Are You a Snowbird? 11 Ways To Winterize Your Home While You're Away

How to winterize your home in the winter AI-generated image

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How to winterize your home in the winter AI-generated image
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Snowbird Precautions

Properly winterizing your home is crucial — especially if you're planning on leaving for a while. Failing to take the necessary precautions can result in costly damages such as frozen or burst pipes, which can cause extensive water damage. Winterizing your home also safeguards it against potential break-ins, as a well-maintained home is less likely to attract unwanted attention. Lastly, taking these steps can help you save money in the process by conserving energy and reducing utility bills. 

As we enter the brunt of winter and temperatures turn frigid(er), here are 11 steps homeowners should take to ensure their homes are safe and secure. 

Woman near full fridge

1. Remove All Perishable Food

Start by clearing out all perishables from your refrigerator and pantry. This prevents the growth of mold, bacteria, and foul odors, which can be difficult and costly to address. Removing food also reduces the chances of attracting pests, such as rodents and insects, which can cause damage to your home's furniture, structure, and electrical wiring. Plus, pests can cause a host of other hygiene-related issues.

Man is Adjusting a  temperature  on the thermostat in the living room.

2. Lower the Thermostat to a Safe Temperature

Adjust the thermostat to a lower but safe temperature, around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help your home stay warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, while helping you conserve energy and save on heating costs. 

White man lowers the temperature of the gas boiler in his house due to the energy crisis

3. Turn Off the Water Supply

Shutting off the main water supply is vital to prevent potential flooding from burst pipes. Drain the system by opening faucets and flushing toilets to remove water from the pipes. While you're at it, consider adding antifreeze to drains and toilets to prevent any remaining water from freezing and causing leaks. 

Man is taking precautions against burglary
Ugur Karakoc/istockphoto

4. Secure Windows and Doors

Ensure all entry points — including windows, access to the basement, and doors — are securely locked. For added peace of mind, you can reinforce sliding doors with a security bar (you can snag one for less than $10 on Amazon). This not only deters burglars but also prevents damage from strong winter winds or storms.

Related: Cheap Home-Security Products That Really Work

Hand Putting Plug Into Electricity Socket
Senior man cleaning gutters

6. Inspect Your Roof and Gutters

While doing your rounds, don't forget to inspect and clean the roof and gutters — these key structures are often overlooked and deserve some TLC, too. Clearing out debris prevents water build-up, ice dams, and potential roof damage. Ensure gutters are securely attached and downspouts direct water away from the foundation. 

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Man shoveling heavy snow in the driveway
Kristen Prahl/istockphoto

7. Arrange for Snow Removal

If possible, arrange for a service or a neighbor to clear snow or ice from your driveway and walkways if you live in a region that experiences heavy snowfall. This can give the impression that the home is occupied — deterring potential burglars and preventing damage from all the accumulated snow. 

Man uses a mobile phone with smart home app in modern living room

8. Program Smart Home Devices

If you have smart home devices, you can program them for security and energy efficiency. For example, smart thermostats can be set to maintain a safe temperature remotely, while smart lights can be scheduled to turn on and off to mimic occupancy (shout out to Kevin from "Home Alone" for this one).

Related: 50 Money-Saving Energy Tips for Winter

Consulting with neighbour

9. Inform a Trusted Neighbor or Friend

Notify a trusted neighbor or friend about your absence and leave a spare key with them. If possible, ask them to periodically check on the house, collect mail, and report any suspicious activities. This way, they can help create the appearance that the home is not empty and keep pesky thieves at bay. 

Safe for storing valuables or firearms. Background with copy space for text
Iuri Gagarin/istockphoto

10. Secure Valuables in a Safe or Safety Deposit Box

Before leaving, secure valuable items in a safe or a safety deposit box. This can include jewelry, important documents, family heirlooms, cash, and other irreplaceable items. While no one wants to experience a theft, taking this precaution can minimize the risk of loss from a break-in or other unforeseen damages. 

Man shines flashlight on hot water heater

11. Check the Heating System

Consider having your heating system inspected and cleaned by a professional. This will ensure that your furnace and boiler are operating safely while you're away. A well-maintained heating system is less likely to encounter problems like leaks or breakdowns, which could pose a fire hazard and be very costly to repair.