How to Winterize a Vacant Home

    If you have a vacant rental home you own, you’re heading to a warmer climate for the season or moving from a house that has not yet sold during the winter, winterizing your home is an important process to follow. The winter season can be especially hard on your home and costly if a problem occurs that could have been avoided with proper winterization steps followed. Here are tasks you should complete before leaving your home behind.

    1. Adjust your thermostat.

    You don’t want to run up the same electric bill costs that you would have if you were staying in the home, but you do not want to turn off your electricity either. Keep your thermostat around 50-55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing.

    2. Turn off the water at the main shut off valve in your house.

    Properly dealing with your water is the most challenging part of the winterization process. You do not want to skip this step and risk the possibility of coming home to busted pipes and a flooded home. You should first open all your faucets and drain the water from your toilets. Keeping the faucets open prevents pressure from building up due to the small amount of water that remains in the pipes which can cause a pipe to burst. Plumber’s antifreeze should also be added to your toilets. Even if you think you have successfully handled your water, it is not a bad idea to have a plumber come assess your pipes and toilets.

    3. Turn off your gas line.

    This will prevent a gas related leak or incident.

    4. Shut the house up tight.

    Even the smallest crack can let in rain or snow. If your area is prone to storms, install storm windows, close shutters and place plywood over the windows. Store all outside décor and make sure windows are closed as well as locked.

    5. Unplug appliances.

    Unplugging appliances keeps them not only from using any energy but also from shorting out and causing a fire or experiencing a surge of energy that ruins the appliance.

    6. Talk to your neighbors.

    Not only should your neighbors know so they can keep an eye on your home, but also so they are not concerned if you have someone else coming by to check on things.

    7. Have the mail held or forwarded.

    If you receive little mail at the address and no important documents or bills, simply asking the post office to hold the mail may be acceptable. If you receive important mail at the address though, you definitely want to have the mail forwarded to the address you will be residing at once you leave.

    8. Inspect your sump pump.

    A wet basement is a big headache to return to after several weeks or months of being away. A properly functioning sump pump can prevent this problem from happening.

    9. Shut the flue or damper on your fireplace.

    This prevents animal, rain or snow from getting inside of your home.

    10. Inspect and clean your gutters.

    Ensure that gutters are not clogged so they will allow heavy rain to travel away from your home.

    11. Remove living plants and perishable food items.

    Perishable food and plants that are dying and shedding leaves can make your property smell and attract unwanted pests.

    12. Properly store any perishable food items.

    To further protect pests from snacking on your food, set some traps and store non-perishable items in air tight containers.

    13. Clean out your refrigerator and freezer.

    After removing all food, wipe down the surfaces of your fridge, defrost your freezer and leave the doors open. Closed doors can cause mold, mildew and odors. If you leave food behind and the fridge/freezer plugged in, you are risking a big, odorous mess if the power goes out for an extended time or the fridge quits.

    14. Clean thoroughly.

    Remove all trash as not to attract pests, wipe down surfaces, vacuum and wash all bedding.

    15. Secure your property.

    Make sure all doors and windows are locked including outbuildings, remove all valuables and ensure your security system is functioning properly.

    Not all home owner problems can be avoided unfortunately, but if you follow these steps, you can rest assured that you have done your best to prevent any damages that may occur in your absence.