avoid dis­as­ters while trav­el­ing

FIVE ITEMS TO CHECK BE­FORE LEAV­ING ON VA­CA­TION

Albuquerque Journal - - HOME STYLE - BY DAN DIC­LERICO, HOMEAD­VI­SOR (TNS)

Five items to check be­fore a va­ca­tion

It’s ev­ery va­ca­tion­ing home­owner’s worst night­mare: the call from a neigh­bor or lo­cal au­thor­i­ties with the re­port of an emer­gency — a fire, maybe, or signs of a break-in. There’s no way to pre­vent ev­ery pos­si­ble dis­as­ter or mishap from strik­ing while you’re away from home. But you can in­crease your peace of mind sig­nif­i­cantly with these five safe­guards:

CHECK THE SMOKE ALARMS

While cook­ing is the lead­ing cause of home fires, other causes can oc­cur at times when no one is home, things like elec­tri­cal mal­func­tions or problems with heat­ing equip­ment. The best fire pro­tec­tion is work­ing smoke alarms, ideally hard­wired. (In fires in which smoke alarms are present but don’t op­er­ate, al­most half have miss­ing or dis­con­nected bat­ter­ies, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.)

For max­i­mum peace of mind while trav­el­ing, con­sider a “smart” hard­wired smoke alarm, which will send an alert to your phone; some alarms also let you des­ig­nate friends and neigh­bors to be no­ti­fied. The av­er­age cost of in­stal­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to HomeAd­vi­sor’s True Cost Guide, is $65.

IN­STALL LEAK SEN­SORS

An­other ex­am­ple of smart home tech­nol­ogy, these disc-shaped, Wi-Fi-con­nected de­vices can be placed any­where there’s a risk of leaks, such as a flood­prone base­ment or un­der the wash­ing ma­chine or wa­ter heater. In the event of a leak, you’ll re­ceive an alert through the app; some ver­sions can also con­nect you in­stantly with a pre-screened ser­vice pro­fes­sional, so you’re not scram­bling to find a plumber or ap­pli­ance re­pair per­son.

In ad­di­tion to wa­ter, many sen­sors also de­tect tem­per­a­ture swings, which could be a heads up that the heat­ing or cool­ing sys­tem has conked out, lead­ing the way to other home mishaps.

PRO­TECT WA­TER PIPES

If you’re go­ing away on an ex­tended trip, take steps to keep wa­ter pipes from freez­ing. A sin­gle burst pipe can re­sult in $5,000 worth of wa­ter dam­age. Ad­e­quate in­su­la­tion through­out the home is the first line of de­fense. If you have pipes in ex­posed spa­ces, like a base­ment or crawl space, they should be fit­ted with in­su­la­tion sleeves, avail­able at home cen­ters and plumb­ing sup­ply stores. You can hire a handy­man for the job for around $100, ac­cord­ing to HomeAd­vi­sor’s True Cost Guide.

It’s also a good idea to leave the heat on at a tem­per­a­ture no lower than 55 de­grees Fahren­heit and open kitchen and bath­room cab­i­net doors so that warmer air can cir­cu­late around wa­ter pipes.

PUT LIGHTS ON TIMERS

This is one of the old­est tricks in the books, but it’s still a great way to de­ter would-be thieves. Old-fash­ioned plug-in timers let you pro­gram lamps to turn on and off through­out the day. Or you can go the high-tech route and screw smart light bulbs into var­i­ous light fix­tures around the house. The con­nected bulbs make it easy to pro­gram ran­dom­ized sched­ules that will do the most to keep thieves guess­ing.

BEEF UP YOUR HOME SE­CU­RITY

In re­cent years, the mar­ket for af­ford­able DIY se­cu­rity sys­tems has ex­ploded, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to add a layer of pro­tec­tion with­out mas­sive up­front costs and bur­den­some monthly mon­i­tor­ing fees. For as lit­tle as $100, you can find starter kits that in­clude door and win­dow sen­sors, mo­tion de­tec­tors, and a cen­tral control hub. If you don’t want to go for the full sys­tem, even a sin­gle ex­te­rior cam­era po­si­tioned near the front en­trance can be enough to con­vince bur­glars to move on to the next house. Need help with the in­stall? A qual­i­fied elec­tri­cian should be able to have the cam­era up and run­ning in about hour, for a fee of $50 to $100, per HomeAd­vi­sor’s True Cost Guide.

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