Whether you\’re a snowbird flying south for the season or you just need a week or two respite from the cold, Canadians love a good winter vacation. Unfortunately, this means leaving your home unattended and vulnerable to the wacky winter weather and potential intruders.
Key to a restful getaway is peace of mind. Before you pack your swimsuits and sunscreens, follow these steps to winterize your home so you don\’t come home to nasty and unexpected surprises.
Play It Safe
Every year, thousands of homeowners take a cue from our infamous geese and cross the border – the grass is definitely greener when it\’s located beside the beach! But an unoccupied home is an opportunistic criminal\’s playground.
Keep Them Guessing
Knock, knock, is somebody home? A potential criminal will case a house for signs of life, and your job is to make it look like someone is staying in your home while you\’re actually abroad with your feet up. If you\’re going to be gone for anything longer than a week, your first course of action should be to consider a trusted house sitter.
In absence of a house sitter, there are a few simple tricks to keep those crooks guessing.
Set your lights, television and radio on a timer to create the typical din and flickering lights of an average family home. Hold all mail and paper deliveries – a buildup at the mailbox is a sure signal that no one is around. Wondering what to do with your curtains and blinds? Leave them exactly as you do while you\’re at home, and keep expensive items, like jewellery and computers, out of plain sight.
Arrange for a friend, family member or even neighbourhood kid to remove snow from the drive and walkways after a storm. This is also means less work for you when you get back.
Keep It To Yourself
We know you\’re excited to be escaping for a while but never announce your vacation dates on social media – regardless of strict privacy settings, there\’s no telling who will see what you post. And while it\’s tempting to upload photos every day while you\’re away, maybe save the trip pics for when you\’re back.
Really consider the message you leave on your voice mail, answering machine and email auto-reply. Callers, especially strangers, don\’t need to know that you aren\’t at home, just that you can\’t pick up the phone.
Keep Friends & Family In The Loop
In case of emergency, give your vacation contact info and a spare key at least one family member, friend, or neighbour, and ask if they can check on the house once every so often while you\’re gone.
Be House Smart
Canadian homeowners know how hard winter can be on a house, and prepping your home for your trip can save you from having to deal with emergencies when you walk back through the door.
Save Your Money For Vacation
While we advocate keeping lights on during your time away, never leave ALL the lights on, or you risk running up a higher than average electric bill (which you surely don\’t want after spending money on that vacation). This is another great reason to put lights and appliances on an automatic timer.
You should also unplug any unnecessary appliances – toaster oven, microwave, television, coffee machine, computer, etc. – which, under normal circumstances can be electricity vampires, but this also decreases your risk of electrical fire in the case of a power surge.
Same for your thermostat – set the heat to about 13 degrees C, which is warm enough to keep indoor pipes from freezing, but cool enough to save you money.
If you\’re really worried about a pipe bursting while you\’re away, you can turn off the water supply completely, especially if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time. (Don\’t, however, turn off the water supply to a fire sprinkler system. Drain pipes by opening all faucets, and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl. Tip: You can pour antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent remaining water from freezing and cracking, but always use non-toxic products that are rated for plumbing systems.