We want to winterize our home for our two-month trip to Florida
22 January 2005
A. Your concerns are well founded about leaving a home for an extended period during cold weather with respect to a possible power outage allowing the inside of the home to drop below freezing with disastrous results. About a decade ago we had a spate of ice storms that drove people out of their homes because the power went out and they had no heat or water (those on wells). The mistake many of them made was to just leave and not take the precautions you mention prior to exiting. Even though they didnít leave town, when the lights went back on and they returned home, many of them came home to disasters as pipes froze and burst. When the well pumps cycled back on they pushed water through the broken pipes until the owners got back home to turn them off. It was a mess.
However the degree of winterization that you outline is the most drastic and I usually see that being done in dwellings that have been repossessed by banks or the government where they hire a plumber to come in and do all that plus other things then the electrical power to the house is interrupted for the duration. I understand the economics of why this is done but I shake my head at what seems to me utter stupidity for the protection of the property as an investment. Houses are de-powered then locked up tighter than a drum and abandoned. It doesnít take long for something to go wrong and with no-one looking after things or systems to cycle on when a sensed condition occurs, the resulting damage can be massive. The worst I remember was in fact during the summer when a house was so winterized as itís called-- power off and locked up. It poured rain, the gutters overflowed, water got into the basement, the sump didnít work and by the time I walked in the mold was thick and all the way to the second level. It was totaled.
Even in winter, if the inside of the house cools way down and then we have a couple of balmy days, warm, moist outside air will migrate into the house through natural infiltration, condense and thatís the source of the musty smell closed up houses get. Itís something to avoid.
For the house to freeze and blow the hoses off the clothes-washer or break the intake valves of the dishwasher weíd have to have weather cold enough where the inside of the house would get down to 25ļF or less and thatís what we had last week so itís a reasonable concern.
I recommend that you do as youíve done in the past and turn the oil heat down to 55ļF. Shut the water off to the plumbing systemóif youíre on well water just flip the switch off to the well pump. Turn the water heater off at the electric panel and I pour a small amount of bleach into each toilet bowl and sink and shower drain trap so they donít go sour while Iím gone. Then either prevail upon a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on things or retain a plumber or home improvement contractor to come by and check on things, especially after any heavy weather. Donít overlook the simple security steps the lack of which might advertise to roving burglars that the house isnít occupied. Some lights on, newspaper and mail suspended etc. If you have a monitored security system-- thatís good. If you donítónow is the time to consider one. If not for anti-theft then for fire. Itís cheap insurance.