Whether you’re preparing for a weekend getaway or an extended vacation, mechanical problems can easily develop in a house left vacant, causing major damage that might not be discovered until you return. Before you leave, run through this vacation checklist to protect and secure your vacant home against unexpected breakdowns.
Shut off the main water valve
If the water pipe breaks in a vacant home, your house may literally fill with water, causing massive damage. The solution is simple: if you’ll be away for more than a day, shut down your home’s water supply by locating and turning off the main water valve to prevent plumbing leaks. This is usually found on the front, street-facing side of a home’s lower level. It may be located in the crawl space; if it’s difficult to get to, a plumber can add an extension to put it within reach. If your landscape irrigation comes from the same line, arrange for a bypass valve to be installed so that watering can continue as usual.
Drain toilets in a vacant home
If you’re away during winter and your heat fails, toilets can freeze and break. As step two of the water shutdown plan, drain all toilets and tanks by holding down the flush lever until the water is gone. Then spill a bit of car antifreeze into the toilet to treat the water left behind in the toilet’s trapway.
Turn off water heater
No sense heating water in a vacant home when you are not around to use it. Turn off or turn down your water heater. If it’s electric, turn off the large breaker assigned to it at the main electrical panel. For gas water heaters, turn the valve to the pilot position or turn it off completely, but only if you know how to relight it and will be away for an extended period of time.
Turn off circuit breakers to prevent house fires
To minimize the risk of electrical fires, turn off all non-essential electrical circuit breakers in your home’s electrical box (such as anything other than your heating system, security system, and outdoor lighting). Well before you’re under pressure to figure out which ones are which, take time to label circuits with small colored dot stickers, using green for nonessential and red for essential.
Even appliances that are turned off in a vacant home can use power and start electrical house fires. That’s why it’s smart to unplug all appliances, both large and small, including TVs, computers, radios, lamps, coffeemakers, and toasters.
Lower the air conditioning
If you’ll be away for a weekend, set your air conditioner to 80 degrees to lower air conditioning costs; if you’ll be gone longer, shut it down entirely.
Finish all major yard work before you go, with special trimming attention given to tree branches that may fall and do damage to your house in case of a storm.
By taking just a few careful precautions, you can avoid mechanical breakdowns while you’re away from your vacant home and ensure a happy homecoming.