Leaving an old, stone solid wall home empty during winter?
I am buying an old (1850′s) stone, solid wall home in a rural location. It has no addditional internal or external insulation. It doesn’t have gas or oil central heating but does have electric storage heaters.
Unfortunately I cannot move in now and due to it’s isolated, rural location it isn’t an option to rent it. I am very concerned about leaving it empty this winter. Can anyone offer advice about how to best winter proof it and if I should leave the heating on, drain taps? What types of whether damage are possible? What are other negative side effects I haven’t mentioned so far?
We go through this each fall for our summer house. True, it is only 30 years old, but the principles are the same, and as yours, it has no central heat. What we have done and do each fall is:
a) Install heat-trace on the well-line. The well line is hard plastic and we are told it is freeze-proof, but we do put trace on it as a precaution. The trace extends from the pump head (shallow-well pump inside the house) to about 4′ underground.
b) Drain the pump. There is a small drain on the pump head for this purpose.
c) Use compressed air to blow out all the water lines. We have a PEX piping system that is also stated to be freeze-proof, but… We have unions at the distribution manifold that we open and run air from a small compressor to all of the faucets, the toilet, washer connection and so forth.
d) Similarly, we blow out the water heater and leave it disconnected. It is a tankless type, so that is a simple process.
e) We put RV antifreeze (non-toxic propylene-glycol – based) in all the traps, toilet bowl and toilet tank.
f) We put fresh batteries in the smoke-detectors.
g) Disconnect all appliances and leave open (stove, microwave and refrigerator).
h) We put small bowls of a few mothballs under the sink, in all the closets, on top of the stove and in the oven against mice and other vermin (it works).
i) We clean scrupulously – every surface – no dust, no grease, no paper, no debris that might make attractive bedding for mice.
Lock everything up and relax. We have been going through this routine for 30 years now and have not lost anything yet. As long as there are no massive thermal shocks, materials such as stone, plaster and other hard materials will be undamaged by cold. And a tight house will not be subject to moisture problems.
There is no need to leave the heat on unless you intend to use it on more than just a very few occasions. And electric heat is very expensive. Note also that even if you heat the house, pipes not in use and possibly exposed to the exterior may freeze even if the house is heated to some degree. Pipes in crawl-spaces are particularly vulnerable.
Good luck with it.
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