Hibernating This Winter? Don’t Forget to Winterize Your Home

Hibernate your winter home

In November, we wrote a post on how to prepare your home for the winter months. As a follow up, we thought of the many who leave their homes during the Wisconsin winter for warmer climates. Before you leave, however, it’s important to button up your home to avoid problems while you’re away when the temperature drops.

It really doesn’t take long to make sure that your home is winter ready and it can make all the difference. You might think it’s a pain to prep your house, but it will save you time and money in the end. Here’s what you should do if you plan on being away for a month or more during the cold season.

Flush & Insulate the Water Heater

Over time, particles and sediment build up in a water heater. If your water heater is turned off for extended periods, sediment in it can build up and cause problems. First, you should flush your water heater. In addition to properly winterizing it before you leave town, it will also run better over time and stay maintained.

Flushing a water heater is pretty simple and can be done with just a few steps. First turn your water heater off and after it’s cooled, connect a hose to the main drain valve. After you’ve completed that just find an appropriate space, like your yard, and let the water drain out. Best part? It’s 100% free.


In order to safeguard water freezing within your water heater while you’re away, it’s best to insulate it. If insulated correctly, you’ll also save between 7% and 16% on your water heating costs and reduce heat loss from the water by 25% to 45%. Here’s what you need to insulate your heater:

  • A helper (you’ll need four hands for this one)
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Water heater insulation blanket kit
  • Gloves and a dust mask
  • Electrical or other tape (tape comes with most insulation blanket kits)

Many utility companies will offer insulation blankets and supplies at a low cost or free of charge- they may even install for little to no cost as well. For electric water heaters, consider installing insulation beneath the tank as well to avoid heat escaping through the bottom.

Insulation is important for your water heater, but your pipes could also benefit from it. Many people worry about their pipes freezing during the winter because it can cause them to burst. Water damage resulting from pipes is extremely common and can end up costing a lot of money. It might seem like a hassle, but insulating your water heater and pipes is well worth your time.

Turn off Water at the Exterior

If a water heater fails during the winter and pipes freeze, the damage could be enormous. Turn off the water heater at the main supply point. This is just one more example of doing something simple that you’ll be glad you did when you come back home. You might be wondering where your home’s main supply point is. A good place to check is near the water meter on the main supply unit. Once you’ve found it, make sure you close it tightly.

Open All Faucets and Drain All Waterlines

The biggest concern when leaving your home empty for even a month is freezing and bursting pipes. Consider all the appliances and tanks in your home that require pipes, and what would happen if they were to freeze and burst. This is possibly the most important item to check off your list before leaving for warmer weather. You should:

  • Buy an air compressor to blow water lines of excess water. Water buildup in drain traps can be an issue as well.
  • Purchase an “RV” type antifreeze.
  • Pour RV antifreeze down drains making sure to follow instructions.
  • Close the sink and tub drains.
  • Drain water from indoor and outdoor pools.
  • Turn off water to all sources of standing water.
  • Drain water from dishwashers and again pour RV antifreeze.
  • Flush your toilet to clear water from the tank and bowl.
  • Pour RV antifreeze in the toilet bowl and tank to prevent any remaining water to freeze.

You’ll have a good chance of preventing frozen pipes if you remember to insulate them and drain all the faucets before you leave for the winter. If you forget to prepare your pipes and you come home to find them frozen, there are some things you can do. If they haven’t burst, turn on the faucet to get the water flowing to help the ice thaw. Putting a heating pad or a towel soaked in warm water is a good way to make the process work faster. Unfortunately, it is a possibility that your pipes broke and have led to water damage. If that happens, it’s best to get professional help.

Turn Down Thermostat, Unplug Appliances, Clean the Kitchen

Much like you would do if you were going out of town for a week or more, you should turn down the thermostat to no lower than 50 degrees. At this temp, you shouldn’t have to worry about pipes freezing. In addition, unplug appliances and electronics that could be damaged from a power surge during a winter storm. Clean the kitchen thoroughly, throwing out perishable foods that could go bad and attract pests. Set some traps along countertops and along the walls of the kitchen if your home is especially susceptible to pests. Don’t forget to clean out the garbage disposal to avoid coming home to the smell of rotting food. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a priority.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that your refrigerator and freezer are spotless to avoid any mildew growing there. Double-check that they are dry after you’ve cleaned them.

Count on Kelmann

There’s a great chance you won’t have an issue with your home while away. Especially if you remember to double and triple-check that everything looks good before you leave. On the off chance something crazy happens, you can count on Kelmann to be quick and professional cleaning up damage caused by water and storms. We’ll get your home back to its pre-damaged condition and will work closely with your insurance company. Have a safe trip and keep our emergency number (414-774-3799) on hand.

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