Whether you’ re going away for a holiday vacation or the entire winter, this guide will ensure that your home is safe and secure while you’re gone. After all, some surprises aren’t welcomed – like coming home to find that your house has been damaged or burglarized.
The holidays are a frantic time, with all the shopping, party planning, and meditating – an eight-hour drive with dogs and kids will stress anyone out. But one thing you won’t have to worry about is how to winterize your home while you’re away. For that, we’ve got you covered.
So, how do you winterize a vacant home exactly? To start off, there are three areas of concern when leaving your home for any extended period of time. These concerns include protection against pests, protection against burglars, and protection from Mother Nature, who is often much less forgiving during the winter season.
Prep for Cold Temperatures
More times than not, nature will be the biggest threat to spoiling your winter fun, even if you’re sitting on a beach in Boca Raton.
The biggest issue, when it comes to winterizing a vacant home, has to do with pipes freezing, which can create a pretty nasty mess. When water freezes, it expands, which causes a rapid increase in water pressure and could eventually make your pipes burst. And nothing will burst your winter plans faster than a burst water pipe.
If you’re going away just for the holidays, consider letting water drip out of one of your faucets. Not a lot, just a few drips that would normally keep you awake at night. But if you’re going away for the entire winter, it may be better to shut off the main water valve. If you opt for this, you will want to turn on all your faucets for a few minutes to completely drain the pipes.
If you’ve decided to turn the water off, also consider having a plumber blow compressed air through your pipes. And leave one faucet completely open on the lowest floor to drain any excess water. Beyond water issues, you might also want to …
- Unplug all appliances, except for the lights timer
- Schedule someone to water your plants, if you’re leaving them behind
- Make sure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries
- Set your thermostat no lower than 50 degrees, and no higher than 70
- Cover vehicles left outside or put them in the garage
- Turn off water to washing machines, dishwashers, and outdoor faucets
- Insulate any pipes in unheated areas – attic, garage, basement.
- Place plastic bags and insulation around outdoor faucets and spickets
Keep Out Pests
The last thing you want is to come home and find that the cast of Wild Kingdom has taken up residence in your home. (For those of you too young to get that reference, the rest of us our envious.)
- Remove all trash, recycling, compost – anything that would attract animals
- Don’t leave any dirty dishes behind, including in the dishwasher
- Remove any food in the fridge that will spoil
- Don’t leave any fresh flowers behind that will die and produce an odor
- Close your fireplace flue so bats, squirrels, and birds don’t get in
- Clean out your garbage disposal, sink traps, or anywhere there’s rotting food.
If you’re going away longer, and if you’re completely emptying your fridge and freezer, unplug it, and leave the doors open to avoid the growth of any mildew. You can also sprinkle a little baking soda into your toilets, which will eliminate the chance of the standing water turning putrid.
While some of these suggestions may be considered “going overboard,” just imagine how nice it’ll be when you come home to a crispy clean house. Unless, of course, you’re the type that loves to spend several hours cleaning after returning home from a vacation.
Protect Your Home from Break-Ins
Winterizing your home against human pests can be a bit trickier. After all, they’re (sometimes) smarter than animals. However, if you do everything on this checklist, you’ll likely to return to a home with possessions still intact:
- Lock all windows, doors, and outside gates
- Store any valuables in a secure place, just in case
- Set your lights to a timer so they stay on at night
- Store all outdoor furniture, including your grill, in the garage or shed
- Arrange for a neighbor or friend to check in on the house and pick up mail or newspaper deliveries
- Make sure all security devices are in working order
- Let your home security company know you’ll be away
- Don’t post your travel plans on social media
Everyone loves sharing travel plans. But all a thief sees is an invitation, so fight the urge. The goal is to make the house look as if someone is living in it. Which means having someone shovel the drive way and sidewalk in case of snow and pick up any mail or newspapers. You could also suspend delivery of each. But however you approach it, try to eliminate all indicators that scream VACANT HOUSE.
If you follow all the recommendations in this handy checklist, you can focus more on exchanging gifts (or buying Speedos) rather than wondering about the safety of your vacant home.
Whether you ’re traveling south for the winter like our winged friends, or going to your family’s house for Christmas, this winter vacation home checklist will make sure you come back to a home just as you left it. Because there aren’t many things that’ll ruin a holiday trip faster than a break-in or broken water pipe.