So many people have a second home here at the Lake of the Ozarks that remains vacant during the winter months. So much can happen to a house in the winter, especially here at the Lake because our weather changes so quickly. In our previous blog we talked about winterizing lived in homes, but winterizing a vacant home is a different process. Many people decide against winterizing their home especially if the owner is trying to sell, because they don’t think it is worth the few hundred dollars it would cost to have it professionally winterized. Trust me it is worth every penny because if your pipes burst you then have several thousand dollars to fix the plumbing plus the cost to fix whatever interior parts of the homes were damaged by standing water. Here are some budget friendly suggestions that you may be able to do yourself to winterize your vacation home here at the Lake. Even though many people decide to winterize their home themselves it is highly recommended to seek out a professional for help.
Find the main water shut off valve and turn the water off, if you have a well be sure to turn the breaker off that powers the pumping system in the well. After the water is off you want to start draining all water lines. Turn on all faucets in the home and let the water drain, and leave the faucets on. Most of the time the pipes will drain on their own, but occasionally there will be a few places where water collects in the pipes, so to be safe blow air through the pipes with an air compressor. If you decide to use and air compressor to blow air through the pipes be sure to seek professional consultation, because if this is done wrong it can cause damage to your plumbing system. If you decide to hire a professional make sure you verify before you hire them that blowing out the supply lines is part of their process. (Getz)
Drain Water in Other Appliances!!
The hot water heater is where I would start. First be sure the hot water heater is disconnected from its power source. Flip the breaker off for electric ones and close the gas valve and turn temperature controls to off on gas hot water heaters. Now you can begin draining the water. (Getz) Hopefully there is a drain close by, or this could be a complicated process and you may want to call a professional. While this is draining you can start draining water softeners and water treatment systems. Next, you want to shut off the water supply and drain if possible your other appliances such as washer, dishwasher, refrigerator, and ice maker. Then you can add non toxic antifreeze or RV antifreeze to the bottom of your washer and dishwasher, 1/3 to a half gallon will suffice and be sure it is mixed correctly according to the directions on the bottle. It is also wise to run a dry short cycle in your dishwasher and washer so the antifreeze is circulated through the pump. Just be sure when you de-winterize you run and empty cycle first to get rid of any old antifreeze left in the appliances. (Thomas)
Once all of the water is drained out of the supply lines flush the toilets until they are empty. Then pour non-toxic antifreeze or RV antifreeze into the bowl about a half gallon will do mixed according to the directions on bottle, you can even buy premixed bottle as well. This creates a barrier between the sewers or septic system so you don’t come home in the spring to horrendous sewer gas smells in your home, which can also be turn off to potential buyers. Then pour about a cup of the same antifreeze down all your drains. When you are all done winterizing the water system in your house be sure to post signs throughout your home in case any unexpected visitor swings buy. A simple sign saying “Winterized, Please Do Not Use Plumbing” would be perfect. I would be sure to put them on all of your toilets. (Thomas) Also I recommend hiring a professional to come de-winterize the system in the spring, because if done incorrectly you can severely damage your plumbing system.
Many people will turn off the power to their home after the water has been shut off and properly winterized in order to save money on energy cost. I recommend after doing some research that homeowners keep their heat on and set no lower than 50 degrees. (Rooney) Appliances were never made to withstand cold temperatures or rapidly changing temperatures which happens here quite frequently in the Ozarks. Second, a rapid temperature change from cold to warm can cause condensation on the interior of the home, which can lead to mold. (Rooney) Save yourself further hassle and set the thermostat around 50-55. If your home is on the market you might want to go up to about 60 or above so your home shows better to prospective buyers. A programmable thermostat may be a good investment so you can program for the day temperature and overnight temperature. Be sure and change the filter before you leave for the winter and you should be great!! Don’t forget 30% of real estate sales occur here at the Lake between October and March! Don’t miss out because you want to save a few bucks and turn the electric off for the winter, it could cost you more money in the long run!! However if you do decide to turn off power during the winter, please be sure and call a licensed professional to look at your HVAC system because systems operate differently and its impossible for me to tell you how to properly winterize your specific unit, and plumbers know plumbing but not HVAC systems.
Give the AC Some TLC!
Since you are not going to be using your AC in the winter take the time to winterize it, this keeps your unit in good condition and increases the life of your AC unit. When winterizing an AC unit you want to think about water. First, start by draining any hoses or tubes that may have water in them, so they do not freeze and bust. While you are draining the tubes vacuum up any water that may be collected in the drain pan beneath the unit. Many people stop here, but if you want to prevent rust from forming on your unit, put a plastic cover on your unit. This will keep the elements off your AC and keep it running great for years to come which means more money in your pocket!
Trim Your Trees!
We get a lot of freezing rain and snow here at the Lake of the Ozarks, and we get to enjoy the beauty of nature in its entire splendor thanks to the selection of beautiful trees in the Ozarks. However these same trees turn hazardous when all the freezing rain and snow comes because the branches cannot hold the additional weight of snow and ice and often times collapse causing serious damage. Trim back your trees away from your home, and cut any long weak limbs. Many people trim their trees themselves and save money, but you can always bring in a professional.
Clean Out Your Gutters!
Many people clean their gutters out during the summer months, but don’t think about them too much once the rain stops and the leaves start to fall. However, clogged gutters can cause serious damage to your home in the winter that will eventually lead to an expensive repair. Have you ever seen really large icicles hanging off of homes? While they are pretty to look at, they are not good for house. When gutters are clogged it keeps the water from draining off the home, which forms the large ice pieces. The harm to your home happens when the snow begins to melt off your roof, and due to the large pieces of ice in your gutters the water cannot drain properly creating pools of water on and around the edges of your roof. Everyone knows sitting water can cause serious damage. The water breaks down your roof and can lead to an expensive repair later. Be proactive and enjoy the nice fall weather we have been having here at the Lake and clean the gutters out after all of the leaves have found their way to the ground.
I hope these winterizing tips will help you protect your home against the cold this winter! These seven suggestions are just the main steps in the winterizing process of vacant homes, please be sure to check out the links below to find out more information about winterizing your home. I recommend that everyone seek professional help before starting the winterizing and de-winterizing process. Once again it is always wise to bring a professional in to help with the winterizing process. The next blog is the final part in this winterizing series and we will give you some suggestions on how to winterize your boats and personal watercrafts, so when you want to get your water toys out for the first time in the summer they are in perfect working order! Please be sure to check out our next blog, and enjoy the Halloween here at the Lake. Thanks for letting us be Your Partners at the Lake!