Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted in 2015. However, it has been updated to reflect current information.
Winter usually signals the beginning of the holiday season and for many, that means traveling to see family. Before you leave your home for that holiday vacation, take some time to give your home a little TLC and to give your self peace of mind. When you’re making your list of what things to pack, it’s smart to also make a list of things to do to your to prepare it for when you’ll be gone.
- Turn your water heater temperature down – Many gas water heaters have a “vacation mode” temperature setting. Turn the temperature down, but don’t shut the water heater off completely. There’s no need to have piping hot water available at the turn of a tap while you’re not there to enjoy it! Plus, this will even save you a few dollars on your gas bill.
- Protect your pipes to avoid water damage by keeping the furnace on. You can set your home’s temperature to 55 degrees, which will help keep your home warm enough to ensure your pipes don’t freeze. A burst pipe or leaky pipe can cause significant damage to your home. You can keep your cabinets open to help the heat circulate and warm the areas of your home that the pipes are located in.
- Turn off the water at each toilet, sink, dishwasher, and washing machine, or …if possible, shut the water to the house off entirely.
- Unplug any small appliances or electronic devices that don’t need to remain plugged in while you’re gone. This helps you avoid potential electrical fires. This also helps you save some money because even when these appliances are plugged in, the continue to draw power even if they’re not even on!
- Adjust the temperature and timing on your thermostat to maximize efficiency and cost savings. Just be sure to keep it at a temperature that continues to protect pets, plants, and furniture! Did you know there are new digital thermostats that can be controlled from your phone anywhere you are? Even if you leave your home on vacation, you can still adjust your thermostat.
- If you receive a daily paper delivery, call the service and request that the delivery be put on hold for the duration of your vacation. Or, as an alternative, have a trusted neighbor pick up and hold each paper for you so they don’t stack up in the driveway! You don’t want others to know that you’re not at your home, and if you have three papers sitting in your driveway, it usually is a sign that you’re not home.
- Put some lights on timers. This will give the illusion that the home is occupied, even if you’re many zip codes away.
- Notify your security company that you will be out of town.
- Check all your smoke detectors and ensure that they are working well.
- Treat your garbage disposal to a spa treatment of vinegar and water. Let it sit a few minutes then rinse.
- Clean the fridge of any food that will expire before you get home.
- Take out any trash that could get smelly!
- Avoid posting details about being away from home on social media sites.
Despite the best of intentions and preparation, disaster can strike while you’re out of town. Pipes can burst, outdoor creatures can eat through yard irrigation lines, and any number of little issues can arise that put your home and belongings at risk. If possible, enlist a reliable and trustworthy friend, relative, or neighbor to check in on your house daily or even stay at the property. This pair of eyes and ears will go a long way toward deterring burglars and ensuring that any plumbing, landscaping, heating, or cooling issues are discovered promptly and handled to protect all the things you love that can’t travel with you.