If you are a snowbird planning on heading south this winter then you will need to prepare your home for the cold weather, even though you yourself are planning on escaping it. Taking a few simple steps to protect your property from water damage, heating malfunctions, theft and damp will help to ensure that you come home to a property just as homely and welcoming as you left it.
Essential Tasks for Winterizing Your Home
1. Don’t Give Away that it’s Vacant
Many burglaries are opportunistic. If you can help to make your home appear as if it’s occupied then you will scare off a lot of would-be thieves.
– Stop your newspaper deliveries and forward your mail. Have a friend come by occasionally to collect any junk mail that still gets sent.
– Arrange for someone to come by and clear your drive after a snowstorm.
– Use timers for your interior lights to make it look as if the property is occupied.
– Put valuables out of sight so that you don’t attract attention from thieves.
2. Protect Your Plumbing
Burst pipes are one of the biggest risks associated with winter weather. If you know that your home is going to be completely vacant for a long time then you may want to turn off the water supply and drain the pipes. Do not do this if you have a very old steam heating system, or if you have fire sprinklers installed.
If you can’t turn off the water, then turn on the Eco feature of your boiler. Many modern boilers have a feature that will run the heating for a few hours each day at a very low level. The energy use from this is minimal, but it is enough to stop your pipes from freezing. If you don’t have an Eco feature, set the temperature to 55 degrees F, so that your home doesn’t get too cold.
It is still worth shutting off and draining any outdoor faucets to avoid the risk of vandalism or of those faucets getting damaged.
3 – Do All Those Odd Jobs You Have Been Putting Off
Now is a good time to get around to all those odd jobs that you have been putting off. Fix that damaged fence, clear leaves out of the gutters, get your roof inspected, trim any bushes or trees, and fix any damage to windows or doors.
If you use a prepayment meter for your energy supply, top it up with enough money to last the time you will be away. Have your heating and your electrics inspected and if any issues are identified, get them fixed as soon as possible. Defrost and unplug your freezer if you aren’t keeping food in it, and unplug any appliances that you don’t need to keep plugged in or charged. Turn off plug sockets at the wall.
4 – Tidy Up
Make sure that your home is clean and that there is no food left in your fridge, and nothing perishable left in your cupboards. Clean your oven, fridge and freezer (defrost and unplug them if they’re empty). You don’t want to leave crumbs of food lying around because that will attract pests.
Close any vents to stop pests getting in, and make sure that the flue of your fireplace is closed, because this is often a point of entry for bats and birds. Fit a screen to keep anything that does decide to nest in the flue out of your house.
5 – Make Arrangements for Your Plants
Dead plants are a clear giveaway that the house is vacant. Either take your plants with you to your summer home or if you can’t do that ask someone to water them for you. Having a house sitter is a good idea because they can also clear your answerphone if it is filling up with messages, throw out any leaflets that have been delivered, and tidy any litter that gets blown into the yard. In addition, you’ll be able to get regular reports from them, which will give you peace of mind.
6 – Fit an IP Camera
Consider investing in a wireless security camera (or a few), so that you can remotely check in on your house. This is a handy feature for peace of mind. If you don’t have a large data allowance on your Internet package you can use a motion-sensing alarm that will only upload video or pictures when someone is moving around in the property. If you decide to do this, give the house-sitter a heads up so that they don’t feel like they are being spied on without their consent.
7 – Use a Good Alarm
Fit a security alarm, and make sure it is working. If you’re going to be away for a very long time tell your local law enforcement that your home is going to be empty, and give them your contact details in case of emergency.
Enjoy your trip to warmer climates!