Being that Big Bear often experiences freezing temperatures during winter months, there are a few important steps you can take to protect your home against the elements. One of the most important ways to protect your Big Bear home is to winterize it when not in use.
Because water expands when frozen, if water in your home's pipes freezes, the expanding pressure oftentimes causes cracks. Cracks in pipes cause leaks - anywhere from drips to gushing water. The last thing anyone wants to deal with when arriving at your Big Bear home is a flooded house!
To protect against this happening, there are a few easy steps you can follow to empty the pipes of water in your Big Bear home thus protecting it from potential damage.
(DISCLAIMER: All Big Bear homes are different. The following process applies to most homes, but it is important for you to find out if there are any special and/or unique processes your particular home might need for winterization. To do so, I recommend you ask your professional home inspector or licensed plumber about the winterization process for your particular property.)
1) Locate the stop and waste valve. The stop and waste valve is a square looking metal rod sticking out of the ground. It is usually found in your front yard, relatively close to the house, and is usually in line with the water meter box at the street. Keep in mind that some Big Bear homes are unique and you may have to poke around to find the stop and waste valve. Some houses have them indoors, under the sink, under the home, etc. Sometimes, homes will have two of these rods - one for the house and one for the landscaping system. You will want to identify which is which. Most people will turn off the landscaping stop and waste in the fall once the system is no longer needed.
2) Turn this rod with a wrench one-quarter turn (90 degrees) clockwise to shut off the water leading from the water supply line in the street to your home. DO NOT OVER-TURN! You may break the valve which is an expensive fix!
3) Then go into your home and open all the water fixtures, draining water from the lines inside the house. Leave no faucet unopened. Sinks, water spigots outside, flush toilets, open the tub and shower valves, etc.
4) Let the water drain out of the fixtures and then wait a few extra minutes. Then go back around the home and turn off all the water fixtures that you previously opened.
5) To be EXTRA CAREFUL, you might want to get some biodegradable antifreeze and slpash a little into all the drains in your house as well as into your toilets. Splash antifreeze in all your sink drains, shower and tub drains, into the remaining toilet water and some in the tanks of the toliets. This will keep the water in your drain traps and in your toilets from freezing and causing leaks.
6) To be EXTRA CAREFUL, you also might want to leave your home's thermostat on a low setting, such as 50-55 degrees.
Lastly, many people choose to make turning down the temperature on their water heater part of their winterization process as well. On the base of your water heater, you will see a temperature dial. Many people will turn it down to the "vacation" setting or "pilot" setting. This is not due to safety but simply as an energy savings. Just keep in mind that when you next come to your home to turn the temperature back up as it will likely take a few hours before you have hot water.
This process may seem complicated. But after doing it a few times, I guarantee you it will become second nature and will take less than 5 minutes to do. This 5 minutes is worth the peace of mind of not having to wonder whether the latest cold spell in Big Bear has caused a leak in your house.
To DE-WINTERIZE your Big Bear home, simply turn the stop and waste valve back on by turning it a quarter turn counter-clockwise. You might want to open all the faucets in your home for a minute to allow for air bubbles to work their way through the lines. Otherwise, when you first use your water, it will "spit" a little as air bubbles get cleared from the pipes.
Check out the gorgeous landscapes of Bear Valley in this Big Bear International Film Festival trailer.