Much has been written about how to shut down a home in cold climates. You need to blow out the pipes, put environmentally friendly anti-freeze in the traps, etc.
In the Phoenix area, things are a bit different since our summer temperatures can rise to 115 degrees Fahrenheit or more. When winter visitors leave the “Valley of the Sun” they need to shut- down their home in ways that are very different than in a cold climate. Here is how the shut-down process needs to proceed:
- It is best to have a way to shut off the water at the main shut-off valve if it controls only flow inside the home. If a leak were to develop, having the water shut off would prevent major flooding to the interior. This may not be practical if the home has a pool or spa that is relying on an automatic fill system to keep the water level consistent. Additionally, the landscape watering system or other areas might be adversely affected depending how the system is plumbed. A plumber can help you determine ways to allow for shutting off water to the house while keeping necessary systems supplied with water.
- Set the thermostat(s) on the cooling system no higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The structure and its systems can develop many problems when the cooling system is left in the off position. For example, the hot and dry Phoenix temperatures can make wood framing twist which may damage drywall and will cause the seals in plumbing fixtures and appliances to shrink and fail.
- Have someone check on the house periodically and go to each plumbing fixture to fill the drains with water. Water in the traps below each sink, tub, shower and toilet form a seal that prevents sewer gases from entering the home. You can simply fill each of the fixtures with about a gallon of water to replace water that evaporates over time.
- Make sure that if you have a pool or spa that you arrange for ongoing service. Some service companies only provide maintenance of the chemical balance and do little or nothing to ensure that the equipment operates properly. You want a full service provider that not only keeps your chemicals in balance but also does a weekly check on all of the system components. Dust storms are a frequent occurrence during the summers in Phoenix. These storms can be so severe that they overwhelm the pool cleaning system. If you are out of the area and you hear on national news about a dust storm in the Phoenix area, use that as a cue that you need to call your service company to ask them to go out and check on your pool.
Some homes in Phoenix have been left shut down for a time because they were part of a foreclosure process. For the same reasons as noted above, it is important to take extra care when buying one of these properties. As a home inspector in Phoenix I get concerned when I see homes that have been vacant for a long period of time. If the plumbing is off and the heating and cooling system is shut down, I know that the home has a higher chance of things going wrong with certain systems. A Phoenix home inspection is your first line of defense in identifying problems with a home that has had its systems shut down for an extended period.