Stories & Features

Help your home 'smarten up' before you leave town

Image of smart home controls on a tablet computer
A home security system has been a well-established recommendation to keep your home secure when you're away. Smart home technology paired with your phone can make it even easier to keep an eye on things.

Keep an eye on things with new smart home technology at your fingertips

With summer just around the corner, many of us are getting ready for trips and vacations. While remembering to pack your toothbrush might be the first thing on your list, don't forget to prepare your home before you go. We've got some ideas for keeping your home safe while you're gone, including some new smart home technology tips that can make things easier.

Not all of us have Home Alone-level creativity when it comes to making it look like we're home, but there are some simple things you can do to make it look like there's somebody there even when there's not.

Lights out, nobody's home

While turning all your lights out in your home when you go out might make things go easy on your energy bill, it also makes it more obvious that you're away, especially after a few days of darkness (particularly in the evenings). If you don't have someone who can check on your home and flick your lights on and off, some of the latest smart home tech could be a great option for you.

If you've already installed smart lighting fixtures, you're almost there. You can easily set a schedule for these lights to go on and off during your vacation.

If you haven't upgraded your fixtures yet, you've still got options. Smart plugs can be a great way to control your lights from your phone, even without upgrading your existing fixtures – just plug your existing lamps or electronics like your TV into the smart plug and control the schedule from wherever you're relaxing.

Light up the night

Security lighting on the outside of your house is a great way to deter unwelcome visitors. Lights with timers and a motion sensor are best, but if you've already got non-motion lights, try adding a battery operated motion sensor that simply attaches to your current light.

If you're ready to add timers or a motion sensor, look for one with a photocell component so they turn on automatically when it gets dark – this will look more natural and help create the appearance that you're home. Smart security lighting can also be controlled from your phone, so you can set a schedule or turn them on at different times, which is helpful so that it doesn't look like a set pattern.

Let your friends in

Having someone come check on your house regularly is always a good way to help keep your home safe. In fact, some insurance policies actually require you to have someone come check depending on how long you plan to be gone. Have a friend or loved one bring in the mail and any newspapers you weren't able to cancel, and maybe even mow the lawn.

If you're worried about handing out keys to your home, try installing a smart lock. You can remotely lock and unlock the door to your home to let someone in from anywhere. Bonus: If you're worried that you forgot to lock up as your rushed out the door, you can easily check on your phone from the comfort of your beach chair.

Lock it up

Speaking of locking your doors, you'll want to double check all point of entry to make sure they're locked up before you leave town. Nearly half of all residential burglaries happen as a result of doors or windows that were left unlocked. Don't forget windows in your basement or on the second floor, and garage doors and windows, too.

Keep it a secret – sort of

If you're leaving town, it can be tempting to share your vacation plans on social media, but this means that potential burglars will know you're away, so it's best to save those beautiful view shots until after you get back. You also shouldn't leave a note or set your answering machine to indicate you're away, and if you have a home phone, consider turning off the ringer so that people outside don't hear it ringing when you don't pick up.