How To Avoid Disaster At Home While You're Away This Winter
by Kevin Lapp
on Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 at 12:48pm.
Nothing beats a winter slump quite like a little holiday to unwind and rejuvenate. Whether you’re a snow bunny hitting the slopes or escaping to a tropical locale, your vacation should be a time to let go of worries – and that includes the worry of your home being protected while you are away. Taking these precautionary measures before you leave will set your mind at ease allowing you to fully enjoy that well deserved getaway.
Before you can unplug from the busy routines of life, unplug your devices at home. All electronics and appliances plugged into an outlet or power bar, whether in use or not, are drawing a small amount of electricity called phantom power. If you’re away, it would be a waste to be wasting that electricity, so unplug! Disconnecting your devices will also save them from potential damage or an electrical fire should a power outage or surge occur while you are away. The easiest way to disconnect is to have items plugged into a surge-protected power bar. With the flick of a switch all devices are powered off at once. Or if you happen to forget, the protected power bar will stop that surge before it hits your equipment.
Adjust the Temperature
The length of your departure will determine just how much to adjust the temperature in your home. If you’re going away all winter, you may want to consider a complete winterization, but if you are only leaving for a week or two, simply lowering the temperature will suffice. Lowering the thermostat will ensure that your home is heated enough to avoid freezing, but not wasting gas or electricity unnecessarily. Many modern programmable thermostats have online capabilities to access your thermostat settings while away. These give added peace of mind allowing you to check-in and change the settings remotely in the event of a change in weather.
Water leaks can cause a significant amount of damage no matter when they happen. And they can occur for a number of reasons… worn out toilet seal, old loose faucets, broken underground sprinkler piping…. Avoid any possible leaking or flooding while away by shutting off the customer side main water valve inside your home. This is typically found in the basement or close to wherever your water meter is located. Shutting off the main supply will stop all water flow at the source before it disperses through the house. If shutting off the heat completely, make sure you winterize the pipes by draining them to avoid freezing and expansion which could cause pipes to burst. After shutting off the main valve, open taps slightly to let any excess water trickle out.
Window and door seals are the sneaky culprits for many homes feeling drafty or losing heat through winter. While it’s recommended to always maintain proper care of these things, it’s especially important if you are going away. Properly sealing your home prior to going away will avoid any water damage or heat loss that will go unrecognized if nobody is home. Pick up some caulking or weather stripping from the hardware store and spend some time fixing any broken or cracked seals before you leave.
Clean out Your Fridge
After your vacation, nothing can ruin your warm welcome home quite like a fridge full of rotting food or smelly trash. Go through perishables in the fridge and discard anything that will spoil during the time of your vacation. If your fridge seems overly empty, fill a few jugs about ¾ full of water to maintain a steady refrigerator temperature. Then empty all garbage and recycling bins throughout the home and put the waste in the garage. You may also want to consider arranging for a neighbor to set your bins out on pick-up day.
Nothing could be worse than letting every passer-by know that your home is vacant. While it’s not something anyone likes to think about, a vacant home is a target for crime. Have a trusted neighbor or friend stop by to pick up any newspapers or mail that may be left at the front door. Set timers for lamps near front windows to turn on periodically. And through winter months, have someone look after snow removal to make your home look lived-in. It may not seem like much, but making sure even the minor details are looked after can make a world of difference in protecting your home.