Thinking of heading south for the winter? Escaping the cold, snowy winters is certainly appealing, but before you don your sombrero, there are a few things to take care of at home. Prepping your house for a winter away is essential and can prevent expensive damage, burglary and excess energy bills. Here’s what you need to know.
Turn Off the Water
Water damage will probably be your biggest concern if you’re going away for the winter. To prevent any unpleasant surprises, it’s worth turning off your water supply. The only exceptions are if you have a fire sprinkler system in place and if you’re using a water heating system for your home. If you’re not sure whether you can turn off the water for your heater, always ask a professional for advice.
Protect Your Pipes
Once you’ve turned off the water, drain the pipes and give each toilet a flush. If you have outdoor faucets, close and drain them as well, and consider getting insulated covers for your hose bibs. It’s also worth getting some foam pipe insulation for your basement or garage pipes to protect them from freezing, or worse, bursting.
Turn Down the Heat…
There’s no point in keeping your home nice and toasty while you’re lounging in the sun several hundred miles away. In fact, it’s recommended that you lower the thermostat by 10 degrees while you’re on vacation.
… but Not Completely!
Set the temperature on your thermostat to at least 55 F. This way, you can prevent your pipes from freezing, especially if they’re not drained.
Unplug Unnecessary Electronics
Tour the house and unplug any electronics that won’t be needed while you’re away. Here are some examples:
- TV and home entertainment system
- Internet modem and router
- Personal computer and laptop
- Washing machine and dryer
- Bathroom appliances and beauty gadgets, such as shavers, hairdryers or curling irons
- Kitchen gadgets, such as coffee machine, toaster, dishwasher, microwave oven
Use Up All Perishable Foods
In the week before heading out, try to use as much of your perishable foods as you can. This includes meat, dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only will it prevent waste, but it also allows you to clean and unplug your fridge before you leave.
Defrost Your Freezer
Fridges and freezers use a lot of electricity, so there’s no point keeping them on if you’re away. Also, if there’s a power cut, there’s always a risk of having the food inside them spoil. Make sure that your freezer is defrosted, then give it a good clean, and leave the door open to avoid mold and unpleasant smells.
Forward Your Mail
If you’ll be gone for more than a month, it’s worth forwarding your email to a different address. In fact, this may also be a good opportunity to switch to electronic billing and even email newsletters. Not only is this more eco-friendly, but it can also protect your home against theft. A house with piles of mail building up is basically letting thieves know that there’s nobody home.
Close All Windows…
Even if you live in an area that never sees freezing temperatures, keeping all windows shut is a good call. Remember to close the windows in your attic and basement in particular. This way, you won’t have to deal with excess humidity and water leaks, as well as uninvited pests and critters.
… but Leave Inside Doors Open
Keeping the doors to the rooms in your home open will improve air circulation and maintain an even indoor temperature while you’re away.
Protect Your Home from Theft
Keep your valuable items and important paperwork in a safe deposit box, preferably offsite. Make sure that your windows and outside doors have proper, sturdy locks. If going away for an extended period is a yearly tradition for you, it’s definitely worth investing in security cameras, as well as an alarm system.
Give the Place a Good Clean
The last thing you’ll feel like doing when you come back is cleaning your home. To spare your future self the trouble, always give the place a thorough clean. Don’t forget about the outside. Clean the gutters and the chimney, put your yard and patio furniture in storage, and take out the trash to avoid attracting pests and wild animals.
Have Someone Check in Regularly
Ask a family member or trusted friend to drop by your home regularly, such as once a week. This way, they can help you keep an eye on the place, whether it’s watering your plants or letting you know if a pipe has burst. Also, don’t forget to bring them a nice souvenir from your travels!