Antifreeze Alternatives for Protecting Your Vacation Home’s Plumbing

Alternatives methods for Preventing your Vacation Home’s Plumbing Pipes from Freezing

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: Is there a more environmentally friendly solution for preventing pipes from freezing other than using antifreeze? We have used antifreeze solution for years in our Lake Tahoe vacation home; however, I have become increasingly concerned about pouring antifreeze down the pipes.

Answer: I understand your concerns. All of us need to be more conscious about our environment and it truly starts in our homes.

To begin with, there are a number of non-toxic antifreeze products on the market today that are designed to be used in the home.

If you are using antifreeze, make sure you use one of these types. RV antifreeze products are specifically designed to be used in the home. It is non-toxic and odorless and it is safe to use with steel, copper, brass and plastics. When used at full strength RV antifreeze is designed to provide freeze protection to -50°F. You should be able to find RV antifreeze at any home improvement or hardware store.

If you would still prefer not to use antifreeze, then you have a couple of other alternatives to prevent your home’s pipes from freezing.

First, you can choose to drain both the supply and drain pipes. Usually it is a good idea to hook an air compressor up to the supply lines to blow out any residual water. Also, you will want to seal the drains to prevent any gasses from working their way into the home. This includes plugging the toilet bowls, e.g. with a cloth rag.

See my article on winterizing a vacation home.

RV-Antifreeze for protecting drain pipes in winterized vacation home.

Second, you can wrap heat tape around the supply lines and just drain the drain pipes and toilet bowls/tanks. Again, you will need to seal the drains. This method is a little risky if your home looses power for an extended period of time.

Lastly, you could choose to leave the heat on at a low temperature (e.g. 50°F – 55°F), to prevent the need for draining the pipes or using an anti-freeze.

All of these alternative methods for protecting your vacation home’s plumbing pipes have their pros and cons. However, if you plan on leaving the vacation home closed up for the entire winter, then draining both the supply and drain lines makes the most economic and environmental sense.

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