If you plan to travel over the holiday season, you’re in good company.
Whether you’re headed near or far, don’t forget to look after your empty home. No one wants to dampen the holidays by returning to a burst pipe or a burglary.
Fortunately, taking a few simple steps can help you rest easy... and the right homeowners insurance can give you peace of mind, too. Follow these tips to keep your home safe and cozy – even while you’re away.
How To Make Your Home Look Occupied While You’re Away
Burglars are less likely to target your place if they think someone’s home. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Find a friend. Ask a trusted neighbor, family member or friend if they’re willing to keep an eye on your place. (Pro tip: Have a backup on hand, just in case.) Even if they’re not house-sitting around the clock, it helps to have someone who can pop by on occasion and alert you right away if anything looks “off.” Ask them to keep an eye on the exterior, both front and back. Give them a key so they can do a walk-through at least once. If they discover a broken or opened door or window, they should not enter the home and instead call law enforcement immediately.
- Take care of mail and deliveries. If someone can collect it, that's also an easy way to keep tabs on your place. Otherwise, simply request that the postal service hold your mail. This is the holiday season, of course, so leave instructions for all packages too. Read more about how to prevent “porch pirates” from stealing your deliveries.
- Plan for trash pickup: Ask someone to move your bins. If your trash and recycling are sitting on the curb for longer than usual, that’s a dead giveaway that no one’s home.
- Don't forget snow removal. Nothing screams “No one’s home!” like a driveway heaping with untouched snow. Hire someone to come by to shovel or plow your driveway and walkways. Ask a neighbor to pull up and turn around in your driveway from time to time, just to leave fresh tracks. (Related: Who’s responsible for shoveling the sidewalk in front of my place?)
- Program your lights: You don’t need anything fancy – even a $20 smart plug can let you control your lights from anywhere with just an app. Old-school mechanical timers work just as well, too. Turn the TV on once in a while for good measure. The only rule? Don’t keep your house dark for days on end – that’s a surefire way to attract a burglar’s attention.
- Go high-tech: Today’s home automation systems and connected home apps make it easy to keep things running smoothly when you’re away. If you’re the tech-savvy type, you’ve got options. Consider a video doorbell; motorized window treatments; or smart bulbs to make it look like you never left. (Other smart home tech like security cameras, sensors or smart locks can give you peace of mind, too.)
- Be mindful of what you post: Everyone loves adding a great selfie to their story, but consider waiting until you get home. Excessive posting is a reminder to those who follow you on social media that you’re away and could leave your home vulnerable to theft.
How To Prevent Accidents When No One’s Home
Your home is probably your biggest investment. If your travel plans are scheduled for longer than a few days, here’s a quick list of things to check for safety before you leave.
- Locks and alarms: This one’s obvious, but make sure your doors are locked and your alarm system is set (if you have one). Secure any other entrances, too, such as your garage, windows or pet doors.
- Thermostat: If you have a pet-free house, you can go ahead and lower the temperature to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s warm enough to keep things from freezing, but cool enough to give your furnace and energy usage a break.
- Water: Plunging temps can cause pipes to freeze and burst, causing thousands of dollars of damage to your home. Learn more about how to prevent frozen pipes. Even a simple leak could slowly empty water and damage appliances, furniture and much more. Turn off the water main in your home before you leave. Then, drain the pipes by flushing the toilets and turning on the faucets. Finally, turn your water heater down to “vacation mode” so you aren’t spending money on keeping water warm when you’re not around. (Learn how to spot the signs of a failing water heater.)
- Electronics: Appliances can suck energy when they’re plugged in and not in use. Unplug everything that will not be in use while you’re away, including your washer and dryer, television, computer, toaster and coffee maker.
Whether you’re traveling near or far, a little care and preparation ahead of time can help minimize the risk of something going awry. That way, you’re free to be present and make the holidays magical and bright with the ones you love.
Remember, ERIE is with you wherever you go with homeowners insurance you can trust. Here's wishing you and your family safe travels and a happy holiday season.
This story was originally published in 2016. It was updated with new information in 2019.