by Steve Statham
September 16, 2014
Filed under Feature Stories
Preparing Your House Before Leaving for Your Camping Trips
The anticipation that travelers feel when on the verge of embarking on a new trip is one of the simple pleasures of life. The open road awaits, fresh adventures beckon and new possibilities excite the imagination.
But even the most eager traveler can leave with a small shadow of trepidation clouding the departure. It’s often hard to go without packing along some nagging worries about leaving your home unattended for extended periods of time.
Although some RVers live their lives on the road, most people still have a home base to return to, one that needs to be protected. When preparing to leave your house for a lengthy period, you’ll rest easier if you spend some time planning ahead for security.
In our interconnected age, there are numerous innovative ways to keep your house under surveillance from a distance, and we’ll get to those. But some of the most effective methods require no high-tech accessories.
You may be on the road, but the rest of the world keeps moving at its own pace. So eliminate the obvious signs that you are away, since nothing says “vacation” like a mailbox bursting at the seams with bills and a driveway stacked with moldering newspapers. Stop your mail and newspaper delivery and ask a neighbor to check to make sure that the flow of paper has actually ceased.
Likewise, the grass doesn’t stop growing just because you’re having a blast hauling your trailer over the Great Divide. Hire a yard service or one of the neighborhood teenagers to keep your yard tidied up.
Your best line of defense remains vigilant neighbors, so make sure your trusted ones know you are away. You’ll want to make sure a couple of neighbors have your cell phone number and you have theirs. It’s a good idea to leave a key with a neighbor so they can come in, if necessary. If you’re gone for a longer time, you may want to investigate working a deal with a house sitter to give the place a more lived-in look and break the pattern set by lights on timers.
Many neighborhood associations have watch programs that can keep another set of eyes on your property. And don’t be too proud to resort to a bit of deception; some hardware stores sell fake home-security signs, in case you don’t have the real thing. The selection at www.mysecuritysign.com is particularly impressive, assuming thieves don’t have their inventory memorized. You can even find dummy security cameras complete with blinking lights. A surprising number of these can be found on Amazon.com.
Another good idea before you leave is to take photos of your household and key possessions, in case the worst does happen while you’re away. Having a record of personal belongings will ease the process of getting reimbursed by the insurance company. Jot down serial numbers of valuable electronics, bicycles and other easily fenced items.
For decades, vacationers have been using lights set on timers to give a house an occupied look. Those inexpensive plug-in mechanical timers are still widely available and are a cost-effective resource. But a new generation of digital timers has been introduced that can provide even greater flexibility. One place to look for information on the available choices is Home Depot’s website, which has a buyer’s guide for timers in the Project How-To section.
GE, for example, makes a 15-amp seven-day plug-in dual-outlet digital timer ($16.48) that includes a random vacation mode to alter the patterns of the lights. Or you can set different times for specific days.
Lights can work for you in other ways. Hydreon Corporation makes a product called FakeTV, a small electronic device that produces the same sort of light a television makes. From the outside at night, it looks like someone is home watching TV. On the outside of the house, motion-activated exterior floodlights might be the difference between thieves
breaking in or running away.
From a Distance
The omnipresence of the Internet has changed how we do almost everything, from keeping up with our friends to reading books to paying bills.
The Internet can most definitely be your friend, but it also offers plenty of snares for the careless. Few of us have large followings in our online lives, but if you’re active on several outlets, you never truly know how many people are watching. Experienced bloggers with large audiences often won’t write about a trip until they return, so it isn’t obvious to the online population that they are gone at any particular time. As fun as your vacation may be, it’s often prudent to avoid shouting to the world that you are hundreds (or thousands) of miles from home.
But that same connectivity gives us great tools for managing our homes while we’re away. Cell phones and tablets have been discovered to have monitoring capabilities beyond even what their designers envisioned, and more advanced systems can keep you in constant contact with your home.
If a full-fledged home-security system isn’t in the budget, some remarkably simple options have a low cost of entry. AtHome Camera and AtHome Video Streamer by Circlely Networks (iChano) are apps that allow you to use an extra smartphone or spare computer as a home-based security camera. You can set up the phone in your home with the camera pointed wherever you wish, and then check your house remotely over your travel phone’s 3G network. You can watch a live video feed or set it up to record a 30-second video and notify you by email when motion is detected. The basic app is free, with an upgraded business app for $7.99, at the Apple App Store or through Google Play for Android applications.
It’s not hard to locate companies that will take you to the next level. Logitech’s Alert surveillance systems also relay home-security video to your smartphone or tablet but enhance the security with advanced indoor or outdoor cameras with features such as wide-angle lenses, night vision and motion-triggered recording. The night-vision feature on its weatherproof 700e camera ($279.99) will illuminate objects up to 100 feet away.
The major app stores are good resources for researching what’s out there. If you have the budget, there are monitoring systems available that are, frankly, amazing.
Alarm.com offers one such comprehensive network. The company develops and provides service for interactive security, video monitoring, energy management and home-automation options. Using its app and service network of authorized dealers, you can have a package installed that will control the locks, garage door and lights in your home from a distance.
“Smoke and fire detectors, energy management and home automation are particularly relevant for folks who are away from home a lot,” said Matthew Zartman of Alarm.com. “You can set lights all around your home to turn on and off at different times to give it a lived-in look from the outside. Also, for people who travel a lot, automated locks can make a lot of sense. If there’s something that you need a neighbor to check on or take care of in your home, you can easily give them access, and you won’t have to worry about making sure that the door was locked once they leave because you can take care of that right from your phone.”
There’s more, of course, to protecting a home than warding off burglars. “Another great feature is that, if the power goes out at your property, you’ll also be immediately alerted. If you’re far from home, you can notify a neighbor, and they can save food in your freezer, and if it’s winter take action to keep the pipes from freezing,” Zartman said. “We had a hard winter this year, and our water and flood sensors notified a lot of people of broken pipes so they could take fast action and prevent as much damage as possible.”
It’s worth mentioning here that, if you’re away for extended periods on a regular basis, it may also be wise to install a water shut-off valve to the house to prevent flooding in the event a pipe inside the house bursts. It is a fairly simple plumbing operation to segregate the house plumbing from the sprinkler system to ensure that your yard still gets watered. Just make sure that your neighbors know to monitor the sprinkler system operation and are provided with instructions on how to shut it off as well in the event of a malfunction.
Alarm.com systems can also be set up to send you severe-weather alerts in case tornadoes or other natural disasters threaten your area. Prices for such a system will vary according to each application and the optional services selected. But it is definitely possible to comprehensively monitor your home while you are away.
“Most people don’t understand all the things an interactive security system can do in addition to protecting your home,” Zartman added. “When you’re away from home, you can know exactly what’s happening at home in real-time. It’s really easy to control and use. For people who travel a lot, you can set up your system so that it will notify a neighbor, too.”
The same technological advances that have aided RVers in communicating from remote areas and navigating using GPS systems have also transformed how we monitor our homes from a distance. In many ways, our homes never really have to be truly alone.
877-389-4033 | www.alarm.com
Apple App store
877-532-5388 | www.faketv.com
855-527-2687 | www.jascoproducts.com
800-231-7717 | www.logitech.com
My Security Sign
800-952-1457 | www.mysecuritysign.com