Securing Your Home for Extended Travel
Nothing ruins your beach day faster than a call from a neighbor in the north that you have water running our of your basement or there’s an unfamiliar moving van parked in your driveway.
True story; my husband once received a call from his father’s neighbor that there were icicles inside the house. A pipe had burst in the ceiling and it was so cold that icicles formed inside the house.
Planning is everything!
You must make plans for securing your home for extended travel if you plan to keep a home in two countries. Many Mexican Snowbirds spend their summers in the north and their fall and winters in the south. Cold northern winters put your northern home at particularly risk for freezing pipes and other weather related damage.
Every unoccupied home is vulnerable to theft and vandalism. You can’t plan for every contingency but this list might help you avoid a disaster.
This post contains helpful affiliate links to Amazon and Traveling Mail, an attractive online mail solution for travelers. Secure your mail.
Prevent or prepare for weather related damage.
- Turn off the water, a leak could happen at any time in any climate. Put RV antifreeze in all traps, toilets, dishwasher, washing machine and anything that could freeze.
- Important: If you turn off the water to the house you must drain and turn off the water heater by stopping the electricity via the breaker or turn off the gas and pilot light at the water heater. Check your user manual or ask an expert if you’re unsure.
- Turn off your water circulator.
- Drain your hot tub.
- Ask your neighbors to report any strange circumstances at your home. Ask a trusted friend to walk through the house once a week or pay for a property manager to have eyes on your home, looking for water or wind damage, broken windows, unlocked doors and etc.
- Make a plan for snow removal if needed. You have an obligation to keep your sidewalks clear and in high snow volume areas you may need your roof and decks shoveled.
- Do you need to protect windows with snow shutters? We lost a window one heavy snow year when the snow piled up on our deck and pushed out a window. It happens.
- Put a small amount of olive oil in your garbage disposal to prevent the blades from freezing up.
- Winterize your outdoor sprinkler system. Remove hoses from the hose bibs.
- Secure outdoor furniture, garbage cans or anything that can be blown over. Disconnect the bbq propane cylinder and store it in a safe location.
- Winterize any cars and other vehicles that you leave at home. Have your vehicle serviced and leave it will a full gas tank to prevent condensation. Make sure you have radiator antifreeze. Disconnect the battery and put it on a trickle charger. Store your vehicle in a garage if at all possible. We use this battery charger from Amazon for all cars and jet ski batteries. Trickle chargers prolong the life of your batteries by keeping them charged. It uses very little electricity but is money well sent to save your batteries.
Prevent Theft and Vandalism
- Leave lights on unpredictable timers. Set them to turn on at approximate times when you would normally be home.
- Stop newspaper delivery.
- Stop garbage pick up and secure your trash cans.
- Manage your mail. I recommend Traveling Mail, for expats and snowbirds.
- If you use a home alarm, make certain that you have a local contact for the alarm company to call in an emergency or a false alarm.
- Don’t broad cast your travel plans on social media or to people you don’t know and love. It seems so obvious but I see Facebook posts all the time about travel plans. Just don’t do it.
- Ask a trusted neighbor to park in your driveway occasionally and to watch for suspicious activity.
- Leave a key or the key code with a trusted neighbor or friend.
- Do you want or need a security webcam where you can spy on your home over the internet?
Manage Your Utilities
- Set your thermostat to an appropriate temperature to prevent freezing and to avoid unnecessary charges. We set ours at 50 degrees.
- Unplug all appliances and electronics not in use.
- If you empty and turn off your refrigerator (I do not) then clean and disinfect it and leave the door blocked open. Mold is ugly. Disconnect the ice maker if you leave the freezer running. This is a prime source of water damage.
- Change your internet to vacation mode. It’s worth the small fee to have hassle free access and no installation charges when you return. Trust me on this. Been there, done that. We saved $5 a month for 6 months and paid $100 to reconnect to AT&T and wasted 3 days waiting for a service call that never happened as promised. Pay the vacation mode fee or at least do the math.
- Phones warrant a separate post entirely but you should consider your options.
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