Heading on a road trip or week at the beach? Lucky you! Before you go, there are certain tasks you need to get done to ensure your home is safe while you're gone. Because if you're away for more than a few days, even a leaky faucet could mean you'll return to a house of horrors. To keep such nightmare scenarios at bay, check off the boxes on this pre-vacation checklist.
1. Turn off the water
Turning the water off to your home can prevent disasters of all sizes. Homeowner Christy Nielson of Dallas learned this lesson the hard way.
"We went skiing in Vail for a long weekend with friends," Nielson recalled. "When we came home three days later, we realized a hose to our washing machine had broken while we were gone, flooding our entire laundry room, kitchen, and hallway. We had to move out of the house for a month and a half while the repairs were done." Talk about a rough re-entry to real life!
But before you shut the water off completely, consider the time of year and how long your landscaping can go without a little H2O. If you have only one main water shut-off valve, it could cut the water to your sprinkler system, and that's something you likely don’t want to do. In that case, consider turning off the water on each of your toilets, because running toilets are often the culprit of leaks that happen while homeowners are away.
2. Give a key to a trusted neighbor
If your home's security alarm is set, make sure a trusted neighbor has a key to enter your home and a code to disarm the security in case the alarm trips for any reason. Be sure to check your smoke alarms before leaving, but should they malfunction, you'll want someone with a key to go in and turn those off as well.
Speaking of keys, don't stash any in your usual hiding spots, advises Emily Long, home security expert with SafeWise. "Don't leave spares under doormats or flower pots where prowlers can find them," she notes. Giving a spare key to a neighbor instead ensures nothing shady will happen while you're away.
3. Unplug appliances not in use
You're not the only one who should unplug while you're out of town. Disconnect lamps, TVs, computers, printers, and other appliances not in use. Not only will you conserve energy lost to "energy vampires" and save a bit on your energy bills, you'll also eliminate the risk of these items being damaged in a storm. If you have to leave some plugged in, make sure you have a surge protector to guard against damage caused by random power spikes.
4. Hold the mail...
Nothing screams "Nobody's home!" like an overflowing mailbox. Have your mail held while you're out of town. Don't forget to stop delivery of the weekly paper that gets tossed in your driveway. And the biggest red flag that alerts would-be burglars? Those packages that hang out on your porch for days.
"As a security professional, this is one most people fail to think about, yet presents the biggest problems," says Jonathan Johnson, a home safety specialist with YourLocalSecurity. "If you have Amazon or other online orders on their way, make sure to have a friend or neighbor come pick the items up for you. Otherwise, not only are you at risk of losing your package to porch pirates, you're also sending a signal that your home is unoccupied and ripe for burglary."
5. ... but pay your bills
Although you might be checked out, your creditors are still counting on you to check in. Pay your bills ahead of time so you're not late on payments and don't have to think about them while you're supposed to be having fun.
6. Light it up and lock it down
Though these might seem obvious, if they prevent a break-in, they're worth repeating. Put timers on a few lights so there will be some signs of life in the house. Be sure to turn your blinds/window treatments so people can’t see in. And while you're at the windows, make sure they're locked. You can also reinforce sliding glass doors and easy-to-access windows with a yardstick or an old broom handle.
7. Control the temperature
It's tempting to try to save a few bucks on air conditioning by turning it off completely while you're away, but remember, your AC also serves as a dehumidifier. High temperatures and excessive humidity can wreak havoc on houseplants and hardwood floors. Keeping it on at around 78 degrees Fahrenheit can keep damage at bay.
8. Set up remote monitoring
"You can have a security system professionally installed or start with a simple wireless security camera that you can view from your smartphone," says Long. The price is fairly reasonable these days, plus, as Long points out, "the cost of loss or damage due to theft or other unexpected events is much higher than that of a camera."
9. Give the exterior a once-over
"Remove or drain sources of standing water in the yard that could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which grow from larvae to adult in as little as seven days," says Charlie Jones with Arrow Exterminators. "This includes birdbaths, kiddie pools, and saucers of flowerpots. Additionally, clean out rain gutters to prevent water from collecting there as well."
10. Turn off daily alarm clocks
Or else you could return to find a very unhappy neighbor. Enough said.