A change of scenery is a good thing, especially when “scenery,” for many of us, has been confined to our property lines and the occasional safari to Target or Trader Joe’s. If you’re planning to get away for a vacation this winter, a bit of advance planning to keep your home safe can ensure you have more peace of mind when you go — and less potential for problems when you return. From electronics to furnace tune-ups, let’s look at the essentials.
Lock Down Social Media
“Pictures or it didn’t happen” can wait ’til you get home. It’s best not to mention long absences — even a three-day weekend — on your social media accounts, since you never know who might be listening. Don’t make your home a soft target.
Check Your Furnace
It’s easy to forget routine things when you’re caught up in the planning for a vacation, or if you’re jet lagged upon your return. So change your air filter, and schedule a furnace tune-up before you leave so you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
Inspect Your Plumbing
You know that guest bathroom faucet with the slow drip, and that leak under your kitchen sink? They may not seem like much, but you’re wasting water and also taking a chance that the problem that was small when you left might be much bigger when you return home. Items like new fixtures, or water heater repairs, should be addressed before you leave.
Shut Off Water
You won’t be needing your sinks, washer, and toilets, so turn off the water supply while you’re gone. If you’ll be gone for an extended period of time, it’s worthwhile to drain the pipes so they don’t freeze from lack of use.
There’s not much that needs to be plugged in. Unplug the microwave, the cable boxes, and most of your other appliances. The only things that need power are your fridge, freezer, alarm system, a few lights, and — if you have a smart home — your router.
Check Your Sump Pump
Even if a pipe doesn’t burst, a heavy rain can cause flooding. Check to make sure your sump pump is in working order, and call Ace Plumbing for drain cleaning while you’re at it.
Clean Gutters and Outdoor Drains
Speaking of drainage, this isn’t a bad time to make sure your gutters are free of leaves, debris, nests, and other obstructions. Poor drainage damages roofs, siding, and foundations, so a bit of time spent now can mean a lot less money spent later.
Set Your Thermostat
If the home’s unoccupied, turn your thermostat down to 58 degrees. That’s warm enough to prevent frozen pipes, but cool enough to save money you don’t need to spend heating an empty house.
Consider a Smart Makeover
Smart gadgets — from smart thermostats to lights, appliances, environmental monitoring, and security systems — let you control your home from anywhere you’ve got a cell signal. You can get push notifications if something goes wrong, turn the thermostat back up when you’re on your way home so the house is toasty when you get back, and even vary the types of lights that come on at night, as well as their timing, so that it looks like someone’s home.
Inventory Key Belongings
Check the placement and condition of important documents, valuables, and the like. It’s a good idea to have a master list on file with your insurance company, and take a photo or video walkthrough before you leave. Should anything happen while you’re gone, it can be a big help in speeding the insurance claim process.
Phone a Friend
Finally, have someone you trust check in on your home periodically to make sure everything is safe. They can bring in the mail, clean up any debris that may be laying around, and make sure nothing is amiss. Make sure they have a list of important contacts — including yours, your hotel’s, and Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning — and that you bring them back something nice for looking out for you!