The biggest travel day of the year is fast approaching. There is so much to prepare for! If you are heading out of town for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or any other reason, you’ll want to make sure your home is protected. While you are enjoying a stay with family and friends, your home might fall prey to the vulnerabilities of neglect.
Before you turn off the lights and lock the front door, take the time to run through our pre-vacation checklist. You want to be able to relax when you’re away from home, not find yourself worrying about safety hazards or other “what if?” scenarios.
Tips for Water & Air
- Turn off your hot water tank — In order to save money and energy it is recommended that you turn off your hot water tank completely while you’re away on an extended trip. Besides the energy savings, if there were to be a leak, then the damage would not be as significant. If you’d rather leave your water tank running, then at least turn the water temperature down to around 120°F, down from the standard 140°F.
- Turn your thermostat down — Beyond saving you some money, setting your thermostat to a comfortable temperature is a safety tip many overlook, and pay for, literally, when the monthly bill comes. If you know that the weather is going to reach freezing temperatures or below, you need to be cautious about your thermostat. Be sure to set your thermostat no lower than 56°F to avoid frozen pipes and damage to your home and possessions.
- Turn off the main water supply — Turning off the main water valve to your home will help prevent water damage while you are away. This won’t affect your outdoor sprinkler system, if that’s what you’re wondering.
- Install a temperature alarm — For people living in areas with freezing temperatures, it takes more preparation to leave the home than those in warmer climates. This is because when it is freezing outside, your home could freeze as well — most likely, your pipes! Depending on the severity of the weather, if your furnace is left off, then your pipes are put at risk. Ask a neighbor to come by and check on your home every couple days if the weather remains frigid. There are some awesome products, such as the Honeywell Winter Watchman, which are easy to install. Your HVAC contractor can provide you with the names of other convenient temperature alarms that will trigger a light to come on when the heat is out in your home. When your neighbor sees the light, they’ll know your pipes are in danger of freezing and in need of some immediate attention.
- Clean out all sinks and drains before you leave. Dirty sinks and drains can become a breeding ground for creatures. Make sure all of the dishes, toilets, sinks, and drains are clean before heading out of town.
- Schedule plumbing and heating maintenance every fall. It is highly recommended that you schedule annual maintenance for your plumbing and heating systems before winter hits. This will ensure you have a holiday season free of plumbing and HVAC repairs, increased comfort, and lower utility bills.
Tips for Food
- Empty out your fridge — To eliminate post-trip disgust, don’t leave food in the fridge to rot while you are away. This is not essential if your trip will only last a couple of days, but for a trip lasting a week or more, a clear fridge equals a clear mind. Keep your fridge fresh by pitching dairy products and meats that will expire when you’re gone. If you keep a few freshly prepared meals in the freezer, you’ll be able to eat conveniently when you return without having to fret about immediately getting to the grocery store.
- Refrigerate any fruits or bread that are on the counter — Bread will mold if left on the counter for too long, and fruits and vegetables can attract fruit flies and other critters while you are away. Don’t come back home to find that bugs have made their home in your kitchen. Throw perishables away or throw them in the fridge for freshness. When it comes to food, always better to be safe than unsanitary.
- Take out the trash and clean surfaces — You want to leave your home as clean as possible before leaving. Even if you can’t make the home spotless, you must remember to take out the trash and get rid of any crumbs or food scraps to discourage critters from making themselves at home.
Tips for Plants & Pets
- Schedule watering for your houseplants — Your houseplants are at risk for dehydration if you leave them for extended time without care. Leave out a watering schedule (Write out the amount of water needed for each plant. For example, water the fern for 3 seconds, and the succulent for 2 seconds, once a week. Individualized post-it notes stuck to each plant is a highly organized and effective way to inform your plant caretaker.) Ask a neighbor to drop by and water them for you, or set up a self-watering system. Remember your plants are alive, and need to be cared for just like your pets.
- Ask a neighbor to care for your pet — If you cannot bring your pet with you on your trip, be sure to ask a neighbor to come over daily to feed, walk, and play with your family’s beloved animal. It is essential you leave out explicit directions, and often times a neighborhood teenager will find it fun to drop by for a little extra cash. It is advised that you turn your thermostat off or keep it at 56-degrees when leaving in the winter months. When an animal is there, however, this will be too cold and uncomfortable. Veterinarians will have the best advice on how hot or cold you should set your thermostat for your specific breed and type of animal. Of course, your safest bet is to leave your pet with someone you can trust, and save yourself the worry of what your pet will do while you’re away.
- Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your packages and mail for you — Piled-up mail is a clear sign to would-be intruders of an empty home.
- Remove all ladders from the outside — Ladders, especially ones that are propped up against a home, can tempt someone to climb into an upper-story window. Don’t make it easy for a thief to enter your home.
- Lock all doors and windows — This includes your basement windows, sheds, garage doors, screen and sliding doors.
- Close the curtain and hide valuables — Don’t allow visibility into your home, where passersby can see what you own.
- Unplug electronics, or better yet, invest in a whole-house surge protection system — Electrical surges happen all the time, usually with little or no consequence. Large surges, however, that come from lightning storms and power plants can damage or break anything that is plugged into your electrical system. If you are leaving home, unplug your electronics, like computers and entertainment systems. Plugged-in electronics also use energy even while not in use, so you’ll end up saving money on your energy bill as well.
- Invest in emergency generator systems — If there is a power outage while you are away, none of your appliances will be able to function. If you have food you wouldn’t like to spoil, a home you would like to keep warm and protect from frozen pipes, or family members who need the power, a backup generator can solve your worries.
- Invest in landscape and security lighting — Strategically placed lights can ward off intruders better than anything else. Nobody wants to get caught in the act. Make sure you trim plants and hedges around your home to get rid of hiding places. If you don’t have time to improve your outdoor lighting, you can invest in light timers that are easy to install. Contact us at 205-942-1405 to discuss your security lighting options.
- Set your electrical timers — We highly recommend light timers for both indoor and outdoor lights. Lights that turn on and off may seem like a simple trick to convince people the home is occupied, but it works.
Watch our Electrical Safety Videos for more tips on keeping your home and family safe.
- Buy some frozen dinners, coffee, and other essentials so you have some time to settle in when you arrive back home.
- Wash your dirty clothes and leave the lid to the washing machine open. This will allow it to air out. Make sure there are no wet in your laundry room.
- Remove and clean bedding. Either let your mattress air out while you are away or make sure there are clean linens on it.
Happy and Safe Travels!
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