When winter arrives with its heavy snows and bitter temperatures, your imagination may turn to sunny locales, warm water, and white sand beaches. But you won’t enjoy your trip to paradise if you’re too stressed about what’s going on back at home.
That’s why properly prepping your home to endure winter weather — even if you’re not there — is so important.
The good news is with the right steps and the correct tools, it’s fairly easy to do. Here are seven steps to take to get your home ready for winter travel.
Since you’ll be away soaking up the sunshine, lower the temperature on your thermostat before you leave. This will help conserve energy and prevent skyrocketing bills from heating spaces you’re not even there to enjoy.
Think about adjusting your split heat pump system or whatever heating system you utilize to the mid-50s and set the fan to “auto.”
You can also install a timer to maintain your home’s low temperature while you’re away and turn it up just before your arrival.
Today’s smart thermostats take this notion a step further, allowing you to control your home’s temp remotely via Wi-Fi. Either way, you save money while you’re gone yet return to cozy comfort.
Of course, you’ll save even more on your utility bills if you ensure your house is retaining as much heat as possible. Before you leave, close your fireplace dampers to prevent warmed air from escaping. Double-check that any windows and doors are tightly sealed, installing weatherstripping if needed to block drafts.
While not exactly a pre-trip checklist item, you do want to ensure your attic, walls, and floors are well-insulated. By tightening up your building envelope, you could save up 10% on your heating bills whether you’re home or away.
Nobody wants to come home to a flooded house and eye-popping bills for water damage repairs. To avoid this fate, shut off your water and drain your pipes. Start by turning off your main water supply at the shut-off valve.
Then open all the faucets to drain any water left behind. Don’t forget about outdoor spigots; open them up and let all their water out, too. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, this will also have to be drained and its above-ground components insulated.
For further peace of mind, add antifreeze to your toilet bowls and tanks in all bathrooms. Be sure to drain the dishwasher and washing machine as well. Leave the doors to these appliances open to allow any remaining water to evaporate.
Perhaps turning your water off completely isn’t an option because, for example, a pet is staying behind. Your hired caretaker will be giving them water daily and may have to use your facilities while in your home.
That means you’ll need to take other steps to prevent freezing temperatures from wreaking havoc on your exposed pipes. One method is to insulate your pipes with foam insulation. This comes in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can get the right fit.
Heating cable works well too — just coil it around all exposed pipes and plug it into an outlet. You can even wind towels or newspaper around any exposed plumbing fixtures. Or there’s the tried-and-true tactic of leaving faucets on at a slow drip.
Any or all of these methods can help you avoid coming home to burst pipes and a huge, expensive mess.
You’ve already ensured you’re not squandering heat, and you shouldn’t allow your appliances to be energy-sucking vampires, either. Before you head out the door, make sure that you’ve unplugged any that won’t be used.
This includes the TV, computer, coffee maker, microwave, and toaster oven. And don’t forget your digital video recorder (aka DVR), which is a notorious energy hog.
Pinpoint other electronic devices that could cause a fire if left plugged in, either due to an electrical surge or overheating. Game consoles and phone-charging stations are potential culprits.
By unplugging them before you go, you’ll both eliminate possible fire hazards and save a boatload on your energy bills. The latter will leave you with more money with which to enjoy your trip.
Prior to departure, make sure that your home is secure from break-ins or vandalism. Check deadbolts on all doors, including to the garage or basement, and make sure all windows are securely locked.
Fix any weak spots or cracks, and consider installing entry sensors on first-floor windows. Having dependable lockpick tools on hand while fixing doors can be a practical precaution, ensuring you have the means to address any unexpected issues and secure your home effectively.
If you have a smart home security system, arm and activate it before you leave. This way, you can monitor your home remotely from even the most far-flung locale.
And don’t neglect the usual low-tech security measures. Stop your mail and any newspaper deliveries a day or two before you head out.
Put timers on a few lamps around the house to suggest to passers-by that someone is home. Finally, let your neighbors know that you’ll be away. It’s always wise to have an extra pair of eyes watching out for your home.
As a northerner, you’ve probably lived through a blizzard or two. If you plan to be away during the snowiest months, make arrangements to have snow removed while you’re gone. Hire a professional snow removal company or enlist a trusted neighbor. You want to have a plan in place in case the flurries start flying.
Arranging for snow removal will prevent you from coming home to a driveway or walkway buried in snow. It will also make it appear as though your home is occupied.
Nothing will signal “this house is empty” faster than a walkway that’s under four feet of the white stuff. And in the worst-case scenario, clear pathways will allow emergency services to access your home if needed.
You probably have a million things on your to-do list when you’re getting ready to jet away for a winter break.
Make sure prepping your home doesn’t add to the stress. By following these seven steps, you can ensure a worry-free winter getaway. So go ahead, pack your bags, and head off into the sunshine.