Fix-it Q&A: Preparing home for winter absence

By Karen Youso Published: January 13, 2010
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Q: We plan to be gone six to eight weeks this winter. We’ll shut off the water at the main, open the faucets and turn the furnace down. Is there anything else we should do?

A: That’s a good start. Before you leave for an extended time in winter, follow these steps:

→Be sure the furnace or boiler has been cleaned and inspected.

→Turn heat down, but not off. Most thermostats will go to 55 to 60 degrees. Before setting it lower, check with the manual or ask the manufacturer.

→Empty refrigerators and freezers of foods that won’t last and leave them running. Or empty them completely, unplug them and prop them open.

→Disconnect hot and cold supply hoses to the washing machine and leave the valves open.

→Turn off and drain the water heater.

→Disconnect the water softener. It’s a good idea to do one final backwash before disconnecting, to make startup easier.

→Check appliance manuals for advice on shutting down or what to do when leaving for extended periods.

→If possible, make sure hoses connected to outdoor faucets are disconnected and fully drained.

→Pour nontoxic or RV antifreeze (not automotive antifreeze) into all traps and drains, including the dishwasher and showers. Use 2 cups in toilet bowls and tanks, and about 1 cup in other drains.

→Be sure windows, doors and fireplace dampers are closed and latched.