How to Prep Your House & HVAC System for Vacation this Winter

Taking a vacation this winter? Read our foolproof guide to prepare your home with these 5 steps. 

As the winter months approach, many people plan to travel for the holidays. In fact, according to AAA about 1 of every 3 Americans will go on a vacation or spend time away from home this Christmas. The holidays are an excellent time to bring the family together and enjoy the season! Although, if you plan to be away from your home for longer than a few days, you can start by taking some easy steps to prep your house for vacation and safeguard your HVAC system before leaving.

Here at Sig Cox Augusta Air Conditioning, we want you to feel secure and confident as you travel.

Details Infographic with 5 Steps to Prep Your Home for Vacation

5 Foolproof Steps to Prep Your House for Vacation

1 – Prepare Your HVAC System

The best thing you can do is protect the health of your HVAC system while away from home. Don’t stress! We have a few simple tricks for you to save money and maintain your air quality.

Adjust the Air Temperature

If no one is home for an extended period, you don’t need to have the air set to the normal temperature. Setting the heater higher equates to a high monthly bill. Since you won’t be there, you won’t be bothered by the colder air. Generally, you’re safe to set your air between 50-60 degrees while away from home. Any lower, and you risk the coolant coils freezing and possibly exploding.

Setting your thermostat when on vacation

However, keep in mind that a lower temperature combined with a lower natural humidity can damage artwork and degrade food faster. Either install a humidifier to normalize the indoor atmosphere, or you should safely store artwork in the attic or basement (where it’s probably warmer). Perishable food should be kept in the freezer or thrown out before you leave.

Change the Filter

Since you’ll be away from your home, you won’t be there to complete your routine cleanings. As a result, dust and bacteria will build up more quickly than usual. This accumulation will clog the air filter, decrease air quality efficiency, and increase your energy bill.

To help prepare your system, you should replace your existing filter with a fresh one. Typically, you should replace your filter every 1-3 months (depending on the type of filter you use. Check out our other blog “Custom HVAC Air Filters: When Are They Needed?” to learn more about filters and how they work.). But since you’ll be away for awhile, you won’t be there to replace it on schedule.

If you any questions or need assistance regarding your air filters, give us a quick call. We can recommend the right brands and sizes you need.

2 – Set The Water Pump to “Vacation Mode”

When the winter weather sets in this month, it’s important you don’t completely shut off your water valve. As the temperature drops, the water in your pipes might freeze, causing them to burst! You’ll then have leaks and costly plumbing repairs to handle when you return.

Always remember: running water is less likely to freeze than still water. So, while shutting off the water altogether might save you the most money, it increases the risk of damage during a severe cold weather.

Instead, keep your water pump on the lowest setting or check to see if there’s a vacation mode setting. Most newer models should have this preference. It allows you to conserve water to just the right ratio that also prevents freeze damage. Plus, this setting is better for the environment by using less water in general.

taking care of your home and pets when on vacation

3 – Find a House Sitter

If you plan to be away from your home for longer than a week, it’s best to find a close friend or family member to watch your home. This person could stop by once a day and complete simple chores like collecting the mail, caring for your pets, and watering your plants.

This step is more for your property’s safety than anything. Thieves are less likely to prey on houses if they see someone coming in and out each day. On the other hand, a vacant home is an easy target for burglars.

4 – Conserve Your Electricity

Even if you turn off all the lights in your house, many devices will still suck up electricity. Some appliances have a “standby” mode, including TVs, sounds systems, and gaming consoles. While not turned on, they still drive up your electric bill.

Thus, you should unplug all major appliances to save you money.

You’ll obviously want to keep your alarm system running. Make sure to check the batteries before leaving. Usually, you have to replace them every 6 months. Same should apply to your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Some large appliances, like the washer, might prove challenging to maneuver and unplug. Take care of whatever you feel comfortable or enlist help. Don’t strain yourself if you can help it.

If you plan to be gone longer than a month, you might want to consider removing perishable food from your refrigerator and placing them in your freezer. Otherwise, you’ll come home to a rotten mess.

You can also invest in “timed lights”. These digitally controlled light fixtures allow you to set them to the turn on and off on a schedule remotely. By having lights on for a few hours a day, you’ll give off the appearance that you’re still at home and thus ward off potential thieves. At the same time, you conserve some electricity by only using the lights sparingly.

Saving money with LED lightbulbs

5 – Clean Up Your Property

Finally, you’ll want to tidy up your whole property before leaving on an extended trip.

Dust and vacuum the indoors. This will keep your home’s HVAC system operating at top efficiency by preventing the buildup of particles on the filter or your vents from getting cluttered. While you aren’t in the house, you’ll have less control over the air system. You can manage irregularities better with a clean house than otherwise. Since you’ll have your HVAC system set to a much lower setting and you won’t be there to clean, dust is more likely to accumulate. This buildup can irritate your respiratory system, especially if you have allergies or asthma. However, with a new air filter installed and the house clean, you shouldn’t have to worry.

If you own a large lawn, you’ll want to complete some basic yard work before leaving on vacation. Trim and clean around your outdoor unit especially. This is the big fan system outside that collects the outdoor air into the condenser coils. Normally, people plant shrubs around them to shady them and reduce the unit’s stress from heavy rains and other elements. If you let the plants grow wild, they will drop too many leaves and branches into the fan and cause damage. It’s a good rule to trim them every few months.

During the winter months, vegetation surrounding the outdoor unit might freeze and prevent airflow entirely. Ensure any loose branches are clipped so they don’t interfere with proper air collection when frozen.

Preparing your home’s heating and air system for your time away will save you from some unwanted surprised when returning home. There is nothing worse then returning from a vacation and wishing you could have another one. Following these steps to prep your house for vacation will leave you with a peace of mind so you have one less thing to worry about while away.

Happy Holidays this winter season!

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