By Mikkie Mills
Living off the grid in the mountains is the goal of a lot of people these days. Sure, the city life has its virtues, but we like to have that escape to the quiet of the countryside. Many are choosing the best of both worlds, spending summer in their rural paradise and returning to the suburbs when the weather turns cold. Keeping that home away from home safe over the winter can present unique challenges. Here are 5 ways you can keep your cabin safe while you’re away.
1. Secure Your Electrical Systems
One of the most common causes of household disasters is an electrical issue. Before you leave, turn off all non-essential circuits (meaning anything other than ones controlling security systems, heating or outside lighting). Fires can develop from circuits easily if they’re left unmonitored. As well, be sure to actually unplug appliances, otherwise, they can spark a blaze even if they’re not turned on. Find out whether you have fixed-mounted breakers or drawout circuit breakers, which are often easier to replace, service and test. Regardless, keep electrical equipment clean and clear of flammable objects.
2. Clear Your Water Lines
Second, only to the danger posed by faulty electrical systems are the problems caused by water systems that haven’t been properly winterized. First, make certain that you’ve turned the main valves off. Then drain the water heater and turn off the gas to it if it’s a gas heater. Remember not to turn on the electricity to an empty electric water heater, nor turn on the power to the gas or oil ones. That can cause serious damage. Next, make sure to blow all water out of the pipes and faucets until nothing but air comes out. The last step is to put non-toxic RV antifreeze (the kind that’s safe for use with drinkable water systems) into sinks, tubs, drains and dishwashers. Make sure not to neglect any of your outdoor water lines; drain the hoses and outside water connections too.
3. Think Energy Efficiency
Another important consideration before leaving your cabin is energy loss. If you plan to leave the heating system on over the winter, check to make sure that your cabin isn’t leaking an undue amount of heat. Energy leaks can happen when insulation is damaged or improperly installed or if there is caulking and sealing which is starting to decay. Log cabins are especially susceptible to heating inefficiency from gaps in the logs. Make sure to check the space around electrical outlets and wiring to make sure that cold air isn’t seeping in. This is a good time to consider an energy audit of your cabin. Don’t forget to clean the furnace filter to prevent the risk of fires.
4. Prepare Your Dock for Winter
The status of the dock during winter is a paramount concern for lake cabins. Ice can easily ruin docks and watercraft because as the lake freezes, the water expands, slowly crushing objects that are stuck on the frozen surface. Pack ice movement can do the same thing. Temporary docks such as pipe docks or floating docks should be removed entirely. Permanent docks are more robust but should incorporate an agitator or a bubbler, both of which churn the water around the dock and keep the ice from encroaching.
5. Take Valuable Items With You
You may feel like your cabin is your castle, but even with a good security system in place, thieves have months while you’re away to plan a way to get to your valuables. Don’t just take obviously expensive things like jewelry and electronics; bring exercise gear with you as well, and never leave any weapons in your cabin while you’re not around to keep them secured. If you do leave anything of value in your cabin, make sure that it’s not visible from the windows.
Whether your dream cabin is in the hills or on the water, there’s a lot more to life off the grid than many people realize. By having a checklist of all the steps needed for maintenance, you’ll keep the ravages of nature at bay, and have your sanctuary for years to come.
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on natural health cures and news, budgeting hacks, and favorite DIY projects. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her little ones around or can be found rock climbing at her local climbing gym.