A Sad Wintized Boiler

Buying a Winterized Home- What Does it Mean?

Very often homes that are not sold quickly are winterized. This is a process designed to protect an unheated homes plumbing and HVAC system from damage during the months with freezing temperatures. There are several steps, and if any are omitted, it can cause damage and/or flooding of the home.

  1. Turn off the water. Typically, this is done at the main water shut off valve located inside the house, but it may be located at the water meter outside the house, typically located near the curb.
  2. Drain the water supply. This at a minimum involves opening all the taps/flushing all the toilets until the toilet tank is empty. Some winterization contractors may use compressed air to clear any remaining water from supply lines.
  3. Drain the water heater. This involves opening the drain valve at the base of the water heater. All water should be drained from the water tank.
  4. Protect toilet bowls. Typically, the contractor pours marine/rv grade antifreeze into the bowl of the toilet. This prevents residual water from freezing and cracking the toilets.
  5. Protect drain traps. All sinks should be treated with marine antifreeze much like toilets.
  6. Drain the boiler and radiators. If the house has a hot water or steam heat system, the boiler also needs to be winterized. Like the potable water system, all water should be drained from the boiler, radiators and lines. To accomplish this, the boiler has a drain valve near the bottom. In addition, the bleeder valves on each radiator must be opened to allow all the water to drain from the system.
  7. Mark all water systems as winterized. Use of these systems without first reversing the winterization may cause expensive damage to the systems.

What does all this mean to the buyer? I recommend that anyone purchasing a winterized home ask the seller to reverse the process before the inspection. Many systems cannot be tested while winterized, and problems may go unnoticed with the water off. As an inspector, I cannot turn the water back on during the inspection, for there may already be leaks present. Water heaters and boilers in particularly should confirmed full before turning back on, failure to do so may result in damage. Please make sure the seller has all utilities turned on prior to the inspection, or I will not be able to test those systems.