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Winterizing Outdoor Faucets

Most any Michigander can explain the importance of winterizing exterior faucets, but do you actually know how?  It seems like a simple task, but there are a few tricks to getting it right.

1.)  Disconnect the Garden Hose – Simple, drain and store the hose and any accessories in the garage or shed.

2.)  Inspect – check fixtures for leaks and drips.  Water dripping, no matter how slowly can freeze in the pipe or the fixture.  While a frozen outdoor faucet may not be apparent until the next season, it may be possible to minimize the damage by repairing the leak before the winter.

3.) Drain – Getting as much water out of the pipes is the second step to winterize outdoor faucets. If you have a hose bib that is not freeze proof the best way to do this is to shut off that line if possible and drain it down. If you cannot isolate the water supply to hose bib to shut it off be sure to use extra insulation in the next step.

For a frost free hose bib this step isn’t necessary since the fixture’s design (when properly installed) keeps water well back away from the end of the spigot. Just as with regular hose bibs, however, hoses and other attachments should be removed from frost free hose bibs before the winter or they may not drain down properly.

4.)  Protect – The last step to winterize outdoor faucets is to protect them with insulation. An easy way to do this is to install a hose bib cover on each outdoor fixture including frost free hose bibs. Hose bib covers are square or dome shaped to fit right over outdoor faucets. They are made of thick foam so they are quite effective at keeping most of the cold away from the valve. When covering regular hose bibs that could not be drained extra insulation can be installed inside the hose bib cover to keep it warm and dry throughout the winter. In most situations, however, the hose bib cover will provide enough insulation.
Although they are resistant to freezing, Frost free hose bibs should be covered as well because although they are resistant to freezing they are not completely frost proof in the coldest weather. There are rubber gaskets and washers inside the frost free hose bibs that will benefit from the extra protection from the cold that a hose bib cover can provide.
Hose bib covers can be found in most hardware or home improvement stores and are very inexpensive and easy to install. Covers can usually be reused for several years so they are a good long term purchase. For just a few dollars per fixture you can winterize outside faucets quickly and then move on to any other winterizing plumbing tasks that may be necessary.

Avoid Irrigation Irritation

Fall is the time to drain and winterize your irrigation system.  sprinkler-pop_up_headBuried irrigation lines can freeze, leaving you with burst pipes  and broken sprinkler heads.  A few simple steps can save you some spring time Irrigation Irritation.

  1. Using the main valve, turn off the water that feeds the system.
  2. Turn off the automatic controller
  3. Remove water from the system by opening the drain valves.
  4. Remove above-ground sprinkler heads, shake any remaining water out and replace them.

Perhaps you don’t have drain valves or are unfamiliar with the system – Hire an irrigation professional to use an air compressor to blow out the system.  The $75-$150 charge is worth making sure the job is done right and not having repairs to make in the spring.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Different regions have different kinds of falls. In some places, it’s cool and rainy, and in others, it’s sunny and dry. Often, fall is a time for gathering in the harvest and preparing for festive holidays indoors. No matter what kind of fall you have, these steps can help during the transition from summer to winter.

Inside the home

Fall is a good time to complete indoor projects.

  • Repair vinyl and wood floors
  • Examine and repair indoor staircases
  • Test the furnace to make sure it works properly
  • Maintain locks, lubricating as necessary
  • Repair and replace caulking in floors and baseboards and around windows and doors
  • Remove and replace crumbling caulk around the bathtub, sink, or toilet, and also make sure there is no moisture under the bathtub or shower stall
  • Test for radon gas
  • Lubricate squeaking doors
  • Evaluate insulation
  • Have ventilation ducts cleaned, inspected, and repaired
  • Check for mice and rats—put out traps in areas pests might sneak into the home
  • Patch and paint holes and cracks in walls and ceilings, watch for indications of water damage
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries if needed
  • Repair indoor woodwork
  • Check the stove exhaust fan and remove dust and grease build-up  
  • Install plastic sheets on windows that require extra wind protection
  • Add weather stripping around doors

Outside the Home

With shorter days and the approach of winter, take some time to check the exterior of your home.

  • Check the roof for summer wear and tear
  • Clean gutters and downspouts
  • Drain the evaporative cooler
  • Inspect and service the heating unit
  • Repair cracks in siding and shingles
  • Repair any damaged masonry
  • Insulate water pipes that are exposed to extreme cold
  • Cover outdoor water faucets
  • Remove screens, clean them, and store away for the winter
  • Seal any concrete walkways
  • Check exterior ventilation flaps, making sure they are intact and functional

In the Garage

During the fall, take time to prepare your garage for the upcoming winter.

  • Protect and cover lawn equipment and garden tools
  • Drain lawnmower of gasoline and oil
  • Check for leaks in the doors and repair
  • Examine and repair the weatherstripping at the bottom of the garage door

In the Yard

The freezing and thawing of the impending winter can cause damage to outdoor furniture and your swimming pool.

  • Cover and protect your patio furniture
  • Drain the pool
  • Trim tree limbs that could break under the weight of snow and ice

In the Garden

With the arrival of fall, you can begin your early garden work and check any grading issues.  Keeping landscaping in check can help prevent leaking and foundation damage. 

  • Trim trees, bushes and other ground cover that may be near the foundation
  • Add a protective layer of mulch to your perennials, shrubs, and trees
  • Clean flower beds of spent summer blossoms and plants
  • Turn the compost
  • Remove the garden hose and place inside for the winter
 

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Fall Maintenance

As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take the time this autumn to prepare for the oncoming cold weather. Ready the furnace for the months of work it will have ahead, and clean out the fireplace. Test them both to ensure they’ll be working when you need the heat. Don’t wait until it’s snowing to clear out your gutters. With upkeep in the fall, you’ll have peace of mind in the winter and more time to hibernate.

Inside The House

Heating System Checkup

Be sure to change the air filter in your furnace and check its efficiency before the cold weather begins. Call in an HVAC contractor to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system. Stock up on several air filters for the winter, and change them every month. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, purchase one for the system to help lower your energy costs.

After your furnace has been tuned up to its maximum efficiency, take a moment to inspect your heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them over the summer. Then check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency. If you feel cold air coming in, purchase a plastic sealing kit from the hardware store and place the plastic around the window to keep the heat from escaping. Be sure to check your doors as well, and fix their weather-stripping if needed.

Check The Fireplace & Chimney

Most chimney sweeps recommend an annual sweeping, but depending on how often you use the fireplace, you might be able to wait on a full sweep. But if you will be using the fireplace often, call a chimney sweep for an inspection. For further information, read the Chimney and Woodburning Fireplace Safety guide.

Hopefully you will have your older, seasoned firewood now ready for use after sitting for the spring and summer. It’s recommended to keep the firewood at least 30 feet from the house and covered. Seasoned wood is best for fires, as it burns cleaner and longer.

Review Home Fire Safety

The introduction of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home. Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary, and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Also go over the home fire evacuation plan with your family.

Outside The House

The Gutters

It’s best to inspect and clean the gutters a few times during the fall, especially if there are many leafy trees around your house. If gutters remain clogged, water will spill over them and onto the ground next to the foundation, which may cause damage to the foundation. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and should direct water away from the foundation, as well as from walkways and driveways, so that they do not become slippery or icy.

Yard Maintenance

The orange, yellow, and brown colors of the autumn leaves don’t look as nice on the ground as they do on the trees. Rake the leaves into piles and scoop them into yard waste bags. Most areas have ordinances about burning leaves, so check with your local area government first. When sweeping the leaves off your patio, don’t forget to clean, pack up, and store any patio furniture for the winter. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.

In The Garage

It is recommended that you empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment stored in the garage, such as a lawnmower, because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children’s reach and have it ready for use in your snowblower or emergency generator, if need be.

Test Your Emergency Generator

It’s a good idea to have an emergency generator if you live in an area that sees a lot of ice storms, as these are a major cause of blackouts during the winter. So if you have one, haul it out and give it a test run to see if it is in good working order. Make sure you never run the generator in any enclosed space – like your garage – as it will present a carbon monoxide hazard.

 

Information from State Farm Insurance:  Visit www.StateFarm.com  for more details.