Plumbing Repair 101: 5 Tips for Winterizing your Home
Minnesota summers are hard to beat. Winter on the other hand, well lets just say we don’t blame the southbound snowbirds for leaving. That being said, seasonal homeownership comes with seasonal responsibilities. According to State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., an average of 250,000 American families have their homes ruined each winter because of frozen water pipes freezing and breaking. So, whether you’re closing your cabin or vacant property this winter it’s important to make sure the plumbing is properly winterized and ready to endure the frigid Minnesota temps. Ben Franklin Plumbing proudly presents, Plumbing Repair 101, Steps for Winterizing your Cabin.
Shut off the Water
Even if you heat on, the water supply will still need to be drained. Locate and shut off the main water valve that controls all the water to your home/ cabin. If you’re not sure where it is, look for your water meter, the main shutoff will be located nearby. If the valve gets stuck, leave it alone. If it leaks or doesn’t shut off all the way, it’s best to have a licensed plumber replace the valve. If the property has a well, the pressure tank should also be drained.
Open Faucets and Drain Waterlines
Once the water is shut off it’s time to drain the water pipelines. The best way to do this is by opening all the faucets (inside and outside), flushing the toilets and letting the water run until completely emptied. Rubber or plastic supply lines that lead to appliances, faucets, and toilets can become brittle and break with age, so it’s important to make sure they’re drained completely. Eliminate or dilute the water in drain traps by pouring “RV” type antifreeze solution into them, as directed by the instructions.
Drain the Water Heater
If you have an electric water heater, turn off the power at the breaker box. If you have a gas heater, turn the thermostat to the “off” or “pilot” setting. Next, close the cold water supply line valve located at the top of the water heater by turning it clockwise. This will keep water from flowing into the tank while it’s draining. Locate the drain valve on the water heater (bottom) and connect a garden hose to the drain valve, open the drain valve to drain the hot water out of the tank. Make sure the end of the hose is draining somewhere adequate such as a drain or outside. For more here more detailed steps on shutting off a water heater.
Winterizing the Septic Tank
Septic tanks should be maintained well and pumped out regularly, how frequently depends on how often the cabin is used and by how many people. Best practice is to have the tank drained and place a layer of straw or leaves on top of the septic area to help insulate and prevent freezing.
Insulate Your Pipes
Even if you’re not vacating your home or cabin during the winter months, it’s important to have your pipes insulated. Doing so will help keep the water in your pipes warmer longer, which will help save on energy costs and also help prevent them from freezing during the winter. Make sure to clean the pipes thoroughly before wrapping them in insulation and make sure the insulation is completely covered and attached securely.
Disclaimer: For best results, hire a plumber who is qualified to winterize your home or cabin. This is a thorough process that will involve shutting off the water supply and blowing air through all the pipes with an air compressor, properly draining the water heaters, sprinkler systems, and any appliances that use water. Remember, most basic homeowner insurance policies don’t cover homes when they become vacant; a good winterization from a qualified plumber is the best investment you can make against damage to your home or cabin.