Tag: Vacant Homes

Prep Your Home for Summer Vacation

Prep Your Home for Summer VacationWhether you are going away in the summer time or the winter time for a vacation it is always important to make sure that your home is looked after while you are away. In fact it is the single biggest asset that most people have and why shouldn’t you make sure that it is well looked after while you are away relaxing and enjoying yourself. Most people feel really violated if their home is broken into while they are away. It is time to prep your home for summer vacation. If you can make your home looked lived in while you are not there, there will be less chances of a break in while you are gone.

Prep Your Home for Summer Vacation

Make your home look lived in while you are away. Place various lights on timers so that the standard lights in rooms that you use while you are there come on and turn off just the same as if you were living there. Make sure all of the windows are securely locked and place a bar in the sliding glass door so that it cannot be pried open.

Install automatic lights and an alarm system. The lights should come on at dusk and off at dawn at the front of your home and at the back and at any side doors. Use photo sensors and fluorescent lights or the new LED’s and they will not use much in the way of electricity. They also last a long time as well. The alarm system should really be monitored, but sometimes just having the alarm go off is enough to scare away anyone who is thinking about robbing you.

Check the locks to all of your doors and windows to make sure they are all closed and secure. No sense in making it easy for someone to break into your home. Place a bar across the bottom of the sliding glass door if you have one to prevent the door being pried open.

Hold All Deliveries

Put a hold on newspaper and magazine deliveries. News papers and flyers building up around your door is a sure way to let people know that no one is home. If you do not want to cancel the paper, arrange for a neighbor to pick them up for you and keep them until you come home.

Don’t let mail pile up, have close friends, neighbors or family pick it up. Lots of mail in the mail box is another sign that no one is home as well. If you are gone for a long time you may want a family member to go through the mail and open some of it and then review it with you over the phone.

Hire someone to mow the lawn and trim the shrubs if you are gone a long time. Most neighbors want the street to look nice as well and an unkempt place is another advertisement that no one is around.

Hire someone to clear the snow if you are going to be away in the winter time. We know this is about summer vacations, however we wanted to stick this in here as a reminder that regardless of when you leave, home owners must make sure that their home is looked after at all times of the year.

Hire someone to check the home while you are away. Check with your insurance company to find out how often you need to have someone actually come into the home and verify that everything is ok. Then arrange for a friend, a family member or a professional company to come and check that the power is on, there is no leaking water and there are no breakings.

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Frozen Pipes

Frozen PipesIn our last post we talked about ,” Turning the Heat off  While on Vacation”. Frozen pipes can occur when you turn the heat down and it gets too cold outside causing potential frozen pipes as shown in this picture. If you have uninsulated water pipes on the outside wall you risk these pipes freezing in cold weather, however they can also occur for many other reasons as well. Many new homes have fresh air intakes that are required for today’s HVAC systems. If this fresh air intake is too close to any of your water pipes , they can freeze during very cold weather. By redirecting the make-up air inlet down to the floor, you can provide some pipe freezing protection.

Frozen Pipes can cause thousands of dollars in damage, from leaking water once they thaw out , not to mention the frustration of not having running water due to frozen pipes. Many of the northern states and all of Canada can have very cold weather during the winter, so if you do not pay attention to this issue of potentially freezing pipes you can have a huge expensive problem on your hands.

Frozen Pipes – Shut the Main Water Valve Off

If the pipes are already frozen and leaking you need to shut the main water valve off to prevent additional water leaking from the pipes.  If the pipes have not yet frozen, but are in danger of freezing make sure you know were the shut off valve is and have the name of a plumber you can call if there is a leak unless you can fix this problem yourself.

Remove all of your possessions that could get wet from the area to avoid any damage to them if there is a leak from the pipe bursting under the pressure of the ice in the pipes.

Next you need to deal with this fresh air vent. Do not plug this vent since that is what is providing you with fresh air in your home and avoids all kinds of issues including carbon monoxide build up in your home.

This fresh-air intake pipe is mission critical in today’s newer homes. It provides makeup air for ventilation fans, combustion air for some appliances, and it may be providing air for a traditional masonry fireplace.

Without a make-up air or fresh-air intake, you can have dangerous back drafting of exhaust gases from your fuel-burning appliances. Whatever you do, don’t block this mission-critical pipe.

Direct the air coming from the intake away from your water pipes. You may have to move the pipe or even add an extension on to it to take the air away from the vicinity of the water pipes. Even a deflector to deflect the cold air away from the pipes as it enters your home, will help in an emergency.

Thawing the Frozen Pipes

You can now start to thaw the frozen pipes. Do not use a torch. You can place  damp towels in a microwave oven and heat them up just like flight attendants do for all those pampered passengers who fly first class on airplanes. Wrap the pipes with these steaming hot towels to start thawing the frozen pipes. It will probably take repeated heating in the microwave for the towels to thaw the pipes.

Another approach is to place an electric space heater in the room were the pipes are frozen and warm up that room. This will take some time as well, but will gradually relieve the pressure on the pipes. Combining the hot towels and the space heater may make this a quicker job.

Consumers have also use hair dryers with the blower directed at the frozen pipe to thaw them out. Remember once the water begins to flow the water will melt the rest of the ice in the pipe.

Avoiding Future Problems with Frozen Pipes

Unless you provide some kind of permanent solution to this problem, it is quite likely that you will have frozen pipes again the next time it gets really cold outside. Some people have been forced to let the water run at a trickle so that there is always water moving in the pipes to keep them from freezing. This is a good short term solution, but not a long term one.

You may need to consider one or all of the following solutions to avoid this problem in the future:

  • Move the end of the fresh air intake away from the water pipes
  • Extend the end of the fresh air intake to the bottom of the floor
  • Insulate the water pipes in this room
  • Place a hot air duct in this room, and open it when the weather is cold
  • Place an electric space heater in the room and run it when the weather is cold
  • Move the water pipes to another area

Comments are welcome. Any comments that help our readers with this issue will be appreciated and displayed on this post.


Turning the Heat off While on Vacation

Turning the Heat off While on VacationWinter time is a great time to take a vacation. Get away from the cold weather and snow to somewhere sunny and warm.  Most people are really excited about their vacation and forget to think about their homes while they are away. One person I know left for two months without considering what would happen if the furnace stopped working. The heat system stopped working and the pipes froze while he was away.  The bill for repairs cost him $95,000 to have the repairs completed for water damage from cracked frozen water pipes. Turning the Heat off While on Vacation was very expensive for my friend.

Never Turn Your Furnace Off

For the record you should never turn your furnace off While on Vacation. You may want to turn the thermostat down while you are away to save money and reduce your heating costs.

Most people will turn down the thermostat in their homes when they are away for an extended period.  With the cost of heating fuel these days it is becoming more important to do this to save money and reduce your heating and electrical bills. The question is what temperature should you set the thermostat to while you are away? The answer really depends on a number of things.

  • Do you have plants
  • How long are you going
  • Do you have pets that will be at home
  • How cold does it get outside
  • Are there water pipes along exterior walls that might freeze
  • What does your insurance company require

Consider Your Pets

If you have pets, you probably want to maintain the temperature at a level they are used to. Otherwise they will suffer needlessly during cold evenings and nights. Some plants may also not do well if the home is too cold.

If you are planning to leave for more than a few days on vacation or a business trip there are a number of items to think about before you go so that you will not have to deal with a catastrophe when you return. We all want to save money, but there are some things that we just cannot avoid, otherwise the cost could be much greater than what we are saving. Here is a partial list of items to consider. For a more complete list click here.

We put together a brief checklist of items that you may want to consider before leaving your home empty while on vacation.

  • Call your insurance company to confirm what they require to maintain your insurance. Many will not approve your claim unless you are following their guidelines.
  • Turn the water off before you go. Even if the furnace  is off and your pipes do freeze there will be far less damage to your home.
  • Turn down the thermostat to a reasonable level. We turn ours down to 60F or 17C, while other people are even more aggressive turning the thermostat down even lower.
  • Unplug all TV’s , radios, etc so that your electricity bill is minimized while you are away
  • Set lights on timers so that passersby will think someone is at home
  • Arrange for someone to clear the snow off the driveway while you are away
  • Arrange for someone to pick up the mail and look after pets if you have pets
  • Arrange for someone to check on the house on a regular basis following the guidelines of your insurance company

Smart Meters

More and more people are also installing smart thermostats which allow them to control the temperature of their home remotely. For some this is a great invention which allows them to monitor the temperature and remotely set it to correspond with colder or warmer outdoor temperatures.

You can also check out a more comprehensive website by clicking here to review a full list of do’s and don’ts. Our travel web site as well has a list of steps to consider if you are moving to another country or going on a longer vacation.

We appreciate comments and suggestions about this topic. You can save money by reducing the heat while you are gone on vacation, however it pays to be smart about it and avoid larger expenses by not going overboard!

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Home Monitoring While on Vacation

Home Monitoring While on VacationThere are a number of basic things you can do and should do prior to going on vacation. This will help to ensure that your home is well looked after and no damage occurs to your home while you are away. Home monitoring while on vacation can save you money. So how does this fall under the general mandate of saving money? Well if you are going to be away, you will want to make sure that your home is looked after with the least cost. You also want to make sure so that your home insurance does not become null and void.

There is much more to it that just having your neighbor look in on your home once and a while. We will discuss a few of the requirements. Also how you can make sure that your cost is minimized, while keeping your home covered and safe.

Why Home Monitoring While on Vacation is Important

Insurance Requirements for Vacant Homes

Many people do not realize it , but their insurance companies have a number of requirements about how homes should be looked after while you are away from home. Most companies require that the water be turned off to avoid any possibility of damage from running water if water pipes are broken somehow and start leaking.

This is particularly important in cold climates were the water could freeze in the water pipes could freeze if the heat is shut off for some reason.

Most home insurance companies will specify time frames for homes to be checked to confirm that security has not been compromised, that the heat is still on and that the water pipes have not frozen. Some will request that they are checked every 48 hours if the water is left on, while others are ok with an entire week if the water is turned off.

Check with your home insurance companies requirements and get it in writing so that you fully understand what is required if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time.

Make Your Home Look Lived In

The old cliché is that a house that is vacant is an invitation for someone to break in, or something like that. The whole point of this is to re-enforce that you need to make your home looked lived in. Keep the grass cut the weeds pulled, the leaved picked up etc. If you live in a cold climate and plan to be away during the winter, have someone keep the snow cleared, the walk shoveled and advertisements picked up.

Place timers in rooms that you typically occupy and have the lights come on at regular times. Have someone check the timers regularly in case the power has gone off to make sure that they turn on the lights at regular hours. Even having a neighbor place garbage our on garbage day is a good idea.

Who Should You Ask to Check On Your Home

This is a really tough question to answer, since it really depends on your situation. If you have good friends, neighbors or family that you can depend on. Have them check on your home on a schedule and keep a record. Then you probably want to go that direction.

If you plan to be away for many months, having friends etc check on your home can get to be a bit onerous. They may not want to make that commitment. Perhaps they will also want to go away as well during that time frame.

Another approach is to hire a company to check on your home on an agreed to schedule. They should keep a record and notify you if there are any problems. If you do go this route, there are a number of safeguards that you want to consider here as well. Make sure you have a contract. Make sure that it is clearly spelled out what this company is supposed to do for you. Check security, check the heating system, water plants, take in the mail, maintain landscaping. Also arrange for snow removal, check the lights, respond to alarm system alerts etc.

Summary

A quick summary of what you need to consider when leaving your home for an extended period of time:

  • Check with your home insurance company regarding requirements
  • Turn the water off before you leave
  • Ask your home sitter to run the water every two weeks to fill toilets and water traps
  • Establish a schedule for checks in accordance with insurance requirements
  • Ask home sitter to maintain a written record of checks
  • Make your house looked lived in e.g. snow clearing, lawn maintenance, lights
  • Have a contract with a professional home sitter
  • Make it clear exactly what you need to be done and make it part of your contract.
  • Stay in touch with your home sitter and ask the neighbors to also keep an eye on things.

Enjoy your vacation and save money. Avoid having any damage or break-ins while you are away on your extended vacation.


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