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Winterize Vacation Homes Now To Save Money Later

November 24, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Cold Thermometer on Tree by Steve CardwellAs we experience our first cold snap this week, it’s a good time to review strategies for saving money and preserving your real estate property from winter.

Homeowners, landlords, and particularly sellers of vacation homes around Portage Indiana, have asked me about saving money on maintenance and energy bills. Here are some techniques and helpful tips.

There are two main strategies. You need to decide what will be the extent of your occupancy of the home over the cold months. This will lead you to decide which technique to use.

First, homes that are occupied occasionally should be treated similarly to those which are lived in.

Follow all the normal energy-saving tips that your utility or home center describes such as: keeping your furnace cleaned and maintained, adding attic insulation, caulking air gaps, fixing trim, replacing old drafty windows, installing the storm windows, and plastic film will all help keep out the cold. You can lower the thermostat down to 50 degrees or so, to prevent freezing while still saving a lot on energy. When you arrive, turn up the heat and your house will be warmed up in 15 minutes

The second strategy is more radical, for people who are seriously closing up for the season. This method is to truly winterize the home.

This means you are going to turn your furnace off and allow the home to drop to the ambient outside temperature. In order to save your pipes from freezing and cracking, you need to follow procedures to purge as much of the water from your plumbing as possible. If you are not familiar with doing this procedure, consider hiring a licensed Portage Indiana plumber to do this for you.

In short, you are first going to shut off your main water line from the street. Then open all your faucet valves, starting with the lowest point, and work your way up. Let the hot and cold water lines drain out and fill with air. Don’t forget flexible lines such as washing machines, sink sprayers, and portable dishwashers, toilet tanks and hot water heaters. Professionals even use an air compressor to completely blow the water out. And remember to disconnect those garden hoses and hose bibs to the outside so they also will drain. You want every run and bend to be filled with air, not water.

For the drains, flush and purge as much as you can from the pipes and add antifreeze to each drain trap. Automotive anti-freeze is bad for the environment and should not be used. There is a special type made for this purpose available at RV supply stores and home centers. An electrical heat-tape might be needed where the main shut-off valve enters the basement. The pro’s put a sign over the toilets  and sinks then securely tape them up with packing tape to remind people not to pour any liquids down the drain. Once the anti-freeze is in place you don’t want it disturbed until Spring.

If you have any overhanging branches or dead trees, this is a good time of year to have them maintained as well. Clean your gutters of the last of the autumn leaves, so that snow melt can flow freely off your roof and not freeze up under the shingles. If something happened while you were away it might be weeks before anyone noticed you had a roof problem.

There is no need to disconnect your electric service. If nothing is using power in the home, you should not be incurring any utility charges. And you might want to turn on a light or use a power tool even if the house is closed up.

For homes that are listed for sale the best advice is to leave the heat running with the thermostat set for around 50 degrees whether it’s occupied or not. When a showing is scheduled I always try to visit the home before the buyer, to set the home to a comfortable temperature for the appointment, and then return later to make sure everything is in order.

Home sellers should also discuss snow removal, so that prospective buyers can access your home without snowshoes and hip-boots. It will make a better impression and reduce dirt and slush on your clean floors. People seeking homes in the winter are dedicated buyers. And they should be rewarded with a nicely staged and comfortable home when they have battled the elements to see your property.

Contact me before the deep freeze for even more tips for successful home winterizing or if you simply have questions on selling your Portage Indiana vacation home over the winter months. Be safe and stay warm.

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Steve Cardwell

Steve Cardwell is an Indiana Realtor working with residential buyers and sellers throughout Northwest Indiana. He likes to stay current on the housing market by analyzing real estate trends with a focus on the towns of Highland and Munster Indiana. His broker affiliation is Red Key Realty Leaders in St John, Indiana. Learn more about Steve and visit

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One Response to “Winterize Vacation Homes Now To Save Money Later”
  1. One of the first things that we prepare every year for winter is the outside water connections and the inground sprinkler system. Failure to purge excess water from the inground sprinkler system can damage more than just the pipes in the ground. It could also result in the back flow pressure system to fail which is connected to the interior plumbing of the home. A little winterize preparation can help prevent costly repairs in the spring.

    We like spring flowers, not repairs that cost alot of dollars.

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