple task with huge returns. As long as you follow these steps, you can be sure that your home will be safe while you stay warm down South.

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