Q: How do I winterize a vacant house? Should I drain the hot water heater? Should I put anti freeze down the toilet? The water is turned off. What else should I do. Should the heat be left on just above freezing?
A: First of all, it is advisable to leave the heat on very low. A minimal
heating bill will be less expensive than the cost of potential repairs if everything were to freeze up.
If you have turned off the water, hopefully that means the house was plumbed on a downgrade so you were able to drain all the pipes completely and eliminate the chance of water expanding inside them and breaking the pipes.
If not, it usually is advisable to leave some water running through the pipes by turning on the fixture closest to where water enters the house and at the farthest point indoors, say in an upstairs bathroom. It needs to trickle constantly to keep water flowing. It is also advisable to wrap insulation around the water heater, the pipes leading to and from it
and also insulate any pipes exposed outdoors, in a crawl space under the house, etc. If the pilot light is left on, it is not necessary to drain the water heater, but if not, then it probably should be drained and turned off. You might call a local plumbing company in your area to discuss whether you should turn the water back on or not.
It is not a bad idea to put some anti-freeze in both the tank and the bowl of each toilet. If the heat goes out and water inside the toilets freezes, it could crack the china fixtures.
Finally, make sure someone checks on the house every week or two, if at all possible.
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