Property Preservation Winterization Overview
There are two types of winterizations, dry and wet. Dry Heat systems are forced hot air, they will have furnaces, vents and/ or registers. Wet heat systems can either be “Steam Heat” or “Radiant Heat”. “Steam Heat” will have a steam boiler and steam running through the system, generally radiators. “Radiant Heat” will have a hot water boiler, expansion tank, and hot water running through radiators or copper tubing located in the floor, walls, and sometimes ceilings. Radiant heat may also be referred to as a “wet system” or “hot water baseboard heat.”
- Property Preservation Winterization Overview
- Materials and Tools Needed To Complete Property Preservation Winterizations
- Winterization Season Start and End Dates Schedule
- FHA Winterization Cost Schedule
- Winterization Videos
- Summary of How I Complete a Property Preservation Winterization Order
- Tips For Winterizing a Home With Radiant or Steam Heat (also known as Wet Winterization)
- How To Winterize a Pool
- How To Install a Safety Pool Cover
- FHA Attachment Regarding Winterization Requirements and Cost Schedule
Materials and Tools Needed To Complete Property Preservation Winterizations
- Zip ties to secure shut-off valves at water meters
- Generator and extension cords
- Air compressor with operating gauge
- Air compressor hose fittings to connect your air compressor to spickot or the faucet located at the washing machine sink
- Shop Vac to drain water from toilet bowls and sinks
- Pink “non-toxic” antifreeze, sometimes called RV antifreeze
- Your client’s custom winterization sticker notices
- Clear winterization film to place over sinks and toilets
- Basic cleaning supplies
Winterization Season Start and End Dates Schedule
FHA Winterization Cost Schedule
How To Complete a Property Preservation Winterization
STEP 1: Disconnect the Water Supply – You must attempt to locate the main water shut-off at the curb and make sure the shut-off valve is in the OFF position. Take 2-3 photos showing this process. Next you will locate the water meter and the main interior shut-off valve. Turn the main shut-off valve into the OFF position, disconnect the water meter and then connect a “zip tie” to the main water shut-off valve and finish by installing a 3/4″ black pipe “plug”.
STEP 2: Draining the System – Starting in the basement, make sure all gas line shut-off valves are in the OFF position throughout the entire property. Next you will connect a small garden hose to the water heater and then place the other end of the hose either into a floor drain or outside and proceed to drain all water from the water heater. If the property uses well water, you will drain all holding tanks and disconnect the electric to the well pump. Lastly, you will drain all the toilet tanks and toilet bowls.
Note(s): You can either use a siphon pump to drain the toilet bowl or you can use a small shop-vac. My crew has a small shop-vac that is used specifically for this purpose. Secondly, if you find feces in the toilet either you can clean it out or figure out a way to give your client a bid to replace a damaged toilet. Always remove a nasty toilet by having your helper disconnect it and place it into a large plastic commercial-grade garbage bag or two BEFORE CARRYING IT OUTSIDE.
STEP 3: Preparing To Blow Out Plumbing Pipes – Start at the main shut-off valve located near the water meter by connecting your pressure tester. Then follow the plumbing supply pipes throughout the entire property with the goal of making sure that all mid-line shut-off valves are in the OPEN position and all faucets are in the closed position. The few exceptions are as follows: all toilets that have a “fixture shut-off valve” need the valve to be in the CLOSED POSITION.
STEP 4: Pressure Testing the System – Turn your air compressor on and set the pressure at 35 PSI. Do not exceed 40 PSI as you may cause damage. Once the pressure builds up, take 2-3 photos showing your air compressor connected and another 2-3 photos showing the pressure gauge. Now you must once again follow the pipes while listening for a high pitched “whistling” noise, which would indicate breaks in the plumbing pipes. If any leaks are found, mark them by putting a piece of duct tape approximately 6″ away. Once you have marked all of them, proceed to take 2-3 photos of each damaged section of pipe. Make sure to take good quality pictures since those will be the only proof your client will have. Lastly, you must leave the air compressor connected for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Note(s): A good way I have found to prove that you actually completed an entire pressure test is by holding a cell phone near the pressure gauge and taking 1-2 pictures at the beginning and 1-2 pictures after 30 minutes. If there are no breaks, then your client will clearly be able to verify that you followed protocol because the gauge will show the needle in exactly the same position in both pictures. This method has saved me from chargebacks a few times when a plumbing leak showed up after I completed my pressure test.
STEP 5: Blowing All Remaining Water Out Of Plumbing Supply Pipes – Next, you will start at the laundry sink and turn the faucet into the ON position and you should immediately see a small amount of water flying out. Keep your camera handy because you will need to take 2-3 photos showing this water shooting out and 1-2 photos once the water stops. Repeat this process at ALL OTHER FAUCETS that will be located in each kitchen and each bathroom. And don’t forget to take photos at each faucet, even if there no more water coming out. Your client will still want to see that you completed all of the steps and believe me when I say this: in your client’s mind, if you don’t have a photo of something then you didn’t do it. They will NEVER accept anyone telling them, “you can trust me”, in lieu of photos.
STEP 6: Add Antifreeze To Plumbing Drains – You need to pour antifreeze into all toilet bowls and tanks, all kitchen & bathroom sink traps, shower and tub traps, floor drains, and dishwasher drains. Take 1-2 pictures “during” each pour and also 2-3 photos showing each sink and toilet “before” and “after”.
Note(s): A typical single family with 1 kitchen and 1.5 bathrooms should take approximately 2 gallons of antifreeze.
STEP 7: Posting Stickers and Notices – Winterization notification stickers are applied to toilets, showers, tubs, water heater, water meter, dishwasher, and all sinks. Additionally, toilet wrap is installed on all toilets to further ensure they are not used. Notices are posted at the entryways of the home advising anyone entering that the property has been winterized and warning against the use of any plumbing fixtures.
FINAL NOTES: If a property has radiant or steam heat, you have several additional steps to complete. In addition to the preceding steps, you must also drain the boiler unit and expansion tank, loosen all of the bleeder pins on each radiator, complete a pressure test to all the plumbing pipes throughout this heating system and lastly, apply a winterization sticker to the boiler.
Your client will most likely have specific instructions for these types of winterizations.
Identifying Various Types of Heating Systems
How To Complete Winterizations
How To Complete a Property Preservation Winterization Work Order: 4 Part Video Series
How To Winterize a Pool
How To Install a Safety Pool Cover
How To Winterize An In-Ground Sprinkler System
Tips For Winterizing a Home With Radiant or Steam Heat (also known as Wet Winterization)
- Drain the boiler and all heating loops. Repair, replace, or install (as necessary to comply with state health department requirements) a Reduced Pressure Zone (RPZ) valve.
- Fill the boiler and all heating loops with a non-toxic antifreeze (propylene-glycol) solution tested to a freeze point of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Flush all lines and bleed all vents.
- Return the heating system to normal operating temperature and pressure. Check the entire system for proper operation. Leave the heat on and set the thermostat to 55 degrees.
- Tape the furnace electrical switch to the “on”position. Tape a card above the switch stating, “Do Not Remove Tape. Do Not Turn Off”.
FHA Attachment Regarding Winterization Requirements and Cost Schedule
Unless identified in the variations section of this attachment, utilities are to be turned off. In states where heat is to remain on, the temperature should be maintained at 55 degrees Fahrenheit unless otherwise noted in the local variations.
A) Condominiums and Attached Dwellings
At condominiums and attached dwellings in Planned Unit Developments (PUDs), water services and utilities should remain on if the systems are shared with other units. M&M Contractors should be contacted for directions on maintaining water services at properties where a community water service is involved and for electrical services at condominiums or townhouses, duplexes, attached dwellings in PUDs, where such services should be left on due to homeowners’ association or party wall requirements.
B) Equipment Damage
When there is a jurisdictional requirement for heat to remain on and a repair or replacement is needed to make the heating system operational, the Mortgagee should contact the M&M Contractor for instructions when the repair or replacement exceeds $250.00. The Mortgagee is responsible for damages to plumbing and heating systems caused by untimely and/or improper maintenance.
C) Sump Pumps
Where there is an existing sump pump used to keep basements or crawl space dry, the Mortgagee should leave the electricity on to assure the property is undamaged by flooding, regardless of whether the property is located in a state where utilities are required to be off. The Mortgagee should check to make sure the sump pump is operating. Mortgagees should request prior written approval from the M&M contractor if the cost of installing a sump pump exceeds $250.
D) Utility Accounts
Utility accounts including electricity, gas, home heating oil and water, should be in the Mortgagee's name until conveyance of the property to HUD. The Mortgagee should pay the bill and may claim reimbursement for utility costs covering the period from the date of vacancy until the end of the billing cycle that includes the date of conveyance. Payment of a utility bill that includes charges for a portion of a billing cycle that is post conveyance is the exception to HUD’s policy on non-reimbursement of expenses after the conveyance date. It is the Mortgagee's responsibility to notify the utility company that ownership of the security property has been transferred to HUD (to the attention of the M&M contractor), upon conveyance. A copy of the notice should be maintained in the claim review file.
In states where utilities should remain on, if there is any reason to believe that a Mortgagor may abandon a property, the Mortgagee should contact the utility company to request that the Mortgagee be notified of non-payment of utilities so that utilities can be transferred to the Mortgagee’s name and the heat remain on if the Mortgagor vacates.
E) Propane and Oil Systems
If the property has a propane or oil heating system, put a "KEEP FULL" contract on with a local supplier; in those jurisdictions, where the heat should remain “ON.”
A) Domestic Water
If the water supply source is a public system, the utility should be contacted to turn off the water supply at the curb, unless otherwise indicated in the local variations. The Mortgagee should not cut water lines or remove water meters. (A non‑reimbursable charge may be imposed by the water utility for unauthorized water meter removal). The water department or provider should be notified when water is turned off so that a final meter reading can be done. The Mortgagee should ensure that this is completed. Where a water heater has to be installed, the Department will reimburse up to $350 for an electric water heater or up to $420 for a gas water heater, which includes the cost of installation.
If the water supply is a private well, the Mortgagee should turn off the well at the breaker panel and tape off the breaker, disconnect the water supply line between the property and pressure tank and install a hose bib on the pressure tank side of the breaker. The hose bib should then be tagged “For Water Testing". All pressure tanks should be drained. If pump is surface mounted, drain pump housing, ‑ if submersible, then disconnect the check valve and drain all pump, suction, and discharge pipes. All fixtures should be winterized.
C) Reduced Pressure Zone Device (RPZ or RPZD)
A reduced pressure zone device (RPZ) is a type of backflow prevention device used to protect domestic water supplies from contamination. Mortgagees should contact the local health departments and/or state and local agencies with regard to any jurisdictional requirements for the installation and/or use of the RPZ device on all wet heat systems. Mortgagees should obtain two independent competitive bids and request prior written approval from the M&M contractor if the cost of installation of an RPZ valve exceeds $70.
In jurisdictions where winterization is required, properties are to be winterized between October 1st and March 31st. For exceptions to these winterization time periods, see the Local Variation from General Requirements section on page 45. Properties should only be winterized once. However, a property should be re-winterized if the initial winterization is violated (no longer effective) and the Mortgagee obtains prior approval from the M&M Contractor.
Unless otherwise specified by local variation, the winterization process must include cleaning toilets and draining of all plumbing and heating systems in a manner sufficient to prevent freeze and/or other damage. Use of air pressure to clear the system, or in some cases, adding antifreeze to the system is both acceptable, provided that the effect prevents freeze-ups. All winterization should be performed in accordance with state and local codes, ordinances and regulations. Before and after photographs are required along with any other supporting documentation to support a claim for re-imbursement.
A) Dry Heat Systems
The hot water heater and all domestic water supply and distribution piping must be drained in a manner sufficient to prevent freeze and/or other damage. All faucets and valves should REMAIN OPEN during the process, and then closed after draining is completed. Adequate amounts of antifreeze are to be placed in all fixture traps, including toilet tanks and bowls.
B) Wet Heat, Radiant, Hydronic or Hot Water Baseboard Systems
The winterization requirements outlined above apply. In addition, the house boiler system must be drained in a manner sufficient to prevent freeze and/or other damage. All radiator vents are to be opened in the process. Bleeder pins should not be removed from the radiators. Any radiant heat piping should be drained and blown dry with the use of an air compressor and an adequate amount of antifreeze is to be put in the radiant piping.
C) Steam Heat Systems
The winterization requirements outlined above for Dry Heat Systems apply. Note: A steam heat system will have radiators with valves at the bottom of the radiator; a careful determination as to whether the system is hot water or steam is important to ensure proper action is taken. The Mortgagee should determine if the system is operable and if there are any leaks. If any problems with the steam heat system exist, this information should be reported to the M&M Contractor. Additionally, the Mortgagee must drain the property’s boiler system in a manner sufficient to prevent freeze and/or other damage. All radiator vents are to be opened in the process and bleeder pins should not be removed from the radiators, before shutting down the heating system. Pressurize the system with an air compressor to 35 pounds and inspect for leakage. The expectation for a properly prepared system is that it will hold air pressure with no leakage for a minimum of one‑half hour.
IV. Repair Bids
The Mortgagee may spend up to $250.00, for required repairs or installation of any new equipment required to maintain utilities or properly winterize a property including but not limited to, water wells, water meters, heating equipment, etc. Where such repairs will exceed $250, the mortgagee shall obtain two independent competitive bids and submit the bids to the appropriate M&M contractor for approval. Please advise the M&M where the meter may only be removed by the utility company.
ATLANTA Homeownership Center
Winterize year round, regardless of the month the property is secured. However, heat will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
Do not winterize.
The water supply should be shut off at the curb. Notify utility companies to cancel all services. Do not drain the water heater or water lines. Do not winterize.
Jacksonville Florida ONLY
Winterize from September 1 through April 30 from Jacksonville north to the Georgia line. However, heat will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
DENVER Homeownership Center
Winterization is required from September 1 through April 30. Heat is to remain on in condominiums and town-homes.
Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma
Winterization is required from September 1 through April 30. However, heat system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
Minnesota, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming
Winterization is required from September 1 through April 30. Utilities and heat are to remain on.
Winterization is required from September 1 through April 30. Turn water off at meter in house ONLY. Heating system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
SANTA ANA Homeownership Center
Turn water off at the street after winterization in all Santa Ana M&M contract areas, except Alaska.
All properties should be winterized year round. Heat should be left on with the thermostat set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Properties should be conveyed with water, gas, and utilities ON. Propane and fuel oil delivery services should remain on automatic fill. Utilities should remain in the servicing Mortgagee's name until conveyance. The servicing Mortgagee is instructed and authorized to switch utilities into HUD's name effective on the date of conveyance.
Water service may be turned off at the street (key box) only if the property has a forced air or electric heating system and the domestic water system has been properly winterized.
Winterize properties above 2,000 feet only. However, heat system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
Do not winterize.
No winterization except for Pahrump zip code 89041 and Mt. Charleston zip code 89124. All other winterization is completed on a case‑by‑case basis. However, heat system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
Winterize from September 15 through April 15. However, heat system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
Winterize from November 1 through March 31 only. However, heat system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.
Winterize from September 15 through April 15. However, heat system will remain in shut down mode. Utilities are to remain off unless required to operate a sump pump.