Homeowner Helpers: A winter vacation checklist for your home

A winter vacation checklist for your home is as vital as the checklist of things you need to pack for your holiday.

Preparing your home properly before you leave means you’ll come back to find everything working as it should — no frozen pipes, no mouldy food in the fridge, no hassling with the insurance company over a claim.


Kitchen
  • Freeze, compost or give away anything in the fridge that could go bad.
  • Empty both the trash and the dishwasher.
  • Unplug small appliances that could be sucking energy while you’re gone.
  • If you don’t drain all the water in your home (see below), leave cupboard doors open so warmer air can circulate around under-sink pipes.
Living and family rooms
  • Water potted plants and ensure they won’t be sitting in the sun.
  • Turn the thermostat to about 15 degrees Celsius to avoid wasting energy without risking a freeze-up. How low you set the thermostat depends on the age of your home: an older home leaks more heat and will need the thermostat set a bit higher compared to a newer, airtight home.
  • To reduce the chance of condensation on windows and walls because the air isn’t circulating, leave your furnace fan turned on.
  • Put interior lights on timers set at various intervals to make your home appear occupied.
Basement
  • Turn down the hot water heater; nobody needs hot water in an empty house. Some gas heaters have a vacation mode.
  • Turn off the water supply to your home and drain all taps; leave one open on the lowest level of your home to allow air and excess water to drain. However, if your home is heated by hot water or if you have a fire suppression sprinkler system, check with your furnace and sprinkler system professional before shutting off water.
  • Make sure the basement windows are locked.
Outside
  • Arrange for someone — a neighbour, a friend, a professional service — to remove snow after a storm. You don’t want your home to appear uninhabited.
  • If you have motion detector lights, check to make sure they are working.
  • Do a quick check of trees near your home: are there any with limbs that could break in a heavy snowstorm and damage your roof?
More tips
  • Arrange to have someone enter the house and check the heat, water (if you leave it on) and lights every couple of days. If you have newspaper or door-to-door mail delivery, temporarily cancel the paper and have someone collect your mail.
  • Let your insurance company know you’ll be away and that you have someone coming in every couple of days to check on your home (some policies require this for your coverage to remain in force).
  • If you have an alarm system, let the monitoring company know you’ll be away and make sure they have backup phone numbers in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t post vacation plans on social media: we all know how easily our information can be hacked and you don’t want thieves learning about an empty home.

Sources include The Travelers Companies Inc., Desjardins Insurance, Winnipeg Free Press

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