As nights turn chilly and aspen leaves turn gold, it’s time to close up the summer cabin.

One of the most important items on the winterizing checklist should be the well and water pipes, given that the average high temperature between October and April in Red Feather Lakes is 39 degrees – the average low is 26.

Pipes can always freeze if they aren’t properly maintained, but according to local experts, a surprising number of homeowners are unfamiliar with how to care for their well and pump systems.

“Especially if they bought the home after the well was installed, they might not know what kind of well they have,” said Demetri Mellos, owner of Wayne’s Pump Service in LaPorte.

So, once they determine if it’s a system that should be drained or one that holds full-time pressure and can’t be drained, Mellos suggests homeowners check to see where the pipes from the well enter the house.

“If they come into the basement, it probably won’t freeze hard enough to affect them, even if the house has no heat,” he said.

It’s a different story if the pipes are in a crawl space, or installed next to the cold air return on the furnace, particularly on the north or northwest side of the house. Then Mellos recommends plugging a ceramic, thermostatically controlled heater with a fan into an electric outlet.

“Set it to go on when the temperature hits 30 degrees, and the fan will circulate warm air around the pipes,” he said. “It’s much more effective than leaving a light bulb on.”

Even if the pipes don’t freeze, if a well seal comes loose over the winter, rainwater and snowmelt can contaminate the water, according to Ed Schemm, assistant director of the Larimer County Department of Environmental Health.

“That’s why it’s important for homeowners to check that there is good drainage away from the well,” he said. “You don’t want puddles around the casing.”

And it’s always a good idea to disinfect the system in the spring. The county health department can advise homeowners on the proper amount to chlorine to use on their individual wells.

Water quality testing for private wells is available from the health department for a $20 fee. Call 970-498-7000 for more information.

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