(Excerpt from the Newsletter by Carson Dunlop, Please click on the above picture for a full version of the Newsletter)
Cold winters often prompt many to head for sunshine, sandy beaches and warmer climates. In the excitement of exotic locales and getaways, finding your bathing suit and making sure to pack your sunscreen typically takes priority over residential maintenance issues. However, these areas are important. If you're planning on travelling this season, Carson Dunlop has developed a list of the top six items to focus on to help keep your home safe and secure while you're away.
1. Turn Down Your Water Heater: Changing the setting on your water heater while you're out of town can help reduce overall costs and energy consumption. New models usually come equipped with a "vacation setting" to help easily facilitate this maintenance tip. If your unit does not have this feature, simply adjust the unit to its lowest setting to achieve the same results. We encourage homeowners to avoid completely turning it off as restarting it when you return may require a technician - a bit of a headache, especially when you're jetlagged.
2. Lower Your Furnace Temperature:Having your furnace on but at a low setting will keep temperatures in your home consistent, while saving money and energy. We recommend keeping it above 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It's important to ensure that your furnace remains on to prevent freezing water, burst pipes and flooding.
3. Close Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve: While this may seem very conservative, shutting off the water prevents serious flooding if your furnace breaks down and the water in your pipes freezes. The main shut-off valve controls all the house water and is typically readily accessible near the front of the basement. Since this valve is not used regularly, it may be stiff and in some cases will drip when it is closed. Don't leave this task to the last minute in case you need a minor repair.
4. Add Water to Your Basement Floor Drain: The floor drain includes a trap to prevent sewer gases from backing up into your home. When plumbing systems aren't being used over an extended period of time, the water in the trap evaporates, resulting in unpleasant and unhealthy sewer gases entering the home. We recommend pouring water down the drain to fill the trap before going on vacation to ensure the trap water doesn't evaporate while you're away.
5. Close Dampers on Wood Fireplaces and Stoves: A damper is a flap which allows smoke from a fireplace or wood burning stove to go up the chimney. While the damper has to be open when there is a fire burning, we recommend closing the damper while you are away to reduce heat loss and prevent pests from getting in your home.
6. Secure Your Home: Ensure your doors, windows and any other access points are locked. Cancel your newspaper and have your mail picked up by a friend or neighbor. Setting lights on timers make it look like the home is occupied.