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post Sep 22 2006, 12:19 PM
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I posted the following on another forum and repeat it here...
Some ideas already mentioned...

Here's how *I* handle the empty house syndrome (whether a weekend or a full year):

1) First and foremost, water OFF at the main home entrance valve (not the street valve), no matter how short or long a time away. this also means water heater OFF and ice maker OFF and automatic humidifiers OFF. A plumbing burst, even a trickle, can turn to utter disaster over many weeks. Even if you have someone drop by every few days, OFF. Turning off at the house (not the street) means you (probably) can still leave irrigation on if you have it.

2) Electricty - do nothing, no need to. Just make sure all appliances OFF, refer cleaned out - probably off and opened, also good idea to unplug TV, stereo, PC in the event of lightning surges. Leave no machinery running (i.e. fans) that could cause harm if it breaks while away. I do leave a couple lights on random timers.

3) Thermostat - set to HOLD at 50 in winter and 80 in summer. Colder in winter is fine if you don't have a history of pipe freezes under counters and the like. I would not go higher in summer due to humidity buildup (unless you are in Arizona). I do run a separate de-humidifier 24/7 that drains out of a locked window during the summer as well. That was one of the best things I did to eliminate the stagnant musty buildup problem. Make sure to leave the overflow devices intact on it however.

4) Mail: 2 issues, 1) getting it when away if needed, 2) not having any pile up while away. Get an Escapees type adddress or do the same with a UPS Store (MailBoxes Etc, type of store) and move ALL bills and personal mail to that new address. In fact, I have all my mail including IRS, drivers license, and voter registration going to my local sticks/bricks home UPS Store mail box. It takes many months before you actually move ALL your mail to this type of address. I then declared the house permanently un-occupied at my local post office. The PO can not deliver mail (i.e. Homeowner, Resident, Occupant junk mail) to an unoccupied house. And the PO won't hold it longer than 30 days I think. Now, my home mailbox is lonely and always empty! If I need my mail while away I just call the store and they box it up and send it to me. While at home I just drive up the street to get it. And I never have to be home to sign for the FedEx delivery either! A US PO Box does not offer these types of services.

5) Bills: 2 considerations, 1) how to pay them, 2) knowing how much to pay when away. As for how to pay them I use online bill paying either through your bank or things like Quicken/MS Money. All of my bills (or any other items) are paid "online". Upon your direction, these services will simply send a check to anyone you direct or in the case of things like your electric bill they have electronic arrangements. Knowing how much to pay: I have a spreadsheet listing all my bills (monthly ones, even once a year ones) down the side and 12 months across the top. As I pay bills whether at home or away I jot down the amount for each month. Then, BEFORE I go away, I can pretty much guess what the next payment amounts will be, for however many months, and I just create an online payment, generously rounded up, to be be "paid" automatically by the online service on that future date.(* see note below). In this way I never ever worry about bills (or even getting my mail) on the road. Sort of simulates not having the dang bricks/sticks and it is nice to be able to completely forget about it while away. Using the "budget plan" for your utilities is excellent as then your payments are fixed each month. For the exacting crowd, most billers have some means of web access to your bill if you need to know exactly how much each bill will be. I do cheat and look at my visa bill online each month and simply transfer the amount owed while I am on my bank's website while I am looking at the bill.

6) Arrange for lawn mowing and the like. Windows all closed, doors locked, all outside stuff put inside or undercver, or locked down from storms. You don't need a freak thunder storm sending your deck chair/umbrella through your windows. Cars locked. Also clean out perishable pantry items. Probably move them right into the RV! Empty all trash. Leave nothing to entice vermin. Toilet lids UP to get light/air in there and stop mold growth. I leave all drapes wide open to let the sun in. I also open closet doors and even drawers as here in the mid atlantic, musty conditions will develop and your stack of beautifully clean towels will smell musty in just a couple months of being idle.

7) I tell my neighbors my cell number and that I'll be away though I don't arrange for any formal check ups by anyone. I never like to impose. I also jokingly advise that upon the sight of smoke they should wait until there are just ashes before calling IPB Image Sadly, truth is, it is far easier to claim a total loss than negotiate the extent of a partial loss! I know this from experience.
8) Make a checklist. Just like you might have a rig packing list, mine has a section at the bottom of everything to do in the house, item by item.

9) Have fun knowing you can forget about those sticks for a while!

(*) NOTE. Some bill payer services like, I *think* the web based Bank of America system, will deduct each and every payment you make from your balance AT the time you enter it regardless of when it is queued up to actually pay. BE AWARE of this or similar limitations! Other systems will NOT deduct the payment amount from your balance until the actual check is presented for payment. THIS is the method you want as you can queue up many months of payments even though your monthly deposits aren't deposited yet.

10) And did I say have fun knowing you can forget about those sticks for a while?
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post Sep 24 2006, 10:28 PM
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I would like to know about the wicking system that yo use to water your plants indoors . I have tried one, but it didnt work
QUOTE(Texasrvers @ Aug 29 2006, 12:13 PM) *

Leaving your cats behindóoh no, wonít they get lonely? We take our 2 with us, but then we donít have any dogs right now.

Some other people posted while I was writing this, so please excuse the duplication. Everything they have said is good. They also mentioned some things that we will start doing.

You can do a lot or a little to your house. We tend to overdo, but fortunately we have not had any major trouble while weíve been gone. Here are some of the things we have done:

Donít close all the curtains and blinds unless this is how you normally keep your house. It should still look ďlived in.Ē

Let local police know you will be gone. (But remember to tell them about the pet sitter or you may have to pay his/her bail.)

Donít have a message on your answering machine that says you are away from home.

Stop mail and newspapers or have neighbor get them.

Set timers to turn on and off lights at the same times you normally would.

Unless someone is watering your plants, turn off the water at the street just in case a pipe decides to break while youíre gone. (This is more likely in cold weather, but it can happen anytime.)

We set outdoor water timers and use a wicking system to water indoor plants.

Set the temperature higher or lower. (We set at 80 degrees in the warm months and 50 in the winter.)

Clean out any items in the refrigerator that might spoil before you return.

Put bars or sliding locks on patio doors and windows so that they canít be opened even if unlocked.

Hide any valuables that you donít take with you. (You obviously canít put away everything, but we do hide jewelry and some hunting rifles. We also try not to have computers and other small electronic equipment visible through the windows.)

Lastly donít worry and HAVE FUN on your trip.
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post Sep 25 2006, 12:09 AM
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Sure, I'll be glad to tell you about this very sophisticated laugh.gif wicking system.

All I did was buy a roll of wicking material that is usually used for making candles. It is available at craft stores and is not very expensive, but I can't remember what I paid. The size is a little smaller round than a pencil. Then I put a gallon milk jug filled with water by each plant and run a piece of the wicking from the jug to the plant. I poke a hole in the soil and put in about 2" of the wicking and cover it with soil. If the plant is big I put in 2-4 wicking strands. My largest plants are in 20" pots, and this has worked up to 6 weeks with no problem, but the water was about to run out after that time.

Here's a few tips that I follow:

I always soak the wicking material for about 30 min. before using it. There have been times it didn't start wicking if I didn't do this.

I use the gallon milk jugs so that the water will last up to about 6 weeks. Also they have small openings so the water doesn't evaporate as quickly as it would in a bucket.

I make sure the wicking in the jug will reach all the way to the bottom for when the water gets lower.

The jugs should sit lower than the pots so that the water will wick up. Don't know why it has to be that way but it does seem to be true.

I set this up about 2-3 days before we leave just to be sure it is wicking. Then I refill the jugs to the top just before we leave.

I water the plants really well before leaving so that they won't need the water in the jugs until later.

I try to keep the plants and jugs out of direct sunlight to keep down the evaportaion.

When we return I rinse off the wicking, let it dry out, and use it again. Course it's cheap enough to just throw out and start over each time.

And that's all there is to it. Hope this info helps you.
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