Winterizing your home

December 2, 2009 3:24:52 PM PST
For homeowners, as the mercury drops, your home gets more and more susceptible to winter disasters from frozen pipes. The average bill? Nearly 10 grand, but it's all preventable with some quick and easy fixes.

Last January, Elise Marmon's kitchen looked like a water-logged mess, caused by a series of pipes that burst inside the house.

"It was pretty substantial. It was at least $150,000 worth of damage," she said.

Nobody was living in the house last winter. Elise set the thermometer to 60 degrees. But when it got cold outside, the pipes inside froze.

"Obviously it wasn't enough and you have brick walls here. It came through and just froze the pipes, and that's what burst it," Elise said.

"I would think most people have no concept of how big the problem is," explained Paul Berry of USAA Insurance.

Berry has a quick check-list to help homeowners avoid disaster.

Start with the outside faucets. First, shut off the water valve that leads to it, then go outside and open the faucet draining all the water out.

"You're basically protecting yourself from water getting caught inside those pipes and freezing," he said.

Next, clean out the gutters. That way water isn't trapped by collected leaves.

"That moisture, once it freezes, becomes extremely heavy and it can bring your gutters down," he said.

Back inside, use spray insulation to seal up all cracks keeping cold out and cover pipes.

"Spend $2 to $3 for pipe insulation, it's basically a coat for your pipes," Berry said.

If you're leaving on vacation, make sure you keep the internal temperature above 60 degrees and open taps slightly so they drip, relieving pressure inside pipes.

But the biggest tip? Turn off your internal water, and then drain all the water out of the spigots.

"You do that, 90 percent of what you need to do has been taken care of," Berry said.

Also, if you're going on vacation during the cold months, open cabinets that house pipes. That way warmer air can hit them.

By the way, the total cost of this winterization kit? A little less than 30 dollars. It could be the best buy of the holiday season.