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A Checklist for Winterizing Your Vacant Property

Thursday, October 24, 2019   /   by Jeanne Wild

A Checklist for Winterizing Your Vacant Property

When you have a home that will sit vacant over the cooler months, it is important to winterize your property to prevent it from deteriorating. Take precautions to avoid using unnecessary utilities, keep out animals and insects, and protect from water damage. The following suggestions will help you to plan and execute a successful winterization.

Utilities and Plumbing

1. Turn off the water at the exterior. Make sure that the water supply is turned off completely at the main supply point. If the furnace should fail on a very cold day, water in a pipe could freeze and burst the pipe.

2.  Open all faucets and drain all waterlines. If you live in an area where freezing pipes can be a problem, drain the toilets, the water heater (turn off the gas or electric supply first) and the expansion tank.

Get an air compressor to blow the lines of excess water. (Anywhere between 15 – 80 psi would probably be fine–just don’t exceed 80 psi. The main thing you’ll need is air volume, not pressure.) Eliminate or dilute the water in drain traps by pouring an “RV” type antifreeze solution into them, as directed by the instructions.

Close the sink and tub drains. If a house is to be vacant for a long time, you may prevent water in a toilet’s trap from evaporating (and thereby permitting sewer gases to enter the home) by raising the toilet’s lid and seat and covering the bowl with saran wrap.

If you have an indoor or outdoor pool, drain the water.  Turn off and drain fountains and other sources of standing water.  Drain water from dishwashers and pour RV antifreeze. with refrigerators (with a water dispenser or an ice maker) and washing machines, and be sure you are following the manufacturer’s directions. Remove the water filter from inside the refrigerator.

3. Turn down the thermostat. Set your thermostat to a level adequate to keep the inside temperature above freezing.

4. Unplug all appliances. If you leave the electric power on, unplug electric appliances, including microwave ovens and TVs, to avoid the risk of fire in the event of a faulty switch or a rodent gnawing the wires.

5. Don’t forget the gas. For long absences, some experts recommend shutting off gas hot water heaters completely.


Prepare the Kitchen

1. Clean out the refrigerator. Empty the freezer. Wash the refrigerator and freezer thoroughly. Prop open their doors, the better to forestall mold and mildew (which like to grow in the dark) and their odors, which may transfer to the refrigerator’s plastic parts.
To further thwart odors, place an open bag of activated charcoal on the inside of the open refrigerator.

3. Guard against insects and rodents. Place a botanical rodent repellent under the sink and on kitchen counters and use rodent deterrents under the sink and in the garage, too.

4. Remove items that could freeze. In areas subject to freezing, remove all bottled liquids, such as mineral water, soda, beer and paint, because their containers may burst when their contents freeze.

Prepare the Rest of the Home

1. Remove all fire hazards. Dispose of or move potentially flammable items such as oily rags and stacked papers.

2. Close flues and dampers.


Outdoor Areas

1. Cover any plants that are frost intolerant.

2. Store outdoor furniture. Place tables, chairs, hammocks, delicate garden ornamentation, and other outdoor accessories in a garage, shed or storage unit.
Leave nothing outdoors that can be blown about by a strong wind.

3. Lock away expensive vehicles. Pleasure craft such as boats, ATVs, bicycles, canoes, kayaks and cars should be locked in a garage or storage shed. Block window views into this storage space.

You could consider adding a remote monitoring system to check on your temperature, humidity and power conditions in the house. There are even systems that operate over a cellular connection so that you don’t need an active landline or internet connection.