There’s nothing like the anticipation of going on vacation. Everything from turning on the auto-reply to your email at work to packing for a long week are exciting. The days leading up to your departure are filled with the anticipation of kid on Christmas. You probably have a checklist of things you need to get done before you leave too. Finding a pet sitter for the family dog, stopping the newspaper delivery and making sure everything is locked are probably all on the list. What about securing your plumbing system though? Sadly, this is something all too many homeowners forget about. While there usually aren’t any major surprises when you come back home, a plumbing issue left alone for days or weeks on end can be catastrophic. In an effort to help you mitigate this risk, we’ve compiled a checklist of things you should do for your plumbing when you leave home for an extended period of time.
Check for Leaks
The last thing you want to have happen when you go on vacation is for a pipe or fixture to spring a leak. If left unchecked, leaks can cause serious damage and, in some cases, ruin your entire home. Before you depart, thoroughly inspect all your faucets, toilets, connective hoses and visible pipes for leaks or cracks. If you find a leak, fix it before you leave.
Turn Off the Water
This is especially true if you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time. Anytime your water is running, there is always the risk of an accident happening, so shutting off the main valve is a good idea. If you want to go a step further, shut off the individual valves on your refrigerator and washing machine.
Set Your Gas Water Heater to Vacation Mode
If you look at the base of your water heater, you should notice a mechanism that says “low” or “vacation mode.” Turn it to this setting before you leave. Doing so keeps your water heater running while you are gone, but at a level that uses far less energy. If you prefer to turn your water heater completely off, the same mechanism does that too.
Unplug Your Appliances
Did you know that appliances that aren’t in use but still plugged in use energy? If you take a little time to unplug appliances, you’ll not only save money on your utility bill, you’ll protect them against any damage that might result from a short or lightning strike.
Rinse the Drains
Every drain in your house builds up bacteria over time. When they are used regularly, running water gives them a rinse. If you’re going to be gone for a long time, however, the bacteria in your drains is just going to sit there. This can result in nasty odors that permeate the entire house when you come home. To prevent this from happening, just pour ½ cup of vinegar and one cup of water down each of the drains before you head out.
Disinfect Your Toilets
If toilets go a long time without being flushed, the inside of the bowl can become stained. If you take a couple minutes and pour ½ cup of bleach into each bowl, they will be clean when you come back.
Run Your Heater
It seems like common sense that if you turn off your heater while you’re gone, you’ll save money and energy. This can be dangerous though, especially in cold temperatures where pipes can freeze and crack, causing leaks that no one wants to deal with. Even during the summer when temperatures are warmer, turning off your heat entirely might have you coming back to a house that is so cold you can see your breath. You can turn the thermostat down low enough to keep the house from freezing and not coming on often.
Clean Your Gutters
Gutters are responsible for dispersing rainwater away from your home and its foundation. When they are full of debris, they can’t do their job. Before you depart, take an hour or two and clean your gutters. It’s not the most fun in the world, but you never know when a gully washer might come through when you’re away.
Drain Your Dishwasher and Washing Machine
When water sits in these appliances for long periods of time, mold and mildew can form, causing unpleasant and potentially hazardous odors. In order to prevent this, drain each appliance.
Run Your Pool Pump
It’s your pool pump’s job to prevent algae build-up. Even though you might save some money and energy by turning it off, keeping it running will prevent having to deal with a mess when you return.
There’s no shortage of things to get done before you go on vacation. Not to mention packing, making hotel reservations and booking airline tickets. If you’re a seasoned homeowner, you probably have a list of things to do before you leave. These tasks take some effort and it’s easy to cut corners because you’re running out of time. If you take care of your plumbing in addition to everything else, however, you’ll have the security of knowing that nothing catastrophic should happen while you’re sipping a mai-thai on the beach or hot chocolate at the lodge.