How Do You Prepare Your Home Before You Go on Vacation?

by Team HomeServe
woman walking out of the house with a suitcase

You have your plane tickets in hand, and your bags are packed. But you can't head out before you do a little prep work on your home.

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Properly preparing your house to be empty for a few days (or weeks) increases the chances of returning from your relaxing trip with your house intact and in the same condition you left it. Here’s what to do.

What Appliances Should You Turn Off or Unplug When You Go out of Town?

Your refrigerator and freezer are the main appliances that need to remain plugged in and operating during your vacation to keep your food safe. Shutting off and unplugging all other appliances that won't be used while you're gone can reduce wasted energy. Many items — especially electronics — draw small amounts of electricity, even when they're not actively in use. This includes things like your washer, dryer, TV, coffee maker, microwave and fans.

How Should You Set Your Thermostat When You Leave for Vacation?

You don't want to turn your furnace or central air off completely while you're gone. Shutting off your heat could make your pipes freeze in the event of a cold snap, and turning off your central air might lead to a humidity buildup that can cause mold and mildew growth. Instead, adjust the thermostat to reduce how much your HVAC system runs.

In the summer, adjust your central air setting to no more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). For a winter trip, never set the thermostat lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Keeping it higher, around 65 degrees (18 degrees Celsius), is better for preventing pipes, appliances and houseplants from freezing. If you have a smart thermostat, check in occasionally on the app while you're away to ensure your house is maintaining the temperature you set.

Should You Turn Off the Water When You Leave for Long Periods?

It's a good idea to shut off your water at the main shutoff valve if you're taking a long vacation. Even a small pipe leak can result in a lot of water by the time you get home, depending on how long you’re gone. This can cause mold growth and major water damage. Winter trips also present the potential for burst pipes if you leave the water on. If your furnace stops working while you're gone, the pipes can freeze quickly and cause serious damage.

It's also a good idea to shut off your water heater while you're gone. Some water heaters have a vacation mode that you can use, or you can lower the temperature setting to keep it from running as much.

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What Other Home Tasks Should You Do Before You Leave?

Think About Your Return

Consider what you'll need when you get home. For example, if you'll need to return to work the day after you get home, make sure your work clothes are ready. If you’ll be gone for a while, you may have to clean out your fridge to avoid spoilage. Having some breakfast bars or other easy foods on hand gives you something to eat until you can make it to the grocery store. Consider setting a grocery delivery for the day you get home.

Clean Up

Leaving your home clean can reduce the risk of pest infestations while you're gone. It also makes your return less stressful because you can relax in your clean home. Get rid of old food or food that will go bad while you're gone, and take out the trash.

Alert Your Neighbors

Keep your vacation quiet to avoid attracting attention, but let a neighbor or two know so they can watch your house. Leave your contact info in case of an emergency.

Security Considerations

Test Security Features

Ensure your security cameras and other systems are working properly before you leave.

Install Additional Security

If you don't already have a video doorbell or other security system features, consider adding them before you leave to help you monitor your home from afar.

Arrange Help

Hire a company or ask a neighbor to help with things like mowing in the summer and shoveling in the winter while you're gone. Letting those things go shows people you're gone, which can make your home a target.

Put Lights on Timers

Instead of leaving one light on the entire time, set a few lamps on timers at different times. Smart lights make it easier to have lights come on and off at different times.

Stop Deliveries

Pause your mail, newspaper and other deliveries while you're gone.