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WHEN IS IT NECESSARY?
Winterizing and De-Winterizing
It is true that many homes are winterized every year without a problem, usually by the owner or a convenient handyman. However, large repair bills may result if it is done improperly or incompletely. If a house requires winterizing, we suggest that a professional plumber does it.
Who Should Do the Winterization?
It is wise to have your plumbing and heating system winterized by a professional unless you are well-informed on the necessary procedures.
The simplest solution and least risky solution to winterizing is to leave the heating system running at a minimum setting, with the water turned off of course. Though, at first glance, this may seem like a waste of money and energy, a minimal heating bill will be less expensive than the cost of potential repair if the pipes freeze. Additionally, extreme winter temperatures and low humidity in a winterized home may stress the interior of the house. Wood trim, furniture and appliance seals may dry out and crack.
Turning Off Water
As a side note, it is always prudent to turn off the main water supply or well pump whenever you will be gone even for one or two days. If a property is supplied by a well, a major leak can cause the well pump to run itself to death, causing significant damage.
Consider that, if a house is on the market, a cold, winterized house does not show well. When a potential buyer does come along, it is necessary to de-winterize the house before an inspection can be done. This de-winterization will mean extra cost and more delays. Of course, you will want Harwich Port Heating and Cooling to perform the necessary inspection. On the other hand, plumbing that is exposed in crawlspaces, or homes without central heating, may be at risk for frozen pipes and require winterization. Many vacation homes just are not built for winter use and should be protected as well. Winterization may be the safest choice for older homes or poorly built homes that are poorly insulated and/or unevenly heated.
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.
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/spigot needs to be opened to allow air to flow in as water is drained out.
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.
Blow Out the Water Supply Lines.
Though gravity may be sufficient to drain the plumbing in 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 (plastic not PEX) is prone to cracking. We recommend that water be blown out of the water supply lines with an air compressor.
Using Special Fittings
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.
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).
Once all the water supply lines are 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 antifreeze solution (pink in color).
Keep in mind that water also runs through many appliances such as the washing machine and dishwasher, 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.
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.
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.
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 it be handles 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 water heater.
Last of all, post signs in conspicuous locations (“Winterized - Do Not use Plumbing”) just in case there are unexpected visitors.
De-Winterization is Just as Important
When returning to occupy the house, the entire process must be carefully reversed (de-winterized), such as turning off faucets and fixture shut off valves before turning the water supply or well pump.
Don't Hesitate to Winterize!
Contact the professionals at Harwich Port Heating & Cooling to get started. Call us at (508) 593-9436 or visit our contact page.