Whether you’re visiting grandma’s house or going on a tropical cruise, you want to leave your home knowing that it’s safe and secure this holiday season. You don’t have the time to worry about theft, broken pipes, or HVAC mishaps while you’re on vacation or out of town.
Stress less and find peace by taking a few preventative measures to secure your home before a short or long trip this holiday season.
1. Make your home smart.
Smart homes provide several lines of defense against both theft and damage. A smart home allows you to link up different parts of your house to a single unit, and you have the ability to control your home from your phone or computer. This means you could be at a resort in Mexico and still have control over your home via WiFi.
Below are some smart home devices that can keep your house safe while you’re away.
You can install smart bulbs into your current light fixtures, and then you can turn them on or off remotely. You can also put your lights on a timer, so they’ll automatically go on or off throughout the day.
This is a great way to deter thieves because they’ll see lights flicking on and off and assume someone is home. It also helps reduce your electricity bill while you’re gone, because you’re not leaving the lights on the entire time.
Consider updating to a smart security system. These allow you to put up cameras, monitors, motion detectors, and locks that you can control from anywhere. If there is motion, you’ll get an alert so you can see what’s going on in your home.
They can also have all the functionality of a regular alarm system, like a loud beeping to scare off thieves and alert the local police. But you’ll also get alerts in real time on your phone, so you don’t have even a moment’s lapse to get the phone call from the security company.
You may also want to invest in a smart doorbell, so you can watch for package thieves. This year, some delivery companies are struggling with deliverymen putting a package down and their friends coming by to take the package a few minutes later. A smart doorbell with video functionality lets you see who’s at the door and what they want. You can even talk to them from your device through the camera, which can scare off potential thieves.
Smart thermostats let you control the temperature of your home from your phone or computer. You can also put your thermostat on a schedule throughout the day.
This means you don’t have to try to save money by keeping your house cold while you’re gone, which could potentially cause frozen and broken water pipes; but you also don’t have to keep your house completely heated and throw money out the window. You can heat and cool your house while gone, which prevents damage and a hefty electricity bill.
Smart smoke and gas detectors are important to make sure you don’t get any dangerous leaks in your home. These instantly alert you to potential leaks, and some detectors will even shut off the gas valve to prevent further damage. These are especially important for minimizing fire damage while you’re away.
Check out our Ultimate Guide To Smart Homes for more info and product recommendations.
2. Install outdoor motion-detector lights.
Burglars tend to break in through the darkest area of your house, where neighbors can’t see them. If you install outdoor security floodlights, the light will go on with motion and the burglar will likely be scared off. We recommend installing lights on each side of your house and in the darker areas, like those with lots of trees.
Another plus is that these lights can also scare off animals, so you’re less likely to get pest infestations while you’re gone.
3. Don’t go public about your trip.
Don’t post on social media or leave a message on your answering machine that you’ll be gone. Don’t even spread the news around the office too much. You don’t want word getting around that your home will be empty. You never know who might get that information and use it as the perfect time for a break-in.
If you want to tell people about your trip, avoid telling them the exact dates. Also mention that you have a house sitter and/or smart home, so people know that you’re prepared for anything.
4. Get rid of hidden keys.
That key hidden in the fake rock isn’t as inconspicuous as you think it is. Remove all hidden keys from around your house so thieves can’t just walk in with their own key.
If you have a house sitter coming to check in on your plants, meet with them before your trip to hand them the key firsthand. If that’s not possible, consider using a smart lock so they can use a code to get inside (and you’ll get alerted whenever they open the door).
5. Hide your valuables.
Put your valuables out of sight, away from windows and doors. Don’t keep jewelry out on your dresser. Hide game consoles and electronics in drawers or bins. You may even want to put expensive TVs away from windows. You may also want to draw the blinds so thieves can’t easily see inside.
6. Unplug electronics.
Did you know that plugged-in electronics that aren’t in use can eat up “phantom power,” which accounts for up to 10% of your energy use? Plus, the dry winter air creates more friction in sockets, which means there is a higher risk that your electronics will spontaneously catch on fire.
To reduce the risk of fire or surges and save money on your electric bill, unplug nonessential electronics like TVs, computers, coffee makers, and fans. Keep the essentials plugged in, like your fridge and freezer.
7. Shut off the water main.
Returning home to water damage can be one of the biggest headaches—and financial disasters—you could encounter this winter. So, before leaving for a long trip, it’s often recommended that you turn off the water supply.
If you need water for something (like sprinklers), you can leave that valve on, but turn the others off (like toilets, dishwasher, washing machine, and ice maker). After shutting the water off, you may want to run the sinks until the water stops flowing to help clear the pipes of any water that could freeze and burst.
If you don’t feel comfortable shutting off your water main, consider leaving one sink dripping slightly. This keeps the water moving through your pipes so they are less likely to freeze. However, this method wastes water and it could accidentally lead to a leak if the sink stops draining properly.
Note: Let your house sitter know if you turn off the water main.
8. Suspend mail and delivery.
The first sign thieves look for to see if you’re not home is overflowing mailboxes or piled packages. This tells them no one is around to pick up their mail, so it’s the perfect time to pounce.
You can go online to USPS, UPS, and FedEx to suspend deliveries for up to 30 days while you’re on your trip. You can also forward your mail to have someone else pick it up for you. This keeps your mailbox and patio free from personal info and packages that could otherwise be taken or signal you aren’t home.
9. Hire a snow remover.
Like the mail, a house piled high with snow or uncut grass is a sign that no one is home. You also don’t want large amounts of snow around your home, which can cause serious water damage.
Hiring someone to plow your driveway and walkways and someone to cut your grass helps deter thieves and prevent ice or thawed snow damage.
10. Prep your home for cold weather.
Keep your house safe from damage by properly preparing it for cold weather. This includes cleaning gutters, insulating your attic, pruning trees, and getting a generator. If your home is appropriately prepared for the winter weather, it will likely have a better defense against anything that happens while you’re on vacation.
The best way to prevent thieves and damage is to simulate that you’re still at home. From turning on the lights to removing snow to having a house sitter swing by, you want your house to feel like you’re still living there.
Are you going on a trip this holiday season? Don’t forget your HomeRev essentials to keep your home safe and secure while you’re gone!
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