I will never forget when I was traveling in Arizona last winter, and I saw the national weather for Boise. I was leaving the pristine, balmy Arizona desert and coming home to not just cold, but below freezing cold - into the single digits, in fact. The cold had hit suddenly, and the last thing I had thought about before leaving for my 6 AM flight was making sure my house was ready for that kind of weather.
Here are some tips to ensure that your house stays safe during the winter while you're on the road:
1. Set your furnace to at least 55 degrees - no lower.
I have a bad habit of keeping my furnace off. I like my house cooler in the fall - and I also like the money I save on my electric bill from doing so - but my memory for flipping my furnace over to "heat" seems to slip when the afternoons creep into the mid-60's and my house gets and stays pretty warm. And I rarely thought to change it when I left. I've since installed an automatic thermostat that will keep the house at least at 55 degrees when I leave. Why is 55 important? It will keep your water pipes from freezing. Another trick - open the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and anywhere else water pipes are in your house. The air will circulate into the cabinets and help keep the pipes warm.
2. And on the point of water pipes...
If you're nervous about a pipe freezing where you can't heat, leave the faucets farthest from the street or your water main shut off dripping. It will keep the pipes from freezing. And if you're planning to be gone for a long time, turn off your water and drain all the pipes by shutting off the main valve, then turn on all faucets, sinks, tubs, showers, etc. and flush the toilets. Turn off the water heater. Then go back to the main shut-off valve and remove the plug so it can drain completely.
3. Arrange for snow and sidewalk care
If you live in an area where there's frequent snowfall, pay a neighbor to mind your sidewalks, at least. You want to make sure that the walks in front of your property are safe for anyone who may be walking during the winter. Also, have an outdoor container of ice melt that they can spread on your walks after they've scraped them. It can save you time and trouble from them icing over.
Anything that doesn't have to be plugged in, unplug it. It will just waste energy to leave it plugged in.
5. Leave one TV and one lamp on a timer.
Noise coming fron your home can usually always deter a would-be break in.
A little preparation will make your home safe and sound while you're gone on a winter trip!