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Making an extended trip somewhere this summer? We don’t blame you. The best vacations are often achieved by using just the right amount of planning and preparation beforehand–not too much and not too little–unless you’re the type who enjoys just getting in the car and going where the road takes you. For most of us though, it’s often more difficult to avoid over-thinking and over-planning our getaways, to the point where we’re stressed out and literally exhausted before we’ve even left town! The key is leaving just enough options open and resisting the temptation to write out a full itinerary for each hour of your journey, and only packing the things you really want or need so you don’t spend your whole vacation doing heavy lifting. When it comes to vacations, the less plans you make means that less can go wrong, but just as every trip deserves just the right amount of planning, a certain amount of planning should also go into preparing your home for an extended absence. Here are a few things to check and adjust at home before you leave. 

We’ll start with the air conditioner, since it accounts for the majority of your energy costs each month. There are a few different guidelines on how you should set your a/c before going on a trip, and it largely depends on how long you’ll be gone. If you’ll only be gone for a week or less, setting your thermostat anywhere from 80-85 degrees will be sufficient to keep your home properly circulated and your furniture and belongings protected from too much humidity. The same temperature range can also be used for more long-term absences, but for periods longer than a month, you really should have a friend or neighbor checking in on the property from time to time, helping to exchange air in the home and maybe watering your plants if you have any. It’s almost never a good idea to turn your a/c off completely while you’re away during the warmer parts of the year, but it should be noted that every degree you raise your thermostat can actually save you 2 percent on your cooling costs. 

If you have a pool in your yard, keep the pump running while you’re gone, so you don’t come back to a green swamp that you’ll have to spend even more money to clean than you saved by not running it. Make sure the settings are where you want them before you leave home, and ask a friend to check it from time to time if you’ll be gone for a longer period. If you own a spa, keep the water circulating or drain it completely, but turn off the heat either way. We have performed extensive mold remediation on homes and sunrooms because this simple mistake was made and the building was closed up for too long without any escape for the warm water vapor escaping the tub.

Another unfortunate thing to come home to is a plumbing leak that has turned into a massive water loss claim. Unless you have an automated sprinkler system or a pool without its own shut off valve, it might be a good idea to just avoid the possibility altogether by shutting off the main valve for the water in your home. Turn your water heater to vacation mode to save you even more money while you’re gone, and depending on the length of your absence, someone you trust should come in at least once a month to run the faucets and toilets and cycle the dishwasher. This will help to protect your pipes and will also prevent too much sewer gas from escaping back into your home. 

Turn off all the lights except the ones you should leave on for security purposes. If you know you’ll be away for a while, you don’t want to send the wrong message  to the wrong people, and that’s why you should also cut your grass right before you leave. Also, clean out your fridge and remove anything that’s likely to expire while you’re gone. If you’re leaving for a significant period, the best thing to do is to empty and unplug it and leave the doors open to prevent mold and mildew from forming. If you decide to leave it running, at least let it cool a case of bottled water so it runs more efficiently. Check the food in your pantry and cabinets as well and remove these items as needed. Unpleasant odors and mold are a really bad way to conclude a great trip. 

Small electronic appliances like your television sets and computers can be powered down and unplugged before you leave to avoid any possibility of an expensive power surge while you’re gone. Check your smoke detectors to make sure they’re working and be sure to check for any water leaks in any of your plumbing areas and get them fixed beforehand. If you have a security company, let them know you’ll be gone and for how long, and by all means, don’t forget to have a great time with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your home is as safe as it can possibly be without you!

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