Best practices to secure your home while you are away

February 18, 2021

Whether you are leaving for vacation, moving to your winter home or closing your beach home for the season, here are Home and Boat Watchdog’s top tips to help prevent major issues from occurring.

Use and lock your deadbolts along with putting bars on sliding glass doors. You would be surprised how effective this is in preventing break-ins. Also check that all windows are secure and locked. Intruders are looking for a quick, inconspicuous entrance.

Put lights on varied timers. You want your home to look as if it is occupied at various times throughout the evening and early morning. Radios on timers can help, too.

Have motion-detector lights on all corners of the home and use automatic photovoltaic sensors for dusk-to-dawn light control at all entrance lights. This can deter intruders.

Use a security system that monitors windows, doors, motion and smoke.

Install video cameras with alerts. Your smartphone can notify you if a delivery is being made or if someone is at your property. Recordings of the events can be very helpful.

Install smart thermostats so you can check and adjust the home’s temperature and humidity.

Use indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer/hygrometer sensors with alerts. Place them in multiple levels of your home, including your garage. Variations in temperature and humidity can alert you that something may not be right. suggests maintaining or reducing home humidity levels to 30-60 percent, or ideally 30-50 percent, to prevent mold growth. Homeowners can decrease humidity in the home by increasing ventilation and using a dehumidifier.

Use water alarms with alerts to notify you if there is water in an area. These small devices can be left in bathrooms, basements, under sinks, and by the water heater, and can operate remotely via Wi-Fi to alert you in case of leaks and floods.

Shut off the water using the main water valve. If you are gone for the whole winter, make sure your plumbing is winterized, and disconnect outside hoses. This includes draining the system and using antifreeze. Make sure to turn off the breaker to the water heater, too.

Schedule an HVAC company to maintain your air-conditioning system in the spring and your heating unit in the fall. This includes changing your air filters, which usually need to be changed more often.

Shut off the main gas valve. You may want the HVAC company to reignite the appliances upon your return.

Unplug any unnecessary appliances, electronics, air fresheners and chargers.

Pests can do damage while you are away. Having a pest-control company on a service plan to check the property throughout the year can prevent problems.

Bring in outdoor furniture, secure loose items outside, and close storm shutters.

Make sure your mail is forwarded the entire time you are away.

Check your monthly utility bills such as electric, gas, water and cable for higher-than-normal usage. This can let you know if something is out of the ordinary. Squatters like to take advantage of the amenities.

Hire an accredited member of the National Home Watch Association who has been vetted and can check on all the above items, ensuring that proper conditions are met. Just because you have taken precautions, that does not mean all is OK. A professional home watcher who is insured specifically for that job should visually inspect your home on at least a weekly basis.

Upon arriving at the home, if you do encounter someone or something unusual or notice something missing, always retreat to a safe place such as your vehicle and contact the police. Never approach an intruder.

The National Home Watch Association defines home watch as “a visual inspection of a home or property, looking for obvious issues.” Home and Boat Watchdog is a trustworthy local service provider that visits and visually inspects property and vessels looking for obvious issues and notifies the owner with a detailed checklist report. If a problem does occur, homeowners and boat owners can be assured they will be notified as soon as possible, and the company can help handle it to minimize further damage and resolve the issue. Home watch and boat watch are available along the Mid-Atlantic area in Rehoboth Beach and Lewes in Sussex County.

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