When you want to leave your home in the winter for more than a few days.

Long-Term Winterizing

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Long-Term Winterizing a Home

I saw an article on your site about leaving a house during the winter for a couple of weeks. You advised them not to turn off the heat. I understand this. However, we will be gone for about six months. We are also from the upstate New York area. With heating prices being what they are, do you have suggestions on winterizing a home for this length of time?

A friend of ours winterizes places in the Adirondacks by blowing out the water pipes, etc. This would save thousands if we could do this. If the pipes are blown out, what other things should we consider?
Walt S.

Seek Winterizing Advice of a Travel Trailer Owner

Don't forget to drain your toilet and water heater and add antifreeze to your drains to sit in the traps. Check the manual for your washing machine to see what it says about using antifreeze to keep it from freezing. It will have water left in the bottom that will ruin it if left to freeze. Canned goods, bottles, and aerosol cans can also burst in cold weather. If you know someone with a travel trailer, ask him or her for some winterizing tips. They have to be taken care of in the fall if they aren't stored in a heated area.

Step-by-Step House Winterizing Advice

I have a summer home in North Texas that I shut down for four months every winter. I have done this for eight years and have not had any problems. Even though it does not get as cold here as upstate New York, it does get below freezing. Here's what I do:

  1. Turn off the hot water heater. It will need to drain when you drain the water pipes. Leaving it on will burn out the elements when there is no water.
  2. Blow out or drain the water pipes. I have a faucet on mine that I open and the pipes drain. This drains the hot water heater also. Open up faucets so air can get in and let the water out of the pipes. Make sure you turn the water off before doing this!
  3. Turn the water off at the meter in addition to any shut off valve you may have.
  4. Flush the commodes to drain them as much as possible, then put some antifreeze in the bowl because you can't get all the water out. I use RV waterline antifreeze that costs about a $1.99 a gallon.
  5. Empty the refrigerator, clean it, unplug it and leave the doors open. Cleaning it now will prevent mold from growing, plus you won't have to mess with it in the spring when you want to relax and enjoy your summer home.
  6. Remove anything (food, etc.) that might attract rodents.
  7. I buy large plastic totes and put all of our towels, linens, etc. in these. It keeps them clean and odor free.
  8. Cover your mattress with plastic or cheap tarps. I learned to do this after the first winter when in the spring I discovered that mice had been using our mattresses for a playground.
  9. Turn off the electricity to the house at the main breaker. This way, you don't have to worry about a short starting a fire.
  10. I leave the drapes open on any window that full sun might come in. This helps warm the house naturally.
  11. Finally, and most importantly, if you have any year-round neighbors, get to know them and ask them to keep an eye on your place. Make sure they have contact numbers for you. Otherwise, make sure the local authorities have contact numbers for you.


Call the Local Water Department for Winterizing Advice

Call the local Water Department that furnishes water to your home, and talk to them about your situation. A water service person will come out and shut off the water supply at a shut-off valve in your yard or the street. Afterwards, you will need to empty your hot water heater of water, and open all your water faucets in your home so they will empty.

I worked at a public water works many years ago, and a lot of people going south for the winter had this done. When they returned, they called the water works to turn the water back on outside.

So, call your local water works, and talk to them. I am sure I have given you accurate information, but as I said, it's been many years since I worked for a water works.

When Winterizing, Consider More Than Just the Heat

Yes, winterizing your home is cost-effective and not that hard to do! We are gone for five months and live in the northern Midwest. Shut off the water supply to the house, and drain the lines including the outside faucets (shut them back off after they're drained). You can blow the lines out with air pressure if you feel the need, but we never do. Take some of the pink RV antifreeze and put it into all of your drains (toilets, showers, sinks, etc.). Turn off and drain the hot water heater.

Don't turn off the heat, as everything freezes (canned goods, shampoo, etc.). Instead, just turn your thermostat down as low as it will go. When you have someone come in to check the house, have him or her make sure that the furnace is running okay. It's better to have it run a little than to make your home into a deep freeze. If you have hot water heat, that's a different story and I would recommend contacting a heating contractor or repairperson to give you advice on that.

Also, put your phones, cable, etc. on vacation status (depending on your provider this can save up to 1/2 or more on the monthly bill). It only cost us $10 to put our cable on vacation status for up to six months (total) and nothing to reactivate. The phone cost was half, but we got to keep the same number that way.

Take the Next Step:

  • For more ways top reduce your winter heating bill, visit The Dollar Stretcher Library.
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