Plumbing in the Home/plumbing/heating


I have a number of questions I need your help with. I live in Wisconsin and leave in December to visit relatives for 3 months. I did the same last year and when I came home, I had to heat the basement and under the kitchen sink before water would flow through my kitchen faucet. I had my thermostat set at 56 degrees. I had foam tubular insulation on my cold water pipe. Part of the problem is that the cold water pipe is ONE inch in from the top of the first layer/row of concrete basement wall and about 7 inches in from the wooden wall that that begins my house that sits upon the concrete basement wall. I have a well and I shut that water supply off before I left, but should I drain the water pipes before leaving this time or get an electric pipe warmer that I plug in to keep the pipes warm? Does a pipe warmer even work well,especially under my circumstances? Turning up the heat is one option, but costly.Is there a better solution to the problem as I don't want to come home to pipes that have burst? Also, should I turn off my electric water heater, turn it off and drain it, or just leave it go? Thank you SO much for your advice. I greatly appreciate it!


ANSWER: Cindy, There are a number of things you can do to keep the pipes from freezing from turning the heat up to  insulating better to draining the system. My advise..drain the system completely as possible. When I winterize a home I turn of the water at the source(well or street valve) then I drain the water heater and all the lines. Next flush all toilets, remove water from the bowl and tank and then, and this is important, I pour windshield washer fluid/antifreeze into the toilet bowl and an inch or two into the tank of all toilet. This is necessary to keep sewer gas out of the house. Next pour the fluid , a cup or so, into all the sink drains. This way you won't have to remove them. Lastly I still keep the heating system on but I set it at 50 to 55. A note, when you do this it has to be done in the proper order so as to not dilute the blue w/s fluid. With the water turned off, leave all faucets wide open, both hot and cold.


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Thank you SO much for your detailed response. I'm sorry but I neglected to tell you that I am on a well and septic system. How will adding the windshield fluid impact my septic system? About how long does it take to drain the water heater...I have a small one. What steps do I take to get the system back up and running again? Thank you ever so much for your kindness in answering my question. You have been a GREAT help!

Cindy, Your Welcome
You can do the entire home with a gallon. No worries with the septic. It is diluted enough to not harm anything.

The water heater will drain exactly long enough to be rid of all the water that is in there(Sorry..I couldn't help myself! ;-)

Seriously though,  in order to drain it quickly, First turn the well pump off at the power switch, not the water valve, that stays open, then  Open all the faucets and leave them open then open the bottom drain of the heater. if you don't get any water out of the bottom drain, close the faucets and turn on the pump power to flush out the drain valve. Once it is running at a good clip, kill the power and open the faucets again. A thirty gallon heater will take 15 to 30 minutes
To get everything back into service..close all faucets and valves, power up the well. Once the well pressure tank is full and the well shuts off, open the water heater cold fill valve slowly and let the tank fill. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the tank is full and well shuts off again, open one faucet at a time and bleed out any air from cold side then the hot side.  

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Jay Nicholas


Plumbing & Heating (warm air, hot water & steam heat)


40 years in the business, 40 years as a lic. master plumber in NY State. Retired

Graduated Magna cum laude at the School of Hard Knocks

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