A vacation home a few months before it's set to be winterized.

How to Winterize Your Vacation Home

Updated October 19, 2018 . AmFam Team

If you’re packing up your vacation home and heading back to your regular residence, it might be tempting to leave everything as-is and just go. But check out these tips to winterize your place and you can be sure that your place will withstand the harsh weather and welcome you with open arms next year.

It’s hard saying goodbye to your vacation home for the summer, and it's even harder and preparing it for the winter — who knows what the weather will have in store for your getaway space while you’re gone! But with just a little bit of preparation, planning and care, you can be confident that your home will enjoy a happy hibernation during the colder months. 

Make sure you protect your vacation home while you’re away by using this helpful vacation home winterization checklist.

Protect Your Vacation Home From the Elements

If your vacation home will experience typical winter conditions while you’re gone, you need to make sure its pipes, insulation, windows and heating systems are in working condition. Use these tips to set your vacation up for an uneventful winter.

Drain your water lines. Emptying your vacation home’s water lines before you head home will help you avoid frozen pipes. If your pipes do freeze, get ready for a major cleanup effort in bill as they break and spill water into your unoccupied home.

Insulate your pipes, too. Wrapping exposed pipes with insulation or heating tape will prevent them from freezing and breaking while you’re away. For any outside pipes or pipes in a location of your house that gets near freezing temperatures, insulation is absolutely crucial.

Turn off your outdoor faucets. Find your outdoor faucets’ shutoff valves and turn them off. Then, open the faucet and let the water drain out. If you’ve left any hoses outside, stow them away and protect them from the oncoming freezing temperatures.

When in doubt, call a plumber. Having some trouble figuring how to drain your water lines or insulate your pipes? Call a professional. Ask your vacation-home neighbors who they trust for their plumbing needs and rest easy knowing your home’s pipes will be cared for properly.

Set your water heater to vacation mode. Most water heaters will have a setting that keeps its stored water at a constant lower-than-normal temperature, saving you money on your energy bill. If your vacation home’s water heater doesn’t have a vacation mode, consider setting it to a lower temperature.

Keep the cold air out. Consider installing storm windows or use insulator kits on older window to keep frigid air out of your vacation home. Sealing air leaks around your vacation’s home windows can do wonders on keeping the interior warm and free from unwanted moisture.

Leave the heat on. Keeping your vacation home warm during the winter is crucial, but you don’t need to set the temperature to 70 degrees while you’re away. Experts recommend setting your thermostat to around 55 degrees to keep your heating bill low while also making sure the cold can’t do any damage to the interior of your place.

Keep Your Vacation Home Secure While You’re Gone

It’s no secret that would-be thieves target unoccupied homes, so making your home appear as if you’re still there — and taking proper security steps as a backup — can help you maintain peace of mind that your vacation home is safe. Use these tips to deter any troublemakers from your property.

Don’t let the mail pile up. Make sure you cancel or re-direct any newspaper, magazine or other regular mail items to your main place of residence, as a week’s worth of mail sitting by your vacation home’s front door is certain to draw a criminal’s attention. If you have neighbors who live near your vacation home full-time, ask if they can keep an eye on your mailbox or front door and grab any mail before it starts to accumulate.

Keep the sidewalks and driveways snow-free. An un-shoveled walkway or driveway is a surefire indicator that nobody is home. Consider hiring a snow removal company to clear both when it snows.

Let your neighbors and the authorities know you’re gone. Got a good friend or two on your block? Let them know when you’re planning on heading back home so they can check for suspicious activity when they walk or drive by your place while you’re gone. Giving the police a heads up that your vacation home will be vacant is a good idea, too.

Protect your property with an alarm system. A smart home system like is the ultimate way to protect your vacation home. What's great about it is that the systems are setup to protect your home in every way possible. From water leak detectors to outdoor motion sensors, it's highly-customizable options work to eliminate your worries by keeping your vacation home safe. 

Put a light on a timer. Using at outlet timer, set up a lamp to stay on for the evening hours to make it appear like you’re still home. Make sure it’s visible from the outside, even through curtains or shades.

Leave Your Vacation Home in Good Shape

While it might be tempting to just get out of town, make sure you take care of the necessary routine maintenance your vacation home needs. Take these basic home-care tips to heart and you’ll thank yourself when you return.

Double-check your furnace. If your furnace relies on fuel oil, checking to make sure your tank is full or is on scheduled maintenance will keep you from losing heat when you need it come next spring.

Clean out your gutters. If the leaves have already started to fall, chances are that they’ve found a new home in your gutters. Clean your gutters so the leaves don’t have a chance to block rain from flowing away from your house — if the gutter can’t get rid of the water, winter will turn it to ice and potentially damage it and other parts of your house.

Unplug unnecessary utilities. Have any electronic items that are constantly running in your house? If you’re going to be away, many of those items won’t need to be powered.

Get rid of unused food. Leaving a fridge full of perishable food items will not only set you up to return to a foul-smelling surprise, but it could attract pests or rodents, too. Make sure your refrigerator, pantry and freezer are free of items that could attract any unwelcome company.

Consider vacation home insurance. No matter how much effort you put into protecting your vacation home, you should consider adding an extra layer of protection. Let’s face it — unexpected problems come up. And when they do, it’s worth having a policy that has your back. Learn more about protecting your vacation home.

Checking these tasks off your list when you close your vacation home at season’s end will make for a surprise-free return next season. And to make sure your place is protected from any other unexpected trouble, get in touch with any American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) — they’re always happy to help.

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