Snowbirds: Preparing Plumbing for a Winter Away

Preparing Your Plumbing Before You Fly South

Here in the “Great North”, we get the “splendor” of fall well before the official start of the season. What we’re saying is, we don’t blame you for wanting to get out of here. Winter is coming.

If you’re anything like us, however, then there are probably about a billion tiny but somehow terribly important projects you have to get organized before you leave this year. Chief among them: making sure you still have a dry, safe home to return to next spring. We’re here to help. This is Ben Franklin’s step-by-step pipe winterizing procedure. Follow this plan, and you can lounge in luxury with peace of mind–and old man winter won’t be able to do a thing about it!

What You’ll Need

  • Non-toxic, plumbing-safe antifreeze (look for RV antifreeze, which is usually pink)
  • Hose and/or Bucket
  • Air compressor or Compressed air can
  • Air compression flow regulator
  • Protective gloves
  • Sump pump or Drainage system


Turn off the water before you leave your plumbing for the winter

Turn Off the Water

Find your home’s main water shut-off valve. It’s usually near the water meter on the water supply pipe. Look for it around the perimeter of your home at ground level. If you have a basement, the shut-off valve is probably be down there.  

In Minnesota, most shut-off valves are inside by the water heater. If you can’t find it inside, look for an access panel outside. When you find your valve, close it tightly.

Turn Off the Water Heater

Your water heater is powered by either gas or electricity. If you have a gas-powered water heater, there will be a shut-off installed on the gas pipe leading to the tank.

Electric water heaters have to be to turned off at the circuit breaker. If you don’t know where your circuit breaker is, check for a grey utility box in your garage or basement.

Drain the Water Heater

Connect one side of your hose to the water heater’s drain faucet beneath the water heater’s tank. Drop the other end of the hose into your sump pump’s well or a nearby drain. If you don’t have a hose, place a bucket beneath the drain faucet instead.

Open the nearest sink’s hot water faucet and let it drain. Put on your gloves and open the water heater’s drain valve to let water drain out. Be careful, this water will be hot.

Drain the water from your home's pipes before you leave for the winter

Open the Sink Faucets

Starting from the highest floor of your home, open every sink faucet. Make sure you open both the hot and cold faucets. Leave these open as they drain. Make sure you open and drain the faucet in the laundry tub, too; doing that will drain the water from outdoor faucets.   

Open Shower and Bath Faucets

Starting from the top and working your way down again, go through your home and open all the faucets in your showers and baths. Leave these open, too.

Flush All Toilets

Getting tired of climbing stairs? Starting back at the top of your home and working your way down, flush every toilet to drain the water out of their tanks. Don’t hesitate to continuing flushing your toilets multiple times until the tank is empty.

Drain the water from your home's appliances before you leave for the winter

Drain Appliances

You should drain water from your appliances, too. Run hot and cold cycles in your dishwasher, your washing machine, and any other water-based appliances you may have.

Blow Air Through Plumbing

This is probably the most involved step, so don’t hesitate to call a professional if you want to make sure it’s done right. Go back through your home and close the open valves. Attach your air compressor or your can of compressed air to a faucet on your lowest level (ideally your basement) or to the water heater.

Blow compressed air through the pipes at about 50 psi. Make sure you’ve attached the air flow regulator in front of the compressor. While the compressor runs, open faucets one at a time. Leave each faucet open for 4-5 seconds. Repeat this process until no water comes out of the faucets with the air. If you leave your heat partially on over winter (which we recommend), this step may not be necessary.

Add Antifreeze to Toilets and Drain Traps

Add antifreeze to each toilet bowl, following the instructions printed on the side of the container. Remove the p-traps beneath each sink faucet and add a little antifreeze into them, too.

Make sure your sump pump works before you leave for the winter

Make Sure Your Sump Pump Works

It’s very important that your sump pump continues functioning all winter. Add water to the sump pump’s well until you pass the fill line, and make sure the sump pump activates. Check outside to make sure the water your sump pump processes actually ends up far enough away from your home, too.


Lower the Indoor Heat to 55 Degrees F, but Don’t Turn it Off

Leaving your heat off all winter can put your pipe system at risk of freezing, even if you thoroughly drained the water from it. Instead, you should turn down the heat without turning it off. This will help keep your pipes warm over winter without raising your bill. You could also consider insulating your pipes to help them preserve the heat they get.



Winterizing your home before you go on vacation may seem like a big, intimidating project, but it can be simple and fast. You just need a game plan–like this one!

And if you’ve got a lot going on with your other travel plans, remember that you can always call us to give you a hand. We’ve braved many a Minnesota winter, and we know exactly how to make sure your pipes stick it out, too. We’ll try not to be too jealous of your vacation plans.

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One Response to “Snowbirds: Preparing Plumbing for a Winter Away”

  1. Jan

    I am a homeowner in Las Vegas, NV and this is a fantastic blog. Very informative and current content for homeowners. An excellent guide for homeowners who wanted to maintain their plumbing system in the fall and winter months. If you need help maintaining your plumbing system in Las Vegas, you can visit Einstein Heating and Cooling they also offer furnace services in Oregon and Washington.

    The article is fun to read, thanks for the helpful tips!


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