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Whether you’re a snowbird and about to spend months away from your home or just escaping the winter weather for a week, you should take the time to prepare your home before your winter travel. Getting ready to leave for a vacation is already full of to-dos and lists to check and double-check, but somewhere between packing your suitcase and heading out the door, follow this simple checklist of the seven ways you can prepare your home before you leave for your winter holiday.
The last thing you want to welcome you home after your relaxing time in the sun is a messy house. More than that, a house left unclean can attract bugs, rodents and other pests. Further, you don’t want to return home to any concerning smells. Give your house an overall clean. Don’t forget to clean out your fridge and seal and store any open pantry items. Check your laundry machines for any wet laundry and make sure your dishwasher isn’t hiding any dirty dishes. Clean your garbage disposal and take out your garbage and recycling.
Turn off your main water supply. In the warmer months, this step might not be necessary if you’re only traveling for a short period, but for your winter vacation, it’s best to do so even if you’ll only be away a week. If a leak happens while you’re away, this could mean major damage by the time you return. Turn off your main water valve and then clear the pipes by opening all faucets. Leave one open to prevent any water that might be left inside the pipes from building up pressure and causing a burst.
Unplugging items that don’t need power while you’re away will help you save on energy and decrease the risk of fires. Unplug small appliances, electronics, TVs, even the electric stove. If you are going to be away for a long period of time, you might also turn off and drain the hot water heater as it can use a lot of energy heating and reheating the same tank of water while you’re away.
Bring inside anything that can be lost or damaged in a winter storm, whether into the garage, shed or basement. This includes all outdoor furniture, tools and the like. Tidying up and leaving these items outdoors will not suffice, as not only are they at risk of being damaged but, in a strong storm, could blow around and cause damage to your, or your neighbor’s, house.
With new smart thermostats, this can be done while you’re boarding the plane. Set the thermostat to keep your home warm enough to prevent freezing, but low enough so that you’re not wasting energy or adding unnecessary wear and tear to the furnace – about 15 degrees Celsius should be good. This may mean you’ll return home to a chilly house, but a smart thermostat can turn up the heat before you leave the airport, or ask whoever is looking after your home to turn up the temperature before your arrival.
You do not need to have a smart house or purchase new lights to have your lights on timers. Timers can be purchased and used with any plug-in lamps to be set to turn on and off in the evenings. However, if you do want to upgrade your lights, you can purchase smart bulbs that can be controlled from the beach – or wherever you are – remotely. Putting lights on timers will help to deter break-ins. Using smart plugs, you can also turn your television or radio on and off for a few hours in the evening to make it appear that the home is occupied.
Check your windows and doors to ensure that they seal completely and lock. You do not want any water getting into your home as it can cause rot. It can also freeze and expand, causing damage to your home. Also, make sure that all the window and door locks are properly working and repair them if necessary.
When your home is prepped and ready for your time away, you should also let the right people know that you are going to be gone. Let a trusted neighbor know you’ll be gone and tell them if anyone else is watching or entering your home (such as a pet sitter). Ask a friend to collect your mail, check in on your property and water the plants. It’s also a good idea to let your alarm company know you will be away.