Every winter we receive hundreds of emails about broken or frozen pipes. To help you prevent some of these problems within your own plumbing we have provided a few home winterizing tips to assist you in winterizing your home. Although no plumber can give you a clear guarantee against frozen or broken pipes, it is still useful and even important that you take some preventive winterizing steps.
If you are not comfortable with DIY plumbing repairs, then you may prefer to contact a registered master plumber to do the work for you instead.
The main idea behind home winterization is the removal of most of the water which can freeze from within the pipelines and other areas of your plumbing.
Winterize Your Home
- Turn off the heat source to the furnace and water heater.
- If the water heater is electric or oil, turn off the power at the switch.
- If your water heater runs on gas, you must turn off the gas valve. In most cases, you can turn off the furnace by switching off the electrical power supply.
- Close the main water valve or supply to your home. This valve is usually located in the basement or laundry room of your home.
- When your main valve has been turned off, open (or turn on) all indoor faucets first. (kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, tubs, showers and laundry room basin).
- Secondly turn on all outside faucets, draining all water from the pipelines within, and outside of your home.
- Drain the water heater.
- Wrap "exposed" pipes, and pipes that need to have water inside with insulation materials.
Empty your Water Heater
- Connect a hose to the drain at the bottom of the heater and allow the water to run into the floor drain.
- If you do not have a floor drain, extend the hose to the outside of the house, or establish a line to a nearby laundry tub to remove the drained water from the heater.
- Once the heater has been drained, be sure you close the valve at the base of the heater. (After all the pipes are drained, they should be protected.)
- Flush the toilets with the water supply to the toilet turned off. (This will drain the water from the tank.)
- Sponge out the remaining water inside the tank.
- Then add a dilution of propyleneglycol anti-freeze to the toilet bowl.
- Pour the non-toxic solution into all the drains in your home.
The reason to keep the water in the toilet bowl is to make sure the trap is sealed to keep sewer gas from entering your home through the drainways. The traps in other basins, kitchen sinks, tubs/showers and laundry tubs should also be protected with anti-freeze.
Hot Water Heating Systems
If your home has a hot water heating system (with baseboard or conventional radiators), this system must be drained when you are winterizing your home.
Draining the Heating Systems
- Turn off the electrical power source and water supply. If you have a natural gas powered system, the gas valve and pilot must be turned off.
- Open the drain valve on the bottom of the furnace.
- Drain the expansion tank. The tank is usually suspended from the ceiling above the furnace and should have a drain valve for a hose connection.
- While draining the tank, the pressure reduction will cause the draining process from the furnace and tank to slow down.
- Open all radiator or baseboard air vents on the top floor after the tank is drained and, as water levels drop open the vents on the lower floors.
Insulate your Home and Plumbing
Installing insulation is one of the easiest and most cost effective methods of improving the energy efficiency of a home and is a good way to save a lot of money on your fuel bill, more than 50% of all heat produced can be lost through your walls, floor and attic spaces.
Sealing Air Leaks
Adding Insulation to your home and plumbing with weather strips and caulking seal air leaks will keep more of the warmth inside your home. Both these products are used to seal air leaks, but each is best used for a particular type of leak.
Weather strips are best used on windows and doors, allowing them to still be opened, but the weather stripping will create a tight seal when the window or doors are closed.
Caulking is the best option in cases where you need a flexible seal around small joints and cracks. The caulk is applied around doorframes, windows, pipes and fixtures to create an almost airtight seal.
Roof and Floor Insulation
To help reduce the loss of heat through your floor and roofing you should apply wool mats below your flooring, or polystyrene boarding. If you have access to the space under your floorboards, then you can insulate the floor from below by filling up all the empty space. The recommended insulation level for most attic roofs is about 12–15 inches.
Fit Double Glazing
Using double glazed windows can be expensive, but if you need new window, a double glazed window will save you money on your heating bills in the long run. Start by fitting double glazing into the rooms you use the most and on any of the larger windows (that lose the most heat) first.
Remember to fill the water heater before you turn the electricity back on. If the electrical heating element is turned on before your fill the tank with water, there is a possibility that the heating element will burn out!
- Turn off all faucets before opening the main water valve.
- While the water is filling the system, stand by one fixture with the faucets open.
- When the water begins to flow from the cold water faucet, turn it off and leave the hot water faucet open until water flows from that spigot. This indicates that the hot water heater is full.
- Turn off the hot water faucet. Wait a few seconds and open each faucet until water flows without any air spitting out of the spigot.
- Turn the hot water heater back on.
- Flush the non-toxic solution from all the toilets.
Turning the Heating System on Again
Close all the vents, boiler drains, and expansion tanks. Turn on the water feed valve and begin venting the radiators, starting on the first floor and working your way up. Now turn the power back on.
USA Plumbing Tips: When you are going away only for a short time, then the best thing to do is to find a reliable neighbor who will check upon your property regularly. Leave your utilities company’s telephone numbers in an obvious location, in case of an emergency.