In a statement released by New Jersey Natural Gas public relations staff, the utility company explains the steps to winterize a home after a natural disaster:
NJNG and local officials discussed the need for homeowners to begin planning to winterize their homes prior to the arrival of freezing weather. Local officials are advising that homeowners should contact qualified contractors or plumbers and get their homes on waiting lists, so that when they are able to regain access to their homes, they are ready to go.
Preparing your home for the winter involves several steps, and these steps may vary depending on whether you will reside in the home during the winter. The steps are summarized below, but each home may be different:
Basic steps to winterize a home – if you are leaving:
- Turn Off Water -- Locate and turn off the main water shut off valve.
- Water Heater -- After the water is off, turn off and drain the water heater. Electric water heaters should be shut off at the breaker. A faucet or spigot will need to be opened to allow air to flow in as water is drained out.
- Drain Supply Lines -- Water then should be drained from the entire water supply system, faucets and fixture shut off valves left open. If the house is on a well, the pressure tank should also be drained.
- Blow Out the Water Supply Lines -- Though gravity may be sufficient to drain the plumbing in many homes, standing water will remain in some pipes. Though the water is no longer under pressure, this remaining water will freeze and may strain some fittings. Water should be blown out of the water supply lines with an air compressor. Using special fittings to connect a compressor to the house plumbing, the water supply lines should be cleared of water by systematically closing and opening faucets and valves starting with plumbing fixtures most distant from the compressor and working backward.
- Other Items to Drain -- Water softeners, filters, and water treatment systems also need to be drained.
- Anti-Freeze -- Once all the water supply lines are completely empty, flush the toilets until they are empty, then winterize toilets and other drain traps by filling them with a special non-toxic RV type antifreeze solution (pink in color).
- Other Appliances -- Keep in mind that water also runs through many appliances such as the washing machine and dishwasher, as well as the water supply line to the ice-maker in refrigerators. Each one of these will also need to be drained and/or disconnected. Anti-freeze should be poured into the bottom of the dishwasher and washing machine.
- Turn Off Electrical -- Turn off all electrical breakers to appliances as well as any other unnecessary breakers, and post a reminder note at the panel to make sure the electric water heater and other appliances aren’t turned on before the water is turned on.
- Heating systems -- High-efficiency furnaces (also called condensing furnaces) generate a significant amount of condensation from the water vapor in the flue gases. These systems, as well as air conditioners, have a condensate drain line. Sometimes the condensate drains into a floor drain, but if there's no drain available the condensate drains into a small pump which pumps the fluid uphill into the plumbing drain. Though there is less chance of damage, these should also be looked at.
- Special Heating Systems -- If the home has any sort of a more elaborate heating system such as a heat pump or radiant floor heat, then it should be handled by a HVAC professional familiar with these systems.
- Warning -- Post signs in conspicuous locations (“Winterized - Do Not use Plumbing”) just in case there are unexpected visitors.
Consider as many of the steps below as apply to your home. Steps you can take to prepare your home for the winter -- if you are staying in it:
- For any system that will not be functional, you may winterize it as outlined above.
- Check the Foundation -- Debris should be raked away from the foundation, entry points should be sealed up to prevent small animals from crawling up under house, foundation cracks should be sealed, check sill plates for dry rot or pests, crawlspace entrances should be secured.
- Roof, Gutters, & Downspouts -- Inspect, add extra insulation to attic to prevent the warm air from getting out, which can cause ice dams. Make sure water cannot get into your home by checking the flashing. Worn or missing roof shingles or tiles should be replaced. Gutters should be cleaned out. Use a hose. Install leaf guards on gutters to direct water away from your home.
- Prepare Pipes to Avoid Freezing -- Know where you water main is in case of an emergency shut off. Insulate exposed plumbing pipes. Drain garden hoses. Drain air conditioner pipes. Turn off water shut-off valve, if you have one.
- Seal off drafty windows and patio doors with clear plastic.
- If you have a lot of outside doors that leak air, you can seal a few off using plastic or caulk putty.
- Try replacing the weather stripping around the doors in your home.
- Uncover all south-facing windows to let all possible sunlight in your home.
- If you have a fireplace, close the damper when the fireplace is not in use.
- If the damper is old or doesn’t close well, try putting some insulation in it to seal it off. Just remember to take it out before using it!
- Install foam insulators behind the face plates of light switches and electrical outlets.
- Reverse the direction of ceiling fans to push hot air downward and delay it from escaping the house.
- Consider hanging thermal curtains to help prevent drafts.
- Install a dryer vent seal to prevent cold air from traveling back into your home.
- Check windows for leaks. Windows with wooden frames often warp and become inefficient.
- Caulk both sides of the trim around your windows. This is an area where a lot of air can get in.
- Remove any window-unit air conditioners.
- Keep all closet doors closed when possible. There’s no need to heat space that isn’t in use as long as it doesn’t contain water pipes.
- Replace the caulking around any bathtubs or showers.
- If your home has folding attic stairs, consider insulating the door with a cover of some sort.
- If your home has a sliding glass door, check the seal on the bottom to make sure it isn’t letting in cold air.
- Make sure that there aren’t any drafts coming in under doors. If there are, consider using a rubber strip to seal them off.
- Replace worn or missing shingles.