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 extra care 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 begin your travel preparations, be sure you’ve completed your routine annual winterization. Some things you may need to check off your list include:
Once you accomplish your yearly tasks, 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:
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 send some items of your home off for preventative maintenance during your time away from home. This way, you’re not inconveniencing yourself when you return home, and as a bonus your equipment will have a smaller chance of breaking down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to close all flues and dampers. You may want to lower the temperature on your water heater for added savings as well.
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. You may want to give them a bit of cash to keep a general eye on the place. 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.