We often leave the house for days at a time and I have developed several habits that save us money and protect our belongings.
•Turn down your hot water heater. Most homes in the United States have natural gas powered hot water heaters. When you are gone, obviously you do not use any of the hot water, but if your hot water heater regulator is set too high, the water will continually cool down and have to be reheated again. If you do not need the hot water, there is no reason to keep it hot. Do not turn your hot water heater off, but set it at a lower setting so that it only has to run once a day or once every two days. Just remember to turn it back on before you take your first shower when you return home . . . you could be in for a cold surprise!
•Turn down your heat. Same principle as the water heater, but you need to be aware of how cold you can allow your home to be without freezing your pipes. Err on the side of caution here. A plumbing accident is far worse than spending a couple extra dollars to heat your home. Dependencing on where you currently live, you can turn the heat completely off, because the sun warms the house every day – even when the outside temp is below zero.
•Leave a light or two on, but make certain that the lights are CFL bulbs. I typically do not like compact fluorescent lighting, but if the lights are going to be on for a couple of days or a week, it is worth the time to change the bulb. Leaving a light on will give a feeling that the home is occupied, but more importantly, it allows passersby or police to see into your home. If the light is turned off unexpectedly, this can also be a warning to neighbors.
•Protect important papers. Your important papers should be in a safe place when you are out of the house. Fire can start when you are out of town, floods too. Birth Certificates, deeds, social security cards, titles, insurance forms are all items that are very difficult to replace if damaged – and if they happen to be stolen . . . well, identity theft is one of the worst things that can happen to you nowadays.
•Stop your mail delivery. This is really important. Mail is the most common way for your identity to be stolen. Do not allow mail to pile up in your mailbox. Go to the USPS website and hold your mail. Sometimes we have a trustworthy neighbor pick it up and store it for us – same with the newspaper.
•Trash pick-up. If we leave on a trash day, we will put out our garbage, but ask a neighbor to pull the cans back up by the house after they are emptied. If it is a long time until trash pick up when we leave, we lock our trash in the garage. Better to miss a trash day than to let someone dig through your waste.
•Water. Most of you will not have this problem, but I used to turn off the water to the whole house because we had a couple of faucets that dripped. I also wondered from time to time if the neighbors “borrowed” some of our water from the hose when we were out of town.
•Wash the dishes. This might not save you a lot of money, and I know that none of you would ever leave the house in disarray when you leave for vacation, but for the rest of us, isn’t it nice to come home to clean tile, vacuumed carpets and an empty sink?