Updated: Jan 29, 2019
One Christmas our neighbours went home to Norway to spend the holidays with their family. While they were away the temperatures dropped to -17C and there was a power cut in our village. The next morning I went over to check everything was ok with their house, but couldn’t get in. The door had frozen shut. We then had to force our way in through the back door to find the pipes had frozen, the water tank had burst and water was cascading down the stairs like a waterfall and flooded the ground floor. The water had then frozen around the front and back doors sealing them shut.
It took over a year and a lot of headaches with insurance companies and tradesmen to get the house back to the way it was.
In the crazy rush on the lead up to Christmas, from remembering to send cards and presents before the last postal day, to attending all the Christmas markets, school plays, secret Santa gifts for work colleagues, and finding that perfect Christmas jumper, it’s easy to forget to do simple things to make sure your home is going to be the way you left it when you return.
So here are my top 10 things to remember before you go away for the holidays.
1. Turn off the water!
For the love of Santa, please find out where your stopcock is and turn it off before you go away especially in the winter! It takes literally 2 seconds and can save you a whole load of hassle. Insulate any pipes and outdoor taps. And don’t leave washing machines or dishwashers running as you leave.
2. Service the boiler
If you haven’t done so, organise to have your boiler serviced and fill up the oil tank if you have one. If your oil runs out while you’re away it can cause a lot of damage to your heating system. The suppliers who deliver your oil can take a week or more to get round to you, especially if the weather is bad so don’t leave this to the last minute.
3. Lock the windows
Go around and make sure all the windows and doors are locked, as your insurance will not cover you for theft if any are found to be left unlocked.
4. Set timers for lights and heating
Your can get normal timers for lamps from any hardware store or places like Argos, and most modern thermostats for your heating will allow you to set a timer for your heating to come on and off while you are away. Keeping the temperature set around 15c should hopefully prevent any pipes from freezing and bursting. You can now get smart devises that link to your phone so you can adjust your lights and heating as necessary.
5. Give a trusted neighbour a key
This can be hard if you have just recently moved, but it’s a good idea to have a neighbour or a friend who lives near by to keep an eye on things for you.
6. Don’t advertise it!
Don’t tell everyone that you’re going to be away! It’s very tempting to share on social media all the wonderful things you are up to, the Christmas markets, ice skating and having fun. But it’s not just your friends that see your posts. Don’t make it easy for thieves to know which houses to break into.
7. Empty the fridge
Empty the fridge and freezer and defrost it. If the power goes out while you’re away you really don’t want a freezer filled with defrosted leftovers or milk in the fridge going off. Also take out the bins, you don’t want to return from your trip to that!
8. Check your insurance
Check your home insurance and save the insurance policy number and the helpdesk phone number on to your phone so you have them just in case. You can even scan your documents to your phone and save them in a Google drive.
9. Don’t keep keys by the door
It’s the first place someone breaking in will look, then they can get into sheds and garages, stealing cars and bikes. There have even been instances of thieves using wire to hook keys through the letterbox.
10. Put clean sheets on the bed
It’s not exactly essential and you will likely priorities many other things ahead of this, but after travelling and sleeping on other people’s guest beds or sofas for a week or more, there’s nothing better than getting back into your own comfy bed with fresh sheets!