Headed to warmer climes this winter? Whether you’re shuttering your beach house for the year or visiting Grandma for a week during the holidays, there are a few precautions you can take to protect your empty home during the colder months.

1. Clean the fridge

No one likes coming home to a dirty refrigerator full of rotting food. Going away for a few weeks or less? Take the time to do a thorough fridge and freezer clean out, using, giving away, or tossing any perishable items. And if you’re leaving for a few months or longer, unplug your refrigerator and empty it entirely, defrosting your freezer, wiping down doors and shelving, and leaving doors propped open to prevent mildew and mold.

2. Repel rodents

You might be on vacation, but vermin rarely take a season off. Nonperishable food items should be kept in sealed, airtight containers with lids. Empty trash bins and remove any recycling before you leave the house. Vacuum and clean floors thoroughly, removing traces of food or debris that might attract curious critters.

3. Unplug inessential appliances

Even when unused, small appliances and devices that are plugged into an electrical outlet are costing you money (and can be a fire risk should a rodent start gnawing away at the wires in your absence).

4. Turn down the heat (but don’t turn it off)

You’ve probably heard horror stories about pipes freezing and bursting in the cold winter months. To avoid this fate, don’t turn your heat off during winter. If you’re leaving your house empty, setting the thermostat to 55 degrees is usually enough to keep your pipes from freezing. Leave cabinet doors open so heat can better circulate around your pipes.

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5. Drain your pipes

Pipes that leak or burst in your absence can be a costly and destructive welcome home. If you live in a place that gets cold enough for pipes to freeze and you have pipes running through unconditioned parts of your house (meaning areas that aren’t heated), then you must take steps to protect them. Turn water off at the main supply, open all faucets, and drain pipes of water.

6. Secure your home

If you’re leaving your home unattended for an extended period, it makes sense to invest in high-quality locks and a security system that can help you monitor goings-on in your absence. There are a slew of new smart home upgrades including cameras, automated lighting systems, and timers to help keep a house looking occupied even during a long absence.

Once you’ve safeguarded your home for the winter, make sure you have reliable protection for everything inside it. Get your free homeowners quote today.

Safe and smart | Home safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.