How to Winterize Your Home in WNC

frozen water pipe gh 200116 medium
how to winterize your home

How to Winterize your home for an extended time (Well and Municipal Water).

Before You Begin:

Freeze-damaged plumbing can cause expensive leaks and water damage. It is highly recommended to consult a professional plumber (or well contractor) to ensure the following procedures are executed correctly. Their expertise will help safeguard your plumbing system and well and prevent potential issues during the cold season.
In most cases, keeping the heating system running at a lower, energy-saving temperature (like 55F) to help prevent frozen pipes and other temperature-related damage to personal items (electronics, instruments, etc.) and home components is a good idea.

frozen water pipe gh 200116 medium

In this article:
Winterizing Homes with municipal or community water
Winterizing Homes with private well water

Winterizing Homes with municipal or community water

Winterizing your plumbing before an extended absence can be straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step procedure to help you protect your pipes and prevent cold-weather issues:
  1. Turn Off the Main Water Supply: Locate the main water shut-off valve, usually where the main water supply enters your house. This step prevents water from entering your home’s plumbing system.
  2. Drain the Plumbing System:
    Open all faucets, both hot and cold taps, to eliminate water from the plumbing lines.
    Flush toilets to remove water from tanks and bowls.
    Open outdoor faucets to drain any remaining water. If you have shut-off valves for outdoor faucets, close them after draining. If not, turn off the faucet after draining.
  3. Turn Off the Water Heater:
    Locate the circuit breaker for the water heater in your electrical panel and switch it off.
    For gas water heaters, follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional plumber or HVAC technician for guidance on turning off the gas supply- many water heaters will have a ‘vacation’ setting.
  4. Adjust the Thermostat: Set your thermostat to a lower temperature, typically around 55°F. This conserves energy and prevents your home from getting too cold. (note: if your furnace is fueled with propane ensure that the tank is full and that your supplier can refill it if necessary.)
  5. Prepare for Re-Activation:
    Label valves and shut-offs for a smooth re-activation process.
    Upon your return, gradually open faucets to allow water to flow back into your plumbing system. Let the water flow for at least 5 minutes to ensure proper function, remove air pockets, and ensure clean lines.
    Turn on the water heater (refer to the manufacturer’s pilot lighting instructions if necessary) for gas heaters.

water main valve

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Winterizing Homes with private well water

Winterizing your plumbing before an extended absence can be straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step procedure to help you protect your pipes and prevent cold-weather issues:
  1. Turn Off the Well Pump: Locate the switch that controls your well pump and turn it off to prevent it from running.
  2. Protect the Pump: If your well has an above-ground pump, steps should be taken to prevent freeze damage. Consult a professional if unsure.
  3. Cover the Well: Seal the wellhead with an insulated cover or encapsulated pouch.
  4. Keep Records: Maintain a record of what you did and when.
  5. Plan to Restart: Before reusing the well, consult a professional well contractor to ensure proper reactivation. This may include cleaning the well and plumbing to ensure a sanitary water supply.
  6. If water treatment systems are present, consult the manufacturer’s specifications for proper winterization.

well bag good example insulation

Additional Recommendations for Extended Absences:

  1. Unplug Electronics: Unplug non-essential electronic devices and appliances to save energy and reduce electrical issues.
  2. Create an Emergency Contact List: Create a list of emergency contacts, including a local plumber and a neighbor or friend who can assist if necessary.

Advanced winterization recommendations for high elevations, areas prone to extended freezes, and homes that will be winterized indefinitely:

  1. Empty the Water Heater: Turn off your water heater and drain it. Consult the manual for draining procedures or consult a licensed plumber.
  2. Open cabinet doors beneath the bathroom and kitchen sinks. This allows warm air to reach pipes.
  3. Cover exposed piping with insulating sleeves or wrap. This protects your pipes against frigid temperatures, especially in uninsulated areas and along exterior walls.
  4. Add Antifreeze: Pour an environmentally friendly and non-toxic antifreeze into sink and bathtub drains and toilet tanks/bowls to prevent freezing.
  5. Consider installing an automatic generator system to ensure the HVAC and other electrical heating systems do not shut off due to power outages.

Annual Home Inspection recommendation:

Ensure the ongoing health of your well and plumbing system by scheduling regular checks to confirm that everything remains in excellent condition.

Conclusion

Winterizing your plumbing aims to prevent frozen pipes and the potential damage they can cause. Following these steps can reduce the risk of plumbing issues during the winter and keep your water supply running smoothly. If you have doubts about a complex plumbing setup, it’s advisable to consult a professional plumber for guidance or assistance.

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