1. Winter

House info pages:
1. Winter
2. All year
3. Security and Electronics
4. Checklists (PDF)T-handle of water main valve (arrow) in pantry cupboard. Turn on upon arrival, turn off before leaving; directions are indicated.Hot water heater, next to the furnace in the garage. The arrow points to the red control dial.Woodstove in living room. Arrows point to catalytic converter (upper) and damper (lower).

What winter can look like! Photo taken March 26, 2011 
at the Hansel House.

Parking: Park in the garage or the driveway well inside the street snow plowing line. Two cars can fit tightly in the garage (please check that your ski rack will clear the top of the door opening, and be careful of the post in the middle of the garage). The driveway is two cars wide and several long, and almost level, so several more cars can park outside. There is a tub of sand in the garage just in case. Do not park on the street or you will be towed or hit. 

Plowing: We have contracted with Elements Mountain Co for plowing the driveway. They usually plow at ~3 AM and perhaps again at ~8 AM to clean around cars that have been moved. On heavy snow days they will prioritize homes that appear to be occupied; they suggest leaving on an interior light in a room that faces the street (Tahoe Donner is a “dark sky community” so it must be an interior, not an exterior, light)

If you arrive late in the day and it has been snowing, be advised that you may have to shovel a berm left by the city plow, and up to the garage. There can be snow built up by the Elements plow in front of the garage door that can interfere with its operation, and they do not shovel stairs of the entry-way. Shovels are just inside the garage on the left. It’s much easier to shovel while snow is fresh, before it gets walked on. 

Only shovel as much as necessary; Elements will take care of the rest later (leave that interior light on). Keep the driveway clear of toys, shovels, firewood and other items that can damage snow plowing equipment. 

>> Read 10 tips for guests from our snow-plowing company.

If the garage door gasket is frozen down, pop it loose from the inside with the garden spade. Watch when you close the garage door that it stays closed; if it reopens, chip any ice from the edge of the garage floor, the track, or the door gasket. On a similar note, snow build-up in the various sliding glass door tracks can cause those doors not to close properly; please brush out any debris and double-check that the locks have actually latched.

Water and water heater: The water main must be shut OFF in between visits in winter. The water heater should be set back to just to WARM, no longer to “Vacation”. Details follow.

>> Download full checklists for arrival and departure items: Checklists (PDF)

When arriving:

  • Turn ON the water main. The main water valve is in the pantry off the kitchen, a T-handle sticking up through the bottom shelf in the far bottom cupboard (top photo at left). Turn it counter-clockwise until it stops (a quarter turn; requires steady force to turn it).
  • Turn up hot water heater if WARM isnt enough for your crowd (red dial at base). The hot water heater is in the back right corner of the garage (second photo at left).
  • Close any faucets that might have been left open.
  • The thermostat is in the hallway off the kitchen. You can override the program’s current setting (see Security System page). We should have set it up from Away mode, where it was holding at 55 oF. When you leave, please let us know so we can set the thermostat to hold at 55oF again.

When leaving, please (please, please): 

  • Turn water heater down to WARM. Please don’t turn it to Vacation”, or Off", or empty it. We have found that if it is left too cold, when it tries to warm back up, condensation against the water tank will drip and put out the pilot light. 
  • Turn the water main’s T-handle valve OFF. (If in summer, leave on for the irrigation.)
  • Open faucets in kitchen and bathrooms for the pipes to drain, then close them. You may hear a loud vibration coming from the solenoid valve in the crawl space.
  • Flush toilets to empty the tanks. If the forecast is to be very cold, add splashes of anti-freeze to the tanks and bowls (bottles are under the sinks in the bathrooms).
  • Turn off all lights and close all windows and drapes. Close firmly and lock the front door.
  • Notify us that you are leaving so we can set the alarm and the thermostat back to 55oF. CRITICAL: do not turn heat off.
  • More closing info for laundry, garbage, etc. is on the All Year page.
  • >> Download full checklists for arrival and departure items: Checklists (PDF)

Woodstove: Open dampers (pull out sliders in front and at back upper right, see photo) at first, then close them (push in) as the fire gets hot, first the back right one (catalytic unit), then the front one (damper). Control the rate of burn with the front one; note that with this stove, all the way closed will be too damped. Keep within the “burn zone” of the thermometer on the side of the stove. Open both sliders before you open the door again or smoke will pour out, and be careful not to allow burning logs to roll out of the firebox. 

Split wood is in the garage. Get the fire started with the softwood (pine/fir) and feed it with the hardwoods. Kindling is in the garage and in a box on the patio off the living room. Fire starter packs and matches are on the bookshelf. A small Eco-fan set on the stove will start to turn as the stove heats up. An electric fan should start automatically when the fire box heats up; you can control the fan’s speed with a small knob mounted on the left front leg of the stove. Fire extinguishers are in the pantry off the kitchen, in the mud-room, and on the railing at the top of the stairway upstairs.

IMPORTANT: Ashes need to be several-days’ COLD before removal from the wood stove. There is a galvanized pail labeled “Ashes” in the garage for them to continue cooling if you must remove some from the stove. We’d prefer if you leave ash management to us.

Next: 2. House info, all year 

© Jeffrey Paduan 2021