Vacation Protection for Your Home: How to ensure that your home enjoys winter break as much as you do

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Preparing for a winter getaway isn?t limited to packing the car with provisions and sporting goods; your house needs gearing up, too. The season?s low temperatures can wreak havoc on an unattended home, whether it?s your main residence or a vacation retreat.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage and freezing account for approximately 17 percent of all homeowners insurance claims, with the average claim amounting to over $5,000. So, taking a

Preparing for a winter getaway isn?t limited to packing the car with provisions and sporting goods; your house needs gearing up, too. The season?s low temperatures can wreak havoc on an unattended home, whether it?s your main residence or a vacation retreat.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage and freezing account for approximately 17 percent of all homeowners insurance claims, with the average claim amounting to over $5,000. So, taking a little time to prepare your home before you pull out of the driveway can mean big savings and the avoidance of a miserable cleanup and repair headache. Following are the main areas requiring attention.

Plumbing System: During prolonged absences from your home, shut off the water inside and out -- there?s no need for it to be on while you?re away, and you?ll greatly reduce the chances of damage resulting from cold-weather pipe breaks. Locate and turn off the main water valve, which is usually found on the front, street-facing side of a home?s lower level (it may be located in the crawl space; if it?s difficult to get to, a plumber can add an extension to put it within reach). While you?re out and about, make sure all hose bibs are turned off at their inside valves, and leave faucets open to drain away any lingering water that could freeze and break the fixture later. Inside your home, drain all toilets and tanks, and pour a small amount of non-toxic marine antifreeze into toilet bowls and drains to prevent frost breaks.

Electrical System: While you are away, fires can develop in electrical circuits as well from appliances, even if they are not turned on. To prevent trouble, identify and carefully mark all non-essential (anything other than your heating system, security system, and outdoor lighting) circuit breakers in your homes electrical box. Tip - You can use small colored dot stickers to mark the breakers. Then, using these carefully marked non-essential breakers as a guide, turn them off before you go away. Also unplug appliances large and small, and adjust the heat to a minimum of 62 degrees to maintain proper interior humidity and prevent the development of molds and mildew.

Security System: For further damage prevention, consult your home security provider regarding system add-ons such as freeze alarms and leak alarms, as well as carbon monoxide, heat and moisture detectors that can alert you to unexpected developments.

Just as every winter traveler has their list of personal packing musts, every home has its individual needs and requirements, so tailor your home?s vacation preparation accordingly. Longer absences mean more extensive winterization plans, but you and your home will both appreciate the investment and time of care once you return!

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show?s podcast or sign-up for Tom?s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program?s website.

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