Stories & Features

Is your home prepared for your winter vacation?

Image of Janet Zhu with suitcase
Packing luggage is just part of the preparation for a winter vacation. BC Hydro community rep Janet Zhu offers tips on how to set up your home to reduce electricity use, and to minimize the chances of water issues, while you're away.

A few tips to save energy, avoid water issues, while away

Janet Zhu

Many of us have planned a getaway over the winter season. But before you venture out to your dream destination, check out our winter holiday checklist to ease your mind while you're away.

Guard against frozen pipes and leaks

The last thing you want to come home to after a relaxing vacation is a burst pipe or water leak. Water expands when it freezes, so if you live in an area where sustained sub-zero temperatures are a possibility, remove any water that's left in your pipes if possible. To do this for your indoor pipes, turn off your water supply, open all the faucets and flush your toilets to clear all the water from the bowl.

This can be a good idea even if frozen pipes aren't an issue. Pipes and toilets can fail while you're away – and that's a nightmare.

If your home is equipped with a fire sprinkler system that's supplied by your regular water system, or if you have hot water heating, you can't shut off the water. Simply turn the thermostat to low, but not completely off, to ensure water in your pipes doesn't freeze while you're away.

For outdoor faucets, close the shut-off valve that controls the flow of water to these faucets. Disconnect your garden hose and drain it. Then, open the faucet and let the remaining water drain out.

Unplug and save while away

We all want to make sure our energy bills are as low as they can be while were on vacation.

Before you leave, disconnect all devices that draw standby power. Standby power is the small amount of power that is used when your devices are off but left plugged in. If your device has a clock, it's using at least some standby power.

Take a walk around your home and unplug devices such as your TV and entertainment system, computer, small kitchen appliances, and other items that have a digital clock or standby light.

If you'd like to keep your lights on while you're away to add a "lived in" look to your home, try using a timer to automatically turn on or off your lights throughout the day. One option is the Wemoplug, which is wi-fi-enabled so that you can operate a device remotely from your smartphone or other mobile device.

Large appliances such as your refrigerator and freezer will most likely stay plugged in while you're away. To help them run more efficiently, fill the empty spaces with jugs of water so they don't have to work as hard to keep the empty space cool.

Winter driving tips

Getting to and from your home safely is what's most important. If you're planning a road trip, there are five things you should know about driving in winter.

  1. If driving conditions aren't safe, postpone your trip or look for an alternative driving route. It's just not worth putting yourself, your family, or your friends as risk.
  2. All-season tires are not winter tires. From now until March 31, 2017, winter or mud-and-snow rated tires are mandatory on most B.C. highways.
  3. 4-x-4 vehicles also need to be equipped with snow tires. Just because you drive an SUV, does not mean that you are exempt from the possibility of sliding over a patch of ice.
  4. Top up your fluids. You should have winter rated washer fluids and wiper blades that are in top working condition.
  5. Clear your lights. Check both front and rear lights to make sure you are seen and can be seen by your fellow drivers.

Check out our winter home heating tips for more ways to save this winter.

For a fuller list of ways to prep your home see: Shut stuff off while on vacation and save money.

Janet Zhu is a member of BC Hydro's community team.

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