Winters in Michigan can be harsh, and if properties aren’t properly winterized, water damage from frozen or burst pipes can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
“We encourage all of our property owners to start the winterization process sooner rather than later,” says Eric Chagnon, Business Operations Manager at NAI Mid-Michigan. “All it takes is a sudden cold snap to cause some substantial damage to your property.”
It is important to understand the process of winterizing your property and ensure you have a plan in place for sudden power outages and vacancy. This is especially important for property owners who may have closed parts of their buildings due to pandemic shut-downs. Make sure a post-pandemic reopening isn’t met with the added costs of wintertime damage repair.
What is Winterizing?
Winterizing involves a series of preventive measures intended to protect a property (or a portion of a property) from the effects of freezing temperatures. Your action plan for winterizing a vacant space (residential or commercial) may be slightly different from your plan for an occupied space that loses power or access to other utilities during an extended freeze period, such as a wintertime storm.
Here are some guidelines you might want to follow:
- Make sure the occupant knows to contact you immediately in the event of a power outage. Time is of the essence!
- If utilities are billed directly, make sure the utility company has a “leave on request” in place to transfer the bill into your name if a tenant stops paying the bill or moves out.
- If you find out that the occupant has vacated without notice, follow the vacant space guidelines below.
- Have a generator ready to use. You may need power to blow out water lines, or run a heater or other appliances. Never run gas or other fuel powered generators or heaters indoors. Exhaust from these generators contain high levels of carbon monoxide, which can result in serious injury or death from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Be prepared with tools, such as wrenches, compressors, extension cords, and flashlights. (The lights that clip onto the bill of a ball cap come in very handy!)
- Remove water from supply lines by opening valves and blowing out the lines with a compressor. (We recommend you consult or hire a plumber. Using improper procedures or too much pressure can cause significant damage to your plumbing system.)
- Make sure you have gas and electric utilities turned on.
- Set your thermostat to 55 degrees.
- Turn the water supply off. If you have a water-fed fire suppression system, leave that on and ensure the space is properly heated. Consult a plumber or a fire suppression contractor for additional guidance.
- Drain your water heater and turn it off.
- Turn toilet valves off and flush to remove water from the holding tank.
- Pour RV antifreeze in all plumbing drains and traps, including toilets, showers, floor drains, and sinks. Pour just enough to fill the traps.
- Change your furnace filter to ensure efficient heating.
- Check on your vacant space often to ensure that the heat is functioning properly. Always check during extreme cold and power outages.
How Do I Dewinterize?
When the last frost has passed or you are ready to actively use a vacant property again, you will need to reverse the actions you took to winterize.
- Turn the water supply on. Listen and watch carefully for leaks.
- Run or pour water in all drains and traps to clear out the antifreeze.
- Run your heating and cooling system as normal.
- Remember to change your furnace filters.
The above is meant to be used as a guide and not intended as an exhaustive checklist. For additional guidance on winterizing your property, we recommend you reach out to and/or request service from licensed plumbing and HVAC professionals.
“Winterizing your property early helps you protect your investment,” Chagnon continued. “Save yourself the headache and the high price tag of burst pipes and other wintertime damage. Our team is here for you and can help answer questions or connect you with qualified pros who can get the job done.”
Contact us today to learn more.