Ten tips for preparing your home when you’re out of town
As Florida snowbirds start to think about heading back north for the sweltering summer months, they have a lot to consider before locking down their winter base.
Dr. Maria Portelos-Rometo, a family and consumer science officer at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, hosts free classes each year to help owners keep one of their most valuable possessions, their home, safely while they are away. According to Portelos-Remeto, what year-round residents learn to expect in the summer, such as torrential rains and hurricanes, can sometimes be overlooked by seasonal residents, especially newcomers.
“A lot of people don’t realize that when they leave they should be preparing for a weather disaster,” she says. “They should have a plan so that when they roll out the driveway, their house is secure.”
And there is more than just planning. Consideration should also be given to interference, safety and maintenance of the devices. Some items that are high on the list of things to do before you leave home include taking inventory of your belongings for insurance purposes, bringing important documents and valuables, and, of course, friendship. with your neighbors.
If you can’t make it to one of Portelos-Rometo’s classes, she shared some key takeaways.
Take personal documents with you or put them in a safe
Many home safes can be damaged by flooding or if they are broken into. Documents to bring with you include marriage licenses, deeds, birth certificates and anything else that is a big process to replace.
Prepare your contact list of traders in advance in the event of a weather event
“If you need a trusted plumber, electrician, or roofer, collect those numbers now instead of rushing out at the last minute for any repairs that might be needed,” Portelos-Rometo says.
Prepare for storms and hurricane season
Have a company install your storm shutters. “A lot of homeowners associations have restrictions on when to get them up and down,” she says. “Make sure that if you contract this service before you leave, that a neighbor confirms that they have done so.”
Also, bring all outdoor furniture and clear the property of potted plants and other loose objects that can become projectiles in strong winds.
Take a video of your home on your mobile phone. If you have a special piece of art, take a picture and note where the item is in your home. “Do this in every room, and don’t forget your garage and porch where you can store expensive equipment or vehicles,” advises Portelos-Rometo. “This proof makes it easier to file insurance claims.”
Protect your devices.
Leave appliances unplugged while you are away to protect yourself from power surges during thunderstorms. If you’ll be away for two months or more, unplug the refrigerator and leave its doors ajar.
Don’t invite uninvited pests
Unopened cans and jars can be left on the shelves, but flour, sugars and salt should be stored in tightly sealed containers. Also get rid of cereals, crackers and pasta to avoid household pests.
Donate or discard open bottles and jars of salad dressings, condiments and other perishables. Replacing them will cost less than paying to run your fridge for the two to three months you’re away.
Thoroughly clean portable appliances (don’t forget the hatch under the toaster).
Cover toilets and toilet tanks with plastic wrap and plug drains to block access points.
Watch out for the water
Shut off the water supply to the washer to eliminate pressure damage to the hoses.
Turn off the water heater if you plan to be away for a month or more. For shorter absences, turn the water heater thermostat to its lowest setting.
Do not empty the pool; the sun can dry it out and cause it to crack.
Schedule and clean your air conditioner
Change the air conditioner filter.
If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to turn on the air conditioning for a two-hour period during the coolest hours of the morning. If you don’t have one, set the thermostat between 80ºF and 85ºF.
Deterring burglaries doesn’t stop at arming the alarm system.
Stop mail, newspapers and deliveries. Undamaged mail results in an empty dwelling. A car parked in the driveway or carport also discourages burglars. Consider asking a friend or neighbor to leave their car in your driveway.
Take care of your clothes
Contrary to popular custom, don’t over-wrap clothes you leave behind in plastic, as this can cause mildew. Metal hangers, even covered with paper, can rust and stain clothes.
For more detailed information on how to migrate correctly, sign up for “Close your home in Florida” to March 17, 2-3 p.m. at the Gulf Gate Library, 7112 Curtiss Ave., Sarasota, or attend online March 29 and April 19. Free entry.