What is the cheapest and most efficient way to protect my pipes from freezing should the electricity go off?

I have smallish house (800 sq ft) in the northeast. I want to go away for a few months but am worried about the pipes freezing. I will be leaving my central heating (propane) on low (45-50 degrees).   But what if the electricity goes off?  Should I just have the pipes emptied? Or should I leave a drip in the various sinks?  Someone said I should turn off the water valve and the water pump - would that work?  What about antifreeze in heating pipes? I'm not that eager to do that.  Any help would be appreciated. 

Update:

Everyone is saying to drain the pipes. But what about the heating pipes?  I want to leave heat on in the house because I hear it won't be good for my particular house to leave without heat. So would I drain everything except the heating pipes? Would that be pretty safe to do?

14 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    3 weeks ago

    If electricity goes off it goes on again very soon because the UTILITY cannot charge you for electricity if you do not use it.  The Utility company is there to make money...so the fix is on its way...FAST.   If your propane runs on a pilot flame, that will continue to burn power or no power.  Even the spark igniter furnaces are controlled by the thermostat which in many cases still MERCURY switches so that is the thermometer so as soon as power comes back on the thermostat gets electricity and it tells the furnace to fire up to raise the room temp to 50 which is enough heat to keep the pipes from freezing.  My thermostat does not go to OFF. 50 is as low as it goes.  The longest my power has been off is 4 hours in the winter. The reason for the outage was a crash bam smash...a"1 off " type disaster that affected the power grid.   While the Utility was fixing that, it was also rerouting the power lines to go down other lines to feed my area.  So instead of getting power from the North.  The power came from the South...to get the lights on.(Lights also includes heaters.) it is just that we see the lights first. Refrigerators switch on.

    For me with some of my devices, power outages happen every day(that is, fluctuates a lot, not enough to turn off the TV or computer, as it was a quick hick-up.

    Getting back to you.  Heat or no heat. For a house it does not matter.

    However you must drain the heating system if it is water.

    Some have a closed loop heating system so it is more an antifreeze than a water.  No need to drain antifreeze.  You got to know what you got.

    Also you got to turn off the taps at the toilets and flush the tank to empty out the water.   Now you need plumbing Antifreeze and it goes in the toilet bowl and down each sink to fill each Pee trap. Sink P traps take about 2 cups of antifreeze. Laundry washing machine is also connected to a P trap and it needs to have 2 cups poured down the pipe.  Then the floor drain between the hot water tank and bathroom or kitchen has a p trap and that too also needs antifreeze.  And your water tank needs to be drained which is 40 or 60 or 100 gallon tank (meaning you shut off the water to the house first...and then open the sink taps to relieve the pressure and then the bottom tap at the tank and direct that water into a floor drain. Later you put in the Antifreeze in the drain.

    The purpose of a P trap is to keep the sewer gases from entering the house.  Because after a few months away it will smell like rotten athlelic underwear and it is absorbed into the floor carpets, the flat wall paint, the clothing in the closets and the natural woodwork and everything that is a fabric(including lamp shades, fake flowers books, papers, blankets etc. 

    It will be a whore house extraordinaire kind of odor.

    Without the perfume to hide it.  Basically a form of rotten egg odor...but not really egg, but you can't put your finger on it exactly.

    Now, if you bathroom and laundry room were not part of the house but in the shed next door then it would not affect the whole house.  Like who cares if the outhouse freezes?  There is no running water.

    So, it is a big hassle to save a couple of bucks.  You could save those bucks by not leaving on holiday.

  • 3 weeks ago

    Some houses are not properly plumbed to completely drain the domestic water and the radiator system. You may need to hire someone to "blow out the pipes" to make sure there isn't any water to freeze inside them.

  • Joe
    Lv 5
    3 weeks ago

    Easy to do. Shut the main water valve, open and drain all faucets toilets, furnace and water heater. No problem. Put a rag over sink drains to help keep the sewer gasses out. Ans give you houseplants to someone !!  Keep window shades open to let the sun warm up the rooms a bit each day. Where are you going, Florida or out west  ??

    • Nuff Sed
      Lv 7
      3 weeks agoReport

      Some houses are not properly plumbed to completely drain the domestic water and the radiator system. You may need to hire someone to "blow out the pipes" to make sure there isn't any water to freeze inside them.

  • 3 weeks ago

    I have found (the hard way) that leaving a dripping faucet doesn't work. You can end up with a sink (and floor) full of ice plus frozen water and drain pipes.

    • Nuff Sed
      Lv 7
      3 weeks agoReport

      True, many people fail to consider what happens when the DRAIN freezes shut and the water is still dripping...

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  • y
    Lv 7
    3 weeks ago

    As the others say, shut off and drain, that is what typically is done. The only issue is, when water lines and drains are not used for extended periods. They can often develop issues. When the traps in drain lines dry up, they can allow gasses back up int the house and such. Minor things but just should be expected.

  • 3 weeks ago

    no antifreeze ... the stuff is poison. what you do is turn the pump off and drain the pipes. after you turn the pump off, gravity will draw any remaining water is the top of the well back down, so it won't freeze [the temp six to ten feet down is a constant 59 degrees]

    • Nuff Sed
      Lv 7
      3 weeks agoReport

      It many be much more complicated to drain the heating pipes.

  • 3 weeks ago

    I suggest you check with folks in your area about what they do rather than ask a bunch of yahoos.

    I’ve stayed at a cabin in snow country where the water would be turned off completely when no one was in the cabin, this was normal for that area.

  • 3 weeks ago

    If you will be away for an extended period of time, you can shot off the water and DRAIN the lines.

  • 3 weeks ago

    Drain and winterize your water system.

  • 3 weeks ago

    If you are going to be gone that length of time, have the lines emptied.  Call a plumber in the area that knows how to do it properly.  There's too many variables that can cause a disaster situation when you return.

    You have to get that water out of the lines.  Just turning off the water pump and valve won't do the job.

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