How to Winterize Your Home While You’re Away

Winterize Your Home

To ensure the safety and security of your vacant home during the winter season, it is important for snowbirds who migrate south to take necessary winterization measures. By taking proactive steps this autumn, you can safeguard your property from potential threats such as theft, water damage, and malfunctions in heating or electrical systems.

Winterization involves preparing your house to remain unoccupied throughout the winter, and it is advisable to undertake these preventive measures before the onset of winter weather. This proactive approach will help mitigate risks associated with bursting water pipes and other potential issues that may arise in your home and property.

1. Keep Your Home Safe from Burglars

  • Make sure to have your mail forwarded, stop newspaper deliveries, and have a friend check for any items left at your door.
  • Have a plan in place for snow removal after storms.
  • nstall motion-sensitive lights outside and set timers for interior lights to turn on at different times to deter potential intruders.

2. Take Steps to Protect Your Home from Thieves

  • Double-check that your alarm systems are functioning properly and activated.
  • Secure all external doors and windows with deadbolt locks, security hinges, and additional locks for sliding glass doors.
  • Store valuable items in a safe deposit box or another secure location while you’re away.
    Refrain from sharing your vacation plans on social media to avoid giving burglars information about when your home will be empty.

3. To Prevent Water Damage, Shut Off Your Water Supply

  • If you’re going to be away for a while, it’s important to take precautions to avoid potential water damage. One way to do this is by completely turning off your water supply. However, if your home has an older steam heating system, it’s best to consult with a heating professional to ensure it’s safe to turn off the water supply for your specific heating system. Additionally, if your home has a fire sprinkler system, make sure not to turn off the water to that system.
  • Once you’ve shut off the water supply, it’s a good idea to drain all the water from your pipes by opening the faucets and flushing your toilet. This will help clear out any remaining water. To prevent any remaining water from freezing, you can consider pouring non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems into your toilet tanks and bowls.
  • If you’re unsure about how to complete these steps or want to ensure everything is done correctly, it may be wise to hire a licensed plumber. They can help you with these tasks and even use compressed air to confirm that the pipes have been fully drained.

4. Ensure Your Home and Plumbing Stay Warm: Winterize Your Home

  • To prevent frozen pipes, it’s important to keep your furnace running even if you choose not to drain the water pipes. Set the temperature to at least 55°F to maintain warmth in the floor and wall cavities where the pipes are located. Additionally, leaving room and cabinet doors open can help heat circulate and keep these areas warm.
  • Remember to shut off the water supply to washing machines and dishwashers to prevent leaks or hose breakages while you’re away.
  • If your hot water heater is separate from your boiler, turn off the heat source and water supply.
  • Don’t forget to shut off and drain outdoor faucets to avoid any water damage from freezing.
  • Consider installing water flow and low temperature sensors on your main water supply pipe, connected to an alarm system or your smartphone for constant monitoring.
  • If your water piping is exposed in unheated areas like garages, crawl spaces, or attics, think about wrapping it in UL-Listed heat tape and insulating it. Make sure to use thermostatically controlled heat tape for plastic water piping and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation.

5. Perform Regular Winter Maintenance Before You Depart Heating System Care

Before you start using your heating system this winter, make sure to do some routine maintenance. This can help prolong the life of your system and catch any potential issues.

Before winter:

  • Get your heating system checked and serviced by a professional before the cold weather hits. Fill up your fuel tanks before you leave and arrange for regular fuel deliveries if necessary. Have someone monitor heat and fuel levels while you’re away.
  • Ensure that you have a power source to keep the heating system running. If the electricity will be on while you’re gone, consider having an electrician inspect your main electrical panel, wiring, and outlets. Replace or repair anything that’s faulty.
  • Have your furnace or boiler inspected and serviced by a professional at least once a year, ideally before the heating season starts.
  • Clean or replace the furnace filter in forced hot air systems.
  • Have your chimney inspected and serviced by a professional at least once a year. Pay special attention to removing creosote buildup from chimneys serving woodstoves and fireplaces.

During winter:

  • Keep your fuel tanks full and monitor levels regularly throughout the season.
  • Set your heat no lower than 55 degrees, as the temperature inside walls where water pipes are located is colder than in living spaces. Open doors to unoccupied rooms to maintain an even temperature throughout the house.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to maintain your wood-burning or pellet stoves.

Insulation Check

Is your insulation ready to shield you from the cold weather? It’s crucial to ensure that your insulation is in good condition to protect you from winter’s harsh winds and freezing temperatures. Take the time to have your insulation inspected and consider upgrading it along with the weather stripping before the cold season arrives.

  • Increase insulation in the attic to prevent ice dams from forming. Excessive heat escaping into the attic can melt the ice and snow on the roof, leading to potential water damage or even a roof collapse when it refreezes.
  • Seal doors with weather stripping and windows with caulk to prevent drafts and heat loss.
  • Take out window screens and install storm windows if needed.

Winter Safety Tips: Winterize Your Home

In addition to preparing your insulation, here are some extra safety measures to consider before winter sets in:

  • Trim trees and remove dead branches to prevent damage to your home or injuries caused by falling branches due to ice, snow, or wind.
  • Keep gutters free of debris to ensure proper drainage of melting snow. Make sure downspouts direct water away from the foundation.
  • Repair steps and handrails to make them safer in icy and snowy conditions.
  • Check and replace batteries in smoke detectors, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are functioning correctly.
  • Before leaving, unplug unnecessary appliances like the stove and microwave.

Key Supplies and Equipment

  • Ensure you are prepared for the first storm of the year by stocking up on essential supplies and equipment. It is advisable to have snow blowers and generators in good working condition well in advance.
  • Make sure to have snow shovels and a roof rake readily available. Additionally, stock up on ice melting compound to effectively melt ice on walkways.
  • Prioritize the servicing and necessary repairs of your snowblower and generator.
  • Remember to store fuel for snowblowers and generators in approved safety containers, keeping them away from any heat or flame-producing devices. It is important not to store fuel in your basement.

6. Create an Unwelcoming Environment for Pests

  • Thoroughly clean your home to deter any unwanted pests from taking up residence.
  • Ensure refrigerators and freezers are cleaned, defrosted, and unplugged, with doors left open to prevent mildew. Don’t forget to clean the oven as well.
  • Inspect your home for any openings that animals could use to gain entry. For instance, make sure the fireplace flue is closed to prevent bats, birds, and squirrels from getting inside.
  • Check weather-stripping, insulation, and exterior doors and windows for any major deficiencies that could allow water and insects to enter.
  • Have chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney service to ensure they are free from obstructions like nesting birds. Consider installing chimney guard screen-caps to avoid any infestations.

7. Prepare for Emergency Situations: Winterize Your Home

  • Inform the police department that the property will be vacant and provide them with emergency contact numbers.
  • Install smoke detectors on every floor, preferably connected to a monitored fire alarm system for automatic notification of the fire department in case of an alarm. Regularly test the sensors and system.
  • In areas prone to high winds or coastal regions, consider installing storm shutters to secure windows or use other mitigation measures like 5/8″ marine plywood.
  • Ask a trusted friend, neighbor, or relative to keep an eye on your home and be available during emergencies. Provide them with access to your home so they can monitor heating, electrical, and water systems regularly.
  • In case of freezing weather, have them check for ice dams at the roof’s edge and leaks inside. Ensure they have your contact information and a list of local contractors for repairs or services if needed.

8. Make Sure You Have the Insurance Coverage You Need

Ensure that you have the necessary insurance coverage to safeguard your home before you depart from the premises, regardless of the duration of your absence. It is advisable to reach out to your local independent agent or Travelers representative to verify the currency of your homeowners coverage and ensure that all premiums have been settled. This will guarantee that you are adequately protected in the event of any unforeseen incidents during your absence.

Conclusion

In conclusion, taking the necessary steps to winterize your home while you’re away is crucial in order to protect your property and save on energy costs. By properly insulating your pipes, setting your thermostat to a lower temperature, and ensuring that all windows and doors are sealed, you can prevent any potential damage caused by freezing temperatures. Additionally, it is important to arrange for someone to check on your home periodically to ensure that everything is in order. By following these simple tips, you can have peace of mind knowing that your home is protected during the winter months.

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