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Tips for leaving home empty

I wasn't really sure where to put this, so here it is! If you were to leave your home empty for about 30 days, what would you do to prepare? Unplug major appliances? Shut off water? Buy a light timer? Just curious to hear your thoughts!

Posted by
2393 posts

I unplug coffee maker, set a few lights on timers, leave a radio playing, unless you have an automatic lawn sprinkler turning off the water can be prudent - otherwise shut off at washing machine - they are notorious for failure, clean out fridge, make sure trash is empty

ETA: Radio can be put on a timer too

Posted by
24 posts

As well as tips above ---- Prepay bills, hold mail, arrange for lawn care. Let your neighbors know you will be away, and solicit their help to maintain a "lived-in" look. If you get those weekly flyers left in your driveway or at your door, ask a neighbor to pick them up, perhaps have them randomly park a car in your driveway.

Posted by
2445 posts

We did a 5-week trip a couple years ago. We turned off the water, turned off the hot water tank, turned the a/c to 85*, put timers on lights in each room, turned off the computer, left a radio on. Post office holds mail for 30 days but our carrier, Rodger, was nice enough to hold it for the 5 weeks. We let several neighbors know we'd be gone so the house was checked front and back. We also let the bank and credit cards know where we were traveling so there would be no holds on the cards. Since I don't pay bills online, I prepaid all the bills for an extra month. Walked thru the house 6 times to be sure doors were locked and toilets flushed.

Edit: I'll second all that Christi said, we do that too. I've had two friends who's stove electronics failed so now I'd shut the power off to the stove.

Posted by
23 posts

Oh man, I didn't think about the sprinklers! I live in a very hot climate and they're a must! I guess I won't be shutting off the water at the road :/

Posted by
630 posts

Just curious, what is the benefit of leaving a radio on?

It sounds like someone is home (in case of someone trying to break in).

Posted by
630 posts

We purchased Rex, the barking dog. It really works great. I've set it up when friends were coming over and they came in asking where the dog was hiding. One time I had a contractor coming over to the house when I was at work - he called me and told me he wouldn't go into the house because he was afraid of the dog LOL. He was a bit embarrassed when I showed him the dog ha ha.

Posted by
630 posts

I found this tip on this Forum a bit ago:

Fill a small salad dressing container (or something similar) with water and freeze it. Then put a penny on top and put it back into the freezer. If you lose power while you are traveling and your freezer melts, the penny will sink to the bottom. Then you will know to throw away your other frozen food items because you don't know how long the power was out.

I also unplug unnecessary items (computer, TVs, etc).

Posted by
630 posts

We use this Fake TV when we travel. I put it on a timer, so I can control when it goes on and off. The first time I used it, my neighbor texted me to ask me if I wanted them to go over and shut off the TV because they knew we were away - guess it works ha ha.

Posted by
4355 posts

If you must leave the sprinkler system on, consider doing this. There should be a main water supply cut off valve inside the house. Turn it off and then open up a couple of faucets and let the water and water pressure in the interior lines bleed off. This should not impact the sprinkler system, but it might depending on how your plumbing is designed. Double check it to be sure. Our neighbor had a washing machine line burst while in Europe and it did $37,000. dollars in damage. There are steel braided lines that can be installed on a washing machine, or you can just close off the water supply to it. Definitely unplug things such as televisions and computers to prevent damage during electrical storms.

Posted by
5104 posts

Burglars aren't fooled by tbe old radio trick. Hearing the radio on at 2 in the morning with no lights on in the house and no car on the drive is an absolute giveaway. Far better is an automatic timer that turns lights and other appliances on and off.

Posted by
379 posts

Do you have a friend who can stay in your place while you're gone? Best thing to do is to not leave it empty.

Posted by
15115 posts

Turn your water heater down. Most have a " vacation" setting.

Posted by
8203 posts

we turn the whole house water off. We've had pipes leak, dishwashers, and other things besides the clothes washer. Yes on light timer. Have someone who can regularly check for packages, door hangers, stray mail, newspapers, etc., that might show up. Cut the grass. Lock windows. Turn thermostat up or down depending on season.

You could check into the new security cameras that link a doorbell camera or room cameras (nanny cams) to your smartphone via wifi. The doorbell thing lets you see whose at your door and talk to them via intercom, from wherever you are.

Posted by
2693 posts

Notify your local police department. Many (ours do) have volunteer citizen patrols that do a drive by daily. Also notify your alarm company, assuming you have an alarm. If your circuit breaker box is outdoors or otherwise accesable, consider putting a small lock on it. We had vandals flip off all the circuits while we were away once. Throw away perishables in the fridge. Otherwise that 30 day old open container of whatever will be there to great you when you come home.

Posted by
327 posts

Arrange to have a trusted family member or friend enter the house periodically to check that all is well inside. Your home insurance company will be able to tell you how often that should be - i.e. every 48 hours, every 7 days - and they will want to know who is checking your home . As others have said, we turn off all the water to our house, stop the mail, and use light timers in 2 rooms. Our neighbours on either side know how to reach us if they see anything suspicious.

Posted by
979 posts

We've left the house several time for anywhere from 1 month, 2 months, 3 months to two years. Here is what we do:

  • Shut off water to clothes washer and toilets. The main reason for this is these lines can fail without notice and if you're not there they can do a lot of damage before you get back.
  • we use three light timers around the house. For the one upstairs we plug a lamp and a radio to it. All three are programmable so we stagger the lights to make it look like someone's home.
  • we let at least three of our trusted neighbors know that we are out and leave a key with two of them so they can check the mail and check on the house. we bring them back something nice from our trip to show our appreciation in return the favor if they go on the trip.
  • neighborhood teenager takes care of the lawn.
  • The last time we were gone for two months last year I bought a Nest cam which worked great. It's sent me a email alerts when it detected some movement or person in the house so I knew right away when my neighbors were dropping off the mail.


Posted by
437 posts

If you have a lawn, mow before you leave and arrange for someone to mow if it needs it while you are away.

Consider writing down your computer password.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
5828 posts

We purchased Rex, the barking dog.
Barking dog alarm dates back to the early 1070s.

Archie buys a "dog alarm" and a gun to protect the house all for only
$60... That night two burglars, who have just robbed a jewelry store,
break into the house and hold the Bunker's hostage until the heat is

Posted by
24 posts

Every time we leave home, we create a lived in scene for anyone looking in our floor to ceiling deck windows. Our dining table is very visible from the deck. A police officer recommended we do a place setting on the table to create a lived in look. We place newspaper, coffee mug, pair of glasses, and a ball cap on the table and pull the chair out.
We also hide our computers
Safe travels.

Posted by
3134 posts

Also, as your house will be vacant for more than thirty days, contact your insurer or agent to see if you need supplemental insurance. Home insurance policies, or at least some, don't insure a house vacant more than 30 days, for at least some coverages. So be sure to speak with your insurance agent.

Posted by
9868 posts

Don't count on neighbors seeing everything, so hire someone to come inspect after each storm and once a week. You may need battery changes in your smoke detectors or alarm system, which neighbors won't hear from outside.

Give your insurance company permission ahead of time for the handyman to take care of any damage--lesson learned when a mini-tornado poked branches through our roof.

Posted by
3861 posts

We have someone stay at our home when we are gone on one of our longer trips. It gives us peace of mind as there are a lot of things that can happen. Still two years ago we came home to a $1000 water bill because one of the drip solenoids had stuck on for 2 weeks between our gardeners visits and the people staying at out house didn't notice the slow hillside leak. Granted that the water bill was a lot higher because of our tiered rates in drought plagued Southern California.

Posted by
1221 posts

We've got a cat-sitter that comes by every other day when we're on vacation (cats are far less stressed at home than if we tried to board them). She also gets the mail, knows where the water shut off and sprinker system controls are, and generally keeps an eye on things. AC is set to 78F in summer (need to be at that point to reduce humidity and the chance for mold to set in) Appliances stay plugged in because there's stuff in fridge and freezer we don't want to lose. Water heater is turned off. No light timer, but then there's a kitchen light that's always left on 24/7 whether we're home or not.

Some people let their grass get a bit long in our neighborhood, so one pre-trip mow for 14-19 days gone is generally okay here.

We do make sure the cars get some nice continuous use in the days before the trip because we want the battery nice and charge up before it sits in garage or airport parking lot for a while.

Posted by
372 posts

I turn off the water to my entire condo. (Water damage from a leak can be very expensive to repair). My contractor told me that if I turned off all water, I should also turn off the electricity to my hot water heater via my fuse box.

Posted by
279 posts

Not to put a big damper are on timers. But a few years ago our house burned down while we were on a trip. The fire was caused by the failure of the timer on which we had our Christmas lights. The fire investigator said that he had seen four or five other fires caused by similar timers. But because the timer is for plastic and completely destroyed by the fire there was nothing that could be demonstrated in court.

Posted by
630 posts

Not to put a big damper are on timers. But a few years ago our house
burned down while we were on a trip. The fire was caused by the
failure of the timer on which we had our Christmas lights. The fire
investigator said that he had seen four or five other fires caused by
similar timers. But because the timer is for plastic and completely
destroyed by the fire there was nothing that could be demonstrated in

Michael, sorry you had to go through that! It must have been awful - and around Christmas too :(
Thanks for posting about the timers. I'm always nervous about fires - so I guess I won't be using timers any more.