Southwest Florida is the vacation destination of many. In fact, so popular are Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island, that many vacationers end up buying a home and living here part-time! However, the responsibilities of those staying at hotels, condos, and rentals are very different than when they put out their welcome mat and call a place home. One of the biggest things Snowbirds must think about before leaving for the season or even a week is their circuit breaker.
Yes, circuit breaker, one of the least visited places in any home. But, when living in a tropical paradise there are many factors, especially in the summer months, such as daily thunderstorms, high humidity, and lots of heat that directly impact the electrical well-being of your house, making this an area of your home you must know well. Therefore, it is important to understand where your circuit breaker is located, ensure it is clearly labeled, and know the best way to set your circuit breaker when you are gone for the season.
The circuit breaker is the nerve center in the home for all things electrical. If you live in a home with a garage, such as a villa or Single-Family home, the circuit breaker is usually located in the garage. While, if you live in a condo you will usually find your circuit breaker in the laundry room. Note, these are the two most common places, it can be found. Sometimes in smaller condos it can be in the master bedroom or in the kitchen. However, identifying its location is the easy part.
Once you have found the circuit breaker, the next step, is making sure it is clearly labeled and legible. It is required by the county that each electrical panel is clearly labeled.
Whether it is hastily written scrawl or simply the erosion of time, take the time to re-label the panel so it is easy to read. It is important to have a clearly marked box to assist you, your home watch professional, or electrical worker if ever the need to use the panel arises.
Another valuable exercise is making sure the box is not only clearly labeled but clearly delineated for what she be turned off or left on when they leave. Any good home watch service in Naples, Bonita Springs, or Marco Island should be doing this for you to assist you when you leave and to aid you when you come back.
If you are a seasonal Homeowner or ever gone for more than a week it is vital to actively take steps to mitigate potential risk to your home while you are away. One of the most important steps you can take is setting your circuit breaker appropriately before you leave. The below is a detailed breakdown of what to leave ON and OFF when gone for the season to help protect your home!
The two biggest issues in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island for seasonal homeowners are water damage and mold. It may seem counterintuitive, but your electrical panel plays a vital role in preventing these issues due to the HVAC unit. The A/C and Air Handler is the main control of humidity in the home, it can remove up to 20 gallons of water a day in the summer!
Therefore, it is important to make sure that you or any of your guests never turn off the Air Conditioner and Air Handler, the money saved will never be worth the aggravation of coming to a home full of mold! Therefore, leave your A/C and Air Handler ON at the circuit breaker.
The refrigerator is different than other major appliances in the home. The refrigerator can have technical issues with starting back up once turned off, leading to malfunctions. This can also affect the warranty. The rule of thumb is to leave the refrigerator ON at the circuit breaker, unless otherwise specified.
Even though it is recommended to leave your refrigerator ON, the Ice Maker should be turned off within the refrigerator and the ice bin should be emptied. The reason being this could be a potential source of water damage.
Further, Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island are in Hurricane Alley and while we recommend leaving the refrigerator on to avoid technical issues, both the refrigerator and the freezer need to be emptied of perishables in the event of a storm. The last thing you would want is spoiled and rotten food festering in your refrigerator. We have seen first hand people having to throw out their entire refrigerator after Hurricane Irma!
The garbage disposal is a powerhouse in the kitchen, think of it as a glorified food processor. The garbage disposal can rust out and non-use can cause them to lock up. Therefore, it is important to keep the Garbage Disposal ON at the circuit breaker for periodic maintenance.
When periodically running the disposal unit, run cold water down the drain and let it run for at least 10 seconds. There are also several tricks a homeowner can take to remove rust, deodorize their garbage disposal, and help keep it clean.
As we said earlier the two biggest issues are water damage and mold. We talked about mold, now for water damage. The main precautionary measure taken to avoid water damage is to simply turn off your main water valve to the home before leaving for the season.
However, for homeowners with an electric hot water heater, this can lead to complications if the hot water heater is not turned off as well. The reason, the hot water heater is fed water from the main water line to heat and then push throughout the home, but it also uses that water to cool the heating elements found in both the top and bottom of the tank that are doing all that heating in the first place.
Therefore, with the water valve off and our high temperature throughout the year causing evaporation, the water level of the tank can recede below that top element, leaving the heating elements exposed to air which is not nearly as effective at cooling. This situation can lead to molten metal that will destroy your tank, a fire, or even an explosion! Therefore, if you have a tank electrical hot water heater, turn it OFF at the circuit breaker before leaving.
While a natural gas or oil-fired hot water heater is not controlled at the circuit breaker, if it has a tank the same concept applies. Turn a Gas Water Heater to vacation or pilot mode and turn an oil-fired heater OFF.
While some like to run the Dishwasher’s rinse cycle, most Home Watch Professionals will not do so due to potential leaks or malfunctions. Further, when looking at the manual for the care and maintenance of a dishwasher, for GE for instance, it gives no indication that turning off your appliance will harm it in anyway.
Therefore, to protect it against power surges while gone for long periods of time, we recommend turning the Dishwasher OFF, this can be accomplished by removing the fuses or tripping the circuit breaker. Given the amount of effort and knowledge to remove the fuses it is easier to turn it OFF at the circuit breaker.
The homeowner should leave their dishwasher door open about 4 inches to allow the dishwasher to dry, this is especially important in high humidity areas like Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island.
Unlike the refrigerator, the washer and dryer do not suffer technical difficulties if turned OFF/ON. Further, given the frequency of powerful electrical storms in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island, sometimes daily in the summer, it is prudent to turn the appliances off while the house is unoccupied.
Most Home Watch Companies recommend turning the Washer and Dryer OFF at the circuit breaker due the ease of flipping a switch vs the cumbersomeness of having to get behind the bulky appliances to unplug and plug upon return. Further, it will also save you time when you return as you will be able to control everything from the electrical panel instead of going to each area of the home and manually re-engaging (hot water heater, garbage disposal, dishwasher, washer/dryer, etc.)
Another item that people can turn OFF is outlets. If you have high end electronics this is something to consider. Also, the stove/range is a common item turned off as well.
Again, whether you use decide to use the breaker or unplug each item individually, the important part is to remove their connection from the electrical grid so they are not damaged in the event of a storm. Use your discretion!
The circuit breaker, like any mechanical device does break down over time and with use. Further, the circuit breaker is not meant to be a daily switchboard.
However, for a residential circuit breaker, periodic use is more than fine.
A common misconception is that if you have a surge protector it will protect your household electronics. However, surge protectors only protect against common, small surges in the electrical grid that happen periodically. In fact, it only protects your devices up to a certain amount of amps.
Even, whole house surge protectors are not meant to protect your home if it is hit by lightning. Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island are the lightning capital of the U.S., we get strong tropical thunderstorms almost daily in the summer. We are talking millions of volts! Therefore, it is important to protect your home from storms during the summer.
Who knew maintaining a second home would be so complicated. While there are many different things that need to be considered before you go back north for the season from Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island Florida, make sure to add the circuit breaker to your list! An important part of every snowbirds seasonal departure to-dos. Further, your Home Watch Company should provide you with a seasonal departure checklist to help you.
Remember, do not turn off your Air Handler or AC, the average humidity is well over 70% and mold starts at 55%, your HVAC unit is your biggest dehumidifier.
Also, add the garbage disposal and refrigerator to that list too. If you choose to turn off your fridge check the manufacturer’s manual, empty its contents, leave the door open, and wipe out all moisture.
Water is one of the biggest issues we deal with in Southwest Florida especially combined with our fearsome humidity. Therefore, it is prudent to turn your main water valve off when you leave. But, if your water is off this means you must turn off your Hot Water heater otherwise you can risk damaging it, a fire, or worse an explosion!
Some additional items you can turn off are the washer/dryer, dishwasher, stove/range, and outlets that control expensive electronics. Storms in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island are strong and frequent throughout the summer, so protect your investment!
Note, each homeowner is different; therefore, it is important to arm yourself with the necessary research and do what you think is best! Consult your Home Watch Professional and have a plan in place before you leave, they do this for a living, and should have insight to share with you.