Preparing Our House for a Long Trip Away
In just a week, we’ll be on a 10 day vacation out of the country. So what are we going to do to prepare our home and personal finances for this extended period away?
Here’s just a quick list of things we’re doing, but feel free to add others if you think of any. We don’t have kids or pets, and our pool is luckily closed for the year, so there’s minimal external things to do for the house:
- Put mail on hold. I was originally going to have our neighbors get the mail, but I found that I can enter a hold request through the US Postal Service website. I figure I’ll give it a shot this time to see if it’ll work for us in the future (and save our neighbors a laborious walk across the street each day). I am worried that entering the hold request required no personal verifications (not like the USPS should have our data anyway), so I’m not sure how it protects us from just anyone placing a hold on our mail.
- Pay our bills: Luckily most of our bills are scheduled via online billpay or directly removed from our accounts through EFT. But some bills, like credit cards, are payable when they’re received so I’ll make sure we’re all paid up before we leave.
- Shut off electronics: No reason to let our electronics drain power when they definitely won’t be in use. Since we can catch many of our shows online now, I’m not worried about taping anything (yeah, we STILL don’t have Tivo). Luckily we have most of our stuff on power strips, so I’ll just flip the switch for all our entertainment, computer and internet power-suckers (TV, VCR, internet modem/router, laptops, etc.)
- Shut off/turn down the furnace: We have a programmable thermostat, but unfortunately since we’re coming back on a weekday, we can’t set it to come on just on that day. Therefore we need to be resigned that we’ll be walking into a chilly house when we get home. We’ll be turning the temp down to about 60 degrees, or even switching the furnace off completely at the breaker box. It won’t be cold enough here while we’re gone for the pipes to freeze. Just switching it all off means we don’t need to reprogram the thermostat, so maybe I’ll do that.
- Turn down/shut off water heaters: We have two water heaters: one gas and one electric. For the gas heater, I’ll turn down the thermostat to low. For the electric one, we installed a timer, so I’ll just remove the “on” breaker so it won’t turn on while we’re gone. If you don’t have a timer installed, think about getting one, or just turn down the temperature on the thermostat (remember the previous setting though for when you get back).
- Shut off the main water supply: In some homes, you can shut off the water using a knob in the basement or crawlspace. Thanks to my father-in-law, I learned that for our house, it’s easier to just turn off the water at the water meter directly. It’s buried in our front yard with an easy-to-remove cover. I just need some pliers to turn the knob. While I don’t think there’s any problem with doing this, I am aware that the knob is on the water company’s side of the line (before the water meter), but it’s much easier than climbing the whole length of the house in a dirty crawlspace (and then doing it again when we get back). Plus, it’s easier to shut off all the water than have to worry about each toilet, sink, etc. individually.
- Shut off the gas: I may or may not do this one. Our stove is gas, and I would need to pull the whole thing out to get to the knob on the gas line. We’re not OCD enough to worry whether we “turned the iron off” when we leave the house (we don’t iron anyway), but we’ll see about this one.
- Clean out the fridge: If you have leftovers that you can’t eat right now, stick them in the freezer. Otherwise toss them (or give them to your neighbors), but then remember to…
- Take out the garbage: You don’t want anything getting rotten in your house over 10 days or else you’ll come home from a pleasant vacation to a house full of flies and stench. Take out the garbage, preferably on trash day so you don’t have the neighborhood wildlife tearing the bags to shreds. Also, if you have cut flowers in a vase of water, you may want to pour out the water and let the flowers dry up. Since I buy Stacie fresh flowers every few weeks, I know how the water can get stale and the flowers can start to get moldy.
- Water the plants: I’m going to wait till the last minute to water them, but I’ve found our plants hold up very well over even 2 weeks without a fresh watering.
- Make sure everything is locked up: Since we’re leaving during the cold months, our windows are already all closed and locked up, but we’ll make sure to double-check everything anyway.
While I considered just cutting the power to the whole house, I do have to consider our refrigerated and frozen food going bad. But it sure would be nice to have an electric bill for only 20 out of 30 days 🙂
What else do you recommend?