It’s that time of the year again – temperatures are dropping in the Fox Valley and for many property owners, this signals that it’s time to get those vacant homes winterized. In many cases, the banks and asset management companies have a set schedule they follow when it comes to having this done. But for homeowners, it’s important to be aware of the temperaturs and to not neglect this important step of securing your home, particularly if your home is vacant or you will be gone for an extended period of time over the winter months. This post will hopefully serve as a guide for home winterization for the average homeowner and will cover the steps and the reasons behind doing it. It will mainly focus on homes that will be left unattended for periods – I will cover general tips for preparing your home for winter in another post. Remember, the last thing anyone wants is to get a call in February from a neighbor telling them that water has been flowing out of the front door of their home for the past 2 weeks.
First, let’s discuss why we need to winterize. In the areas of the country where the outside temperature drops below freezing, your home has the potential to be damaged or destroyed unless it’s properly prepared for the cold. This mostly revolves around the plumbing system as this is the area that is most susceptible to freezing temperatures. Here’s what happens: you turn the temperature in your home down to 60 degrees while you go on that 21-day cruise to Europe. The premier residential roofing contractors will also help you choose the best insulation based on your specific property type. While you’re away we have a cold snap here in the midwest and due to a number of factors (pipes running through an area of low insulation, pipes running through an attic space, pipes being exposed to air currents etc.) the temperature of the water in one of your pipes reaches freezing. This causes an ice blockage that continues freezing up and downstream from the blockage. We all know that ice expands when it freezes but contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the expanding ice itself that causes a rupture. The ice expanding downstream towards a faucet that’s been turned off causes a build-up of water pressure in the copper pipes and like a soda can or bottle put in the freezer too long, the pipes will burst due to the massive increase in water pressure. This usually occurs near a faucet where there is a weak joint or piece of pipe and not upstream towards the water meter. Because the water pipes are an open system upstream when the water pressure increases, it can simply move back upstream. The large storage capacity of a water heater also helps to mitigate water pressure upstream. Since there is now one or several ruptures in your pipes, there will be some initial leaking of water but the real problem occurs when the cold snap ends and the pipes can warm up enough to melt the ice blockage. When that happens, you’re talking of thousands of dollars of damage to your property – that’s when you call Atlanta Water Damage Pro.
The best way we can prevent this is to make sure that there is no water in the property to freeze in the first place. Most of the other systems in your home can easily weather sub-zero temperatures if prepared correctly. The best way to get the water out is to call a professional. Most plumbers will be able to winterize your home for anywhere between $50 and $150. There are also companies that specialize in property management, restoration or maintenence that also may be able to help. It’s important to note that once your property is winterized, it is pretty much un-livable, so don’t do this unless the property is going to be vacant for some time. There are a few important considerations when getting your home winterized. The most important thing is to have it done by someone who is actually going to drain and then blow all the water out of the pipes with compressed air. Simply draining the pipes isn’t enough – there can still be water trapped in elbows or bends of the pipes that can freeze and burst solder joints. Professionals who do lots of winterizations have portable compressors that they hook up to the pipes and blow the water out downstream. When you hire someone, make sure they will do this. It’s also important that whoever you hire will put anti-freeze in all of the toilets and drain traps – other places where water collects and is not able to be blown out. Finally, make sure the water heater is turned to pilot-only or off – you can end up with a burnt-out water heater if this is not done because the water heater will be heating an empty tank of water. The good thing is that you can recycle your old water heater and replace it with a new one. Make sure all exterior garden hoses are removed and all other places water can collect such as water softeners are drained. Finally, it is recommended that you keep the temperature of your home at 60 degrees even if it will be completely vacant. Turning the heat in the home off completely can cause additional problems that winterization won’t protect against. It’s better in these cases to be safe. If you have to turn the heat off in a property completely or if you are buying a home that has been without heat all winter, it is especially important to have a plumber on hand when you turn the water back on. I would highly recommend you hire a professional to do a de-winterization in any case as they will be on-hand to repair any solder joints or burst pipes that may have escaped. Despite the most careful winterization, there can still be instances where water settled in an elbow and froze. Even the action of blowing out the pipes with compressed air can sometimes cause breaks where the solder was especially weak. It’s safest to have all of your bases covered so if there is a severe water leak it can be taken care of immediately.