How to Protect Your Home While You’re on Vacation

Actions to take before you leave town.

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Imagine you have just returned from a family beach vacation, feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. But when you arrive home, you discover that someone broke into your home. Or maybe you return to a burst pipe in your second-floor bathroom that caused water leakage into the dining room below.

Not only can issues like these cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in losses or repairs, they also lead to extra stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can protect your home while you are away on vacation so that dream trip will still have a fairytale ending.

Protect your home with a professionally monitored home security system

A professionally monitored home security system is your best line of defense against burglars. The combination of entryway sensors, motion detectors, and sirens are a great way to keep your home safe. While some home security systems allow you to self-monitor, a professionally monitored system is truly worth the extra few dollars each month.

When you’re away, a monitored service will ensure the dispatch of local authorities in the event of an emergency, even if you’re halfway around the globe.

Make sure your security system includes environmental sensors

Many home security systems not only monitor for intruders, but also for potentially damaging or harmful environmental factors too. Flood sensors are great for detecting changes in moisture levels in the air. This is often a signal you’re about to have a pipe burst or a major appliance leak. Most security systems also include smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. These will raise the alarm if there’s a fire or potentially lethal fumes in your home.

Protect your home with a smart thermostat

It simply doesn’t make sense to heat or cool an empty house. Yet you may not want to shut your system off entirely when you leave. A common rule of thumb is to set your thermostat to four degrees above or below your typical setting when you’re away. This should never dip below 50° Fahrenheit in the winter, or you could risk pipes freezing and breaking.

A programmable thermostat allows you to establish a schedule ahead of time. This way, you can drop the temperature setting for when you’re away but get it back up to comfortable room temperature by the time you return home.

Want to take your thermostat to the next level? Consider purchasing a smart thermostat so you can check your home’s temperature while away and make any necessary adjustments. Most smart thermostats use geofencing, so your system knows when you’re out and will adjust the temperature accordingly.

Many smart thermostats can also link up with home automation assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Avoid broadcasting that you’re out of town

The last thing you want to do is announce to the world that you’re going to be out of town. Do not mention your travel plans on your voicemail, email auto-reply, or on social media. While it’s tempting to post your vacation photos right away, hold off on doing so until you’re back home.

If you simply cannot resist, make sure only your friends can see your vacation photos while you’re away. You’ll especially want to avoid sharing the exact dates you’ll be absent.

Protect your home by installing outdoor security lights

When looking for a way inside, burglars are more likely to go for dark and hidden areas from the neighbors’ view. You can illuminate these hiding spots by installing outdoor security lights in burglary-prone regions such as the house’s back door or sides. Most models are either motion-activated or will only come on at night, so you don’t have to worry about them wasting a lot of energy.

Protect your home by installing a smart lock

A smart door lock lets you unlock your door remotely from your smartphone and grant temporary access with expiring codes. If you have a neighbor checking in on the house or a pet-sitter coming to take care of the dogs, you can keep track of precisely who goes in and out of your house and terminate access once you’re home again.

No more trying to keep track of who has your spare keys because you have full control over who does and doesn’t have access at any given time. We recommend the KwikSet SmartCode Wireless Keypad Leverlock because it requires zero physical keys and has the most intelligent automation features out of any of its competitors.

Remove spare keys you may have stashed under the doormat

Keeping spare keys stashed outside your house is never a great idea (get a smart door lock instead), but if you’re going out of town, now is the time to collect them all. Your hiding spots may not be as hidden as you think.

Lock everything

This is a step that’s easy to forget. Make sure all doors and windows are shut and locked. Close most blinds and curtains—if you’re putting timers on lights to simulate human presence, make sure that light is visible from the street.

Install a video doorbell

A video doorbell allows you to answer your front door from anywhere. Each time someone rings the doorbell, you’ll get an alert on your phone so you can see and speak to the visitor in real-time. If you’re out of cell service on the beach or on a hike through the mountains, you can still access a log of video clips later.

Some models, like SkyBell's Slim Line Video Doorbell, also have motion detection capabilities, so you’ll still get an alert even if the person doesn’t ring the bell. They’re also handy for catching package thieves and spreading the word around the neighborhood.

Check batteries in all home security devices

Regularly check all your security and safety devices—motion detectors, cameras, and smoke detectors—to make sure the batteries won’t fail while you’re gone. Even if something is hardwired, it may have a backup battery in case of power outages. Opt for high-quality batteries over budget batteries, as you’re likely to get more life out of them.

Unplug nonessential electronics

Unplugging nonessential electronics—TVs, computers, coffee makers, fans, and lamps—will both reduce the risk of fire and save you money. The power used by plugged-in electronics while they’re not in use, sometimes called phantom or standby power, accounts for 5–10% of residential energy use and costs each household around $100 each year.

Unplugging devices also protects them against electrical surges, which can short out expensive equipment or cause fires. Electrical fires account for 13% of total residential fires in the United States. If you’re away from home, there’s nothing you can do to stop these fires when something malfunctions.

Protect your home by investing in security cameras

A handful of well-placed security cameras both inside and outside can mean the difference when catching a perpetrator. Get something like the indoor/outdoor Arlo system, which is motion-activated and will send alerts and video clips to your smartphone so you can take immediate action. This camera and others like it also allow you to remotely drop in on your cameras in real-time and live stream whatever’s going on at your house.

Shut off water main

Avoid coming home to a flooded basement, or worse, by shutting off your water main before taking a long trip. If you still want your automated sprinkler system to work, consider shutting off the water supply to each toilet at the very least, as well as to the dishwasher, washing machine, and icemaker, if possible.

Switch water heater to vacation mode

Just like there’s no need to keep an empty house warm, there’s also no need to keep water piping hot when no one’s using it. Many newer water heaters have a preprogrammed vacation mode that will keep the water around 50°F so it won’t freeze and cause a big, expensive mess. If your water heater doesn’t have this setting, you can manually set the temperature.

Clear storm drains and gutters

In an intense rainstorm, if the water has nowhere to go, it could accumulate too close to your house, saturate the ground, and seep into your basement. Keeping your storm drains and gutters clear of debris is always important, but it’s especially critical if you’re going out of town and won’t be there to act if there’s severe weather.

Get valuables out of sight

This is a good rule of thumb any time you leave the house, but it’s imperative when you’ll be gone for several days at a time. Close the blinds or curtains in rooms with large electronics like TVs. Put gaming consoles and DVD players in inconspicuous boxes in the closet, and make sure all handheld devices, credit cards, cash, firearms, or jewelry aren’t easy to find—make use of a safe if you have one.

Hire someone to cut grass or remove snow

An untended lawn or snow drifts screams, “No one’s been home for days!” Before you leave, make arrangements to have these tasks taken care of so your home looks occupied and to avoid fines from your city.

Protect your home by simulating a human presence

To make it look like someone’s home, create a smart lighting system that you can pre-program to turn on at various times while you’re away. Turning on a radio is another classic technique, and if you want to get fancy, connect the radio to an appliance timer and coordinate it with the lights.

Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check in periodically

Have someone stop by from time to time to check for signs of attempted entry, burst pipes, or any other potential problems. Ask them to park in the driveway, adjust some blinds, or maybe move some patio furniture so it’s clear from the outside that there’s someone around.

Suspend mail and newspaper delivery

An overflowing mailbox and a pile of newspapers are sure signs that no one’s home. You can sign up online to have the USPS hold your mail at your local post office for free for 30 days. For trips longer than 30 days, you should set up mail forwarding or arrange for someone else to pick it up for you.

For maximum security, consider a professionally monitored home security system. Contact Brinks Home™ today.

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