Top 5 tips for snowbirds: Protect your home while away

As cold weather moves in, a southern migration will feel even better if you are confident your home is safe while you're away. Start preparations early and work from a list to help you remember everything necessary to protect your home and property.

1. Make your home look lived in.
  • Set timers to control lights and a radio to confuse would-be burglars.
  • Have a trusted neighbor collect any deliveries.
  • Cancel newspapers and forward your mail
  • Forward telephone calls and turn off the phone’s ringer so these don’t give away your absence.
  • Arrange for thorough snow removal. Encourage a neighbor to park in your driveway.

2. Secure property.
  • Give police your travel plans and contact information.
  • Put small valuables in a safe-deposit box.
  • Put outdoor furniture and grills in a locked garage.

3. Reduce energy consumption and fire hazards.
  • Set thermostat to 50°.
  • Unplug electronics and cleaned refrigerators and freezers, with doors propped open.

4. Prevent water damage.
  • Clean gutters.
  • Turn off water supply to house if heating system allows.
  • Turn off and drain water heater.
  • Disconnect dishwasher and laundry machines. Winterize according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Drain and blow out pipes. Pour RV antifreeze down each drain to fill traps.
  • If water must stay on, open cabinet doors that conceal plumbing to allow circulation of warmer air and prevent frozen pipes.
  • Allow your trusted neighbor to monitor house temperature using a wireless outdoor thermometer; the sensor goes in your house and the receiver stays in your neighbor’s. Or, use a red bulb in a lamp connected to a temperature-sensitive outlet to signal your neighbor of dangerous temperature drops.

5. Consider harnessing technology.
  • Smartphone apps allow you to monitor your home and control lighting, temperature, and other functions from anywhere you have a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.