There’s nothing more frustrating than coming back to a house with a damaged floor or cracked woodwork after winter.
The worst risks come from fire and water as they can ruin everything they touch including floors, walls, foundation, and electrical systems.
Before you leave, make sure everything is secure, can resist all the tribulations that a harsh winter can bring with it, as well as intruders and visits by wildlife.
Below I have detailed as much as I can about how to prep an empty house ready to be vacant for long periods through wintertime and arrive back to it in good order after your vacation or time away.
Check out my winterization tips below.
- Turn off the water supply
The last thing you want is to come back to your house only to find it flooded. First, you should shut down the main valve of the water supply. If you use a well, be sure to shut the breaker to the pump. After that, open the faucets to drain water from the pipes.
If you suspect there’s any remaining water, you can pour antifreeze in toilet bowls/tanks. Draining the water prevents burst pipes since it can expand when temperatures rise. Other things to drain include washing machines, ice makers, and dishwashers.
The next step is to insulate any exposed pipes. This will prevent them from bursting during freezing temperatures. More specifically, you should pay attention to those pipes located in crawl spaces, basements, garages, attic, and basements.
When you insulate them, you prevent bursting which is often affected by freezing temperatures. You can use heat-insulating products like fiberglass pipe wrap, electrical heat tape, and pipe sleeves.
To ensure you avoid the damage that occurs from freezing pipes, you should leave the task to a professional.
Don’t forget to drain the outdoor garden hoses. If left unattended, the water inside the hose may cause a burst. Keep in mind that winter watering should be done to keep your outdoor garden healthy.
However, the person doing the job should disconnect the pipes after each use.
- Wrap insulation around the water heater
While installing the water heater in a warm place during winter can prevent freezing, this is not always the case. The truth is that water can collect inside the unit and freeze.
This can damage the internal components of the heater when you leave it like this for an extended period. And because pipes that connect to the heater are at risk, you should insulate them.
If you have an electric water heater, you should shut off the water at the breaker. On the other hand, if you have a gas heater you should shut it at the gas valve.
- Adjust your thermostat
If you’ve been using your air conditioning unit, you should flip it over to adjust the heat setting. To ensure the pipes don’t freeze, turn the thermostat at around 50 degrees.
If your house is located in an area with a damp climate, make sure you install a humidity indicator. Homeowners with a heat pump, boilers, or condensation furnace may require a specialist to winterize them.
Some people believe that they will save energy when the turn the heating system off. Don’t make a mistake of turning the thermostat off – this can be catastrophic.
Imagine what would happen if it reaches the freezing point. This can affect the temperature of your house resulting to burst pipes. This is not what you want to find when you return home after your vacation.
- Unplug electrical appliances
If you have a television, computer, lamps, refrigerators, or microwaves, you should unplug them. This reduces the chance for random fire in case of a faulty switch or rodents gnawing wires.
Finally, when temperatures drop to near freezing your refrigerator may not be efficient and this can cost you money. Make sure you leave it unplugged.
- Turn off the gas line
If you’re going to be away from your home for long, you should shut off the gas supply completely. If there’s a leak, it would be too late to do anything about it.
- Clean and repair the gutters
When debris accumulates the gutters, they may not work properly. You should ensure they are properly attached to the house. This helps to funnel water from the siding, roof, and foundation.
If debris accumulates the gutters and then water collects at the base, there could be potential ice hazards. The idea is to avoid ice dams as they can cause serious damage to your home.
This is something you should do periodically if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Remove the items that could freeze
Things like bottled water, beer, and soda are subject to freezing so you should not leave them unattended. Also, you should dispose of everything that is potentially flammable like stacked papers and oil rags.
- Trim the trees around your home
Trimming overgrown trees and bushes around your home will reduce the risk of property damage from electrical wires. The lawn should also be well-trimmed, not to mention you must cover the plants that are frost intolerant.
If there’s damage around your home but you were negligent to trim the branches, the insurance company may deny you the claim.
- Keep insects out of the house
If you want to keep insects at bay, you should use mothballs. Because they produce an unpleasant smell, you should place them in areas where insects can be a problem.
But the best way to keep the insects away is to keep the house clean. Perhaps, you should dry the freezers and refrigerators to keep mildew at bay. Don’t forget to inspect the chimney to ensure it’s free from nesting birds.
- Inspect doors and windows for leaks
It’s estimated that 30% of the energy in your home will escape through the windows. The easiest way to identify leaks is to look for traces of light around the door frame. You may want to seal the holes and cracks with caulk.
If the leaks appear wider, you can add weather stripping around your home.
- Make the home appear occupied from a glance
This discourages visitors but attracts potential buyers. One way is to set up lights on timers. Other than that, the landscape should be tended periodically and the driveway should be cleared. Besides, you can arrange for someone to remove the snow after storms.
If it’s a summer home, ask your neighbors to keep an eye on it.
- Be ready for emergencies
You should install a fire alarm system in place. Make sure you notify the police department in case of any emergency situation.
A home is a big investment, so you should make sure it’s well protected. During winter, you should winterize it to ensure there’s no damage from the freezing temperatures.
While winterizing your empty home can take time, it will save money that could otherwise be used in repairs. By following the above tips, you can enjoy the winter holiday without worrying about the house you leave behind.