Keep your home protected while you're away

5 min read on home

Feb 17, 2017

A week, a month or even a year, discover tips to keep your home safe so you can travel worry-free.

You spent a long winter daydreaming about beaches, gelato stands, and fancy hotel rooms…and now it’s finally your turn to go on vacation. It’s time to pack up and head out. But before you do, take a few simple precautions to keep everything safe back at home. Whether you’re going away for a week, a month or a year, these steps can keep your home and possessions secure while you’re far away. So when you’re strolling down that cobblestone street at sunset, you really won’t have a care or worry in the world.

 “Most people remember to lock the doors but they don’t take other important steps,” says Keith Simons, general manager of Canadian Security Professionals. “For example, they leave their garage door opener in the car. That is a problem because it’s relatively easy to break into a house through the garage.”

Here are a few more expert tips to help protect your home from burglary, fire, flood, and other damage while you’re away, whether you’re planning a short getaway or long-term leave.

Planning to be away for one to two weeks

1. Install a home security system

Even if you’re only gone for a few weeks every year, it’s still a good idea to install a home security system. These systems are connected to a control panel that activates when doors or windows are opened. Some systems also include fire and carbon monoxide alarms, broken glass detectors and motion sensors. Sophisticated systems also control home lighting and temperature. Post signs that indicate your home is protected by a security company. And be sure to notify your security company of your travel plans.

2. Invest in good locks

We know you’ll remember to lock all your doors and windows before you go. But not all locks are created equal — deadbolt locks are best for all external doors and windows and slide locks are effective on sliding glass doors.

3. Get a neighbour to check in

Give a neighbour your vacation information and contact numbers in case of an emergency. Take that house key you keep under the mat (an easy find for burglars) and give it to that trusted neighbour instead. Not only is it good to have someone come by to check on things, they’ll also help create the impression that someone is at home.

  • Ask them to collect your mail and newspapers daily.
  • On a short trip, they probably won’t need to mow the lawn or trim the hedges, but you may ask them to keep the snow shovelled in the winter.
  • If your car isn’t in the driveway, invite a neighbour to park there occasionally while you’re gone.
  • If they can’t come by every day, invest in a timer for your interior lights, television, and radio so they go on and off at varying times.

4. Do a quick utilities check

These small steps help to protect your house from fires and floods—and may save you money, too.

  • Ensure smoke detectors are working before you go.
  • Unplug all appliances (except those that are on timers.)
  • In the winter, turn the heat down to about 13 degrees Celsius. That will cut hydro costs while preventing your pipes from freezing. You can also cut costs if you set the temperature to about 30 degrees Celsius in the summer.

Planning to be away for a few months

1. Put subscriptions on hold

If you’re going to be away for longer than a few weeks, you should put a stop on all mail and newspaper delivery.

2. Check your pipes

Ensure your pipes don’t leak or burst while you’re away.

  • Turn off the water supply with the exception of the fire sprinkler system.
  • Drain water from your pipes and clear water from the tanks and bowls of your toilets. If you’re going to be away in the winter, pour special antifreeze in the tanks and bowls.
  • Ensure the pipes are well insulated during the winter.
  • Have a neighbour to stop by once in a while to turn on the faucets.

Planning to be away for a sabbatical

Recruit the experts

If you’re going to be away for more than a few months, you’re going to need to rely on more than just the neighbours. Here are some resources to help keep you safe.

  • Notify police that the property will be vacant.
  • Hire a professional to inspect your heating system before you go.
  • Ask an electrical contractor to inspect your wiring and outlets.
  • Call someone in to check the roof and clean the gutters.
  • Ask a landscaper to remove dead trees and prune tree branches that hang over the house.
  • Finally, call your home insurer. They will let you know what’s needed to keep your policy in force while you’re far away. 
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