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10 Easy Steps to Winterize Your Vacant Home


A gas-fired boiler controller

If you own a summer home that will be vacant during the winter, you need to make sure it’s protected when no one is there. As a leading Alberta energy company, Direct Energy is offering these 10 easy steps to properly winterize your vacant home.

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Step One: Cut Off the Water Supply

Your heat or temperature control may fail during the winter, particularly if the power goes out during a storm. The first thing you should do when winterizing a vacant house is use the main valve to shut off the water supply. Next, run all the faucets inside and outside of your home to empty all the water that may be in the pipes. If you have a sprinkler system, you’ll need to winterize your sprinklers.

Step Two: Set or Empty Your Hot Water Tank

If the heat in your summer home goes out while you're away there is a risk that the water in your hot water tank could freeze, damaging the unit. Set your water heater to vacation mode or drain the tank and shut down the power before you leave. Remember to refill the tank before turning it back on in the spring, as running an empty water heater may damage it.

Step Three: Drain Your Septic System

When you winterize a vacant home, don’t forget about the septic tank. Draining your septic tank during your last visit may prevent freezing and other problems that could arise if the temperature drops below freezing. If you had it emptied during the summer, you might want to either drain it again or call a professional to have it chemically treated.

Step Four: Program Your Heating System

Although winters are cold in Alberta, there will be days when it is above freezing. Given the large temperature range, completely turning off the heat in your summer home could lead to the appearance of moisture which can freeze and thaw throughout the winter. Temperature fluctuations can also lead to wood expanding and shrinking. To prevent damage from occurring, set the temperature to remain constant through the winter.

Step Five: Carbon Monoxide Protection

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys and other vents that are covered for prolonged periods of time can build up carbon monoxide during the winter. If your
home is in a place that gets a lot of snow and no one is going to clear it away before it thaws, you may want to consider carbon monoxide protection. When winterizing a vacant house, make sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors installed. That way, whoever enters the home will be alerted of the danger immediately.

Step Six: Set Up Your Security System

If you're going to be away from your home for months at a time, someone may notice your absence. That gives rise to the possibility of a break-in, and it could be months before you find out about it. When planning how to winterize a vacant house it is a good idea to have a security system in place. If it's not going to be managed by a private company, leave your contact information with local law enforcement. That way, they can alert you if something happens.

Step Seven: Make Sure Your Home Insurance is Up to Date

Even if you take all the steps above to winterize your vacant home, it's still possible that something may go wrong. That's why it's a good idea to make sure that you have home insurance on the property and that the premiums are paid in full before you leave for the winter. While it wouldn't be good news to have to file a claim when you arrive in the spring, at least you'd have that option if something happens.

Step Eight: Unplug Unnecessary Appliances

Things can go wrong in any home, so it's a good idea to reduce the fire risk when no one is there for weeks or months at a time. Electrical outlets may be faulty or appliances could short out. When winterizing a vacant house unplug all non-critical electrical appliances, such as television sets, toasters, and coffee makers. This will lower the risk of a fire during the winter.

Step Nine: Remove All Food

During the winter months, rodents and other critters try to get inside structures to keep warm. If there are no humans around, it may make a location particularly inviting. An important aspect of winterizing a vacant home is removing all food that may go bad. This includes the food in the refrigerator. Also, you should thoroughly seal any food that you plan to store. This step may prevent an infestation you have to deal with when you return.

Step 10: Remove Obvious Signs of Absence

Finally, it's a good idea to conceal the fact that you're not there during the winter. As you winterize your vacant home, take steps to make it look like it isn't vacant. Stop the mail delivery so envelopes and parcels don't pile up on the porch. Have someone handle snow removal periodically so it looks like you are plowing the driveway and walks. Program indoor and outdoor lights so it looks like someone is home. These steps may prevent others from knowing your house is vacant for the season.

As the winter approaches, you may have questions about what steps you need to take to winterize your vacant home. By taking the steps above you can enjoy peace of mind through the winter as you anticipate returning when the weather gets warm. If you have questions or concerns about your power or energy as they relate to your summer home, feel free to contact Direct Energy at 1-866-374-6299, or contact us online at any time.