Winterizing Tips for Snowbirds

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated December 9, 2015
icicles hanging from roof
Shut down your home systems or learn how to regulate them remotely before leaving for the winter. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Take these steps for winterizing your home before heading south for the winter.

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Winter hasn't officially started, but if you’re a snowbird you’re likely already planning your escape to a warmer climate. But before you make like a bird and fly south for the season, you need to prepare your house for an extended absence.

Consider these tips when creating a preflight checklist. Once completed, you can focus on enjoying the season in the sun!

Pro tip

Consider hiring a handyman who provides snowbird services to take care of maintenance tasks at your primary residence while you’re away.

Forward mail

• Forward all mail to your winter address. The U.S. Postal Service can do this for as short a period as 15 days or as long as a year.

• Call at least a week before your departure to suspend newspaper delivery while you’re away.

• Ask a neighbor to collect fliers, packages or anything else that accumulates at your door.

Check security

• Arrange to have someone check on your home, and give them a list of service providers to call in the event of an emergency.

• Store valuables in a safe deposit box or other secure location outside your home.

• If you have an alarm system, make sure it works and notify your provider that you’ll be away for an extended period.

Heating and Appliances

• Set your thermostat to around 55 degrees to reduce energy costs and help keep water pipes behind interior walls from freezing.

• Unplug electrical appliances to cut energy costs and reduce fire hazards.

• Clean, defrost and unplug refrigerators and freezers, throw out uneaten food and leave doors propped open to prevent mildew.

• If you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, close the flue to prevent critters from creating their own winter condo in your chimney.

Shut off water

• Shut off water to prevent leaks. If you plan to leave your home completely unheated, drain the pipes and shut off the water heater.

• Consider installing a home monitoring system to alert you of unusual conditions within your home (like the temperature falling below a certain threshold or a sudden leak).

Complete exterior maintenance

• Remove dead trees or large overhanging limbs that could fall and damage your house.

• Move outdoor furniture inside, or store inside a shed or garage.

• Arrange for periodic snow removal to avoid liability issues on your property.

Health and personal services

• Ask your doctor to extend prescriptions for your medications.

• Bring copies of medical records with you in case you have to make an unscheduled visit to the doctor or hospital.

• Arrange pet care if you aren’t taking your pet with you to your winter residence.

Make financial arrangements

• Notify your bank you’ll be making withdrawals from a different location to avoid a possible automatic block on your accounts.

• Pay bills before you leave, or set up automatic payments to keep from missing due dates.

• If you’ll be at your winter residence through April 15, bring your tax documents to file your returns on time.

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