10 Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe While on Vacation
Is Your Austin Home Safe While You're Away?
With the holidays approaching, everyone's gearing up for their travel plans. If you're planning a vacation anytime soon, there are certain precautions you should take to protect your home from burglars and other damage that can greatly hamper home safety. Though you may live in a safe Austin neighborhood, even a minor mistake can cause a great amount of heartbreak when you return home. It’s always good to make a list of preventive measures to ensure that your home's protected while you’re away.
How to Prevent Property Break-Ins and Other Home Damage from Occurring While You're on Vacation
1) Keep Everything Locked
Lock your doors and windows. You may think this one's a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how often homeowners forget to lock a window or two, prior to leaving on vacation. Before you leave, do one last round of checks to ensure all locks are working properly. If you don’t have a full-time house sitter, but have a friend or neighbor who is keeping an eye on your house, make sure you provide them with an extra set of keys in the event there's an emergency. Property break-ins are a significant cause for concern in the Austin TX area, so don't take this too lightly.
2) Keep Your Plans to Yourself
If you’re all set to travel, you should never advertise your plans on social media or discuss it in public. If you post any explicit details about your travel plans, such as when you’re leaving, how long you’ll be gone for, there is a slight chance that someone might pick up on that info. If you need to tell someone, then make sure it’s only friends and family in a non-public forum, or someone that you’ve asked to take your mail, or feed your pets. Unfortunately, there are individuals out there trying to scam your personal information, so if they find out that you’re gone, your home might become a potential target for burglary.
3) Disconnect Your Electronics
Our appliances don’t really serve any purpose if we’re not using them for an extended period of time. Coffee pots, televisions, computers, toasters and anything else that doesn’t have to be plugged in while you’re gone, should be unplugged. This will help to cut down on your electric bill and keep you from wasting excess electricity. And it will also help to prevent against electrical fires while you’re gone. The last thing you want is to get a call on your vacation and find out your house has been the victim of fire damage.
Another safety precaution is unplugging your garage door when you leave. Believe it or not, when eyeing your home, criminals can use universal remotes to open up your garage door and break into your house. So, unplug the door and add that extra barrier for home safety.
It can be fairly typical when flying that you might leave your car at the airport. If you park your car at the airport long-term, you should never leave a cell phone or GPS in your car. If someone breaks into your car, they can use these technologies to decipher your route to your house.
4) Hiring a House-or Pet-Sitter
If you have pets, and don't want to place them in a kennel, consider hiring a house sitter, pet sitter or a friend or relative to stay at your Austin home or to visit the house daily. This is also a great way to keep your home looking lived in and occupied while you're away. There are many reputable pet sitting services where professionals can take of your furry friends, but if you’re worried about dealing with strangers, then seek out friends or relatives, who would be willing to take care of your animals while you're gone.
5) Some Additional Security Features
Other precautions you can take to keep your Austin TX home safe include installing a home security system (these can vary in price), as well as additional lighting, such as exterior motion lights that go on when someone walks by. While motion lights are pretty commonplace these days, they can still work as a deterrent.
Also, when it comes to keys, never keep a copy of your keys hidden outside. There are plenty of common hiding spaces (like under a flower pot) that burglars know like the back of their hand, so avoid making those types of mistakes. As mentioned earlier, if you have to give your keys to someone, give them to a neighbor, friend or relative, who is watching your place while you’re away. Make sure only that person has them and gives them back to you when you return.
6) Stop Your Mail and Have a Friend Check on Your House
If you’re planning a long vacation, it’s advisable to have the post office hold your mail until you return. The post office offers this as a free service and can hold your mail for up to 30 days. This will stop mail, including bills and paychecks from building up in your mailbox. A full mailbox is one of the telltale signs a burglar will look for, when trying to gauge if anyone is staying in the home.
If you get a daily newspaper, you can also have delivery put on hold as a home safety measure. Sometimes we have a tendency to forget that, but it can easily be resolved with a call to your local paper. A pile of papers on your front lawn is another sure sign that you’re away, and it too can make you a target for burglars.
With the mail and papers put on hold, there are still some potential problems that can show that you aren’t at home. Fliers, menus from take out restaurants and those doorknob advertisements, if ignored, can cause problems. If you can’t find someone to house sit for you, see if one of your neighbors can remove them and also keep an eye on the house and make sure that everything is okay.
7) Reduce Your AC and Heat
If you don’t have pets, and you're traveling during some of Austin's warmer months, then it’s wise to turn off your air conditioning while you’re away. Of course it gets incredibly hot in Austin, but there’s no need to keep it running while you're gone, unless you have pets. In most cases, if you have one or two pets, you can set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature such as 78°F.
In the wintertime, it can get cold in Austin, so you can set your thermostat to 55°F to keep your pipes from freezing. Remember, if your pipes freeze, you could end up having to fix leaks from cracked pipes and significant water damage Austin.
By altering the temperature range on your thermostat and turning the AC off while you’re away, you can save up to 3% on your electric bill. And as your HVAC unit can have water damage issues periodically, you'll want to avoid the potential for any water damage from your HVAC unit, while your away. If you do run into these issues, you could end up needing water damage restoration Austin.
And remember, water damage can lead to other problems, like mold in your Austin TX property, so be sure to take all preventative measures that you can. If you end up with mold, you'll need a mold inspection Austin done, and possibly mold remediation Austin as well.
8) Give Your Property the Lived In Look
If you have a daily routine, such as waking up and going to sleep at a certain time, you should replicate that as much as possible, while you’re away with home lighting. But, the key is to not leave your lights on all day and night. Use timers on your lights to go on when you would usually turn them on, so it appears that someone’s in the house. Timers are quite affordable, ranging from $10-$30 dollars, and these are worthy investments for home protection. It’s best to keep your house looking as is while you’re gone.
As to whether you should keep your curtains open, well, that’s a tough one. There are some who say that if you usually keep your curtains open while you’re home, then keep them open while you’re gone, which gives the impression that someone’s there. On the other hand, if you're gone during the summer months, seeing as this is Austin TX, and it’s extremely hot in the summer, you may want to close your shades and curtains to keep heat from coming in through the windows and causing the temperature to rise inside your home, and also to keep strangers and thieves from looking inside.
If you mow your lawn every week, and you're going to be on vacation for longer than a week, you may want to hire someone to take care of your lawn while you’re away, so that the property looks cared for. You may also have plants that need to be watered, so make sure those are taken care of as well.
9) Water Heater Levels
Unless you have someone house sitting for you while you’re away, it might make sense to turn off your water heater. You can shut off the circuit breaker before you leave, and if you have a gas-powered heater, then you can shut off the gas valve. Once you return, you should let your hot water run for a few minutes before turning the heater back on, to make sure that the tank isn’t empty. If there’s no water in it, the tank can suffer significant damage. If you take a winter trip, your water heater should be set to the lowest setting you can, just to prevent your pipes from freezing.
10) Manage your Fridge
Your refrigerator uses a lot of electricity to keep your food cold and frozen. If you’re taking an extended vacation and some of that food may go past its expiration date, consider tossing it before you leave, and then unplug and clean your fridge, which can save you some money on your electric bill. One additional tip if you do empty everything before you travel is to put a box of baking soda inside the fridge to help absorb odors and prevent the spread of mold.
If your fridge has individual settings for the fridge and the freezer, you can set the fridge to 42°F and the freezer to 5°F. This will still keep everything cold for the duration of your vacation, while also helping to bring down your electricity costs just a bit.
Enjoy these helpful tips on keeping your Austin home safe, while you're on vacation, from our SERVPRO team. Our Austin SERVPRO company is a locally-owned Austin TX company that specializes in water damage Austin, TX, water removal Austin, mold inspections and mold remediation, fire damage repairs, residential and commercial cleaning services Austin and more. Give us a call if you're in need of any of these services.