Maybe you're leaving for a long vacation or you're one of those lucky people who head to Florida over the winter. Regardless of why you're leaving your home unattended, it's in your best interest to make sure it doesn't look unattended. Take these simple steps before heading out to make sure that, when you return, your home sweet home is just how you left it.
For shorter trips
1. Don't let the pipes freeze
Let your faucets drip and open up all of the doors under the sinks. Keep warm air flowing. Set the thermostat to somewhere in the fifties to be safe.
2. Have someone pick up your mail
Letting mail accumulate is an obvious sign to vandals that no one is at home.
3. Use timers on your lights
If your house is completely dark for days, you're inviting trouble. Using timers on a few select lights will make it less obvious you're not around and you won't run up the electricity bill and waste energy by leaving your lights on all of the time.
4. Consider a motion-sensing outdoor light (or two)
If someone starts approaching the house, a motion-sensing light can stop them in their tracks. It can also alert neighbors to something fishy.
5. Clean out the fridge and empty out the trash
Mmm, something smells and it isn't Grandma's cookies. Clean out your fridge before you leave. Run the garbage disposal and put your trash somewhere like the garage. If you're leaving trash outside, make sure it isn't going to attract any animals!
For longer trips
1. Turn off the water
Turn off the water at the main shut off valve in your house. You should still leave your cabinet doors under the sinks open for any water still in the pipes. You'll also want to leave the faucets on just in case and flush the toilets to clear any remaining water. If you're worried about your leaving your home and the potential for flooding or problems, it's best to call a plumber for help.
2. Turn off the gas
3. Stop or forward your mail
4. Close the damper/flue on your fireplace
This prevents critters from crawling in and making themselves at home as well as any snow from getting in.
5. Arrange for plowing
If your driveway is always covered in snow after storms, this is an obvious sign the house is unoccupied. Ask a neighborhood teen to shovel your walk or arrange for plowing.
6. Let the police department and neighbors know
They should know the house is vacant and have a contact number for you. You should also let your neighbors know you'll be gone and for how long.
7. Unplug everything
You'll sleep better at night knowing you don't have to worry about a faulty switch starting a fire.
8. Take valuables with you
Do not leave anything of real value in your home. Expensive jewelry and so forth should be taken with you. At the very least, hide your valuables and keep them out of sight if anyone peaks in the windows.
9. Do routine maintenance
This includes trimming back trees, cleaning the gutters, weatherstripping your windows, and so forth. If you can bring your grill inside, it's not a bad idea to protect it from damage from an ice storm. The same is true for any outdoor furniture. Store it in the garage if possible.
10. Tell your insurance agent
There may be a policy that better fits having an unoccupied home. Talk to your insurance agent about your options.