The winter holidays mean travel either to family or a well deserved break from the winter weather for many of us. We know exactly what to do to prepare our house for an extended absence. Lock it up, leave a light on, have the neighbor pick up the mail, and turn off the heat, right?

One of our customers a few years ago did exactly that for an extended holiday. Everything was going fine until the neighbors noticed a small creek gushing from under her front door. The fire department got the main water shut off but not before extensive pipe and water damage had occurred throughout the entire house. It had gotten much colder than expected as evidenced by the shocking discovery of the goldfish frozen solid in his ice chunk bowl.

The best case scenario is to have someone watching over the house while you are away, such as a friend or house-sitter. Even if they are not staying there full time you can still leave the water on but don’t set the thermostat any lower than 60°. With a temperature under 60° you run the risk of freezing pipes toward the perimeter of the house.

If you have to leave the house unattended for a relatively short period there are a couple of minimal things you can do to protect it against a nasty surprise upon your return. Firstly, turn off the main water to the house for obvious reasons, the only caveat here is if your house is heated with a boiler system, you can’t turn off the water because that may damage your heat system. Then at the water heater turn the main knob from ON to PILOT. This will save energy costs and avoids having to relight the pilot when you get home. Don’t forget to keep the thermostat at 60° or above. The only problem here is that there is no guarantee that the heat will stay on such as in a power failure or furnace malfunction.

The optimal thing to do in an unattended absence is to have us come out and winterize your place. We will shut off the water and drain down any water in the house, including toilet tanks, water heater, and boiler system. To further protect pipes from freezing we use a compressor to blow out water lines and use RV antifreeze in all the drains. This water soluble antifreeze is non-toxic and washes harmlessly down the drain when the water is back on. In this scenario the heat can be turned completely off, but not if you have a gold fish.

We are always ready to come and assist you if you have a burst pipe emergency but would prefer to help you have a worry free vacation and avoid a disaster. We are happy to report that we were able to repair the damage at our customer’s house. Even the gold fish survived after he thawed out. Please contact us to make a winterization appointment or just to ask questions about the process. Happy travels.