Cheap home security to keep your house safe while you're away

Home Security: Home Safe Home

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

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We all need to nurture ourselves, and though we often feel like we can't afford to take a vacation, sometimes, in terms of our emotional well-being, we can't afford not to take a vacation. But any responsible homeowner knows that if you leave a house unattended for any length of time you are asking for trouble. So how can you make your house look lived in while you are away, without spending a fortune on home security?

Simple tasks and inexpensive devices make the outside of your house look like you are home.

Start by telling a few trustworthy friends and neighbors that you will be away. Invite a neighbor to park in your driveway. This gives the illusion that you are home. Ask friends to walk by periodically, and make sure things at home look okay; they can pick up any solicitation material on your porch, such as deals on pizza, cable service, or political flyers. You may even want to let your local police department know that you'll be away and give them a contact number in case they need to reach you.

Put a few indoor lights, such as those in your living room, on timers. Some people put a radio or TV on a timer, also. Timers cost less than ten dollars and seem to last forever.

A pile of newspapers on the porch and mail sticking out of the mailbox are major clues that you are away. Contact your newspaper delivery center and have your paper stopped. Why advertise that you are away?

Reducing the amount of mail you get is smart whether you are away or not.

Take the time to make a few phone calls to get off mailing lists, such as those catalogues or magazines that you never read. Opt to get as much mail as possible online, such as bank statements, credit card bills and financial information. Utility bills and insurance premiums can be set up to be paid automatically out of your checking account or credit card. Additionally, you can pay ahead on your credit card so you don't have to worry about making a late payment. You'll be amazed at how much less mail you will be receiving. Options for the remaining mail include having it stopped by filling out a form at the post office, having a neighbor or friend pick it up, or if you are away for a long time, have it forwarded to you at your vacation spot.

Video: Protecting Your Home While on Vacation

An unruly garden or lawn screams "empty house."

Arrange to barter with a neighbor; you will mow their lawn when they are away in exchange for them mowing yours. The same is true for autumn leaf raking and winter snow shoveling. It's simple and free. If you have a summer garden, invite a friend to plant some seeds and share your garden when you vacation, in exchange for having them do some weeding.

Remember some things to do indoors to save money upon your return.

No one will know what's going on inside your house when you are away, but there are a few simple things you want to do if you will be away longer than a couple of weeks. Unplug everything you possibly can like the TV, sound system, kitchen appliances, and lamps to save money and reduce the chance of any electrical short or fire. To save money and assure no water damage while away, drain your pipes, empty your toilet, and turn off the main water supply in the basement. Pour a little bleach down the drains to get rid of nasty smells.

Your refrigerator will look like a science experiment gone wrong if you don't give it some attention before you leave town. Empty it completely, raise the temperature to save money, and leave an open box of baking soda inside the refrigerator to absorb odors. It is not a good idea to unplug the refrigerator.

If your house is inclined to get visits from unwanted pests, set bait or traps for ants, roaches, or mice.

Everyone needs a long or short getaway once in a while. A vacation isn't much fun if you return home to some sort of crisis. If you travel frequently, a home security system, professionally installed with monthly monitoring, may be money well spent. Most homeowner's insurance policies will give you a substantial discount on premiums, if you have such a monitored burglar alarm system.

So, take the time to be proactive about home security. Do some simple things to protect your home. Your vacation will have you feeling refreshed long after your return.

Reviewed August 2017

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