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A Snowbird’s Guide to Winterize House While Away

Friday, 29 October 2021

With the cold weather quickly arriving, maybe you’re a Canadian who escapes to sunnier skies for weeks or even months. While you enjoy the sunshine, palm trees, and endless beaches, knowing your home is protected will give you the freedom to relax worry-free. Fleeing the harsh Canadian winters can leave your home more susceptible to property damage and burglary. To be better equipped for your time away, it’s important to understand your home insurance policy, winterize your house, and take necessary precautions while you enjoy a sunny getaway.

Steps for Snowbirds to Winterize House

When you are away for longer periods of time, it’s important to winterize your house to avoid potential issues. Follow these tips to winterize your house and prepare for your time away.

Shut off your main water valve and drain your pipes. This will prevent pipe bursts, flooding, and mold.
Turn off your water supply at the source and empty excess liquid. Consider using a non-toxic anti-freeze in plumbing traps and toilets to prevent the freezing and cracking.

Check in regularly. Find a trustworthy family member, friend, or neighbour to perform regular checks on your home. Get them to pick up the mail, arrange snow removal, and check on the furnace.

Update your contact information with your home security provider. It’s important for them to have your information as well as your trusted nearby contact in case of an emergency.

Keep your travel updates off social media. Sure, it’s tempting to share your photos and memories, but it’s best to send those through text, email, or encrypted messaging platforms. You may not realize that social media platforms can track and tag your geographic location for anyone to see – making your empty home an easy target. Here’s our full guide of What Not to Share on Social Media.

Get a timer for your lights. Have a lamp or room light programmed to turn on during the evenings to give the appearance that someone is home. An automatic security light with a motion sensor will also deter intruders.

Unplug your electronics and appliances. Power surges could cause damage to your valuable appliances. Unplugging electronics and appliances will also save you money on your electric bill.

Empty out your fridge and cabinets. To avoid growing mold and attracting critters, dispose of an open food and donate anything that won’t last the season.

Make a home inventory. If you haven’t already done it, start documenting your belongings. Takes pictures, makes lists, and store receipts to make the process of a potential claim easier.

Does Home Insurance Cover My House While I’m Away?

It depends. Before you leave the snowy apocalypse behind, a conversation with your home insurance broker is crucial. An empty home poses an increased risk of water damage, property damage, and burglary. Go through your home insurance policy with a broker to understand what is required of you to maintain your coverage as well as things that are not covered while away. Understanding your home insurance policy will help you better prepare for your winter escape and winterize your house.

Is Water Damage Covered on My Home Insurance if I’m Away

Water damage is a major threat to snowbirds’ homes. Freezing and thawing pipes can cause flooding, mold, and water damage. Typically, a home insurance policy will not cover water damage during heating season if you are away for more than four consecutive days. To maintain coverage, your insurance provider often requires you meet certain conditions. For example:

  • A competent person enters your home every 24 hours while you are away to ensure the heating is being maintained and the property is checked on.
  • You properly winterize house plumbing to minimize water damage (more details on this to come!)
  • Your plumbing and heating systems are connected to a monitored alarm with 24-hour service.

Policies conditions vary, so connect with your broker to get the accurate details of your policy.

Does My Coverage Lapse If I Go Away for a Long Time?

If you plan to travel for several months, this will elicit a bigger conversation with your broker. Most home policies lapse if your home is vacant for more than 30 days. However, with a return date planned, your home might be deemed “unoccupied” instead. In any case, double check to see if your existing coverage will protect your home for the duration of your trip, otherwise you might need a vacancy permit.

Travel Insurance for Snowbirds

Extended trips out of country require special insurance protection! Travelling outside of province or country for the long-term might mean that you no longer have medical coverage while you travel. Having to pay for medical bills as a result of an injury or accident could put a significant damper on your trip and your finances. A BIG insurance broker can easily find the right travel insurance solution for you!


As you take the necessary precautions to winterize your house while you’re on vacation, our BIG brokers are always here to answer your questions. If you are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to head to greener pastures, take the time to understand what’s covered on your home insurance. Give us a call to learn more!