You've alerted the neighbors that you're going on vacation. but did you think about Mother Nature?
Before you leave home, take a few common sense precautions to protect your home and possessions from high wind, heavy rains, power outages, flooding and other unanticipated damage that temperamental lady can inflict while you're away.
Unplugging lights, kitchen appliances, televisions, VCRs, computers and other electric devices is a safeguard against the possibility of fire or damage to your electronics during a power surge when electricity is restored after an outage. of course, you'll want to set several lamps throughout the house on timers that go on and off at different times to discourage intruders.
The hot, humid environment of a closed house or apartment, a direct lightning strike on the transformer servicing your home, high winds that down power lines and heavy rains that result in flooded basements also increase the risk of fire when appliances are left connected in an unattended home.
ComEd spokesmen Jeff Burdick suggests another advantage of unplugging as many electric devices as possible while you're away. "Turning everything off can also significantly reduce your electric bill by eliminating the 'phantom load' or leaking electricity that these devices still consume even when they are switched off or in standby mode," said Burdick.
"This wasted standby power is small for each appliance, but the sum of everything in a household that typically includes computers, televisions, stereo, power adapters for cordless phones, kitchen appliances and air-conditioning can be significant," he added.
The sun may be shining the day you leave on vacation. but that's no guarantee your neighborhood won't be inundated by record rains while you're gone. Take up all area rugs in the basement and elevate furniture and appliances and anything else you don't want to find in a sodden heap when you return.
Trust me, for the ultimate downer, nothing can quite compare with spending days following a return from a relaxing vacation bailing out a flooded basement, lugging sodden carpet out to the curb and scrubbing down the walls and floor. that was our penalty for being away during a "once-in-a-century" deluge that overtaxed the sewers and sent several inches of water gushing into our basement.
Another safety precaution to take in the basement is to turn off the valves on the hot and cold water hoses in your washing machine. if they should rupture while you're gone, the flooding would be just as catastrophic.
If you haven't unplugged your appliances and come home to a flooded basement, the first thing you must do is shut off all power. Unfortunately, these controls are usually in the basement. if this is the case, never venture into the wet basement. instead call your fire department or ComEd to have them do it for you.
But Mother Nature isn't the only culprit. many of the problems that occur in an empty house can easily be avoided by following some common sense suggestions to prevent a man-made disaster.
If you're going to be gone for more than a few days, give a key to a trusted friend or relative and ask them to check on the house. the operative word here is "trusted." We've all heard horror stories about homes that have been trashed when keys have fallen into the wrong hands.
But even an occasional visit is no guarantee that even the most dependable fixtures won't fail while you're away. so ultimately it's up to you to consider Murphy's Law -- whatever can go wrong, will go wrong -- and do something about it.
One of the most important precautions homeowners can take before leaving on vacation is to turn the shutoff valve on every toilet in the house, especially any on the second floor. a leaking toilet left unchecked can cause thousands of dollars in structural damage -- not to mention the shock of finding your home inundated with water.
We learned this the hard way. Shortly after leaving for two weeks, my husband's parents stopped by our house and found the bathroom floor on the second floor covered with water from a leaking toilet. if they hadn't shut off the water, we could have returned at the end of two weeks to find the house damaged beyond repair.
Every home should be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector to prevent gas poisoning. but when no one is home to hear the alarm, this gas can build up and result in a deadly explosion.
If you smell gas or hear it hissing, close the shutoff valve and evacuate the house, opening windows and doors as you go. Don't use your telephone, light a match or turn light switches on or off. Call the gas company from a neighbor's house.
One of the most common sources of leaking gas are the gas connectors made of uncoated corrugated piping that are found in older models of stoves and dryers. They tend to leak and come apart easily; even moving the appliance an inch away from the wall to clean can cause a deadly leak.
Whether you're going to be home or away this summer, make sure you replace these dangerous connectors with the plastic-coated stainless steel or brass connectors that meet today's building codes.
And, before leaving on vacation, this is the perfect time to make sure all combustibles and flammable liquids in your basement workshop are stored in sealed containers. Oily rags left in a heap are another invitation to disaster. Clear out the clutter.
Jean Guarino is a local free-lance writer.
Before vacation, safeguard your home against floods