Steps for Winterizing Plumbing

Here are some basic steps to winterize a home. This procedure mainly applies to those who are leaving their house unattended during the cold weather for a few days to a few weeks. This is by no means an exhaustive step by step procedure. If you are leaving your house unattended for the entire winter (or longer), there are other steps you should take. Consult a professional.

  1. Turn Off Water. Locate and turn off the main water shut off valve. If you do not have a valve, you may consider calling the water company to turn your water off at the meter.

  2. Water Heater. After the water is off, if your water heater is a standard storage type heater (30-40-50 gal.) turn your gas water heater to “LOW” or “VACATION”. Electric water heaters should be shut off at the breaker and drained. Tankless water heaters should be drained. (They can be if installed by Hilman's Plumbing.) If your TWH cannot be drained then leave the power turned on.

  3. Drain Supply Lines.  Water then should then be drained from the entire water supply system. This is typically done by opening up drain down valves on the hot and cold water piping (including exterior hose bibbs), and opening all fixture faucets to ensure a more complete drain. If the house is on a well, the pressure tank should also be drained.

  4. Blow Out the Water Supply Lines. If your water distribution system does not have proper drain down valves to sufficiently “dump” the system, it will still have standing water remaining in some pipes. Even with the water system no longer under pressure, this remaining water could freeze and burst pipe and/or fittings. Copper, galvanized steel, PVC plastic (not PEX) would all be prone to cracking. We recommend that water be blown out of the water supply lines with an air compressor.

  5. Other Items to Drain.  Water softeners, water filters, and water treatment systems also need to be drained (the brine tank in a water softener can usually be ignored).

  6. Anti-Freeze. Once all the water supply lines are completely empty, flush the toilets until they are empty, then winterize toilets and other drain traps by filling them with a special non-toxic RV type antifreeze solution (typically pink in color). 

  7. Other Appliances.  Keep in mind that water also runs through many appliances such as the washing machine and dishwasher, as well as the water supply line to the ice-maker in refrigerators. You may need to consider draining and/or disconnecting these appliances.

  8.  Heating systems.  We always recommend you leave your heat turned on to a minimum of 55°. Although it might seem like a waste of money or energy at first glance, a minimal heating bill will be less expensive than the cost of potential repairs if everything were to freeze up. Also, the rigors of extreme winter temperatures and low humidity in a winterized home stress the interior of the house and the appliances. Wood trim and furniture dry out, and seals in appliances can dry and crack.

  9. Special Heating Systems. If the home has any sort of a more elaborate heating system such as a hot water boiler, or radiant floor heat, then we recommend VERY strongly that it be handled by a professional familiar with these systems.

  10. Last of all, post signs in conspicuous locations. (“Winterized - Do Not use Plumbing”) just in case there are unexpected visitors.

 

De-Winterization is just as important.
When returning to occupy the house, the entire process must be carefully reversed (de-winterized), such as turning off faucets and fixture shut off valves before turning the water supply (or well pump) in order to restore normal function.