No matter how long you’ll be gone, whether a few days or several months, here are steps you can take to make your house safer and lower your utility bills. Short-term absences generally mean one week or less.
Details: An air-conditioner accounts for about half of your annual electrical bill. Every degree you turn up the thermostat will save you 2 percent on your cooling costs, according to Salt River Project.
Short-term: Turn up the thermostat to about 85 degrees. Doing so will still protect your plants, furniture and other belongings without running up your energy bill.
Long-term: Again, turn up the thermostat to about 85 degrees. Ask a friend or neighbor you trust to water your plants.
Details: If you have a pool, continue to run the pump so the pool doesn’t develop algae and turn green.
Short-term: Check your pool-pump settings before you leave to make sure they are where you want them to be. If you have a spa, turn off the heat.
Long-term: Do the above. Also, have a neighbor, friend or pool service check the pool periodically to make sure the pump is operating properly.
Details: No one wants to come home from a relaxing vacation to a plumbing leak.
Short-term: Turn off water at the main shut-off valve, unless some household items require it to remain on. Such items may include an ice maker, an automatic sprinkler system that doesn’t have a separate shut-off, and a pool.
Long-term: Do the same. While you’re gone, have a neighbor or friend turn on the water and run the faucets at least once a month. This will help prevent sewer gas from entering the house while you are gone and can keep parts of plumbing fixtures from drying out or cracking. Also, have the friend flush toilets and run the dishwasher.
Details: Why run up your electric bill heating water that you’re not going to be there to use?
Short term: Set the temperature on “vacation” mode. Most newer water heaters are equipped with such a setting. The water heater will run occasionally but not nearly as often as it does normally.
Long-term: Set on vacation mode. Linda Stanfield, owner of Benjamin Franklin the Punctual Plumber, recommends not turning it off while you’re gone, but instead flushing it out when you return. One way to do this is to run the water heater until it is empty and let it refill again.
Details: Toilets can collect bacteria, which can cause stains.
Short-term: Pour a half cup of chlorine into the bowl (not the tank).
Long-term: Do the same. Have a friend periodically flush the toilets while you are gone.
Details: A continually dark house, both inside and out, can be a signal to a burglar that no one is home.
Short-term: Turn off all lights except the ones you want as security measures. Put the security lights on variable timers.
Long-term: Do the above. Make sure your security lights are outfitted with CFL bulbs, which save on energy and are long-lasting.
Details: Don’t come home from your trip to a refrigerator filled with spoiled food.
Short-term: Throw out perishables such as milk that will expire while you’re gone.
Long-term: Clean out the refrigerator; either throw items away or give them to a neighbor. You have two choices. One is to unplug the refrigerator and leave the door open to prevent mildew, odor and mold. The other is to keep the refrigerator running. Don’t let it sit empty, however. Fill it with bottles of water so it will run more efficiently.
Details: Avoid having to call an exterminator after you return by leaving your kitchen and pantry clean.
Short-term: Throw away opened bags and boxes of food (or give to friends).
Long-term: Do the same. Also, check expiration dates of unopened items. Toss or donate unopened boxes of food (or, if you plan to keep them, put them in plastic bags to deter pests.)
Details: An untrimmed lawn can be a sign to burglars that you are away from home. Depending on how it looks, it also can be considered blight.
Short-term: Mow your lawn and trim shortly before your trip.
Long-term: Arrange for a lawn service to take care of your landscaping while you are away.
Other considerations for any length of vacation
— Small appliances, computers, televisions: Unplug these items.
— Smoke detectors: Make sure they are in working condition.
— Security company: If you have one, notify the company that you will be gone.
— Disposer/drains: Run the disposer. Mix a half cup of vinegar with a cup of water and pour down.
— Newspaper: Put delivery on a vacation hold.
— Leaks: Check for water leaks before you leave. Feel the valves underneath faucets to make sure they aren’t moist. Get any leaks fixed.
— Mail: Contact the U.S. Postal Service to put your mail on hold. If you are going to be gone long term, arrange for your mail to be forwarded.
— Phone: Don’t leave a message that you are out of town.
— Car: If you park your car in the driveway normally and are leaving it while on an extended trip, arrange for a friend or relative to drive it so that it looks like it is being used (and so cobwebs don’t develop, a sure signal that no one is home).
— Banks/credit cards: If you plan to use your credit or debit cards while you’re out of town, specifically out of the country, notify your bank and credit-card company. Provide the dates you will be gone and where you are going. That way, they won’t be surprised — or put a hold on your card — when they see charges from abroad.
— Emergency contact: Leave your contact information with a friend or neighbor. Include the names and contact information for your plumber, electrician, yard service, pool service or other contact should a problem happen while you are away.
— Locks: Make sure all your windows are shut and doors are locked before you leave.