Step by Step Dry Winterization Procedures.
In the property preservation industry the term winterization, winterizing, wint. All refer to the prevention of damage caused by the combination of water and freezing conditions. All homes have water in them, pipes, toilets, drain traps and some heating systems, if left full or untreated, sub zero temperatures can sometimes cause catastrophic damage to a home’s plumbing and heat system.
As a preservation contractor it is your job to have an above average understanding of where and why homes have water in them, and what will happen if this water is left untreated or un-drained.
The most common areas you will find water in a home are..
1.Potable water lines supplying clean water to Faucets Showers Dishwasher Exterior hydrants/spigot Washing machine hook ups Water softeners. Water filtration system Hot water tank Main entry/water meter Supply lines to humidifiers and ice makers 2.Drain system Sink and shower “J” traps Toilets 3.Heat system Radiant heat Steam heat
Currently there are three types of winterizations.
1.Dry winterization; This is when a house is not equipped with a heat system that use heated water to warm the house.
Examples: Gas forced air, electric heat pumps, electric baseboard heating units.
2.Steam heat; “This method of heating uses heated water to create steam with the design and layout of steam pipes differing significantly from hot water heating systems, Steam pipes must slope upward at the supply lines to prevent water in the system from restricting the flow of steam. Also, these pipes should decrease in diameter as they proceed away from the boiler. The return pipes must be smaller in diameter than the supply pipes, as they carry water instead of steam. Additionally, steam pipes need insulation on the supply side only: The return pipes should be un-insulated in order to promote condensation. 3.Hot water heat; “This method uses hot water heated in a boiler and pumped through out the system. The diameter of the piping remains constant, the slope is irrelevant, and all lines are insulated to prevent heat loss”.
Described below is the basic method of a dry winterization using an air compressor.
•(Get the water turned off) Terminate the water service at the curb. This is the underground stop box located in the front yard or sometimes in the street. In many instances this has to be completed by the local water district/company. •(Start draining the hot water tank) Get your hose hooked up to the hot water tank and find out where you can safely drain the water. (Never dump water on the floor) •(General inspection) This is a good time for a general inspection of all visible pipes and fixtures. Obvious damage or missing fixtures should be noted and photographed. This is also a good time to flush toilets and make sure they are turned off at the cut off valve below. •(Get your compressor running) Hook up your compressor to the washer machine feed pipe located in home. (Hot or cold) set your regulator between 35 and 60 psi There is no reason for this step if you know the pipes will not hold pressure because of visible pipe breaks and/or missing plumbing fixtures. •(Return to your hot water tank). Once the hot water tank drained and drain valve closed, allow the plumbing system (pipes) to fill with pressurized air. •It is very important you make sure the hot water tank is turned off. (gas or electric) •(Start purging) At this time you should go to all faucets, valves, toilets, exterior hydrants/spigots, showers (anything that you can open, drain and close, You get the idea!!) turn them on for just a moment or two and then turn them off, enough to get the pipes to stop the constant flow of water, let them spit and sputter for a three count before turning them off and moving onto the next location. Always use a large air compressor, (minimum requirements) 3 hp electric and 4.0 hp for gas powered air compressors.
Just so you know, after three or four trips around the house, 99% of all water should be out of the pipes.
1.(Lets stop and think for a moment!) OK, what did we forget? Did we find all the bathrooms, how about all exterior hydrants? Did someone do any fancy plumbing in the basement or garage we didn’t notice?? look and look again. Winterizing is the contractor’s second highest liability next to conversion. This is also the time when we let the air compressor build pressure. As previously mentioned 60 psi should the maximum air pressure level allowed into the pipes during winterizing. 2.(Did your air compressor kick down?) Did we make it to 35-60 psi? Did you blow those pipes out so well they whistled? 3.(Disconnect the water meter) The HUD specifications state, “disconnect and plug water meter” what they want is the street side of the water entrance disconnected and plugged with a threaded plug. Most common plug sizes used are ¾, or 1”, on large luxury homes 1 1/4” or 1 ½
At this time all the water in the house should be completely purged from all water lines. (See list of exceptions below) with the water turned off at the street, all water purged out of all lines, the plumbing in the house is ready for winter.
4.(Antifreeze all traps and toilets) Part of all winterizations is the treatment of water that cannot be purged, toilets and “J” traps located under sinks and tub/showers. Only RV/Marine antifreeze is to be used when winterizing homes. This type of antifreeze is non-toxic, its main ingredient is propylene glycol and such antifreeze is not hazardous to the environment and not poisonous if ingested. a.All toilet water should be flushed to remove as much water from the closet/reservoir. The remaining water in the bowl should be plunged out or removed to the lowest possible point.
All toilets have a built in “J” trap between the water closet/reservoir and the bowl. Adequate antifreeze should be added to the water closet/reservoir to not only protect the water closet/reservoir but also to fill the bowl to an adequate level of protection. (Fill the bottom bowl from the top reservoir)
2.If the electricity is not on at the house a contractor will need to disconnect the feed line to allow water to drain out. Please consider the type of plumbing you are working with, most hard plumbed systems will have a cut off valve leading to the dishwasher. If this can easily be disconnected and reconnected, proceed. Otherwise you are advised to bid any modifications required to complete the draining. We are not authorized to tamper or modify plumbing without prior written instructions. (If this is required, put it in your report and bid!!) 3.Whether you have electricity to the house or not a contractor should always add adequate RV/marine antifreeze to the drain of a dishwasher by simply pouring it in.
Icemaker, humidifier feed lines:
1.an experienced contractor will always check the furnace and behind the refrigerator to see if an icemaker or humidifier feed lines are present. Standard feed lines to such items are ¼ to 3/8” flex line and should always be inspected and the coupler loosened to allow your pressurized plumbing system to purge all water out, as a professional courtesy you should always resecure all fittings when completed.
Inspect the humidifier for a drain port. Once drained be sure to tighten the fitting back up.
1.Inspect the water softener carefully, most softeners have a bypass valve. It is preferred not to use the bypass and to let the compressed air purge the water softener empty.
1.Well systems should be inspected very carefully, remember its our job to drain all water or treat the water we can not drain. Most modern wells are 50 to 260’ underground and well below the frost line. It is a contractor’s job to inspect and disassemble any part of the well system that is not below the frost line. Look carefully in the basement or well house. a.Modern wells are called submersible well pumps and are deep underground. b.Older well pump systems are located in a well house or in a basement. This type of well is most vulnerable to freeze. A contractor is to inspect closely and disconnect feed and return lines for proper drainage/purging. Don’t be afraid to place a bid for the winterization of a complicated or very old pump house.
Tips and tricks:
1.When winterizing a toilet, always fill the bottom (bowl) from the top (reservoir). A toilet has a trap between the top (reservoir) and the bottom (bowl). If you only pour RV antifreeze in the top and bottom you have a good chance the trap is holding untreated water that could break the toilet during freezing conditions. 2.When winterizing a toilet it is best to remove as much water out of the bowl as possible. Two reasons, RV/Marine antifreeze offers more protection uncut (do not dilute the bottle says) and the second reason is economics, an empty toilet require far less antifreeze than a full one. 3.When you find a house frozen, make sure you get the water turned off. Some contractors walk away and bid to thaw. By the time the bid is approved, weather has warmed up and now you have running water in the house where pipes have broke. (You may be held liable for what ever damage the water caused) 4.Adding antifreeze to a frozen toilet can save the toilet in many cases. 5.Some toilets will have bleach inserts placed in the toilet to help keep it clean. This bleach insert will also turn your antifreeze from pink/red to clear. You will need to photo the toilet as you pour the antifreeze into it as well as note this on your completion. “Please be advised, bleach in toilet has removed antifreeze color,” you can also bid to import water and flush out all parts of the toilet to remove bleach. 6.Be very careful to examine all parts of the heating system. Some homes are equipped with radiant heat under floors as well as forced air heat systems. A fast moving inexperienced contractor could overlook a small modern boiler, recognize only the forced air system and only winterize the potable water system, leaving the boiler and lines vulnerable to freeze. (You may be held liable for what ever damage was caused) 7.In many instances, standard 3/8” airline used with your compressor will build enough moisture to freeze and block your airway. If you use a high quality rubber 3/4 “ commercial grade garden hose, the airway is large enough that even when you build moisture it will not stop the flow of air. If you use good quality rubber hose it will remain flexible during very cold temperatures. 8.Locating and disconnecting the water meter is vital to complete winterizations. If you can’t find it, just say so! 9.Always note if hot water tank is electric or gas. Gas must be turned off before draining and for electric, it is best to trip the breaker (trip all breakers if the hot water tank is not clearly labeled) and label the breaker box clearly. “Refill hot water tank before energizing” 10.Sometimes it’s necessary for a contractor to unscrew the screens off each faucet to allow for better airflow through the system. 11.Be on time! A contractor running days behind on completion dates and also reporting freeze damage is a bad combination. The mortgage company may claim (If the contractor was on time, my house would not be frozen, I want my house fixed at no charge!!)