The Snowbird's Guide to "Summerizing" Your Home

Dori Wittrig December 28, 2021

We’re all enjoying the lovely Sonoran Desert winter. Those who live in Fountain Hills only during this time of year may not be aware of the full extent of the summer heat here. Before you start enjoying those cool, summer evenings back home, you can show your Arizona home some love that will help it survive the summer months without you.
Here is a checklist of things to consider before leaving Arizona. Use this checklist as a guide and decide what you feel is best for you and your desert home.
  • Roof Maintenance: If you’ve never experienced a summer monsoon storm, it’s hard to imagine the intensity and force. But, alas, your home will be the target of high winds, fast rainstorms and blowing debris. Be sure to call your roofer to assess the roof’s ability to survive the strong storm activity.

  • Yard Maintenance: Your Arizona plants LOVE the intense summer heat. And they will grow like crazy when you’re gone.

Prior to departing, make sure everything gets an enthusiastic trimming. Do this well in advance so that you can make arrangements to have the yard debris cleaned up prior to your departure: yard debris will dry out and become a dangerous fire hazard!
And whether you water the yard or not, there will be weeds. Consider a yard care service that will take care of the weeds, do some trimming, mow the lawn if you have one, and check for irrigation system problems while you are gone. Make sure it is a company that you know and trust—obviously the workers will know that you aren’t living in the home.
Also be sure to do an “audit” of your landscape watering system check all emitters to make sure heads have not popped off. Your water will also need a heavier watering schedule in the summertime. Check with your landscaper to make sure the watering times are accurate for your particular landscape plan.
Before closing the house, you need to remember to prepare your yard for the summer. Any patio furniture that’s cloth, plastic, or wood will be damaged by the summer heat if you leave it outside, so remove chairs, furniture, and decor from your patio or yard.
  • Fire Prevention: If you live on or near a wash, be sure to have desert growth trimmed back away from structures. Summertime often, sadly, is a time for desert fires. Try to keep your home clear of any desert plants that can catch fire if a fast-moving fire sweeps through your neighborhood.
  • Pool and Hot tub maintenance: If you have a hot tub, do not drain it—the heat will damage the empty tub. Turn off the heating system for the water but leave the filtering system on. If you have a pool, your obviously have a pool maintenance person. Make sure to audit the filtering system, pump and check for pool leaks so that your pool runs efficiently through the summer months. A pool that sits for too long with a broken pump or filter will be green very soon!
  • Flood Prevention: All winter visitors, whether you live in a condo or single-family home, should have a main shut-off valve installed. Be sure it is properly installed so that it doesn’t affect your landscape but eliminate “live” water in your home! It’s the best thing you can do for your insurance policy!
  • Home Watch Services: Check with your insurance company, but it is likely they prefer you have someone watching the home on a regular basis while it is gone. A professional Home Watch company is preferable, with a system to make a thorough report of issues after home visits. Why is this important? A home that is not properly tended to may not have the insurance coverage it needs in the event of a large loss.
Your Refrigerator: One item that is easily forgotten is the refrigerator—start eating the leftovers and cleaning out the refrigerator and coordinate emptying the fridge with your trash and recycling pickup. Empty the ice tray.
As you Leave: You’re all packed and you are ready to head out the door. But did you take care of the appliances? You need to unplug the appliances, entertainment units, computers—everything. The lightning from summer monsoon storms can wreak havoc on electrical equipment. And don’t forget to turn off ceiling fans, indoor and out.
A/C: You also need to turn off the air conditioner or set the thermostat if you’ll be leaving the A/C on. We recommend leaving your thermostat at 87 degrees…you have valuable furniture, artwork, and cabinetry that will appreciate this accommodation!
Turn the water heater off.
Open the doors to the washer and dryer, the dishwasher.
Flush all toilets and run all faucets. Then turn off the water to the house at the main valve. Drain any remaining water from the faucets, long shower head extensions, and such. Plug all sinks and drains. Some folks recommend sealing their toilets with plastic to avoid traps drying out.
If you have a soft water system or reverse osmosis water system, determine if any action is necessary on your part before leaving.
Leave large buckets or tubs of water in each room to provide moisture for your furniture, art, and cabinetry. Leave all the interior doors open so the air can circulate inside the house. Close all the blinds and drapes to keep as much heat out of the house as possible.
  • The Garage: It’s easy to forget about the garage and what is in it, so make sure to do a walk through before you depart. If you are leaving a car in the garage, disconnect the battery. You might even want to cover the vehicle to protect it from dust.
If you have a golf cart, put water in the battery and unplug it.
Unplug the garage door opener.
If you have any, remove propane tanks and combustible/flammable chemicals from the garage.
  • Utilities and Mail: Some items on your checklist will take a bit longer to kick in than others, like changing mail and canceling utilities. A week or two before your departure date you should arrange for your mail and regular deliveries to be stopped or forwarded, notify your telephone, Internet service provider, and cable or satellite TV provider to put your service on hold, and notify any newspapers when to stop delivery and when to resume.
If there are valuables that you won’t be taking with you for the summer, arrange for storage. For instance, store jewelry or important documents in a safe deposit box at the bank.
Got houseplants? They probably won’t be alive when you return, so either lend them to a neighbor or take them with you.
Have candles? Store them in the refrigerator (if you are leaving it on) or put them in the coolest, darkest part of the house.
Also replace backup batteries in fire alarms, automatic watering systems, thermostats, security systems.
Use this information to create your own personal and permanent checklist. Add contact names and numbers for any professional services that you’ll be using year after year. Hopefully, you will have the preparation down to a science after a year or two, and you can be worry-free about your desert home while you spend the summer up north.

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