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How to Prep Your House Before Winter VacationDecember 5th, 2014 by
With winter vacations quickly approaching, now is the time to start making plans for winter preparedness. Whether you’re flying the coop in search of warmer weather for a few days or a few weeks, you’ll need to take some important steps to ready your house for the cold.
If the weather is predicted to be especially cold while you’re away, take precautions to keep your pipes from freezing. You can always shut off the water to your home at the main supply valve, usually located inside your home. Another option is to turn off the water to certain fixtures and appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, at their individual supply line valves. Alternatively, insulate pipes that run along exterior walls, and leave bathroom and lower kitchen cabinet doors open to allow warm interior air to circulate. Turning your thermostat down will save money, but don’t allow the house to reach temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit—lower temperatures increase your risk of dealing with frozen pipes on your return. On the outside of your house, disconnect and drain any garden hoses. If your outside spigots are not frost-proof, turn off the water to them from the shutoff valve inside your house, and then allow any remaining water to drain out.
Save energy while you’re gone by unplugging appliances that won’t be in use. Toasters, coffee makers, electric kettles, and the like pull small amounts of power even when they’re not in use, which can add up on your power bill. In addition, a power surge could cause short circuits and increase the risk of electrical fires. Computers and other electronics, such as stereo and home theater equipment, should also be powered off and unplugged. Those items in particular should already be plugged into power strips for safety, so cutting off power to them can be as easy as flipping a switch.
Before you leave, make sure that exterior doors have both doorknob locks and deadbolts. If they don’t, a quick trip to your local home improvement store can remedy that situation. Check the gutters and downspouts to make sure that they’re clean and ready for winter weather and debris. Clogged gutters and downspouts can overflow, causing hundreds of gallons of water from rain or melting snow to end up perilously close to your home’s foundation. Look for gaps around windows and doors, and either caulk or replace weatherstripping as needed. Sealing up these breaches will prevent your HVAC system from having to work harder than usual to keep the house at a set temperature while you’re gone. Bring inside any spare keys that you may have hidden under the doormat, on top of the doorsill, or in a flowerpot or fake rock. Thieves and burglars usually don’t want to draw attention to themselves with loud, messy break-ins, so these standard hiding places will be the first places they look for your key.
Let family members, close friends, and trusted neighbors know that you’ll be away from home, but don’t announce your vacation plans in public—and that includes social media websites. Wait until your return to post vacation pictures online and share the details of your trip. If you’ll be gone for several weeks, consider alerting your local police department to your absence. If you live in a relatively small community, the police department will likely be happy to arrange for an officer to add your street to his or her patrol. If possible, arrange for a family member, friend, or neighbor to visit your house every other day or so. This activity makes your house look occupied, and that person can take in your mail, water plants, and turn lights on and off. Be sure to provide your itinerary and any important phone numbers to the person looking after your house.
If you don’t plan to have anyone check in on your house, consider investing in a few timers for lights. Try to stagger the lights so that they turn on and off at different times and in different rooms, and don’t neglect the rooms at the back of the house.
Preparing your home for winter vacation may take some advance planning, but remember that your home is an important investment. A little time and money spent before you leave town will put your mind at ease and can help ensure that you return to a safe, healthy home.