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Originally published Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 6:01 AM

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Preparing a home for an extended summer absence

Home Fix: Tips on how to close up your home for the summer.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Q: I found your article on properly preparing an unoccupied home for winter informative. I learned some valuable information from it. Is there a similar article out there for the reverse situation, where a Florida home is safely prepared for a summer vacancy?

A: Although I'm not a winter traveler, I have friends who maintain summer and winter residences, so I asked them to share their tips for "summarizing"a winter home. Here are some of their suggestions:

The home needs to be closed for security reasons, and yet the humidity and odors causing bacteria inside the house need to be controlled. Set the thermostat to 76 degrees and make sure the dehumidifier is left on. Leave at least one ceiling fan on low or add a timer to run a vented bath fan at least 12 hours a day. This will help control indoor humidity.

To prevent bacteria and odors from forming, remove all foods and leave the refrigerator door open. Also leave the dishwasher door open and clean the inside of garbage cans. In warmer climates, bacteria formation is a major issue that can be avoided with a little soap and water. Odors can also come from an open drain in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Close or add drain stoppers and seal them with blue painter's tape.

The warmer climate is also hard on batteries, so these should be removed from all the clocks, alarms, remotes, etc. However, some thermostats require batteries, so these should be replaced before closing the home for the summer. The electrical service will be left on to operate the alarm system, air-conditioning unit, dehumidifier and fans, but you can turn off the breakers to the range and oven, the microwave, refrigerator, water heater and pool equipment. Unplug TV sets, recorders and other nonessentials, including the garage-door opener, then secure the overhead garage door from the inside. Clean all outside furniture and decorative items and store inside.

In warmer climates the main water supply can remain on, but you might want to add locks to the outside hose faucets and turn off the individual water supplies to sinks, toilets and laundry equipment. Gas-powered mowers, carts, etc., should have "Sta-Bil,"a fuel stabilizer, added to their gas tanks and then operate the equipment for a few minutes to prevent corrosion of the engines. Do not store gas inside the house or garage. Sta-Bil can be found at home and auto stores or online at http://sta-bil.com.au/.

Now that the house is secured from the weather, the last thing to do is protect it from pest invasion. Have the home's interior and exterior treated for ants and other creepy, crawly creatures now and again when returning in the fall.

Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.

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