5 Ways to Keep Your Home Safe While You Travel
By Molly Barnes of DigitalNomadLife.org
Nothing can diminish the joy of a vacation faster than returning home to damaged to your home or possessions, either by natural disaster, an in-home mishap, or burglary. That said, the excitement and overwhelm of preparing for travel can often cause homeowners to forget to properly prep their property before they leave. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to decrease the chance of an emergency at home, increasing the chance of a relaxing and stress-free holiday.
In the days leading up to a trip, homeowners can take several simple steps to minimize any damage risk. Be proactive by eating what you have on hand, especially any food that might spoil in your absence. That way, if you forget to empty the fridge and freezer before heading out, you won't come home to a rotten mess.
You should also consider unplugging unneeded electronics, such as TVs and computers, in order to keep them safe during storms and surges. As an added bonus, you can save money on your utility bill, since even turned-off electronics still draw some power.
Another useful tip is to turn off the house water at the main. This will help prevent leaks and burst pipes, as well as any ensuing damage. After turning off the water, run all taps and flush the toilets to clear the lines and prevent sitting water. There are some exceptions to turning off the water. If the house heating system is based on hot water or steam, for instance, it will need to remain functioning during the winter. Outdoor sprinkler systems can also be kept on if the yard and gardens need watering.
Talk to the Neighbors
Before heading out on vacation, give the neighbors a heads up. Close neighbors can be given a spare key or code to bypass security systems. (Of course, only do this with the most trusted neighbors or family members.) Neighbors can also keep an eye on mail and package deliveries and alert you to any odd events happening in the home.
If you don't have a neighbor nearby, a friend or family member or friend can stop by to keep plants watered and pets fed and exercised if they stay at home. Be sure to give the caretakers contact information in case they have questions. This includes the homeowner's contact information and that of any professionals they may need to call, like the veterinarian or electrician. Having many trusted eyes on the property is the first line of defense while traveling.
Secure the Home
In this day and age, the unfortunate truth is that criminals can be anywhere, and thieves will look for telltale signs of an empty home. Therefore, a working security system is key to preventing break-ins while away from home. Cameras, smart locks, and consistent monitoring are prime deterrents to nefarious individuals. Homeowners should look for systems that fit their needs. Portability, weather resistance, and the cost of installation and monitoring should be considered.
Before you leave, take extra care to secure the entry points to your home, especially your doors and windows. Investing in smart locks or tough, high-security locks can keep intruders out and deter them from further attempts. For ultimate security, front door security bars offer unmitigated protection while out traveling. However, a homeowner will need another secured access for these to work while on holiday, such as a garage entry behind a locked garage door. For complete peace of mind, though, security bars will keep a house locked down and safe.
Have a Backup Plan for Power
Losing power while at home can range from a mild inconvenience to a burdensome headache. On the other hand, having the power go out while traveling is potentially catastrophic. Security alarms and cameras can go down. And light timers need to stay on to provide intrusion defense and make it seem that the home is occupied. In the winter months, having no heat could burst pipes, leaving the home a frozen tundra. If you lose power in the summer, say goodbye to all perishable refrigerated food.
Investing in a backup generator specifically for the home will save money, time, and the cleaning associated with losing power. As it will be outside and exposed to the elements, be sure to surround it in a weatherproof generator enclosure to keep it safe and protected. Furthermore, be sure to learn how to use and maintain it properly, and test it before traveling.
Keep the Home in Working Order
Proper and routine maintenance will always help increase your security. Broken locks, loose windows, and unlocked garage doors can allow criminals easy access to valuables. The cost to replace a window that has been broken or damaged can be up to $2,100. However, the price of lost valuables and a violated home will be far more.
Be sure to check other problem areas as well. For example, holes in roofs can lead to unforeseen leaks, and critters can make their way in and set up their own home in attics. Always be sure to stay on top of appliance maintenance to prevent mishaps. Clean or replace all applicable filters in the house, especially HVAC systems. This will help ensure proper climate control while the house is empty minimize fire hazards.
There is plenty of stress associated with traveling, but home safety doesn't have to be one of your worries. By preparing the home before your trip, you can reduce your risk of returning to unpleasant surprises.