Vacation Checklist

As many Sun City residents pack for warmer climates it is important to spend an hour or so to get your house ready for winter. When you are going to be away for a week or more you should prepare your home so there will be no surprises on your return.

The main water valve should be turned to the off position and faucets and showers should be opened for a few minutes and then closed to allow pressurized water to drain from the lines. The main water valve will be found near the water meter. If you have an icemaker in your refrigerator, be sure to turn it off. If you do not and the water is turned off the icemaker will dry cycle because no water will flow into it to make ice. This may cause it to burn out; an expensive repair.

In winter, you should leave the heat on and set your thermostat to 55 degrees. In summer, you can leave the air conditioning on with the temperature set to 85 degrees or you can turn it off. If you have a temperature set back thermostat and the batteries are more than a year old replace them. If the batteries die the thermostat will revert to the default settings, and in some cases the furnace can shut down.

Change the air filter in the furnace before you leave. Turn off the furnace humidifier.

Pour two cups of water into drains, and then plug all sink, shower, and basement floor drains to prevent sewer gases from entering the house, which may happen with a lack of use. Water in the trap normally provides this function, but it can evaporate over time. Close all toilet lids. If you will be away a month or more put half a cup of bleach in each toilet bowl and cover them with saran wrap.

Close the dishwasher, but do not latch it, and put two cups of water in the bottom of the dishwasher to keep the seals from drying out. Remove all perishables from the refrigerator. Turn off the automatic icemaker in the refrigerator and empty the ice bin. Make sure the gas stove is off.

Turn off the faucets to which your washing machine hoses are connected. Pour two cups of water into the washing machine tub to prevent the seals from drying out.

After the last use of the kitchen sink, pour a half-cup of salad oil into the drain to lubricate and prevent rust in the garbage disposal.

Unplug all TVs, DVRs, computers, printers, modems, routers, and other electronic equipment to prevent damage from a power surge. Unplug all small appliances in the kitchen and bathroom and unplug the microwave oven.

If the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are more than a year old replace them before you leave. You should also do the same with the battery in your thermostat. If the thermostat battery goes dead it could cause your heat to go off.

A surge in the electric power can, on rare occasions, cause your garage door to open. You can prevent this by turning off the garage door opener by pulling the plug or tripping the circuit breaker.

If you have a fireplace, make sure the gas starter is turned off and the flue is closed.

If you will be away in the winter, remove all hoses from the outside faucets, drain them, and store them in the garage. Remove the extension hose from the sump pump discharge pipe. These tasks should be done every winter even if you don’t go away.

The water heater should be set on the low vacation setting following the instructions in the manual.

If you will be away in the winter and have a neighbor who can check on your home, there are two good ways to do this. One is to get an electronic thermometer with a remote sending unit. Put the remote unit in your house and give your neighbor the master unit so he can check the temperature in your house while you are away.

The other way is to get a temperature-sensing unit that will turn on a light in the window. It’s a good idea to use a lamp with two bulbs in case one burns out. Ask a neighbor to watch for the light and call you if it comes on. Be sure not to plug it into an outlet on the outside wall as you may get a false temperature signal. When the temperature drops below the temperature you have set, the light will turn on. Be sure to set it five degrees below your thermostat setting. If your thermostat is set to 55 degrees, set the unit to 50 degrees.

There is a temperature sensor available that will dial a phone number if the temperature in the house drops below a preset level. There is also a sensor that will detect if there is water on the basement floor from a failed sump pump and dial a phone number.

It is a good idea to put one or two lights on a timer to make the house appear lived in. Set the light to come on at 5 p.m. and go off at 12 a.m., or pick your own schedule.

Turn off the ceiling fans at the wall switch, not just with the remote.

Be sure to stop your mail and newspapers. Notify any credit cards you will be using out of state so their fraud software doesn’t block the use of these cards. This is especially important if you will be traveling out of the country. Don’t forget to take any last-minute garbage out of the house. We give ours to a neighbor to put in his bin for the next pickup. Lock the doors and windows when you leave.

If you follow this checklist, you can relax while you are away, and you will not come home to preventable problems.

If you have suggestions for future tips or have questions about maintenance around your home submit them to

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