Preparing Your Home for Vacation – On the House

Preparing Your Home for Vacation

By on August 25, 2015

Be damned if you do, be damned if you don’t! A few years back we penned an article about closing up a recreational home. One of the areas we covered was turning off the main gas valve. Our hope was to help prevent a fire or explosion associated with unattended flames left burning in a vacant home. Personally, we absolutely hate to leave home when an appliance is operating – gas or electric! Either one can cause a fire. Unattended, an appliance-fire can completely destroy your home long before the fire department arrives.

One reader insisted that we had made recommendations, which were dangerous to the average American. Essentially he said that, “According to statistics provided by the U.S. government many people are injured or killed restarting gas appliances and that it is safer to leave an appliance pilot light ON when away.” Our answer is simple. We don’t agree. Leaving a home for an extended period of time – with a flame burning therein – is absolutely ludicrous. What the public DOES need to know is that restarting a gas appliance must be approached with extreme caution.

Most utility companies will come out to turn the gas back on and relight pilots for you – free of charge. Our mom always told us that it was a fool who cut off his nose to spite his face.

Before leaving your home be prepared to deal with quite a bit of “pre-vacation” preparation. Gas and electrical systems, the mail, water and the police must all be considered. There are some vacation basics that most of us are aware of, but they need to be reviewed now and again. First, don’t make your absence obvious. Don’t allow mail or newspapers to pile up on the front porch. And by all means, don’t leave your garbage cans out for week. If your home has an alarm system be sure to activate it before you leave. If your alarm system is NOT monitored ask a neighbor to call the police if your alarm sounds. Ask trusted friend to keep an eye out for you. And before you walk out the door be sure to make one final walk-through. There is always something that gets discovered when you take the time to look extra hard. Here are a few things to look for.

Gas Devices

Natural or propane gas appliances (and their pilot lights) pose danger. We suggest shutting the gas off at every appliance. If this isn’t possible (it should be) then your next best bet will be to shut the gas off at the meter or supply tank. This is a great time to operate the valve and make sure that the proper wrench is in good condition. You can call it your annual gas-meter-wrench emergency-shutdown practice run.


The main breaker can’t be disconnected if you expect to run your fridge and freezer, so other electrical and electronics equipment must be unplugged. Don’t just turn the equipment off – unplug it for sure. Small appliances, televisions and stereo equipment all can cause a fire if left connected. All it takes is one spark. Do you really want to leave the toaster plugged in that bad?


A broken water pipe can cause thousands of dollars in damage by flooding the crawl space, basement and rooms of the home. One of the most effective means of preventing a flood is to turn off the main water source to the home. Be sure to insure that turning off the water does not prevent your irrigations system from continued operation.

Planning an irrigation system? An irrigation shut-off valve should always located in the main water line BETWEEN the main shut-off valve at the house and the water source. This way the house water can be shut-off without affecting the irrigation system.


Even if you crate a map of your houseplants invariably you will return home to find some dead foliage. Be smart. Don’t leave a map. Instead, move all houseplants to one safe location. A bathtub or a sink works great. This way all your plants will be in one location and friends or family will not have to worry about “where” to water. Also, sloppy watering cans won’t be spilled on your nice new Persian rug.

Garage Door Opener

Garage door openers are still a problem. A neighbor or a crook can still accidentally open them with the right (or wrong) opener code. So, what ever you do, don’t forget to unplug the opener motor. All it amounts to is further protection against unauthorized or accidental opening of your garage.

Use this handy check-list with our best wishes:

  • Shut off all gas appliances
  • Disconnect all electrical and electronic appliances (stereo, toaster, radio, etc.)
  • Turn off the water to the house
  • Gather up plants for easy watering
  • Contact the garbage company
  • Contact the post office
  • Contact the police
  • Contact the burglar alarm monitoring company
  • Ask a neighbor to call the police if your unmonitored alarm goes off
  • Contact trusted friends who will keep watch while you are away

For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.


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