Preparing your part-time home for the cold off season can be a daunting task, especially if you are trying to do it remotely from another city. There is a lot to do in addition to closing your swimming pool and winterizing your irrigation system. To properly prepare a vacant home for the harsh winter weather, many things must be addressed.
The first thing to do is have your mechanical system serviced. This includes a tune-up of your boiler/furnace, air handlers, ductless units, including changing all of the air filters, as well as servicing your domestic water heater. Steam humidification systems should also be turned on to maintain a minimum humidity level of 45 percent in the house to protect woodwork, electronics and fine art. Many homes have a special anti-freeze in their heating systems to prevent burst pipes in the event the heat goes out accidently. These levels should be tested and also balanced with an inhibitor to prevent internal corrosion of the heating system. This work is usually done in mid-fall when it cools down enough to turn the air conditioner off and the heat back on for the season.
After the heating system is serviced, you should also have the flu pipes for oil fired units swept and inspected to prevent puff backs. Chimneys for wood burning fireplaces and wood stoves should also be swept to prevent chimney fires. Any damaged or missing caps should be repaired or replaced to prevent down drafts as well. Gas fireplaces also need an annual service; if they are not regularly started, cobwebs can form that restrict gas flow or the electric igniters. A gas burner set that is not properly serviced and adjusted can produce thick black smoke that can stain the interior walls and ceiling around them and too much CO2 can be very dangerous to breathe.
By Halloween, all of the outdoor waters should be winterized. This includes draining fixtures, blowing the water out of pipes and adding anti-freeze to the drains of outdoor showers, non-frost free hose spigots, pool houses, detached garages and other non-heated spaces that have unprotected plumbing. Exposed plumbing that must remain on should be wrapped with a heat tape specifically designed to prevent them from freezing in such situations.
Once you are done using the property for the season, outdoor patio furniture should be brought inside or shrink wrapped for the winter. The harsh winter elements eat away at fabric, weather the wood and otherwise reduce the usable life span of such items. Retractable awnings and outdoor kitchens are usually covered with form fitting canvas covers. Outdoor TV sets and speakers should be disconnected and brought inside to a heated space. Free-floating docks and walkways should be removed and brought up on dry land to reduce wear and tear on them. And cars left on site for the winter should be connected to battery tenders or trickle charges to ensure the on-board computers do not drain the car batteries. If the vehicles are not in a garage, they should be covered with a car cover too.
And if you are not regularly using your home, you should strongly consider having a caretaker check on it weekly to find potential hazards and stop them before damage occurs to your home. If your property is properly maintained in the fall and over the winter, it is that much easier to open it up in the spring and prepare it for next summer.