By Guest Author Molly Barnes
As the pandemic continues, keeping yourself safe while traveling is important. However, ensuring the safety of the home while you’re away is just as vital—and that isn’t as simple as unplugging some lamps and adjusting the thermostat.
Taking a trip should be peaceful, not a cause for stress. Luckily, there are plenty of straightforward steps that anyone can take before going on their next trip. Here are four tips for keeping your home safe while you travel.
Enlist Your Neighbor’s Help
Your neighbors can be a powerful resource in ensuring the safety of your home. Speak with your trusted neighbors before you leave and ask them to keep an eye on things. Let them know if there may be any expected guests, such as maids or pet-sitters, and have them call you if they see anyone strange.
Neighbors can prevent malfunctions and storm damage from becoming larger issues. If you have friends or family with keys, pass along their contact information (with permission). Your neighbors can call your emergency contacts and shut off leaking mains or seal up a broken window.
You can also ask your neighbors to keep up the normalcy of your home. For instance, request they pick up your mail and packages to avoid porch pirates. Remember, accumulating mail is a sign used by thieves to identify empty houses.
Additionally, you can ask your neighbor to:
- Move your car periodically; this will prevent damage and simulate occupancy.
- Park their car at your house if you are traveling with your car.
- Mow the lawn to follow ordinances and keep the home looking occupied.
- Feed any pets and plants while you’re out (if they have a key).
Neighbors are beneficial allies against an empty house. Often the first eyes on the scene, a trusted neighbor can make all the difference.
Secure Your Home
Even with extra sets of eyes, your home should never be easy for strangers to access. Securing your home is essential, especially before traveling. Some 66% of the country’s 2.5 million yearly burglaries are home break-ins. And the majority of those occur when the home is empty.
The most secure option is a monitored security system. These include motion sensors, cameras, and 24/7 surveillance by security professionals. These are potent deterrents against break-ins, but they will also watch for other emergencies, including fires or leaks. Plus, they can immediately dispatch the proper authorities.
Monitored systems can come with pricey subscriptions. Still, there is plenty of self-installed home security equipment that will keep the home safe. These include:
- Door and window jammer rods (for sliding and stationary doors and windows)
- Smart lights (interior and exterior, set to a timer or with motion sensing)
- Interior and exterior cameras (covering all angles, including the doorbell)
- Smart home routines (turning appliances on and off to mimic occupation)
Much of this equipment can be self-monitored as well. With smart outlets and electronics, app-based control can keep the home actively monitored even when you’re not there.
Make Necessary Repairs
Before you leave, you need to make sure that your home is in shape. Nagging repairs can turn into massive bills if issues arise when you’re not home. A broken window lock can let in a thief, and holes in the roof can lead to animal infestations and leaks.
Common areas of repair include:
- Exterior holes: These allow energy out and weather (and critters) in.
- Old caulk and seals: Interior and exterior, this can lead to massive leaks and mold.
- Roof damage: This includes everything from insulation to framework.
- Inefficient systems: Don’t let your furnace go out when you’re on the road.
Besides the cost of damages, needed repairs can reduce the home’s efficiency and lead to high energy bills. Before starting on a project, homeowners can use online calculators to determine the cost. These can help determine the exact materials needed, thus saving money and time.
For example, window repairs cost anywhere between $300 and $2,100, depending on type and materials. Although this sounds expensive, it can still be far less than replacing stolen valuables.
Using online calculators can help streamline the process. They are great tools to help determine project costs and material differences. Handy homeowners can price out materials and save on labor. Or, these calculators often connect you with a professional contractor.
Invest in a Backup Power Source
Aside from security systems, a backup generator can make all the difference in your home’s safety. If the home loses power, many security systems might become useless. Power loss can also lead to frozen and bursting pipes, runaway mold growth during hot and humid seasons, and a fridge full of spoiled food.
Backup generators are available in many sizes, and each is suitable to a specific need. That is why it’s so important to choose the right-sized generator. Home standby generators can produce enough wattage for the entire house. Smaller, mid-sized generators are more suited for powering specific systems, such as HVAC and security systems.
Portable generators are another worthy option. These balance power and mobility to cover a range of needs. With their size, though, they should include a generator enclosure to keep them protected.
These enclosures keep generators out of the elements; they also keep the generator’s emissions and sounds away from you and your neighbors. Generator enclosures should be:
- Constructed with soundproof materials, as generator sounds are almost 100 db
- Placed at least 20 feet away from living areas
- Built on level ground, free from potential hazards
- Well ventilated for fumes and heat
- Locked (to protect against animals and people)
Having a backup generator will keep your house powered up even if disaster strikes while you’re not there. Keep in mind, however, that most generators will run for 16 hours or more between refueling. For an added layer of security, ask your trusted neighbor to keep the generator topped up with fuel.
When you’re ready to travel, take the necessary steps to reduce the stress. Ensure your home is properly secure and protected. Ask your neighbors to keep a watchful eye over your property, and have them keep it looking lived in. Install monitored security devices, and make sure to repair any issues that compromise the home.
Finally, avoid further risks with a backup generator to keep your house running. This way, the next time you travel, you’ll know that your home will be perfect when you return.