Home Alone: How to Prepare Your Home for Winter Vacancy

Before you leave for the holidays, doing simple things like unplugging appliances, turning off the water supply and draining waterlines can prevent disaster when you return.

Vacant home checklist      

Whether you’re flying the coop for the whole winter or taking a long holiday vacation, it’s important to winterize your vacant home before you leave. If you don’t take precautions, you could end up coming home to some serious and expensive damage. Follow the checklist below to help avoid any unwanted surprises when you return.

Shut off water supply

Turn off the water supply

The most important thing you need to do, especially if you’re leaving for the entire winter, is shut off your water supply. Leaving the water on when the lines aren’t going to be used can lead to a leak or burst pipe, which can cause a lot of damage. Shut your water off at the main valve, usually located outside. If you have a well, simply shut the breaker to the pump.

If you’re not going to shut off the water supply, you should leave some water running through the pipes. Turn on the fixtures closest to where water enters the house and at the farthest point indoors, like an upstairs bathroom, so there’s a steady trickle. The water needs to be constantly flowing to avoid a problem.

Drain water lines before leaving home for winter

Drain the waterlines

When you shut off your water, you don’t want any water to remain in your pipes or they could freeze and expand. So drain your waterlines by opening all the faucets in your home and flushing all the toilets. Allow the water to run until it becomes a slow drip. After the toilets have drained their tanks, flush them one more time to empty the bowls. If your water supply comes from a well, drain the pressure tank.

If you’re going to be shutting off the pilot light to your water heater, you will want to drain it as well. Go here for a helpful tutorial on how to drain a water heater.

Pipe insulation

Insulate pipes

Whether or not you turn off your water, it’s a good idea to wrap insulation around your pipes, such as the ones leading to and from your water heater, any pipes exposed outdoors or in a crawl space, etc. This will give you added protection from bursting pipes during a deep freeze.

Turn down the temperature

Turn down the heat

You don’t want to turn your furnace off completely as this could cause your pipes to freeze and break. Instead, turn your thermostat down to about 60 degrees to keep your home systems and components near room temperature, where they are meant to be. Your heating bill will be less than the cost of potential repairs.

Unplug outlets when leaving home

Unplug all appliances

If you leave the electric power on, unplug electric appliances, including microwave ovens and TVs. This way you’ll avoid the risk of fire if there should be a faulty switch or other issue. 

Remove trash before leaving

Throw out the trash

Don’t forget to empty all your trash cans before you leave. You don’t want to end up with a really foul odor when you return. You’ll also want to rid your refrigerator of any food that could go bad while you’re gone. Take this out with the trash too.

Your home is your biggest investment so it’s smart to make sure it’s protected when you’re gone over the winter. Another great way to protect your home and your budget from unexpected and costly home repairs is with an American Home Shield® Home Warranty. Don’t leave home without it this winter!



AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.