J.M. from Hudson County, New Jersey writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
What can I do to prevent frozen pipes in a condo left unoccupied throughout winter? I know that pipes can be drained in free-standing homes. Is this possible in condos? Sorry, if this seems like a basic question, but I have no idea. Thanks!
Mister Condo replies:
J.M., happy to help and I’m glad you asked. Snow birding is quite common in condos in the Northeast. Why not go someplace warm for the winter if you can? However, winterproofing your condo can be tricky. Water supplies can be shared so simply turning it off and draining the pipes may not be possible. I am guessing you aren’t the first condo dweller to ask this question of your association so start with either your Board or Association Manager to get their input on what has worked for other owners. You may have multiple points within your unit where you could safely turn off your water and drain the pipes. You might also have an option to insulate your pipes, especially those pipes on outside walls where insulation might be thin. These are the pipes most vulnerable to freezing and breaking. If you have any unheated areas of your condo (a garage for instance) be sure to insulate those pipes as they will definitely freeze and burst. You should also make sure that where ever you have pipes, you should try to keep the ambient temperature at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, as recommended by most insurers. Of course, even if you plan everything perfectly, a power outage could cause the temperatures to plummet which is why draining the pipes may be the smartest move but only if you are allowed to do so. It wouldn’t be fair to your neighbors that a water supply turned off for your home denies them the water for theirs. All the best!