8 Tips to Secure Your Home for the Holidays

Motion sensors outside of a home.
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Even when your home is your sanctuary, work and vacation can pull you away at times. When you’re planning to be gone for an extended period of time, take steps to secure your home and your belongings in your absence. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Lockdown

Make sure your home is locked down while you are away. In addition to making sure all doors and windows are locked, put sticks in windows and doors to keep them from opening. Alternately or in addition, add locks that mount in the runner and block the window or door from sliding open.

2. Water

A frozen pipe.

Even a small amount of water can cause damage, so make sure all your systems are secure. Turn the water off at the main source and drain the pipes so that water cannot freeze and burst pipes. Make sure to winterize your sprinkler system by blowing all of the water out of the system. As a precaution, install a tray below your water heater. Leave cabinet doors under sinks open to allow for heat circulation. This helps prevent frozen pipes.

3. Heat

Leave the heat on in the house, but turn it down to a minimum. Usually, 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit will keep the home warm enough to avoid freezing pipes and excessive condensation on windows and doors without driving up your heating bill.

4. Valuables

If you plan to leave your home empty for an extended period of time, don’t take a chance on your valuables. Instead, lock them in a safe or, better yet, transfer them to a secure location off-site such as a trusted friend’s safe or a security box at the bank.

5. Lighting

A woman screws in a light bulb.

When you are away from home for any amount of time, it’s important to make it look like you’re home. You can put your lights on electronic timers to help with this. Set different lights to come on in connection with lights that would typically be on during that time. For example, light up the bedroom in the morning and evening. Turn lights on in the kitchen during dinner time and in the living room afterward. Also, install motion lighting outdoors to deter possible invaders. Verify that they are working properly with a few samples runs after dark.

6. Visitors

While you are away, make sure that someone stops by the house at least once a week. If it suits your needs, you might even have a house sitter while you’re away that can keep an eye on things, water the plants, and pick up the mail. At a minimum, make sure you hold your mail, package deliveries, and newspapers during your absence or have someone reliable collect the mail weekly and pick up any flyers left on your porch or door.

7. Outdoors

Patio furniture.

Even if thieves can’t access the inside of the house, they can still cost you if you leave items outdoors that they can haul away. Be safe and bring the grill, patio furniture, lawn games, and landscaping tools inside a locked shed or garage. Also make sure you place ladders inside so thieves can’t use them to access the second level of the home, and pack up any tools that could be used to break a lock on the shed or break a window in the house. While you’re picking up outside, never leave a key hidden under a mat or potted plant. Instead, invest in a key lock box for the door or one that locks onto a pipe on the side of the home and requires a code to open.

8. Alarm

If you are regularly away from home or would take comfort from an alarm system, it can be a great tool to keep your family and valuables safe. Make sure your keypad isn’t visible from the outdoors, create a unique security code, and always make sure your contact information is up to date with the security company.

Many of these systems can now be controlled remotely with modern options that include cameras in the home and the ability to adjust the heat from your vacation destination.