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Draining Your House, Not Heating The Home | Should You Do It?

The home in Maine, you are going away in the winter and wondering about saving a few fuel bucks in heating cost.

Should you drain your house pipes, blow out the plumbing and not heat your home winters in Maine?

When a pipe bursts in a baseboard heating element or in a bathroom, the kitchen. It is not just a short section of pipe you have to replace. It is the water damage caused from the running H2O that ruins ceilings, from the second floor cascading down to soak the first floor. Then onward to the basement to fill it up higher and higher. Filling starting from the top, heading to the bottom. Like a geyser. Until someone stops the flow. Or old man winter freezes up the place solid so the running water stops. No one's home. They don't know yet. Who's your insurance agent again?cruise ship photo

You're off on a long long sea cruise. A Carribean boat ride collecting island t-shirts and eating every twenty minutes. Admiring the blue green water.

"But a lot can happen in that week or more when you are enjoying music played on a steel drum in Margaritaville ." Winter temperatures in Maine go up and down like the stock market. If you don't like the weather  just wait a half hour and see a change any of the four seasons. It never dull or boring. 

During a heat wave spell in winter melting snow outside that has no other place to go due to frozen ground around your hoime can seep into your cellar. And did you remember to plug in the sub pump? Did you?

I know I know those usually only come on a few weeks during spring thaw to discharge any basement water that enters the house around the bulkhead or the same old place over in the corner most years. But protecting from cellar water in the early spring, late winter is not the only time a sub pump is needed. And they work better when they are plugged in to the electrical outlet. Especially if no one is checking your vacant home in Maine. The sub pump is a bigger deal than did you remember to turn off and unplug the coffee pot. In the mad dash frenzy to get on the road packed to the gills with all those wild floral pattern shirts. winter home stained glass photo

But fast forward a little. Imagine you get the mail at your palm tree vacation home where life is free and easy. Pass the suntan #45 lotion and any one want another glass or orange juice from the fresh squeezed tree out back? Aren't those azaleas and dogwoods beautiful?

Then it happens in slow motion.

The worse situation occurs when you get your heating oil bill hand delivered down in the sunny south where you vacation half the year.

You struggle and rip open the cellophane window security envelope, temporally smile because you think hey, no big bill. Cool. Hey, the Maine home did not use hardly any oil compared to the same month last winter. Silence. It sinks in. That is not a good thing as you think a little more about it. As the what that really means sinks in.

No oil usage means no heat which spells frozen pipes in the unheated Maine home. We do list and have to watch many heated homes with no one in them. That are attractive for a home buyer really to roll and needing immediate occupancy. Cash buyers gobble them up in winter especially. They are like musical chair rare because they have house sitters or month to month renters in place waiting for the real estate sale to happen. But helping subsidize the place.

When you do vacate the premises to move to your second vacation home, there are a bunch of things to do when you leave the property in Maine unattended.

Make sure kitchen cabinets under the sink are left open so inside room temperature circulates around the pipes. Or turn the water off at the supply in the cellar whether public or private well service. At least if a pipe in a heated home does leak, it won't gush forever if a warm spell continues before back to the snow channel. Only so much water in the line to spill and open up the faucets of baths and kitchens to remove the pressure, most of the water in a drained home helps. Proper winterization of plumbing means an air compressor blew the lines to remove all the water.maine ice rink zaboni photo

Heating zones in a hot water furnace can have special antifreeze - glycol added. It's less toxic like RV antifreeze. Or the kind you use in jet skis and boats when you put them away for the late summer season heading into fall. Can set you back $300 for just the goop to fill the zone and heat exchanger that won't freeze that protects the loop. But this is way way cheaper than the damage that happens when the heat goes off and the temperatures of winter go lower. That is one bad combination.

Ice just polished smooth by the Zamboni passes between periods at a Maine ice hockey arena is a beautiful thing.

Thick and solid on your kitchen floor, other areas in your home sweet home too is not so pretty a situation. My two boys played kitchen hockey but not on real ice, just an artifical vinyl surface.

Make sure outside faucet spigots are drained back and left turned on all the way to keep them from freezing, expanding, bursting. That you only discover won't work in spring wheen you already hauled  out the long hose to wash down the house or scrubby dub dub the family sedan. Make sure any house heating or plumbing pipes in unheated root cellars or exposed areas are wrapped with insulation. Usually in crawl space additions the air is not circulating like it should. And when you are not living in a house during the winter in Maine, the interior temperature is not usually dialed in at 70 but locked and loaded closer to 50 degrees. or even lower.

Before you wave good by to your Maine home getting smaller in the rear view mirror and head south or west, check that insulation boards are put in that outside entrance Bilco door. That they are secure in place and doing the work to seal out drafts heading into your attic stairway door or hatch.

welcome to maine photoSame with any other holes where light is showing from outdoors. Those are heat loss areas that all add up with the same effect as a giant hole in the side of your home. You want to heat as cheaply as possible. Same advice with winter storm windows no one put down all the way and locked tightly. Or oh oh. Left open one or two in a back bedroom or storage area you don't use and did not check in the hurry to get out of Dodge in the 'er.... Dodge or Hudson, Porsche or whatever brand you 10 and 2.

The no one's home in the house in Maine situation is a sticky, risky one.

Your oil delivery man that beep beep backs in to hook up the life line automatically might forget. The when to come is figured on heating degree days but mistakes happen when those trucks are running day and night. And will your home owners insurance policy cover the big loss? You'll find out.

Just like not heeding notices from your agency carrier who reminds you to keep those porch and snow collecting lower roof slopes cleared from the heavy weight of snow.

Especially when rain is predicted to soak in and really weigh down those overhead asphalt or tar and gravel roofs if the temps shoot up just long enough to make rain not white fluffy snow. Look up and see that sag from the weight and water drip drip dripping making the ceiling brown and wet? Water outside in Maine is beautiful to watch and listen to. maine winter snow shoes photo

We hear it all the time from Maine real estate buyers who want property next to water, any kind of water no matter if it is a little stream, on the lake, pond, river, the ocean.

The inside cascading waterfalls kind is not nearly as popular.

Those freeze up homes are hard to sell because banks want them fixed and replacing all that heating, plumbing, repairing damage is one big bill pill to swallow.

Maintenance is that is part of the pride of ownerships that never stops needing attention when the Maine home owner is away on vacation. No one is home, not even a Kevin to defend the place from all that can happen left when the house is left unattended. One light on but the rest of the place darker than the inside of a cow.

The pros and cons of what to do about the heating the home question and what can go wrong while you are away.

Heated homes sell faster and no one gets frost bite during real estate showings. At leave the power on so showings are not darker than the inside of a cow with a step this way, follow the flashlight please. Watch your head, we're inching our way down into the cellar. Ever heard stories about what does occur to vacant houses and you were glad it was not your home needing lots of unexpected expensive damage repairs? Read more on whether you should heat the place, drain the home and hope everything survives the winter months in Maine without costly repairs. The blog post article "The Maine home furnace had plenty of oil".

I'm Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers, ME Broker
 | 207.532.6573

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Comment balloon 28 commentsAndrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 • March 06 2018 09:22PM
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