We live in northern Indiana, and will be away for several weeks in February.
I have had pipes freeze in past winters. I have insulated some of the pipes
but would like to take extra precautions. Can I just turn off the main water
valve and open the faucets. Can I turn off the water heater ?
I would recommend turning off the water heater. I always do that when I'm
going to be gone for a while, summer or winter..
In you area I would recommend leaving some heat on in the house, but turning
off the water-- opening the faucets isn't going to keep any residual
standing water in the pipes from freezing. However, since you have insulated
your pipes, I guess you could turn off the water and take your chances.
It may not be practical, but for overnight, back in Iowa, when the temp.
were dropping down to below zero, we would leave a faucet running a little
bit over night.. This kept warmer water from the underground main moving
through the pipes.
At the local marina, I notice that they leave a faucet cracked open in
freezing weather but there water is supplied by a spring, so the water is
Insulating pipes does little to help, unless the water is used often.
Insulation only delays the cooling (or heating). Even with great
insulation a pipe in a cold area will freeze if warmer water is not run
though it before it finally is cooled below freezing. Heat tape works, at
least as long as the power stays on. Also getting more heat to the area or
insulating the area so it stays warmer helps.
What you may need to do depends on what your freeze problems have been.
Where has it frozen before? Under what conditions did it freeze?
Anywhere a pipe without heat tape goes through an area where the
temperature will be below freezing for some time and the water is not used;
Consider this scenario:
10 below and power goes out for a week during an ice storm.
Pipes freeze and burst the first night.
Toilet bowls and tanks freeze second night and crack.
Sink traps too.
Dishwasher pump bursts.
On the 5th night the water meter bursts.
Then the water heater.
Seen it all before...
If you can't 100% guarantee that the heat will stay on,
drain *all* piping, put RV antifrz in toilets and sink traps
shut off water supply at service entrance, shut off water
heater AND drain it, and winterize any appliances that need it.
(If heat is by boiler, that has to be considered too.)
Couple more points...
1)Don't forget traps on sinks and especially showers and bathtubs which are
usually out of reach. Pour some anti freeze down the drains. (And down the
2)Check your insurance. Some insurers insist that if a home is vacant over a
certain length of time, it must be checked regularly by somebody. That's not
a bad idea in any case. Our neighbours have a set of keys.
3)Keep some minimum heat on. Remember all the other stuff in a house that
can freeze if it gets cold and stays that way.
4)We live in a wintry part of the world. When we go away, even overnight, I
turn off my pump, open the taps, drain the pipes and flush the toilets to
empty the cisterns. That at least would minimize the damage in the event
of a hard freeze and a power failure. There still will be some water in the
pipes, especially in those below the level of the lowest open faucet. If you
have an air compressor you can blow out the lines. It's amazing how much
water remains in pipes that have been drained. Usually though there is
enough expansion room to allow freezing. For a longer absence I certainly
would drain the water heater. Be sure the main valve (or pump) is off.
There are some horror stories in which a system has frozen up and then there
has been a thaw and water pours everywhere through the split pipes and
Too true. Here is just one from my experiences:
Elderly lady had to go to nursing home suddenly. Everyone expected
be back in a few weeks. Never made it.
Family finally opened her 3-story Tudor house up only to find that the
boiler had gone out. In the (freezing) weeks that had gone by, water
continuously down all 3 floors. Through the hardwood flooring and
ceilings, down the oak stairs in rivers, and through all the walls.
All the wiring and fixtures were soaked too.
Oh...the boiler went out due to a bad thermocouple.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.