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

Real Estate Agent with MOOERS REALTY ME Broker License 106759

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





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Anita Clark
Coldwell Banker Access Realty ~ 478.960.8055 - Warner Robins, GA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA

Andy: Very applikcable to anyone living in a cold weather environment. Thankfully, it is not an issue in my neck of the woods. ;-)

Mar 09, 2018 08:52 AM #9
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Andrew.  What's that saying about learning something new(or different) every day. That's definitely true on AR.  Nice info.





Mar 09, 2018 09:03 AM #10
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 - I am thrilled to see this one featured. So many people visit Maine during the summer and fall in love there. Many dream of owning a home in Maine and know nothing about the challenges residents face with winter ice, snow, freezing temperatures and unexpected freeze/thaw/freeze situations. You are an Agent in the know who knows about these types of challenges and home maintenance specific to your climate. I can think of no one better who knows the Maine market and homes built in Maine better than you. 

Mar 09, 2018 09:26 AM #11
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

I too am glad to see the star. So much wonderful information packed in this post. D 

Mar 09, 2018 09:56 AM #12
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

During the recent recession when much of our listing inventory consisted of short sales and bank-owned homes, it was not uncommon to show a house that was being managed by a national company that specialized in managing foreclosed properties for major lenders. It always brought a smile to my face when I saw signs notifying visitors that a house had been “winterized”. Turning on faucets or using the toilet(s) was forbidden. In the mild San Francisco Bay area climate, this was overkill and was problematic for doing home inspections. It also made the house less desirable, harder to sell and led to even lower prices.

One more reason to be glad those days are over.

Mar 09, 2018 10:00 AM #13
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

A different world with different seasons, an owner needs to consider what they are buying and how it needs to be treated so they don't encounter problems. Great eye opening post!

Mar 09, 2018 11:50 AM #14
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Andrew

There is a lot of wise advice here for homeowners. Trying to save some money can definitely come back to bite you if you run out of fuel, or the pipes freeze. I think it make sense if you are an absentee owner to have someone check the house regularly, in addition to being cautious about what is done to prepare the house for being vacant, especially in the colder months.

We have friends whose second home in VT had an issue with pipes freezing and it cost them tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.


Mar 09, 2018 04:42 PM #15
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Andrew,

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Nice snow shoes.

Mar 09, 2018 08:39 PM #16
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

To heat or not to heat, that is the question..

Thanks for sharing your Northern perspective on the question.

Mar 10, 2018 04:09 AM #17
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 ,

So glad to see this post featured! I would most certainly keep a home heated during the winter months. You have some harsh winters and not worth the risk of pipes freezing! You are the Agent in the know in Maine and understands these types of challenges and home maintenance specific to your climate. Everyone would be wise to listen to your advice!

Mar 10, 2018 05:32 AM #18
Susan McCall 503-481-2256 Principal Broker-Oregon
Compass Realty Solutions - Portland, OR
Listing and Buyer's Agent

When I was living in Albuquerque I took a trip for a week.  I thought I had done all the right things.  I asked a friend, a realtor by the way, to stop by and check on my house, left a key.  Of course there was a freezing spell.  When I came back and walked in the house and all the windows were covered with condensation.  Hummnnn???  Walked around and then peeked down the stairs to the basement and was totally unprepared for what greeted me.  Water at a depth of about 10 inches!!!  The faucet outside had frozen and then broken and the water flowed for days into the basement.  Whew!

I had forgotten to turn off the water feed to the faucet on the covered patio.  This was the faucet that filled the hot tub!  Left the heat on in the house, left the key with a friend and still!!!  That was quite a mess to clean up.  Ended up with some new carpet and a LOT of work drying everything out.

My buyer clients think I'm a bit of a nerd when I make a big deal out of knowing how to turn off the water supply from the street but this is so important.  That and the faucets on the outside.

Great and very thorough article!

Mar 10, 2018 12:54 PM #19
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Heaven forbid a house with frozen pipes and all that comes with it. It will soon be over though.

Mar 11, 2018 09:18 PM #20
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Turn on the air Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089 ! But like the breeze in your island paradise.

Mar 12, 2018 03:52 AM #21
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I'd say drain the pipes then leave the heat on low.

We had a situation here a few years ago. A gentleman passed away and his daughters decided to finish the basement and rejuvenate the upstairs with new carpet, etc. They listed with a friend of their dad's (in a neighboring town) and went back to their homes in California and Florida.

The agent decided not to have the house drained, but to just leave the heat on. Trouble is, he didn't bother to hire anyone to plow the snow, so the fuel truck couldn't get to the propane tank. He also didn't bother to come back after about October. (Some friend, wasn't he?)

When other friends went by in April to see how the house had fared over the winter they found the door open and heard water running. Maybe someone was there, taking a shower. But - no car in the driveway. Further investigation revealed a broken water pipe and a basement with 2' of water - and all that new sheetrock from the ceiling floating in it.

Did the insurance cover it? Heck no. Since there was no mortgage, the girls didn't think they needed insurance, so there wasn't any.

Mar 12, 2018 10:13 AM #22
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Thanks for sharing that story Marte Cliff ! No fuel, no heat, frozen pipes and oh oh. Home ownership has responsibilities when weather visits and temps drop.

Mar 12, 2018 12:12 PM #23
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Peace of mind is worth what you spend on heat...and having a friend or neighbor check in on a regular basis doesn't hurt either !

Mar 13, 2018 04:35 AM #24
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

This is great advice. Not something we really have to think about often down here in the south, but there are times when we need to keep these things in mind. Great post. Thanks for sharing. It was most informative. 

Mar 13, 2018 09:33 PM #25
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Excellent information Andrew.  Thankfully this is something we don't need to worry about in Florida.

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