Leaving town? Here's how the experts say to protect your home
Published Feb 28, 2022 USA TODAY
Whether it’s to the tropics or the slopes, if you’re jet-setting away on vacation for an extended period of time, the last thing you want to be thinking about is a problem arising at home.
Amy Nagy, a home safety expert at SimpliSafe, has provided her expertise on protecting your home while on vacation. “In the rush to get out the door and to the airport, it’s easy to forget even the simplest of tasks such as taking out the trash,” says Nagy.
So, while you’re packing your bags for the sun, snow, or adventure that awaits you, you’ll also want to prepare your house for your absence. Planning ahead and installing much needed smart security devices will let you lounge on the beach without worrying about if you remembered to lock the front door.
Here’s what you need to do before traveling.
Create the illusion that someone is home
Leaving your home vacant while you’re away leaves it vulnerable to burglary. You don’t have to turn to any Home Alone-style tactics to keep burglars out. Instead, create the illusion that someone is home.
“When your home is occupied, it’s a less appealing target for burglars,” Nagy says.
Putting your lights on timers can help. Installing a motion-activated light outside can also help, deterring home invaders and alerting your neighbors to any uninvited guests.
Speaking of neighbors, ask a friend or house-sitter to monitor your home and bring in the mail. Even better, have a neighbor temporarily park at your home so there’s someone coming and going every day.
In case of a major weather event or neighborhood power outage, you should show the person sitting for you where the circuit breaker and water valves are.
If you’re traveling for a more extended period, you shouldn’t pause lawn mowing. Not only will it save you time and headache when you return back from your trip, but it shows maintenance and monitoring happening at your home.
Since you’re splurging on a vacation, you’ll want to do what you can to keep your utility bills low while you’re away. Any appliances left plugged in—even if they aren’t in use—will use power and run up your electricity bill.
You’ll want to keep large appliances like your refrigerator plugged in to preserve your perishable items. However countertop appliances like microwaves, air fryers, electric kettles, and toasters can be unplugged.
If you’re leaving some smartphone or tablet chargers behind, take the time to unplug them. Better yet, getting a power strip to plug your devices into can save you some time since you can turn them off with the press of a button.
If you haven’t gotten familiar with your water heater, head downstairs and take a look at the settings it offers.
Most water heaters have an ‘away’ or ‘vacation’ mode. Turning this setting will keep your energy bill low while you’re away.
If you live in a cold climate and are traveling during the winter, you’ll want to protect against frozen pipes. Leaving your faucets turned on to a tiny stream of cold water won’t run up your water bill, but it will save your pipes from freezing.
You also want to prevent an accidental flood while you’re gone, which is why using a smart water leak detector is a smart move. This way, you may even be able to shut off your water from an app.
You want to keep your house at a temperature safe enough from freezing or overheating, but low enough to keep heating and cooling costs wallet-friendly.
If you have lots of houseplants, 60 degrees is the lowest temperature that most houseplants need to survive. If you have pets that you’re leaving with a pet sitter, 64 degrees is the ideal temperature that will keep your furry friends safe and comfortable.
Upgrading to a smart thermostat allows you to control the temperature from anywhere giving you some peace of mind.
“A person can’t monitor a home 24/7, but a [security] system can,” says Nagy. Traditional fire detectors can set off a loud auditory alarm, that does you no good if you’re away from your house.
Smart fire detectors can send you alerts on your smartphone if a problem arises. This way, you’ll be the first to know and can coordinate getting help while still at your vacation destination.
Before heading off on your trip, you may want to consider installing a DIY security system so you can stay on top of the happenings around your home. With the addition of a smart lock, you can control the locks of your doors through your home security system. This means if you forgot to lock the door, you can do so while at the airport, Nagy says.
By installing a video doorbell, you’ll have video monitoring so you can check in and/or record suspicious activity. Additionally, doorbells like the Google Nest Doorbell, offer two-way audio. If a delivery person comes by with a package, you can use it to communicate and ask them to bring it to a pick-up point so packages don’t pile up.