Winterizing a home
By: Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector
Winterizing a home
Submitted by: Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic GI 0121, President of Accurate Inspections, Inc, a New Jersey home inspection company
The simplest solution and least risky alternative to winterizing is to operate the heating system at a minimum setting to prevent the rigors of wide temperature and humidity swings. Also, it has the added benefit of being habitable much more rapidly if you wish to use it in the winter. Yes, it may cost a few dollars to maintain the heat, but if the insulation is fairly good the cost may be very reasonable considering the benefits.
It is always prudent to turn off the well pump whenever you will be gone from the cabin more than a day or two. If a major leak were to develop anywhere in the supply system while you are gone, the well pump will simply run itself to death in your absence, and will undoubtedly cause significant damage.
I would recommend that any non-essential electrical circuits be turned off. If no power is required for anything, turn off the main power disconnect. If the water heater is electric, be very certain that is is off anytime the water supply is shut down so that the heating elements will not operate in the absence of water, near instant destruction of the elements will result from being run dry. If the water heater is gas, the same shutdown is recommended.
Winterizing hot water and steam heating systems is a job for a professional.
Again, in either heat on or heat off scenario, another prudent step is to flush any toilets after the pump is off and water pressure bled off, and then add sufficient potable antifreeze (special antifreeze made to be non-toxic, usually pink in color) to any sink traps, toilet tank and bowl, dishwasher, washing machine ( these last two may need to be operated briefly in the pump-out mode to be sure the anti-freeze is present in the pump). Basically, anywhere that water may remain standing and could cause freeze damage should be treated.
If you wish to certain that no water supply pipes will freeze they must be totally drained from the the lowest pipe outlet and connected to an air compressor and systematically blown out to prevent any trapped water. If the well is shallow and an above ground pump and pressure tank is used, do not forget to drain these as well. (No pun intended.)
With low interior temperatures and cold exterior temperatures, window condensation can be significant. It may be beneficial to operate a dehumidifier under these conditions.
For those who know little about the home systems, it would be money well spent to hire an expert to perform these functions. The money spent will be paid back in peace of mind knowing that nothing has been overlooked.
Post some signage (winterized do not use plumbing) just in case there are unexpected visitors.
If you have an oil tank it should be kept full to prevent condensation within the tank (water will sink to the bottom and, perhaps, get into the fuel line (it is hard to burn water!).
Information provided by Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic. GI 0121, American Society of Home Inspectors Member 102273, Pesident of Accurate Inspections, Inc. A West Paterson New Jersey Home Inspection firm.