Closing up Your Desert Home for the Summer

Scottsdale house
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In April and May, snowbirds retreat from their desert winter homes and migrate to northern U.S. and Canadian residences to escape the sweltering summers. If this describes you, then you must leave your house knowing the home must be able to withstand severe heat and ​​monsoon-like storms. Take a look at a checklist of preparations and extra precautions Southwestern homeowners consider before leaving their desert residences for the summer.

  • 01 of 10

    Utilities and Mail

    Overflowing Mailbox
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    Some items on your checklist will take a bit longer to initiate than others, like changing mail and canceling utilities. A week or two before your departure date, 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. Also, notify any newspapers and mailed subscription services when you need to stop and resume delivery.

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  • 02 of 10

    Inside the House

    Side view of woman cleaning the fridge

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    Two weeks before you leave, start thinking about notifying your homeowners or condo association. Give them your departure and return dates. If you are worried about security or intruders in your area, inquire about a local vacation watch program with your homeowner's association, local community board, or police department. If you have a reliable nearby friend or neighbor, ask them to look in at your home periodically.

    If you have valuables like jewelry or essential documents that you won't be taking with you for the summer, arrange for storage in a safe deposit box at the bank.

    One item that people often forget is the refrigerator. Eat leftovers, clean out the fridge and freezer, and coordinate emptying the fridge with your trash and recycling pickup.

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  • 03 of 10

    Lawn and Yard Needs

    Woman cutting buxus shrub with hand shears

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    The exterior of the house must be ready for departure as well. One to two weeks before leaving, start trimming trees and bushes in the yard so you can have the trimmings picked up before you go.

    Even if you are turning off the main water valve to the house, you can still water the plants in the yard. Set your irrigation timer appropriately for summer heat, so all your shrubs and trees aren't dead when you return.

    Whether you water the yard or not, there will be weeds. Consider a yard care service that will take care of the plants, 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. The lawn care company workers will see that you aren't living in the home.

    Take in or cover any patio furniture that's cloth, plastic, or wood. The summer heat will damage it if you leave it outside.

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  • 04 of 10

    Pool and Water Features

    Pool Chemistry Testing
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    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.

    Also, check for standing water and remove any kiddie pools, buckets, and birdbaths from the yard. If you have a fountain, either empty it and turn it off or leave the water circulating to avoid mosquito problems.​

    If you have a pool, arrange for a pool service to handle the maintenance while you are away. It is a good idea to schedule an exterior pest control service while you are gone.

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  • 05 of 10

    The Garage

    Man working on car removing battery
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    It's easy to forget about the garage and what is in it. 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 distilled water in the battery up to (but not over) the water fill line and unplug it. Also, unplug the garage door opener. If you have propane tanks and combustible/flammable chemicals, safely dispose of them or give them to someone for safekeeping.

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  • 06 of 10

    Appliances Big and Small

    Senior woman with eyeglasses adjusting digital thermostat
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    The day you are leaving, unplug the appliances, entertainment units, computers—everything. Lightning from summer monsoon storms can wreak havoc on electrical equipment.

    Don't forget to turn off ceiling fans, indoors and out. Turn off the air conditioner or set the thermostat if you'll be leaving the A/C on. Some people turn off the A/C completely. Some leave it on but at a high temperature, like 90 or 95 depending on the items in the house, such as artwork that will dry out in the heat, a security system that only functions at a specific temperature range, or a vast wine collection that can go bad in the heat.

    Also, if you have natural gas, turn off the gas at the main valve and make sure to turn the water heater off. Open the doors to the washer and dryer, the dishwasher, and any other appliance that typically seals up.

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  • 07 of 10

    Water and Air Circulation

    Close-Up Of Water Pipe

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    The day you leave, 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 and long shower head extensions.

    In each room, leave large buckets or tubs of water to humidify the space as it evaporates. 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.

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  • 08 of 10

    Food and Plants

    Female hand watering plant on window sill with a tiny watering can

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    If you are leaving nonperishable foods, you will need to seal non-refrigerated products such as cereals, grains, boxed foods, baking products, and pet foods in plastic bags or containers with tightly fitting lids to keep critters and moisture out.

    If you will be turning the refrigerator off while you are gone, empty it and the freezer completely, including the condiments in the door. While gone, leave the door/s open for some air circulation.

    If you are leaving the refrigerator on while you are gone, toss any foods that will spoil. You can keep items like condiments and water. A working refrigerator that is nearly empty uses more energy, so add bottles of water. Empty the ice tray and turn off the automatic ice maker.

    Give your houseplants to a neighbor or take them with you; otherwise, they will not survive a long absence.

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  • 09 of 10

    Miscellaneous Items

    Pile of mail on doormat

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    Store candles 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, and security systems. If you use call forwarding on your landline, set it to follow you to your other residence.

    Ask a trusted neighbor, local friend, or family member to remove any fliers, phone books, packages, or other items that may be tossed into your driveway or left by your front door. Give them a spare set of keys (including external gates) and your contact information. Ask them to check for leaks inside and out, walk the house, or visit the home if a bad storm or monsoon strikes. If you don't feel comfortable asking someone to do this, there are professional companies you can hire.

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  • 10 of 10

    Perfect the List Over Time

    Woman unpacking

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    Some people leave for three months, and some leave for seven months. These items may not apply to your house, or there may be more specific needs that you have to consider. Use this information as a baseline for your personal checklist. Add contact names and numbers for any professional services that you annually use. After a couple of years, you will have these preparations down to a science. Being prepared can help you be worry-free about your desert home while you enjoy the summer up north.