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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
ANTIFREEZE for BOILERS
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS
CLEANOUTS, PLUMBING DRAIN
CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
FROST HEAVES, FOUNDATION, SLAB
HEAT TAPE USAGE GUIDE
HOT WATER HEATERS
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
NO HEAT - BOILER
NO HEAT - FURNACE
ODORS & SMELLS DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL FIRED WATER HEATERS
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PUMPS, PONY PUMPS
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
WATER HEATER PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS
WATER HEATER PROPERTIES
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
How to freeze proof a building when heat will be turned off: this article explains with a step by step guide just how to winterize or freeze proof a building when the building's heating system is going to be turned off completely. We discuss turning off water supply, draining piping and plumbing fixtures, turning off and if necessary winterizing a heating system, and other steps to avoid freeze damage or water, leaks, and mold damage to buildings that are being left in a "shut down" condition. The articles at this website will answer most questions about freeze protection for piping and other building plumbing and heating system components: how to winterize a building to avoid frozen pipes, and how to thaw frozen water supply & drain piping, wells, & water tanks.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
If you have decided to shut down the building's heating system, some steps to protect the building from freeze damage are simple (you don't worry about figuring out the thermostat set-temperature nor about finding "cold spots" where pipes may freeze). Incidentally, don't make this common mistake: never leave a garden hose attached to your outdoor faucet in winter as water in the hose may add to the risk that the faucet will be freeze damaged. See details about outdoor faucets, hose bibbs, sillcocks at FAUCETS, OUTDOOR HOSE BIBBS.
But other critical steps need to be performed if you are going to avoid frozen pipes and future leaks and water damage in a building to be winterized with the heat left off (such as an empty summer cabin, vacation home, or an unoccupied residence.)
Empty or remove building fixture traps; see our note below about use of antifreeze.
Use of antifreeze to winterize a building: Be careful: unless the anti-freeze is specifically designed for winterizing a building it could be highly toxic (such as automobile antifreeze).
We do not recommend using toxic antifreeze to winterize a building since later you're moving that contaminant into the public sewer or into soils (and possibly ground water) around a private septic system. Only inside of closed water systems such as a heating boiler do we recommend use of anti-freeze mix in a building.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to winterize a building with heat off and drained pipes
Question: How can we test for possible foundation damage if we leave our home with heat off completely?
We built our home 15 years ago. It is a split level with concrete foundation. When we retired we stated to spend our winters in a warmer climate (we live in N. Ontario). Every winter we have left some heat on the lower level of the house keeping the temperature around 4c.
However with the increase in the cost of oil and our dwindling income buying power, we have been thinking of ways we could cut off both the hydro and the oil heater. Is there any way of us testing what effect this might have on the concrete foundations?
The foundation is covered with a layer of ceramic tiles which we later covered over with a laminate flooring. Thank you. - C.W., northern Ontario
Our sketch (left, courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates) shows what happens when a home is left with heat off in a freezing climate.
Reply: Tests for possible frost damage to foundations? try these local research topics
I don't know of an actual test that you can perform to predict foundation damage if the heat is left off completely in your building, since testing would require creating the actual freezing conditions and would itself risk building damage. Sketch at left, showing evidence of frost heaving is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
At "A Common Source of Vertical Frost Heave - Un-heated Homes" found in our article VERTICAL MOVEMENT IN FOUNDATIONS we discuss the problem of foundation damage in un-heated homes. And at Frost Heave/Expansive Soil Cracks in Slabs we provide more details.
Sketch (left, courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates) shows upwards as well as horizontal frost pressure on a building and it indicates where cracks and dislocation commonly appear.
Here are some things you can check:
Watch out: other factors can still cause slab or foundation damage due to frost.
Other Steps to Reduce the Cost of Heating Left On to Avoid Frost Damage
An alternative to turning heat off in the building entirely is to continue your practice of leaving heat on at a low setting (4 C or about 40 F) but take measures to protect the building from damage (possibly allowing a slightly lower heat setting) and to reduce heating cost by finding and fixing drafts, air leaks, or by improving building insulation.
See Winterize - Heat On Procedure and the topics listed there.
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