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Snowbirding question re: winterizing
Old 12-26-2015, 04:13 PM   #1
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Snowbirding question re: winterizing

While I'm sure there are many forums I could turn to to find the info, I thought I'd come to my trusted FIRE folks first.

DH and I are headed out for our first extended RV trip next week. We'll be gone for 3 months. I've been doing research on what all we should do to leave our home and plan to drain the spa, turn off the water to the house (I've confirmed that the irrigation system is on a separate line) and I'm considering draining the hot water tank but haven't decided on that one. Our area doesn't have hard freezes so I don't have worry about pipes freezing.

We're Planning to leave on the gas (for the furnace) as well as the fridge and separate freezer.

1. Am I missing anything big
2. Would you bother with draining the hot water heater? It's on a raised platform in the garage if that matters for the decision.
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:23 PM   #2
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Lisa99 IMHO if you shut off the water and turn off or set Water Heater to vacation - some have that setting - then I wouldn't drain the tank as there would not be any pressur on the tank with the water shut off. Just open a tap and relieve the pressure on the water line after shutting off the water.
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:52 PM   #3
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Oops, thread title was supposed to be snowbirding!

Dang autocorrect.
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Old 12-26-2015, 05:31 PM   #4
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Take any ice out of an automatic ice maker and shut it off. If the power goes out for an extended period, it will end up as a puddle on your floor.
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Old 12-26-2015, 07:17 PM   #5
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This may not be of interest, but we use an internet security camera at a cabin we have, it cost $30, and as long as the electrical service stays on, we can see what it sees. But it does require an internet connection, which you may have cut off during your trip.

For us it is a simple way to confirm power on or off. If power is off we do risk freeze damage.
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Old 12-26-2015, 07:33 PM   #6
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Lisa99 IMHO if you shut off the water and turn off or set Water Heater to vacation - some have that setting - then I wouldn't drain the tank as there would not be any pressur on the tank with the water shut off. Just open a tap and relieve the pressure on the water line after shutting off the water.
I would suggest going a bit further and draining the pipes as well. For example Houston one time got down to 8 and a lot of homes had pipes burst, so many that the water pressure went to zero. If your keeping the hot water heater tank full, then shut off the supply valve to isolate the hot and cold piping as well. Of course this does depend on how plumbing is done, in Houston most water pipes tend to be in the attic. Up in the hill country they tend to be in the slab, so are less likley to freeze.
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Old 12-26-2015, 10:49 PM   #7
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Our water heater is electric, so I shut off power to it.

Other stuff:

Shut off water
Unplug iron filter and water softener
Activate ip cameras
Backup electric generator



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Old 12-26-2015, 11:50 PM   #8
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shut off the main water tap (at least where it comes into the house).
Then open all the taps so water can drain out of the pipes.

With the main water tap off, the hot water tank has no pressure.

flush the toilets twice to pretty much empty the toilet tanks, then pour in a little antifreeze into the bowl (as there will still be some water there and it keeps out sewer gases).

Lower the hot water tank temp but leave it on so it won't freeze.

Put house lights on some timers, they have neat ones now that have a battery so power failure does not affect the timer, whereas the old mechanical ones would be off by however long the power failure was.
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Old 12-27-2015, 10:45 AM   #9
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We snowbird for two months (Jan/Feb) - have for 5 years now since retiring (sixth is a few days away). Have a single family home in a gated retirement community in the Midwest.

We turn off the main water supply in home. City has excessive charges to turn off/on main outside below ground (and you have to be home to turn it off/on).

Turn (gas) water heater to vacation. Relieve water pressure by opening cold/hot taps until pressure's off, but don't drain anything.

Put the thermostat down to 60F (no lower to avoid potential pipe freezing scenarios). Our thermostat is wifi connected and it will send email alerts to us and our daughter who stops by once a week to check on things. Set alerts for 58F low and 85F high. Can access it from our phones, and adjust it if necessary.

Neighbors know we are gone, and driveway is plowed and sidewalk shoveled (HOA). Leave no lights on and unplug electrical items that consume power - especially items like Tivo (cable DVR boxes) that constantly record. It resets when we return and reconnect it. Only thermostat utilizes left on wifi while we're gone. We don't leave back-up batteries in anything as they'll go dead and possibly ruin expensive electronics.

Mail is temporary change of address USPS to our daughter (all done online and costs a dollar for verification USPS). We also have a P.O. Box one town over by our daughter for important stuff (our town has no Post Office). We do almost all of our bills electronically, and pay with bill pay (not auto debit pays).

We put a glass of water down drains that are infrequently used to prevent winter dry out and sewer smell.

Put a little olive oil down garbage disposal and then a momentary on to keep it from seizing up (it has done this - house is 9 years old).

Unplug garage door opener when we leave.
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Old 12-27-2015, 05:24 PM   #10
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Mail is temporary change of address USPS to our daughter (all done online and costs a dollar for verification USPS).
I'm not sure I understand this - are you saying you fill out a form to have USPS deliver your mail to a different address for the two months that you are gone? We are gone in the winter for 2-3 months also, and I used to have USPS hold my mail at the post office, and have a friend (neighbor) pick it up weekly. The friend would look through it and periodically mail us any important-looking mail (in one of several Priority Mail envelopes I left with him) to our winter address. That worked great until USPS said they will no longer hold mail like that for more than 30 days. I don't really want to have our mail "forwarded" to our winter address, as I tried that once, and it did not work well at all (by the time we got the first batch of forwarded mail, the 2 months had gone by, and we were about ready to head home!). So I am interested to hear more specifics on exactly what you did..........thanks!
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Old 12-27-2015, 06:20 PM   #11
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I'm not sure I understand this - are you saying you fill out a form to have USPS deliver your mail to a different address for the two months that you are gone? We are gone in the winter for 2-3 months also, and I used to have USPS hold my mail at the post office, and have a friend (neighbor) pick it up weekly. The friend would look through it and periodically mail us any important-looking mail (in one of several Priority Mail envelopes I left with him) to our winter address. That worked great until USPS said they will no longer hold mail like that for more than 30 days. I don't really want to have our mail "forwarded" to our winter address, as I tried that once, and it did not work well at all (by the time we got the first batch of forwarded mail, the 2 months had gone by, and we were about ready to head home!). So I am interested to hear more specifics on exactly what you did..........thanks!
Attached link is for the USPS for permanent/temporary change of address (2 weeks to 6 months). USPS charges $1.05 to your credit card to validate your change of address online (a wise move by them if you ask me). As mentioned in earlier post, our daughter gets our forwarded mail and emails us about bills that show up (not all of our bills can be electronic). Only first class mail is forwarded (junk, and subscriptions to magazines/newspapers are not forwarded by USPS). Change over/back is automatic per the dates you select, but you can cancel forward if plans change. Done this for 5 years now and only had USPS screw up once with it (they forgot to restart to house and kept going to daughter's house in loop last year), but fixed with a call to delivery Post Office.

https://moversguide.usps.com/icoa/ho...coa-main-flow&

We first had all of our bills via mail, but it's been very beneficial to have them switched to paperless (electronic billing notification of bill ready by email). Don't like allowing them to auto debit bank account. Utilize our bank's free electronic Bill Pay to pay them year round (computer or phone app options) no matter where we are located currently.

As also mentioned in earlier post, we have a P.O. Box for billing address in our daughters town (our town has no Post Office). P.O. Box is given billing address for all bills (billing address is separate from home address with most all we do business with currently). It's also a neat security feature as billing address/zip code is different from home address/zip code - if card should get lost or stolen, many use zip code and/or billing address for purchase verification.

Credit card companies and Banks won't allow forwarding of bills, statements, and new credit cards. They actually go back to them and get destroyed (go figure)! Some of our credit card companies like renew dates in January, so it works out that the new card goes to the P.O. box and we just use another card until we return. P.O. Box is nice feature for travel year round, as you don't have to worry about these issues any longer ($42/annually for small box and worth it). Applied for it online as well and just went to selected Post Office to get assigned box and keys. You can also get this (mail/package) service from others out there, but fees are higher.
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Old 12-27-2015, 09:04 PM   #12
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We also use the temporary change of address process for our 6-months-here/6-months-there life. It's easy. I set up the change of address a week before we leave, then put a hold on the mail at the alternate location for 10 days. This gives us time to get there and unpack. I always choose the option of picking the mail up myself, to avoid making the mail carrier have to bring a large pile to the house. Then a week before we head back I do the same process in reverse. I've never had a problem doing it that way.


Edit: I do have to sign on and do a change of address for things that might not forward, like magazine subscriptions. Still, not a big deal. I keep a text file with the names of the magazines and just do the change of address when I'm ready to go.
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Old 01-01-2016, 06:47 AM   #13
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I wouldn't worry about the hot water heater, personally. Unless the power is out for a long time, it'll be fine. It is insulated.

If your water pipes are in the attic, I'd drain them the best you can after you block in the main. Open all the faucets for a few minutes. It's unlikely you'll have a problem, but it can happen. We have problems here in South Texas if we get below 20 and stay there for a long time. We're fine unless the power goes out also.
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Old 01-01-2016, 07:47 AM   #14
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I wouldn't worry about the hot water heater, personally. Unless the power is out for a long time, it'll be fine. It is insulated.

If your water pipes are in the attic, I'd drain them the best you can after you block in the main. Open all the faucets for a few minutes. It's unlikely you'll have a problem, but it can happen. We have problems here in South Texas if we get below 20 and stay there for a long time. We're fine unless the power goes out also.
You might also shut the input valve to the water heater before draining the pipes to avoid pulling water out of the water heater when draining the pipes (the necessity of this depends on where the water heater is relative to other faucets in the house if the lowest cold is lower than the lowest hot, water could flow out of the water heater)
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Old 01-01-2016, 08:00 AM   #15
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I don't think I'd drain the hot tub. It's really tough to get it completely drained, so then you have stagnant water sitting and you can't just run it through your pipes and out like other lines since it recirculates into the tub. Plus that stuck water can freeze in a place it's really tough to find the break--1st had experience on that! Maybe not in your area, but a smaller amount of water is more likely to freeze. Just turn the heat down to the lowest setting and let it do the normal daily maintenance cycle.
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Old 01-01-2016, 09:14 AM   #16
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Check with spa dealer re draining. There are seals in some models that will dry out and warp when the spa is drained. Expensive to fix.
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Old 01-01-2016, 01:36 PM   #17
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Aren't there house-sitting services, such as a licensed/bonded realtor who would check your property say once a week (after you've "winterized" it yourself), pick up your held mail periodically and drop-shipp it to you when & where you wanted it, etc?

We've never left our home for more than a week or so, but when we relocated our old home sat on the market for nearly 6 months, and the realtor basically performed a house-sitting service...I know, they were getting a commission. But realtors are a hungry bunch, and I suspect some may offer such a service on a fee basis.

Just a thought, in lieu of a trusted friend or local relative.


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Old 01-01-2016, 01:46 PM   #18
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Lots of info about waters heaters.

You might consider a tankless model. We have one. Not only is it very efficient and supplies unlimited amounts of hot water, but since there is no tank, it's not power cycling when you aren't around.
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Old 01-05-2016, 06:24 PM   #19
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Don't leave any food in the freezer, especially protein.

The power may go out and your freezer could be off for a good length of time. Then power and freezer comes back on. When you get home, you have no idea the food could be dangerous.
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Old 01-05-2016, 07:00 PM   #20
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I once cut off the hot water heater and came home to my ceilings and insulation sitting on top of my furniture. It was as large a job reconditioning the house as if my house had burned. The copper pipes in my ceiling froze one ultra cold night in Memphis.

I'd just cut off the water as it comes into the house and leave the house thermostat at 56 degrees. That's it.
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