Heading out of town this summer season? Before you go, take these steps to prep your home so your return home is as relaxing as the vacation.
Get a little help from your friends
The best option for your home is to have someone stay there while you are away. It may thwart break-ins and they can address any home emergencies that pop up while you are away.
If you don’t have someone staying, the next best option is to have a friend or neighbor regularly check in on your home.
Have them raise and lower shades or open and close curtains in your home while you’re gone to enhance the impression that someone is at home.
If you have a driveway, ask your friends to park their cars there occasionally during your absence to make it appear as though you’re entertaining guests or hosting overnight visitors.
Unplug on vacation
Unplugging isn’t just for your cell phone; consider unplugging many of your appliances to reduce the chance of damage from a power surge.
Likewise, disconnect the water supply to major appliances, like the washing machine and dishwasher. Turn off the the ice machine in your freezer and consider shutting the water to your sinks and toilets.
If you’re away during the winter, be aware of pipes freezing. Maintain a warm temperature for your pipes, insulate them, and ask a friend to stop by periodically to make sure they are still flowing.
Save your energy
In addition to safety from power surges, unplugging appliances can help save energy. Adjust your HVAC and turn the temperature down on your water heaters. Also, don’t leave a light on constantly—it wastes energy and tips people off that there’s no one home (light tips below).
Do you regularly post your whereabouts on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social networks? Do you enjoy posting your vacation photos on Instagram and Pinterest? You might rethink this practice.
When you post your amazing vacation photos, this signals to the public that you aren’t home. Set strict privacy settings on your social network profiles, including limiting status updates to friends that you trust not to share your whereabouts with others.
Or, stay in the moment of your vacation experience and wait until after you’ve returned home to post all those great vacation photos.
When one door closes…
don’t let another one open. It seems basic, but securing your doors and windows while you are away is a major deterrent against break-ins:
- Double check your doors for loose hinges and easily picked locks.
- If your windows don’t have locks, drill nails into the frame that limit how far they can be opened.
- Saw down a simple broomstick or purchase a dowel from your local hardware store to prevent sliding doors from being opened.
- Remove all spare keys. Someone who knows you’re away will look in all the usual (and unusual) places for a key.
- Lock the garage. Even if it doesn’t connect with the house, you dont want someone to walk off with what’s inside. And, to that end, don’t leave bicycles, lawn furniture and other easily stolen objects outside. Secure them in a storage unit or in your garage while you are away from home.
Keep up appearances
It’s good to let your neighbors know you’ll be away, but you don’t want to advertise that to the general public. Be sure to plan ahead to keep your house maintained while you are away:
Put a hold on mail
Piles of uncollected newspapers and overflowing mailboxes are telltale signs that no one is home. Have your newspaper and mail service placed on hold while you are away, or ask a friend to collect them for you and hold them for your return.
Maintain your yard
Don’t allow your lawn to become shaggy looking while you’re away. Pay a lawn service or a neighborhood teen to trim your lawn and hedges.
Likewise, come winter, arrange for someone to shovel your driveway and the sidewalk if snowfall occurs during your absence.
Lights, camera, [no] action
You don’t need to go the Macaulay Culkin route to give the impression someone is home, but you do want to put timers on lights. Set multiple timers for different rooms to give the impression of movement within your residence.
Install cameras to keep an eye on things. There are a number of features, from motion alerts to two-way audio. Look for one that allows you to monitor from your smart phone. You may never need to check it; the mere presence of cameras may be a deterrent.