Travel — whether weekend road trip, grand tour of Europe or holiday jaunt over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house — is spiritually renewing. But it’s easier to relax when you’re not worrying about the security of your unattended home. There are plenty of steps you can take to secure your house and property — and stay green while you’re gone.
Get a sitter. An empty house is an easy target for burglars. An occupied house, not as much. Consider recruiting a friend, neighbors or trusted college student to stay at your place while you’re lounging on some white-sand beach. The house-sitter can also multi-task, taking care of plants and pets.
Tell the neighbors. This is when sharing tomatoes from your garden and other good karma of being a good neighbor pays off. Tell your neighbors when you’ll be gone and ask them to keep an eye on things. The more watchful eyes the better. You might ask a next-door neighbor to park a car in your driveway to give the illusion of someone at home.
Make a call. In many communities, the crime prevention unit of the police department has a vacation security program. You call the department, tell them when you will be gone and police officers or police auxiliary volunteers patrol your street and check on your house from time to time.
Don’t leave a light on. A single light – say, above the kitchen sink or in the corner of the living room — burning constantly not only wastes energy, it acts as a “burglar beacon,” telling crooks no one is home.
It’s all in the timing. Use several timers to operate different lights throughout the house at different times. You might also connect a radio or television to a timer. Again, all create the illusion someone is at home.
Let there be light. Install exterior motion-detector lighting, especially in the side yard and backyard.
Adjust the thermostat, but not too much. Why pay to cool or heat your house if no one is home? Adjust the thermostat appropriately. But if the A/C unit at every other house on the block is roaring constantly and yours stays silent all day that will tip off bad guys that no one is home.
Sliding doors shouldn’t slide. If you house has sliding doors, you’ll want use a supplemental lock. It’s easy to recycle or reuse broomsticks, wood closet rods and even PVC pipe by laying them in the door track to secure a sliding door.
Over wrought. Installation of a wrought iron security door over your front door not only discourages burglars it encourages natural climate control. A wrought iron security door allows you to leave the front door open for cross ventilation, decreasing demands on your air conditioner.
Keep on the grass. If you have a lawn service, maintain your regular schedule of service. Nothing says, “Please break in,” like an overgrown lawn. If you do it yourself, hire a neighborhood kid to cut your grass while you’re away.
Paper trail. Actually, nothing says, “Please break in,” like a pile of newspapers in the driveway. Suspend delivery for the time you’re away. Many newspapers allow you to donate the newspapers for that time to the Newspapers In Education program. Also suspend mail delivery while you’re gone.
Got other tips for home security while you're gone? Leave us a note in the comments below.