One of the most important steps in closing a house during the winter, if only for a short period, is draining the plumbing system. The entire system must be drained and prepared to preclude any possibility of a pipe's freezing and breaking, with consequent damage to decorations and furniture. Many owners of summer homes have returned after the winter months to find extensive damage caused by water from a cracked pipe. Plumbing should also be drained immediately if there is any breakdown of the home heating system during freezing weather.
Drain the plumbing system thoroughly. If one pipe is left undrained, it can cause great damage ; consequently, it is recommended that a check list be used when draining the system. This list should include each branch line and plumbing fixture of the system. By checking off each portion of the system as it is drained, the home mechanic can be sure that he has completely emptied the system. Use the list, as well, for reference when putting the system back into service.
Close water supply
The first step in draining the system is to shut off the water supply to the house. If this supply is furnished by a city water main, there is a valve located on the service line between the house and the water main. This valve is underground, below the frost line. A concrete curb box, fitted with a removable top, covers the valve. Remove the top of the curb box and use a long rod with a key at the end to turn off the valve. This key can be obtained from a plumber or from the local water authorities.
After the curb valve has been closed, close the main shut-off valve inside the house. This valve should be fitted with a small drain cock to drain the valve and connecting pipe. Do not open this drain cock until the rest of the system has been emptied, or all the water remaining in the system will flow through the opening.
Hot water system
Open all faucets after you have shut off the water supply at the curb valve and main shut-off valve. This will drain the water out of the pipes to the level of the lowest. fixture. With the faucets open, drain the hot water tank. Be sure that the hot water heater is out.
Faucets must be kept open when draining the tank, or a partial vacuum will form inside the tank and prevent complete drainage. Drain the hot water tank by means of the valve located at the bottom of the tank. You will have to dispose of the water issuing from the tank, and you can do so by connecting a length of garden hose to the valve so that the water flows out of the basement or by having a few pails on hand. Remove all the water from the coils of the water heater. It may be necessary to remove a section of pipe and use air pressure to blow the water completely out of the coils.
Steam and hot water heating systems must be drained if the house is to be closed during the winter, or if, for any reason, the heating system must be shut down during freezing weather.
The fire in the furnace must be out before the system is drained. Close the main shut-off valve and open the drain valve located at the bottom of the boiler. If possible, connect a length of hose to the drain to carry the water to a floor drain or out-of-doors. If this cannot be done, have buckets on hand. Open the water supply valve to drain this line to the boiler.
Open all the valves on the radiators in order to drain them and their connecting lines. This must also be done on a steam system, as there will be some moisture in the radiators from the condensed steam.
Cold water supply
With the hot water system completely drained, move on to the cold water supply. If the shut-off valve inside the house is provided with a drain cock, the system is easily drained. With all faucets opened, open the drain cock and allow the water to flow into buckets. If there is no drain cock, it will be necessary to disconnect a section of pipe at the lowest point in the system. You will need a stilson wrench for this. Have the faucets on the line closed while the pipes are being disconnected, to prevent a minor flood. After the pipes are apart, place a bucket under the break and open the faucets.
Make a careful check of any horizontal sections of pipe to be sure that there is sufficient pitch to the pipe for drainage. If water remains in a horizontal section, you will have to disconnect a section of pipe and force the water out of the line with air pressure.
It is not necessary to drain the plumbing system when closing a house for the summer, but the main shut-off valve should be closed to prevent any loss of water through leaky faucets.
If the house is supplied with water by means of a pump and pressure tank, great care should be taken to remove all the water from pump, tank, and connecting lines. There is a special valve at the end of the pipe running from the pump to the well or spring. This valve prevents water from draining out of the pipe into the well and must be forced open to empty this section of pipe.
Turning on water
When the time comes to turn on the water, refer to the check list made when draining the system.
Check the entire plumbing carefully to be sure that everything has been connected and that all the pipes are sound. Close all the branch valves and open the main valve and curb valve. If the system appears to be in good condition, open one branch valve at a time.
Make certain that each branch line is in
good working order before opening another valve. Do this carefully and
there should be no difficulty. Do not open valves until you are sure that
the system is performing satisfactory.