Once the weather starts to cool and temperatures begin to plunge, we often begin thinking of a winter getaway. The easy part about leaving town is deciding what to pack, but the job that a lot of people don’t put as much focus on is winterizing and protecting your home while you’re away. Homeowners in the Twin Cities can avoid costly mistakes like frozen or bursting pipes, power surges and break-ins by taking some basic preventative measures before leaving.
1.  Don’t let your pipes freeze! 
With Minnesota winters, it’s inevitable that temperatures will dip below freezing, so it’s critical to take precautions to prevent your pipes from freezing when the mercury goes south. Regardless if you live in a townhome, single-family or condominium, make sure the pipes in your home or building are properly insulated. If you live in an association maintained community or building, it is the responsibility of your community/association management company to ensure all common area elements have been successfully winterized.
Double your protection by turning off the main water valve, then run each faucet to make sure the pipes are free from any water. Another tip – keep at least some heat on during your vacation. While it’s tempting to save on heating bills, a little bit of warmth can go a long way especially if no one will be there to discover an issue as it occurs. One last tip to protect your pipes – because they’re hidden inside the walls, open cabinet doors to allow the heat to more easily reach the interior walls.
2.  Ask a neighbors or friend for help. 
If you live in a townhome or single-family, this one is especially for you. Overflowing mailboxes, a stack of newspapers or packages piling up at your front door are all dead giveaways that no one has been home for a while. Place a temporary hold on all mail and newspaper deliveries or recruit a trusted friend or neighbor to stop by every few days to retrieve your stuff and make sure everything looks okay.
It’s also a great idea to have them take a quick run through your home to check the condition of your pipes and plumbing – especially in Minnesota where the temperature can dip well below freezing for weeks at a time. Not a bad plan to show them the location of the water main shut-off before you leave in case a pipe breaks. If you decide to not shut off your main water valve before you go, don’t forget to ask your recruit to turn on all of the faucets – if no water flows or just a few drops dribble out, it’s a sign your pipes may be frozen.
3. Unplug.
Some severe storms can cause power surges which can result in damaging your appliances or worse, ignite a fire. To err on the safe side, unplug computers, TVs, radios, coffee makers, lamps, and all other major appliances. This is also a good gesture towards going green, you conserve energy by simply unplugging since many appliances still utilize electricity even when not being used.
4.  Make it appear like someone is home.
We all know what comes with a Minnesota winter…snow, and lots of it. One of the easiest ways for bad guys to figure out if a home is left unattended is measurable snow piling up on the driveway and sidewalks. Do yourself a favor and hire a snow removal company or line up a trusted neighborhood kid to shovel. After all, if there won’t be any car tracks in the driveway, then you’d better have all the snow removed regularly.
5.   Don’t broadcast your vacation plans on social media. 
We’re all obsessed with sharing life events on social media, especially when we’re headed some place exciting. Even if you use high privacy settings, your friends and connections could inadvertently share your plans with others – which means you don’t know who may be learning about your trip or how long your home will be empty. And even though it’s hard to not share cool pictures of your excursions, it’s a sure fire way to tip-off the wrong people. Try to hold off on sharing your photography skills until you’re back home.
Follow these guidelines to help protect your home while you’re gone – after all, coming home to surprises could take away from the excitement of being home and make you think twice about taking another vacation.  For more information on home protection and community safety, visit FirstService Residential.
Monday December 05, 2016