Winter is a great time to cash in on off-season bargains and enjoy exciting new destinations without having to fight peak-season crowds. Winter travel, however, may require a bit of extra planning on the front end. Before you escape the seasonal drudgery for those exotic tropical landscapes, be sure you give your home the extra care needed to ensure it’s in tip top shape when you return.
The following cold weather preparation doesn’t take a lot of work, but missing important parts of this weatherization process could result in huge headaches and even bigger repair bills.
Before You Start
Before you begin your travel preparations, be sure you’ve completed your routine annual winterization. Some things you may need to check off your list include:
Closing your pool for the winter.
Shutting off your irrigation system.
Disconnecting and draining any outdoor hoses.
Closing exterior vents around the foundation of your home.
Securing or storing lawn furniture.
Once you’re sure your yearly tasks have been accomplished, it’s time to move on to getting your house ready for your absence. Here are some items to add to your pre-trip checklist that will give you confidence your home is safe and secure while you’re away:
Do Some Preliminary Cleaning
Before you leave, remove any old food from the refrigerator, throw some citrus peels down your garbage disposal, wash the dishes and be sure take out all the trash. A stinky house is not the welcome you want when you return to the realms of reality.
It can also be helpful to spend some time cleaning or replacing your cabinet shelving. Leaving crumbs and food particles around could be an invitation for rodents or insects to feast while you’re away.
To lessen the stress of your return even more, consider washing your bedding and towels and doing a routine cleaning. It always feels good to come home to a clean house.
Unplug Electronic Devices and Small Appliances
Computers, microwaves, TVs and other electronic devices or small appliances continue to use energy even when not in use. Be sure to unplug unused equipment and anything with a digital display while you’re away. This will save energy when you’re gone and decrease the possibility of an electrical fire.
If you’re going to be gone for a while or if your house is easily seen from a road, install timers on your lights. A home that is dark for a long period might draw unwanted attention. Timers can be set to mimic your regular routine, making it appear as if someone is there.
Safeguard Your Water Pipes
Before you leave, turn off your water at the master shutoff valve and drain your pipes by running the faucets. This will protect your home from water damage if a pipe does burst despite the precautions.
If there won’t be any pets in the home, open your cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate around the pipes. If you have a bathroom or other source of water in an unheated basement or garage, you may want to wrap the plumbing with an appropriate insulating material.
Lower the Thermostat
There’s no need to keep an empty house at 75 degrees. Lower your thermostat to about 55 degrees while you are gone. This saves energy but is still warm enough to keep your pipes from bursting.
If you’re leaving a pet at the house, you may need to adjust for that, especially if they are older or have health problems. You can also leave them a big fleece blanket near a register just in case they get cold.
If you have a fireplace, double check to make sure all flues and dampers are closed. You may want to lower the temperature on your water heater for added savings as well.
Recruit a House Sitter
A house sitter doesn’t have to move in while you’re gone. If you have a trusted neighbor or a friend who lives close by, ask them to pick up your mail and keep a general eye on the place. You may want to give them a bit of cash — or maybe you can return the favor the next time they go away.
Another option is if you have pets at home, ask the person you’ve hired to care for them if they would be willing to pick up your mail. Chances are they will be walking by the box at some time anyway, and they probably won’t mind picking it up.
Preparing for a long winter absence may be stressful and a bit overwhelming. However, with a methodical system and good checklist, you can spend your time enjoying the sunshine and those umbrella drinks instead of worrying about what’s happening at home.