If you’re heading to a warmer climate this winter, you need to prepare your house for an extended absence. Even a small leak or a minor storm can wreak havoc if you’re not there to handle problems immediately.

Here are some tips to keep everything in order if you plan to escape Old Man Winter.

 

Exterior maintenance

  • Clean all gutters and downspouts to prevent water from building up and causing ice dams on your roof. Also, have your roof inspected and repaired if needed.
  • Remove dead trees or large limbs that could fall and damage your house during a storm.
  • Close your chimney flue and install a guard or screen over the top to help keep out the critters.
  • Inspect your foundation from inside and outside your home and seal any gaps.
  • Lock your windows and doors. Install deadbolts on swinging doors and slide locks on sliding glass doors.
  • Trim back bushes and hedges so burglars can’t lurk unnoticed.
  • Arrange to have your driveway plowed to avoid broadcasting your absence to the world. Also, if you are responsible for any portion of a sidewalk, arrange to have it shoveled.

 

Water and heating

  • Shut off your water to prevent leaks. If you plan to turn your heat off entirely, drain the pipes (but never turn off the water supply to a fire sprinkler system).
  • Use plumbing antifreeze in your toilets to keep the tanks from freezing and cracking.
  • Turn off any outside water valves, including automatic irrigation systems.
  • Turn down or shut off your water heater.
  • Install a home monitoring system so you’ll be notified immediately of leaks or other problems.
  • Add extra insulation around pipes located in your attic, basement or crawlspace.
  • Have your furnace checked to ensure it’s in good shape and can survive the winter without incident.
  • Turn your thermostat down, but not below 55 F; you don’t want your water pipes to freeze.
  • Keep cabinet doors open so interior heat can better reach outside walls where pipes are located.

 

Security

  • Install motion-sensing exterior lights and put interior lights on timers.
  • Don’t post your travel plans on social media; you can post all about your trip after you get back.
  • Have a friend or home watch service check on your home periodically. Give them a list of service providers to call in an emergency.
  • Store valuables you aren’t taking with you in a safe deposit box or other secure location outside your home.
  • If you have a landline, set it to forward your calls. With remote call forwarding, your home phone may not even ring — which is good for security.
  • Turn on all alarms and monitors before you leave.

 

Appliances and vehicles

  • Unplug appliances to cut energy costs and reduce fire hazards.
  • Clean out refrigerators and freezers. Unplug, defrost and dry them before you go, and leave the doors ajar to prevent mildew and bad odors.
  • If you’re leaving a vehicle in the garage, overinflate the tires a little and put fuel stabilizer in the gas tank.
  • Use a trickle charger to keep your vehicle battery in good shape or disconnect the battery.
  • Keep rodents away with commercial repellents or essential oils. Rodents and other pests like to chew on vehicle wiring.

 

Financial arrangements

  • Set up automatic bill payments, and bring your tax paperwork with you if you’ll be gone past April 15.
  • See if your telephone, cable, internet and/or satellite providers are willing to temporarily suspend your service. But make sure this doesn’t interfere with your home monitoring system, if you have one.
  • Create a home inventory, which can simplify filing an insurance claim if a robbery or accident happens while you are away.
  • Check with your insurance professional to ensure your homeowners insurance is up to date, and let them know you will be out of the house for an extended period. You may need additional coverage.

 

Deliveries and mail

  • Have the U.S. Postal Service forward all mail to your winter address.
  • Call to suspend newspaper delivery while you’re away.
  • Ask a neighbor to collect fliers and packages.

 

When you’re gone for the winter, you want to ensure your property is safe in your absence. Before you make your journey south, it’s important to prepare properly. And that includes contacting your insurance professional and reviewing your home insurance.

By taking all these precautions, you won’t have to spend your warm winter days worrying about your empty home. Enjoy your travels!