Are you planning to trade in that snow shovel for a beach umbrella this winter? Many northerners will soon be preparing to migrate south to escape the cold winter months. Here are some valuable reminders of how to winterize your home to avoid costly and sometimes devastating cold-weather damage like freezing pipes or water intrusion.
1: Insulate Those Pipes!
No one wants to return from a warm, sunny respite to find their home seriously damaged from pipes that froze and burst. To help prevent pipes from freezing, insulate pipes directly exposed to the elements, including pipelines in crawl spaces, basements, attics, and garages where the temperature could be colder.
You can purchase tubular or rolled pipe wraps at your local home improvement store and quickly install them yourself. You could even wrap your pipes in a thermostatically controlled heat cable to go the extra mile. Follow all manufacturers’ instructions when installing or call a professional to install heat cables.
2: Shut off the Water and Drain the Pipes
Since you won’t be home and won’t need to run the water, it’s a good idea to shut off the main water valve to the house and drain out the pipes. To do this, turn off the water valve, then run water from ALL faucets and fixtures (both hot and cold!) until water stops coming out. You can then close all faucets; there’s no reason to leave them open or “on.” Properly draining all pipes will help ensure they are clear from any water that could freeze and that the pipes won’t burst if exposed to the cold.
3: Don’t Forget Your Outdoor Spigots!
For outdoor spigots, it’s best to remove hoses, turn off the outdoor water valve, and drain all pipes of any water. This includes drip irrigation systems, sprinklers, outdoor faucets and showers, and all spigots. Repeat the same process for your exterior plumbing as you would indoors. Shut off the outdoor water valve, open all exterior faucets and spigots until water stops coming out, then close all faucets and spigots.
4: Check Smoke and CO2 Detectors
Check all batteries and units to be sure they’re in working order. It may be wise to invest in a home security system that will alert you—and the proper emergency responders— in case there’s an emergency while you’re away. This could give you added peace of mind and let you “keep an eye on things,” even if you’re hundreds of miles from home.
5: Have an Expert Check Your Heating System
Have your heating system (whether that’s a furnace, fireplace, boiler, or HVAC system) inspected and cleaned once a year to prevent the build-up of debris that could affect the efficiency of your heating system and raise the risk of malfunction—or worse, cause a fire. An expert will look for any issues to help your heating system run as reliably and safely as possible.
6: Lower the Thermostat… but Not TOO Low!
We know you don’t want to waste money on heating expenses while enjoying warmer weather, down south, but it’s important not to let your house get too cold. Exposure to intense cold could cause pipes to freeze or rigid construction materials, such as brick, concrete, and even wood trusses, to become brittle, making them more sensitive to damage. Set your thermostat to around 55 degrees while away.
7: Clean Out the Gutters
If your gutters are filled with debris, snow and ice could become blocked and cause an “ice dam,” which could push melting snow and ice up under the shingles of your roof and into your house. You can imagine the hefty repair bill for the potential water damage, mold, and leaks caused by water entering your home. Be sure to clean out your gutters before any winter weather strikes.
Have You Properly Winterized Your Home?
Before you check out from the cold weather up north, take the time to winterize your home correctly. This way, you can avoid returning to potentially catastrophic damage. Once you’ve taken these precautions, you can kick back and soak in the warm, southern sunshine all through the winter!