Prevent These Common Home Disasters While You're on Vacation
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If you’re going on vacation this summer, whether it’s just down to the Texas coast or overseas, you’re likely making a checklist of things to remember to buy or do before you go. It’s easy to get lost in these details and forget about the things you should remember to do to keep your house safe while you're gone. Unfortunately, many vacationers return to damage from four common home disasters: water, heat, fire, and falling trees.
Here’s how to keep these calamities from greeting you on your return home.
PREVENT WATER DISASTERS
It happens even to the best homes. While the residents are away, something decides to leak: a washing machine, the dishwasher, the hot water heater, the AC. And if you don’t have someone checking your whole house while you’re gone, you may come home to flooded floors, ruined carpet or flooring, sagging ceilings, or mildewed walls and cabinets. You can, however, reduce the odds of a water disaster happening to your house by taking certain precautions before you leave:
TURN OFF THE WATER
You can’t have a leak or a flood if there’s no water, right? If you leave your water supply on and you have a leak, that leak could spray water inside your home for days. Not only will you come home to a higher water bill, but also an expensive cleanup. Here’s what to do:
Find your home’s main water supply valve and shut it off. Then turn on all your faucets (both the hot and the cold) in the house—sinks, showers, bathtubs—and let them run until they stop. This relieves the pressure in those lines. When you return home, turn the water back on. You may get some air coming out of faucets along with the water, but that’s okay. Let the taps run for a minute or two, then turn them off like normal.
Close both the hot- and the cold-water valves on your washing machine so that if a water hose busts or leaks, no water will be able to come out.
CHECK YOUR WATER HEATER
If your water heater has a vacation setting, turn it to that setting. But if you’re going to be gone for a long time, inspect your water heater before you go. If you see any pipes or valves that look corroded, damaged, or likely to leak, or if you’ve noticed signs that your water heater might be going out, you might consider turning off and draining your water heater. Be sure to inspect the drain pan, too, for cracks or leaks.
PREVENT HEAT-RELATED DISASTERS
The high heat and humidity in the San Antonio area can spell disaster for an unattended home in the summer. To keep your house and its contents safe from heat damage, here’s what to do:
KEEP THE AC ON
Many people set the AC thermostat at warmer temperatures to save energy while they’re gone for an extended time. That’s fine. Most experts agree 85 degrees is okay. But if you turn your AC off completely, home experts also warn, your house could heat up enough to warp items like wood floors or doors. And if you do have a water leak, a hot home sets the stage for mold to grow (possibly within 72 hours) on your walls, floors, furniture, and cabinets—whatever gets damp.
CHECK THE THERMOSTAT BATTERY
Put in fresh batteries in your AC thermostat if you’re at all unsure whether your batteries are going to last for the duration of your trip.
KEEP PLANTS ALIVE
Because plants can dehydrate in a hot house, ask a neighbor or friend to water your plants for you. If that’s not an option, consider this DIY watering solution using an empty wine bottle.
AVOID SPOILED FOOD AND FOUL SMELLS
Ideally, you’ll want to clean out your fridge, take out the trash, and run the disposal before you leave, because a hot house can turn contents in these places into stinky, moldy messes. Make yourself a note to remember these chores.
Have a neighbor or friend check your house while you’re gone. Ask them to open your refrigerator or freezer to make sure it’s still working properly in a warmer-than-usual house. No one wants to come home to toxic mold on their veggies.
Bad or old wiring has been the culprit of many a house fire. Make sure your wiring is up to code by getting a licensed home inspector to assess it.
GET A LIGHTNING ROD
If your home doesn’t already have a lightning rod or isn’t properly grounded, your home could catch fire after a lightning strike. Call an electrical services professional for help with grounding.
PULL THE PLUG ON ELECTRONICS
Not only will you save on electricity by unplugging electronics and appliances, you’ll cut down on the risk of a fire due to power surges, faulty wires, or other issues.
Unplug large electronics like TVs and computers to protect them from power surges caused by lightning strikes, fluctuations in the power grid, and power outages. Unplug charging cords to things like dust vacs, phones, and computers, too.
Unplug smaller appliances like those in your kitchen: coffee makers, toaster ovens, microwaves, blenders.
PREVENT FALLING TREES
If you have large trees or trees close to your house, branches could break off during a storm, or the whole tree could fall on your house. You could come home to a smashed roof, water damage from the storm, and ruined contents.
Keep tree branches trimmed away from your home.
If you have old or dying trees, remove them before they fall. Call a professional tree service if you can’t do it yourself.
Ask a tree professional or arborist to evaluate your trees’ health. That person can advise you on hidden diseases, root rot, or other problems that might topple your tree in strong winds or heavy downpours.