Winterizing a Vacation Home

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  • 2-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Face mask
Wrench set
Appliance Polish
Large metal containers
Chimney covers
Cement or other sealant (for foundation and eaves)
Plumber and electrician

As the cold season approaches, most people think of fall sports, the holidays, and that magical first snow. To get the most enjoyment from the winter season, as well as to save on repairs in the spring, follow this guide to prepare your vacation home for winter.

Water System

Shut off water systems by turning off the pump or shutting the valve. Drain the pressure tank. Open all of your faucets. Break a union close to the valve so water will drain all the way to the shut-off valve. Drain the pump and run it a second or two to be sure all water is out of lines from the pump. Flush the toilets and drain all water out of the flush tank. Be sure to drain flexible spray hoses in showers and sinks. Drain water softeners so water will drain back from soft water pipes and controls. The brine tank will probably not freeze. Drain the water heaters.

Electric Heating Systems

These heating systems require no maintenance other than shutting off the power to the heating units.

Hot Air Heating Systems

Turn off the burner emergency switch, which is often located at the top of the stairs.
Drain the humidifier, which is usually located on the furnace.

Forced Hot Water and Steam Systems

Drain all water in the system unless the liquid contains anti-freeze. It is wise to have this type of system drained by a plumber, unless you are well-informed on the necessary procedures.

To help conserve energy when the home is not occupied, install a low-heat thermostat. By doing so, your home could be maintained at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit without a freeze-up. Without a low-heat thermostat, the lowest temperature you can set your heat at is 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Washer and Dishwasher

An open dishwasher.

Water left in hoses and internal components can cause damage when it freezes. Close the water supply to clothes washers. Remove and drain inlet hoses. Clear the water valve by setting the timer for fill cycle. Press the warm water button and run the machine for a few seconds. Drain the water from the drain hose.

Disconnect Electrical Supply to the Laundry Machine and Dishwasher

For a dishwasher, remove the inlet and outlet connection to the valve. Operate the valve to remove any water. Remove the drain hose from the pump and drain it. Disconnect the electrical supply. It is also a good idea to clean the equipment and to protect its finish with a coat of appliance polish.

Stored Items

Remove food, cosmetics, or medicine containers that contain liquids which would freeze. Food in paper or plastic containers should be put in large metal containers to protect it from mice or other rodents.

Remove or hide articles in the house that can be sold and converted to cash such as guns, radios, TV sets, tools, and other valuables.

Sewage System

A sump pump.

Force as much water as possible out of traps with a plunger. Add antifreeze to each trap so you have at least a 50 percent solution of ethylene glycol and water. Sometimes fuel oil can be substituted for antifreeze. Check the traps in kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, bathtubs and shower drains, toilets, washtubs, floor drains, and the sump pump.

Keep Out Animals

Cover chimneys tightly so that raccoons and birds cannot enter the house. Block any places in the foundation or around the eaves where squirrels, chipmunks, mice, or other small animals can enter.

By following these steps, you will winterize your vacation home.