Protecting Your SW Florida Home When You Leave
Posted by Benjamin Dona on Monday, April 14th, 2014 at 3:16pm.
It's that time of year again. Our winter snowbird friends are flying back north for the summer. And, it is just the right moment for addressing what to do in preparing your SW Florida home to help prevent mold and water intrusion while your away.
SW Florida's high humidity and heat during the summer months takes a toll on your property both inside and out. The easiest way for preventing mold development while you’re gone on the inside is to install, and use, a humidistat on your air conditioning unit. By keeping your humidity at a minimum 60%, the air conditioner should activate often enough for drying the air within your home. That, in turn, dries upholstery, rugs, and carpets. In this day and age, it may even be more practical to lower it to 40% or 50% humidity, and pay just the little bit extra for the added electricity costs of running your AC more often.
If you've never seen what the heat and humidity can do to the interior of a home, we'll be glad to tell you. We've witnessed it in person on more than one occasion. The bottom line is this, if the AC unit goes down for an extended period of time for any reason, the result is just unimaginable. Seeing black and/or green mold on the carpeting and furniture, running up the walls from the baseboards to as high as two or three feet from the floor, is truly a unbelievable sight. Draperies and cabinetry covered with white fuzzy growth. It's devastating. And, we don't even want to go into what a water leak can do. Suffice it to say, that a hairline crack in a toilet tank (left with the water turned on) can flood an entire house with two to three inches of water in no time at all. Enough that you can't even push the front door open. So, please take the pre-cautions necessary to protect your investment. It's worth the time and effort for the peace of mind.
So, before you leave, clean your air conditioning unit (inside & out), and put in a new filter. Have some replacement filters on hand, check exterior openings for gaps that may allow for water intrusion (caulking around windows and weather stripping around doors), and do a thorough inspection on your home’s appliances that use water. "Turn off the water at the outside shutoff valve" to the home in case you do have a "water issue" while your away. An example might be the breaking of a washing machine hose, a failed icemaker solenoid, or a toilet canister leak fo some sort. Do not forget that when you turn the water off to your home, be sure and lift the ice maker arm and turn the main breaker switch off to your hot water heater too. Leaving the breaker switch on to the hot water heater without having the water supply on, could cause a "dry" fire to occur. That's not something you even want to consider having happen.
When speaking about doing a "true" exterior inspection prior to leaving, very few owners think about checking their roof, gutters, and downspouts. These are very important items that should perform well during the summer month's monsoon type rains. It rains so hard in SW Florida sometimes that we might get 3 or 4 inches of rain in a very short amount of time. Your home needs to move that water away and that's what your gutters and downspouts are supposed to do best. So, make certain they're clean and free of debris.
If you have a home built prior to 1996, you may not have weather sheathing under your decorative roof tiles or asphalt shingles. Have that checked out by a reputable roofer - he should be able to tell you whether your roofing is truly water tight or not.
Lastly, never forget the importance of a hiring a reputable home watch company. Their job is to inspect for problems while you’re gone. They will periodically turn water on and off to appliances (to keep the rubber gaskets from drying out), flush toilets making sure bowls do not go dry, and arrange for immediate restoration should something adverse actually occur. They also (at an additional cost) can put up and take down your hurricane shutters, when the need arises. Their standard monthly fees are low for the peace of mind the they provide and as an added bonus, your homeowner's insurance company will never be able to accuse you of "abandoning" your home, should you need to initiate a claim for an unexpected event resulting in damages.
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