Tips for winter visitors: Winterizing the house while you're away

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- While some parts of the country are getting slammed with frigid weather, winter visitors, or"snowbirds," are enjoying the Valley's mild temperatures.

Winter visitor Chris Twomey of Minnesota describes his part-time lifestyle as "the best of both worlds". He's been coming to Arizona for four months each winter since 2004.

Twomey hires someone back in his hometown to shovel his sidewalk and driveway, set the thermostat to 60 degrees, and turn off his water.

We spoke with Debbie Hernandez with Home Depot to learn more about taking care of your home from afar, while enjoying the Arizona sun.

She says that if you have someone available, have them stay at the house and use it until you return. "A lived-in house is one of the best ways to prevent freeze damage," she says. You can also send someone you know and trust over to the house, so they can just let a professional in to winterize.

Here are more tips from Hernandez that folks here should have someone back home handle:

-The heat should be on, but not too high. It should not be lower than 54 degrees, but optimally should be set around 60 degrees.

-Have a Smart Thermostat from Apple (The Nest) or from Honeywell installed. This way you can control your thermostat from anywhere with you Smart Phone, if you have one.

-Have someone turn water off completely, then open up all faucet and shower handles and flush all toilets, to drain all water from all pipes. If you just turn the water off, there's still water in the pipes that can freeze. You can also have someone consistently flushing the toilets and running all faucets and showers every 1-2 hours.

-Wrap pipes with pipe foam wrap, copper wire heating cable, towels, etc.

-Keep your garage warm with a garage insulation kit. "You can put this in, and it prevents the cold, or the heat in the summer, from coming in through your door."

-Have someone snow-blow or shovel front walkway, driveway, back walkways and lay salt or sand (more environmentally friendly) so you can get in the house when you home and also not slip and fall.