Winterizing Vacation Homes

Water System

1. Shut off water systems by turning off the pump or shutting the valve if on city water. Drain the pressure tank.

2. Open all faucets.

3. Break a union close to the valve so water will drain out clear to the shut-off valve.

4. Drain pump and run a second or two to be sure all water is out of lines from the pump.


5. Flush toilets and dip all water out of the flush tank.

6. Be sure to drain flexible spray hoses in showers and sinks.

7. Drain water softeners so water will drain back from soft water pipes and controls. Brine tank will probably not freeze.

8. Drain water heaters.

Heating Systems

Electric heating systems require no maintenance other than shutting off the power to the heating units.

Hot air heating systems:

1. Turn off burner emergency switch which is often located at the top of the stairs.

2. Drain humidifier which is usually located on the furnace.

Forced hot water and steam systems: Drain all water in the system unless the liquid contains anti-freeze. It is wise to have this type of system drained by a plumber unless you are well-informed on the procedures necessary.


Winterize your summer home as you do your winter home. To help conserve energy when the home is not occupied, install a low-heat thermostat. By doing this your home could be maintained at abut 40 F. without a freeze-up, rather than at 55 F. which is the lowest temperature at which most thermostats can be set.

Washer and dishwasher Water left in hoses and internal components can cause damage when it freezes.

Shut off water supply to clothes washer. Remove and drain inlet hoses. Clear water valve by setting timer for fill cycle. Press warm water button and run machine a few seconds. Drain water from drain hose. Disconnect electrical supply.

For a dishwasher, remove inlet and outlet connection to the valve. Operate valve to remove any water. Remove drain hose from the pump and drain. Disconnect electrical supply.


It is also a good idea to clean the equipment and to protect the finish with a coat of appliance polish.

Stored items

1. Remove food, cosmetics, or medicine containers that contain liquid that would freeze from shelves.

2. Food in paper or plastic containers should be put in large metal containers to protect from mice or other rodents.

3. Remove or hide articles in the house that can be sold and converted to cash such as guns, radios, TV sets, tools or other valuables.

Sewage system

1. Force as much water as possible out of traps with a plunger.

2. Add antifreeze to each trap so you have at least a 50% solution of ethylene - glycol and water. Sometimes fuel oil can be substituted for antifreeze.

3. Check for traps in these locations: kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, bathtub and/or shower drains, toilets, washtubs, floor drains and maybe a sump pump.


Keep out animals

1. Cover chimneys tightly so that raccoons cannot enter the house, or birds fall down the chimney.

2. Stop up any places in the foundation or around the eaves where squirrels, chipmunks, mice or other small animals can enter.

This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus.

Source: MSU Extension

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By skip99 (Guest Post)
May 14, 20050 found this helpful

A useful article. It would be nice to have more info on the winterization of septic systems. For example if you have a 'pumped' system where the sewage is collected in a pumping station and then pumped uphill to a septic tank and bed should you leave this pump powered up over the winter or turn it off?


The sewage ejector pump utilizes a float valve of course but nonetheless some ground water could conceivably get in the tank and the tank is just below the surface of the ground thus can freeze.

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November 25, 20050 found this helpful

Clear and concise article. I would like to know how to drain my water pressure tank. It has a bicycle tire-type valve on top, but I can't vent it because the tank is equipped with a bladder or a diaphragm. I am worried that if I don't vent it some water will remain in the tank or adjacent pipes.

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