If you plan to leave your home vacant during the winter months, taking steps to winterize your property before you do so can save you money in costly repairs that can occur due to ice or other weather conditions common during the season. The following are ways to prepare your home:
Pipes: Turn off water supply to the house and drain pipes to protect them from freezing. You can empty pipes by running the water and flushing the toilets after the water has been turned off. After draining the pipes, it is a good idea to leave the faucets open to prevent pressure build up from any water that remains.
If you have an interior sprinkler system (for fire prevention) don’t turn off the water. If your water needs stays on for any reason, heat your pipes by setting your thermostat to at least 50-55 degrees (68 degrees is the recommended setting) to prevent pipes from freezing. Leave cabinet doors (kitchen, bathroom or those that otherwise house pipes) open so that warm air can circulate inside the cabinets around the pipes. Shut off and drain outside water faucets and install faucet insulators that can be purchased at home improvement stores.
Water Heater: Turn off the water using the water shut-off valve. After water is turned off, turn off the water heater itself. A gas water heater should be shut off at the gas valve. An electric water heater needs to be shut off at the breaker. After the heater is turned off, drain the water by opening the faucets at the fixtures, then going outside and opening the outside sillcocks, allowing the water to drain. Next, follow the manufacturer guidelines for pressurizing the system. If this process is not something you are certain you can do effectively, a plumber can do this for you.
Thermostat: Make sure to flip your HVAC system over to heat and set accordingly (depending on the above information about turning off your water).
Gas: Turn your gas line off to prevent gas leaks or other gas related incidents.
Windows/Doors: Make sure all windows are closed and locked to prevent theft, but also to ensure that there is no opening for snow or rain to enter your home. If you live in an area prone to storms, consider installing storm doors and windows.
Unplug: Unplugging everything when you are away will not only save you a considerable amount, but it can also prevent fires that can occur by appliances shorting out.
Gutters: Make sure your gutters are cleaned out, and depending on how long you will be away, consider hiring someone to check them or clean them out once or twice while you are away or after any heavy storms that may cause more debris to collect in them.
Yard: Bring all of your lawn furniture inside to protect it from the elements and prevent it from becoming a projectile during heavy winds.
Fireplace: Close the damper or flue to prevent snow, rain, or pests from entering your home.
Food: Empty your fridge and pantry of any perishable food items. Wipe the fridge down, unplug it, and leave both the fridge and freezer door open. Make sure all non-perishables are stored in air-tight containers to keep bugs and rodents at bay. Don’t forget to empty the trash!
Mail: Don’t forget to contact the post office and stop your mail from being delivered while you are away, or ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail for your in your absence.
Alarm: Make sure any security system is in working order and engaged when you leave.
Neighbors: Let a trusted neighbor know how long your property will be vacant, and leave them with several ways to contact you if they see suspicious activity or signs that any damage has occurred to your home.