Over the past weeks our blog postings have looked at winter readiness – the general climate here on the peninsula and some predictions for the winter – then winterizing your car and your home. There is one more area to look at for our northwest population – our snowbirds.
As much as we love the Peninsula, between mid-October and March it can be a bit Vitamin D deficient; between the marine layer and various other weather phenomena, the sunshine vitamin basically leaves town. Some of our residents are inclined to follow, heading off for sunny and warm climates in Arizona, Florida and other exotic and vitamin D rich destinations.
If you are going to be vacating your home for a significant period of time – and that could be as little as 30 days – the first thing you need to do is let your insurance agent know about your plans. Insurers are wary of vacant houses. They may be subject to vandalism, theft or situations where minor problems turn into major damage – a plumbing leak for example. For these reasons, your home insurance policy may well have provisions for exclusion of coverage in the event of vacancy and the exclusion generally kicks in after a home has been empty for 30 or 60 days. Here at Homer Smith Insurance, we can help you understand your policy provisions and advise on cost- effective ways to maintain coverage. Don’t be tempted to take off without notifying your insurer or agent because if your insurer discovers the house has been sitting vacant, it may be grounds for denying claims for property damage or liability.
Once your insurance considerations are taken care of, your concerns about buttoning up the house are similar to those of us you are leaving behind with the added consideration that you will not be physically present to monitor your home. When you are satisfied the roof is sound, the gutters are cleared and the doors and windows are draft free, you can begin looking to other areas. Some rules of thumb to follow when looking at items in your house include:
* If it uses water, turn off the supply – this applies to sinks, toilets hose bibs, washing machines and so forth and you can consider shutting off the whole supply at the main shutoff. Remember the outlets as well, a bit of RV antifreeze down the pipes can help prevent freezing.
* If it uses energy, turn it down or turn it off – this applies to your furnace or heating system, water heater, and electrical appliances. For computers, televisions and all the rest of those electric items, take the plugs right out of the wall unless there is a compelling need to keep them on. Lower your water heater temperature setting as far as it will go, though you may not want to turn it off entirely if it is in a space where it might freeze.
Check all smoke alarms and insure they are in working order; install fresh batteries. Empty your freezer, turn it off, and unplug it. If you put a box of baking soda on a shelf, it will absorb odors while you are gone. Leave the doors standing a little open as well. If you have outdoor security lights, make sure the motion sensors are working correctly, and, of course check that all windows and doors are locked and any security alarms are set.
Finally, make sure there is a contact person for your home – someone you trust who has access to the house and is willing to check your house regularly to manage simple tasks like removing sales flyers or political brochures and who can act in an emergency to intervene in a problem or make repair appointments if necessary.
There are some good “how to’s” on the web that may be of help – some with pictures and detailed instructions. Happy vacationing!