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Vacation Planning for Your Home

I was talking with my mother in law about a 10-day trip she was leaving for in a few days.  The conversation started innocent, but then she asked the wrong question: “what should I do to the house?”.  Maybe she thought it would be a short list.  They have not traveled much so my list just added to their anxiety.  I told her it was for the house’s sake, trying not to make her nervous.  I’m not sure it helped, since all I had to say was boo.

 

I emphasized the list would save them energy, trick thieves, or make it like they never left.  I reassured her it was about helping them be at peace leaving the house, rather than leaving with the thought of coming home to a house with everything gone or the place in ashes.  Wrong choice of words.  My funny was not hers, although my father-in-law did enjoy it.  Regardless of her anxiety, I kept going.  Here were some of the suggestions, some obvious, some not so much.

 

Vacation timer.  This is a plug in timer that turns a light on or off at irregular intervals.  I never knew they existed until I bought one by mistake.

 

Washer machine valve.  Anyone with a newer washer machine hook up should have a single lever that controls both the hot and cold feeds.   The washer machine valve should be shut every time you use it since a broken hose can happen at any time.  Most hoses should last years, but you never know when its time is up.  If I was really paranoid before I left, I would consider turning off my water main (be sure your boiler is not relying on water).

 

Electricity.  The easiest way to save energy on phantom loads, or an energy draw when something is off, is turning off power strips.  Phantom loads can add up to 8% of your annual energy costs.  A good time to start this practice is when you are traveling.  You may want to unplug suspect appliances, like toasters, coffee pots, phone chargers and everything non-essential.

 

Thermostat.  Dialing back your thermostat is a practice under great debate on our jobsites.  All of our heating specialists, including plumbers, boiler technicians and heat suppliers, are telling us something earth shattering, “Keep your thermostat at a constant, do not turn it up and down.”.  Whoa, what?  This is a whole other topic to discuss, although when you are away from your house more than a few days, turn the thermostat down about 8 degrees.  Just remember, it may be cold when you get back, and take some time to warm up.  This is where a remote wireless thermostat may come in, since you can monitor or adjust it anywhere your phone works.  Very cool.

 

Locked up, tied down, and prepared.  Be ready for any weather because you may be traveling during the storm of century.  Make sure all outdoor furniture, garbage cans and flyaway stuff is tied down or put away. Check all window locks, ALL doors, including the basement, and all other openings that can be secured.  Make sure you have someone shovel the snow or check the house after severe weather event.

 

Friends with keys and eyes.  You may even want this friend to move your car in the driveway a few times.  Have them stop by and make sure everything is OK and in place.  Put them on your call list for the alarm company.  Have them take out the garbage and recycling.

 

Mail & paper hold.  These days it is easy to hold you mail, so do it.  Also, have the paper held or have that friend pick it up and enjoy it.  Who knows, maybe they will subscribe.

 

So besides not forgetting the toothbrush and the kids, the house needs some attention too.  The house will not be spiteful, but it’s good to be respectful during your absence.  Chances are it will be fine but you never know when the next thing will happen.  By the way, the house is still there.

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