It’s often an afterthought but a big part of planning your winter vacation is preparing your home for your absence.
The last thing you want to be doing while sitting on the beach sipping margaritas is worrying about whether or not you locked the back door or turned off the space heater!
With that in mind, we’re highlighting our top 8 tips for keeping your home safe while you’re away on vacation.
#1: Don’t Forget To Lock Up
Did you know that an estimated 32% of burglars enter through unlocked doors? And, more shockingly, that one-third of those break-ins occur through the front door?
It may seem self-evident, but before you depart on your vacation, it’s important to check that all of the doors in your home are locked, including your front door, back door, garage door, and other openings such as pet doors.
The same goes for your windows. Even those on the upper floors can be vulnerable points for break and entry, so double-check them as well.
For peace of mind, you may also want to consider installing Notion Sensors on each of your home's exit doors and windows.
If a door or window was left open by accident – or forced open by an intruder – you’ll receive a notification on your smartphone so you can take immediate action.
And, if you want another layer of security, you can upgrade your system to Notion PRO. Get additional notifications: push notifications, group texts, and phone calls so you don’t have to miss a notification while you're traveling, sleeping or just busy.
Check out this guide for more tips on how to protect your home from theft.
#2: Unplug Your Appliances & Electronics
Experts estimate that appliances that are plugged in but not in use can account for 5 to 10% of your total energy costs. This is particularly true of larger electronics such as computers and televisions.
So take a walk around your house before you leave and unplug any non-essential appliances, such as TVs, computers, lamps, microwaves, toasters, and other items – you could save on your energy bill.
Fires are a second important factor to consider. Electrical fires account for 13% of all residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and many of these are caused by faulty electrical outlets, old, outdated appliances, and faulty appliance cords.
Speaking of fire safety, don’t forget to check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms (and replace the alarms or batteries if needed) before leaving on vacation!
Ideally, you should be testing your alarms every month, but it’s absolutely essential to do so before you leave for an extended period.
You can also install Notion Sensors next to your smoke alarms for a little more peace of mind. As soon as our wireless sensors hear your smoke alarm sounding, you’ll get an alert sent to your smartphone so you can take action, no matter where you are.
#3: Turn On Your Home Security System
Home security systems are a great way to keep your mind at ease whether you're at home or away on vacation.
The best thing about many modern home security systems is that they’re simple to set up, offer low-cost professional monitoring, and have excellent customer service.
According to Home Advisor, the average cost of installing an alarm system is $695, but there are a variety of DIY security solutions, such as Notion, that can be installed in as little as 15 minutes and cost hundreds of dollars less than traditional security options.
For tips on how to reduce your home security costs, check out our guide here.
#4: Program Your Thermostat
It's also a good idea to adjust your thermostat before you leave on vacation.
The Department of Energy recommends setting it to 50-55F if you're going on a fall or winter vacation. This temperature will save you money on energy while providing a comfortable environment for your plants, electronics, and plumbing systems.
While it may be tempting to simply turn off the entire system to save energy, this can cause far more harm than good. Your pipes can freeze (or even burst) if there’s no heat circulating throughout your home, resulting in costly water damage.
Luckily, Notion can help with this too. When you install Notion temperature sensors in vulnerable parts of your home (the attic, basement, and crawl space), you’ll receive an alert on your smartphone if the temperature rises above or falls below the thresholds you set in the Notion app.
#5: Hold Your Mail
There are a few good reasons why you should hold your mail when you go on vacation.
The first is purely practical: depending on how long you’re away for, an overflow of mail and packages outside could lead to something getting lost or even blown away.
The second reason has to do with security. As we wrote in our guide on how to protect your home while on vacation, a mound of uncollected mail could signal to potential intruders that you’re away.
So before you leave on a long trip, make sure your mail and newspapers are taken care of. This can be as simple as asking a neighbor or family member to collect it for you every few days. Alternatively, you can contact your local post office and request that mail be held until you return (you usually have the option to hold for 3 to 30 days).
#6: Keep Your Lights On
As previously stated, you never want to give the impression that you're not home to unwanted visitors.
Installing motion-sensor floodlights on your property is a good way to make it look like you're home even when you're not.
A great example is the Arlo Pro 3 floodlight camera (which we featured on our winter gift guide!). But any model that is either motion-activated or runs on a schedule will do.
Another option is to install a "smart lighting" system in your home to simulate the appearance of an occupied home. These systems can be programmed to turn on and off lights on a daily basis, in different rooms, or even at random.
#7: Continue Regular Home Maintenance
Unless you have a low-maintenance lawn or live in a mild climate, it's a good idea to keep up with your regular home maintenance so that visitors, such as your mailman, can safely access your front door.
As we're sure you're aware, ice can make driveways and sidewalks extremely slippery during the winter months. And the last thing you want while you're away is an accident at home!
If you'll be gone for part or all of the winter, it's a good idea to hire a snow removal company to keep your property in good shape while you're gone.
In some states, such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, property owners and residents are legally responsible for snow removal.
#8: Don’t Advertise Your Empty Home
Aside from telling your family, friends, and neighbors you asked to watch over your home while you’re away, don’t make it obvious that you’re away from your home for an extended period of time.
It’s important to be careful about who you tell and what you post on social media.
For example, if you post vacation photos of you and your family in Mexico, untrustworthy acquaintances or strangers could become informed that your house is unoccupied.
So it’s best to be cautious with what you’re sharing and if you want to post your vacation to social media, it may be best to do it when you get home.
We hope this guide helps you feel more prepared before you head off on your next vacation! Remember: All it takes is a few small tweaks to secure the outside and inside of your home from inclement weather, costly energy bills, and unexpected plumbing or electrical issues.
Have a safe and wonderful holiday!