To prepare your home for the elements, it’s a good idea to have your roof inspected, gutters cleaned, and trees trimmed back prior to heading out. For those of us who travel a month or more at a time, it is sometimes possible to put your expensive cable television services on hold. Other considerations for any length of vacation. Many of the internet and security system companies now sell and install web camera systems; for a monthly fee. We turn off the main water line into our house before we leave. If you live in a warmer climate, you may need to leave your air conditioner and humidistat on to prevent mold, mildew, and other heat and humidity related issues. • Unplug and clean the refrigerator interior. Add contact names and numbers for any professional services that you annually use. Take any live plants you have with you. Long-term: Again, turn up the thermostat to about 85 degrees. To prevent sewer fumes from entering your home, you can wrap your toilet bowl in saran wrap. Don’t let the yard get run down. You also need to pay for a high-speed internet connection while you’re away, but you may be paying for that anyway. Long-term: Do the above. People usually leave their primary residence unoccupied for various legitimate reasons, some of which may well not be their choice. Most of us leave at least one car at home. Details: Why run up your electric bill heating water that you're not going to be there to use? To keep these green back-stabbers in check this past summer, I hired a local college student to mow my lawn and maintain our gardens. It’s always better to come home to a clean and uncluttered house. Hiding a house key under the mat, in a fake rock, or inside a magnetic house … Hiding a house key under the mat, in a fake rock, or inside a magnetic house key box stuck to the underside of an outdoor pipe is never a good idea. So much of this process is second nature to me as I have an antique pickup truck that gets put away every winter. Consider a Professional Security System. Coming home to the rotten smell of a dirty garbage disposal that has sat for weeks or months on end is not exactly pleasant. The reasons are obvious. All of them do essentially the same thing, so purchase the light timers you feel most comfortable programming. Let your neighbors know how long you will be away and give them additional contacts should you travel beyond cell service. If your home is on oil heat, have the tanks filled. Lock all sliding doors with security locks. To ensure that your home stays at these temperatures, and runs at peak efficiency, it’s important to have your heating and/or air conditioning system recently inspected and serviced. The refrigerator and freezer When you’re away from the house for an extended period of time – for example, if you leave on a vacation or the property is a summer home or rental property that is vacant – there are additional factors that should be considered when deciding whether to heat or cool the unoccupied house. Thankfully, stopping the mail is as easy as going onto and requesting your mail is forwarded or held. Well, hearing a radio on or hearing and seeing the light from a television is another way to signal that your home is occupied. “The valves in dishwashers can get stuck in the closed position when they sit around unused for weeks on end,” says Shank. It’s no good to be programming your light timers for the first time moments before locking the door and then wonder during your trip if you programmed them correctly. Fill it with bottles of water so it will run more efficiently. 4. Turn off your gas at the meter. Include the names and contact information for your plumber, electrician, yard service, pool service or other contact should a problem happen while you are away. Most of these items (like turning off your house water) take seconds and will become instinctual every time you leave for a long trip. The problem: Appliances in an empty home can also take a hit. Complications arise if you allow someone to stay at your house for a week or two while you are away. On many occasions we have shortened or extended mail forwarding based on changing road plans. Every degree you turn up the thermostat will save you 2 percent on your cooling costs, according to Salt River Project. Just be sure to put a black X on the saran wrap to prevent an accident. For those who are still reading paper newspapers, have you heard of this thing called the internet? Activate Motion Activated Outdoor Floodlights. Even better, you can adjust the amount of time your mail is forwarded online. When you return home: Possible scenarios include: Spending significant periods of a given year at a holiday residence, for example an apartment in Spain. When you get home, check the ice cubes. Have a friend periodically flush the toilets while you are gone. We are not going to be in our FL house for about 3- 4 months in the summer. Another option is to have a family member or neighbor collect your mail and forward it to you. Canadians have a similar mail forwarding system but pay a minimum of $52.95 CAN for four months of mail forwarding within their province. How to Prep Your Car for Long-Term Storage. Long-term: Arrange for a lawn service to take care of your landscaping while you are away. Discussion. Details: Don't come home from your trip to a refrigerator filled with spoiled food. Long-term: Do the same. A good electrical storm can knock out everything from computers to televisions to small appliances. If you can’t empty out your refrigerator and freezer, here are a couple of hints to help you avoid disaster. If you have a spa, turn off the heat. Never leave wet clothing in your dryer or they will likely mildew, mold, and ruin long before you get home. Thanks. Depending on how it looks, it also can be considered blight. Turn off the electricity to your hot water heater. Another option is to have a neighbor or another contact who can put the shutters up if a storm is approaching. Use a towel to chock the door open. Another exception is if your home has a sprinkler system or you want to have outside water available to water the garden or lawn. Take any live plants you have with you. In the 1990 classic Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin’s character famously used a movie to scare away ‘The Wet Bandits’. If necessary, you might purchase an endorsement to your policy to provide coverage for your home while it's vacant. 7. The house took about 2 hours to get back up to 65 when we came back, but it was comfortable enough to sit and eat dinner within 30 minutes. You could even put a “Beware of Dog” sign or sticker on your door. Such items may include an ice maker, an automatic sprinkler system that doesn't have a separate shut-off, and a pool. Before you leave it’s important to verify that the phone numbers the temperature monitors you have programmed are accurate and working. Additionally, remove garage door openers and valuables from cars stored in your garage. It makes the work cycle more normal. All kinds of weather could happen in your absence. Inform local police the house will be empty. Figuring out how to balance the budget for a home that remains empty can be tricky. It’s also a very good idea to shut off and drain dishwasher valves, washing machine valves, sink valves, and outdoor water faucets. To supplement your fake Fido, you can install faux alarm signs and stickers. Linda Stanfield, owner of Benjamin Franklin the Punctual Plumber, recommends not turning it off while you're gone, but instead flushing it out when you return. “The valves in dishwashers can get stuck in the closed position when they sit around unused for weeks on end,” says Shank. Here is a golden tip for extra safety: Do not post that you are leaving on an extended vacation or business trip on Facebook! If possible, put anything that may tempt the contemptuous out of sight. From the threat of burglary to a failed heating system causing the pipes to freeze, the range of things that can go wrong at home are enough to keep folks up at night. All Rights Reserved. Details: If you have a pool, continue to run the pump so the pool doesn't develop algae and turn green. Just be sure to inform anyone with access to your home that you have disabled the garage door system and/or manually locked the garage. The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. Some of the items in these checklists might not apply to your house, and there may be other items that you’ll need on your checklist that other people don’t have to consider. However, always be sure to follow correct procedure and hire a professional plumber if you have any doubts. If you post that you are leaving your home empty for a few months, you may be sending strangers an invitation to burglarize your home. Turn your water off at the main valve, every house has one. She enjoys the money and we don’t look unoccupied. Perhaps the most important aspect of this preparation is making sure your home appears occupied. If you already have an alarm system installed, be sure to notify them of your long-term travel plans including a list of your most current contacts, the names and contact information of neighbors and house sitters who may be at the premises. Empty, wipe down and unplug the refrigerator. If left unchecked, these green Benedict Arnolds will grow to reveal our absence, and invite the less scrupulous to have a look. If the power went out, did your alarm turn back on? -- Security company: If you have one, notify the company that you will be gone. Here is the final hint to know if your stuff has stayed cold while you were gone, or if you have had a power-outage that let stuff thaw, and has now re-frozen. After the first six months, you can extend for another six months. We live in a small town where this service is possible and understand that not all police departments can do this. Unplug unnecessary appliances in preparation for … Short-term: Pour a half cup of chlorine into the bowl (not the tank). 5. My advice is to purchase at least one for every floor of your home (preferably more) and test them prior to leaving on your trip. Use this information as a baseline for your personal checklist. There are many old-school analog and new digitally programmable light timers on the market. If you are going to be gone long term, arrange for your mail to be forwarded. -- Emergency contact: Leave your contact information with a friend or neighbor. Precautions for leaving a house empty over winter please? Copyright © 2007-2020. Drain spouts should be secured to take heavy rain away from your house. Provide the dates you will be gone and where you are going. Feel the valves underneath faucets to make sure they aren't moist. Review your policy and talk with your insurance agent. If your smoke detector batteries are almost dead, they may begin beeping in your absence. Leaving your house empty for over 3 months? Clearly, developing and maintaining good relationships with your neighbors is key to preparing for an extended trip. Unfortunately, leaving your blinds closed for weeks and months also says, “We’re not home” and protects the aforementioned unsavory individuals from being seen once they’re in your home. Some home security service providers include these sensors with their installations. Drain any remaining water from the faucets, long shower head extensions and such. They're going to Florida for the rest of the winter and their toilet will not be used for 3 months. Step 1, Turn off the water at the exterior. When we leave our house in cold weather, we set the thermostat for 55 degrees. Another point that’s made is the importance of not having visible valuables in plain sight from first floor windows. Dry thoroughly. One exception to the main water shut-off rule is if your heating system works off hot water or steam radiators, and you are leaving the heat on while you are away. Lock your back door. The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. While the technology exists to watch television from home via the internet, most of us do not watch our home cable television or use our home cable internet while we’re traveling. Get any leaks fixed. Depending on how long you will be away, turning off the main water supply line where it comes into the house is highly recommended. Also, check expiration dates of unopened items. Rather than paying about $150 for cable television and internet while you’re not home, you can pay $10 to put both services on hold. Stop the Mail and Newspaper Deliveries. Before our last trip, I installed a shut-off in the section between the line to the outside faucet and the continuing supply to the house. Here’s a good article from the Chicago Tribune, “Alarms Should Sound On Deal”. I can only imagine the damage that would have occurred had the water leak gone unabated for months. 1. 3. In case of a fire, flood, or other disaster, these photographs will prove what you had, and in what overall condition it was in. Just kidding! While you will hopefully not need these images, having evidence of this information can make or break travel plans. Unplug and reset the thermostat: Temporarily adjust the thermostat so the air-conditioner or heater won't waste energy by running in an empty house. There are 635,000 empty homes in the UK and over 278,000 of those have been empty for more than six months, according to latest government statistics (2019). Short-term: Mow your lawn and trim shortly before your trip. While that may be the official limit, our small town post office has held our mail for three months at a time. That said, you can buy and install a web camera system in your house and property that will let you see your den from Denmark and your lawn from Louisiana. We noticed that during the two weeks that our house was unoccupied before we moved it, the pink slime ring (with some black spots) showed up pretty heavily and it … Some people leave for 3 months and some leave for 7 months. Those with house plants should also make arrangements to have their plants watered and cared for. Other items, like not hiding house keys, are just tips that you can immediately incorporate into your travel habits. The ideal way to do this is to leave your car parked in a garage, out of the elements, and have a neighbor start and drive the car every week or two. The house is decently insulated, but probably only averagely-well sealed (R-19 walls, but some small drafts). Never Post Travel Plans or Events on Social Media. The water heater will run occasionally but not nearly as often as it does normally. After turning off your water, turn on your kitchen and bathroom faucets until they run dry. When in doubt, replace the batteries, and test the detectors. s3londonuk. What won’t fit in your camper’s refrigerator can be offered to your friendly neighbor as part of maintaining the friendship. There is nothing that says, “no one at home” like an accumulation of newspapers at the end of your driveway. Editor’s Note: Thank you, Steve, for this very informative article. Before you leave your house for a extended period -- no matter what season it is -- turn off the main water supply. They can also automatically light the way when you get home. No matter how long you'll be gone, whether a few days or several months, here are steps you can take to make your house safer and lower your utility bills. When properties are left vacant or are unoccupied, steps should be taken to prevent or mitigate losses due to heating system, electrical system, water damage, vandalism or other causes. Light timers turn household lamps on and off every evening and go a long way to help give your home the appearance that you’re still there. While they are walking through, they can make sure no door hang tags, leaflets, or packages have been left at your door. If you want your mail forwarded, you request a temporary mail forwarding for $1 USD. 110 posts. The thieves know about these products and tricks and look for these easy access vulnerabilities. Turning off the main water supply to your home is the best defense against flooding caused by a burst pipe or other plumbing failure. The thermostat only showed 50F at that time, but the air surrounding us was toasty warm. Depending on the season of your absence, and your home climate, it may also be necessary to have someone help with snow removal, leaf raking and removal, and lawn and shrub watering. With the invention of high-speed internet, the proliferation of high quality small cameras, and the ability to see live streaming video using the cellular connections on our smartphones, it’s now possible to see a live video feed of our house and property from almost anywhere in the world. In a similar way, we told our local post office that we would be out of town for an extended period. Leave all the interior doors open so the air can circulate inside the house. The last thing … Not all cable television and internet service providers in all areas will allow you to do this, but some will. Sump pump alarms are also available in case of a flood. If they are intact, stuff stayed frozen. That same lighting strike will also travel through coax cable, so anything – modems, computers, televisions, etc. The problem: Appliances in an empty home can also take a hit. Ensure all doors, windows, skylights, and vents are properly closed and locked. Ask a friend or neighbor you trust to water your plants. We were lucky. Click here to read the suggestions from the readers about closing up your house for an extended trip. We have an outside faucet that comes off our water line just after the main enters the house and before it goes on to the remainder of the building. That’s a savings of $140 a month for something you’re not using. To avoid this situation, run a half-cup of vinegar and water in your garbage disposal. Possible scenarios include: Spending significant periods of a given year at a holiday residence, for example an apartment in Spain. Garage doors with electric garage door openers are vulnerable to thieves with garage door opener scanners. As a final measure against a water leak, you can install a water flow sensor on your main water supply pipe. Just imagine what your kitchen trash will smell like after a month or two of warm summer air. There are many stories of folks leaving a house and forgetting this critical step only to return to broken pipes inside their walls. With this article we asked our readers for their ideas. You may also consider photographing your passport, medication bottles, and other important documents. Why would someone want to watch your man cave from Mongolia? As the joke goes, everything in your refrigerator will turn into a science project if left for long enough. On the topic of garbage, you may need to arrange to have your household garbage taken to the street, or have the cans pulled back to the house. When it comes to a vacant house in the summertime, what temperature should you leave your house at? The mail is often a never-ending cascade of advertising, magazines, and other solicitations – with a few important parcels in-between. One way to do this is to run the water heater until it is empty and let it refill again. If your electrical items are plugged into surge protectors, there’s no sense in leaving them plugged in and risking the damage. Even toasters and DVD/Blu-ray players can be damaged in a lighting storm. An empty fridge would have more start and stops then one with something in it. Naturally you might think taking pictures is what you do once you’re on the road and exploring new places. If the furnace should fail on a very cold day, water in a pipe could freeze and burst the pipe. Just make sure to pause those newspaper drops while you’re away, or they may give your absence away. In Flordia, specially the humid months, you do not leave the house with no A/C. Don't let it sit empty, however. -- Small appliances, computers, televisions: Unplug these items. [1] X Research sourceStep 2, Open all faucets and drain all waterlines. Make sure your security lights are outfitted with CFL bulbs, which save on energy and are long-lasting. 20. It’s a nearly universal phenomenon — that moment of panic in the middle of the night before leaving home for an extended period of time wondering what loose ends you’ve forgotten to tie. Any dead trees that could fall on your home or property should also be removed. Again, ask your neighbor to check for these and dispose of them. In general, folks want to close their blinds to prevent the unsavory from peering in and seeing unprotected valuables. One is to unplug the refrigerator and leave the door open to prevent mildew, odor and mold. There is one possible solution if your water system happens to be laid out in a handy manner. It’s also not a good idea to change your answering machine message to anything implying your absence. You’ll be paying for that hidden draw while you’re away. Especially in the summer, a refrigerator works better with a cold mass inside to help maintain the temperature. Clean out your fridge and pantry of … For example, in the state of Florida, Comcast will turn off their services for $5 a month. It also involves preparing your home for your absence, Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy. On the other hand, there are companies that sell do-it-yourself kits including the web cameras, digital hubs, and software that allows you to install, set-up, and use such a system. To create the illusion that you have a huge, hairy, and hungry guard hound inside your home, put a big dog bowl and chain (preferably beat up and warn) outside your home. 25. Heating system/Electrical The heating system should be cleaned and inspected by a contractor to help ensure it is working properly, especially through the winter months, to […] But 7 … Prepare the Kitchen Clean out the refrigerator. Leaving your home for 2 or 3 months is one thing.. To be clear, Comcast charges $5 to put each service on hold; $5 for cable television, and $5 for internet service. It also involves preparing your home for your absence.