As the warmer weather winds down, many Michiganders are reluctantly facing the harsh reality of winter. Like it or not, it’s coming – and it’s time to prepare.

For those with vacation homes and cottages, there’s some extra care involved when getting ready for winter.

Michigan vacation home owners get a lot of use and pleasure out of their summer homes, but it’s important to understand the necessity of properly preparing them for winter. Severe winters can create several risks for unoccupied houses.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure your vacation home is as you left it when you return next summer:

  • Leave the heat on. Many people assume if they’re not going to be in their home, it’s easiest just to turn the heat off – but typically that’s not advised. Winter weather causes condensation that, without heat, can cause wood and drywall to rot and mildew. In addition, extreme variations in temperate can be bad for a home’s foundation. Instead, set the thermostat to 40-50 degrees.
  • Shut the water off. Even when you leave the heat on, it’s important to turn off the water. If the power in your unoccupied home goes out, the pipes could freeze and burst. Turning off the main water supply switch eliminates this risk. Once the water is turned off, it’s also a good idea to drain the pipes so existing water doesn’t freeze. If you don’t want to turn off the main water supply, at minimum, turn off the supply hoses and vales to sinks, toilets and other water sources.
  • Allow for airflow. Airflow helps prevent moisture damage, so even when you’re not in your home, it’s important to keep the air moving. When you’re closing up a vacation home, make sure to leave the interior doors open. You might also consider removing heavy bedding and tilting furniture cushion on an angle.
  • Turn off non-essential electric and gas. Cut the circuit breakers for electric that you will not be using, but remember to leave on the breakers that control your heater and any lighting you plan to leave on for security. It’s also a good idea to contact your utility company for help with turning off the main gas supply to your home.
  • Properly disconnect, store propane tanks. From grills to patio heaters and fireplaces, propane has many uses on a summer patio. When closing up a summer home, make sure to close the valve on propane tanks, disconnect them and store upright in a dry ventilated space away from other chemicals or fuels. Do this even if the tank is empty.

Following some of these simple tips helps ensure that your vacation property will remain in good condition – allowing you to enjoy next summer with friends and family, not fixing problems left behind by winter.

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