There are a number of systems for protecting your home while you are away. There are alarm systems which are triggered when a door or window is opened, and others that include motion detectors. Either of these systems may have an alarm that makes a lot of noise (similar to a car alarm). Alternatively, either may be monitored by an alarm company, or by you, via your smartphone. They all require a non-trivial initial investment and possible ongoing monthly charges. If you aren’t going to investment in one them, there are still things you can do to protect your home while you are away at minimal cost, or at no cost at all. And even if you have an expensive alarm systems, the tips below will help you avoid some of potential problems that alarms don’t address.

1. Do NOT talk about your trip on social media.

You may as well take out a classified ad saying “Home available to be burglarized” as talk about your trip in advance on social media.

2. Do NOT leave a key hidden anywhere outside the house.

Professional burglars are very good at finding hidden keys. And with your being away, they will have ample opportunity to search.

3. Do NOT leave blinds/shades closed.

When people are home they open blinds and shades during the day. If they are closed 24 hours a day, it’s another announcement that you are away. Leave them open the way you do on a typical day.

4. Do NOT leave lights on.

For outdoors, inexpensive light-sensor lights are a very effective way to scare away burglars. For indoors, timers that controls some lights at variable hours gives the impression of that someone is home.  

5. Do NOT let mail and newspapers pile up in front of your house.

Piled up mail and newspapers also serve as an announcement that you are away. You can ask the post office and newspaper deliverers to put your deliveries on “hold” until you are back. Or, ask a friend/neighbor to pick up these items daily and keep them for you until you return.

6. Do NOT cancel regular maintenance people.

Have the landscaper and pool guy, etc., stick to their regular schedules.  That way, things look ship-shape while you are away, and the house’s schedule is not obviously disrupted.

7. Do NOT leave the garage door on the remote control setting.

It is not difficult for a burglar to break into a garage controlled by a remote control…especially when you are away and they have plenty of time to do so.  An inexpensive manual lock made for garages is much more secure.

8. Do NOT store valuables in a basic home safe.

Basic safes that are sold in hardware stores for about $100 give the illusion of protecting your valuables. But, a burglar who knows what he is doing can crack a basic safe open in 2 minutes. And anyone who can read Google, can learn to crack one open in 10 minutes. If you don’t have a heavy-duty safe, you are better off hiding valuables in unlikely places in your home. Or, you might want to consider a safe deposit box in the vault at the bank.

9. Do NOT turn heat off in the non-summer months.

A cold spell in an unheated house could result in broken pipes and flooding. Leave the heat set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit minimum so pipes don’t freeze.

10. Do NOT leave water valves open.

In addition to keeping the heat well above freezing, turn off the main water control in the house. This will limit flooding in the event that any pipes break. You may also want to bleed outdoor faucets.

AND here’s a hack to protect you from frozen food spoiled by electric outages.

If the electricity was off long enough for the food in the freezer to defrost, you probably shouldn’t be eating any of the food. It’s a recipe for stomach poisoning! But, if the power came back on afterwards, and the food re-froze, how are you to know?  A great trick is to leave a glass of frozen water with a coin on top in your freezer when you go away. If the coin is inside the ice in the glass rather than still on top when you get home, don’t eat the food! The coin indicates that the electricity went off and the water in the glass defrosted while you were away.  When that happened, the coin sank in the melted ice.  Then, when the electricity came back on, the water re-froze with the coin lower down in the glass. And if the water defrosted, so did your food! 


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