7 steps to secure your home while you're on vacation

Deciding where to go and what to see, making arrangements and planning your wardrobe are all exciting aspects of vacation planning. But before you pack up to leave on your getaway, be sure to take care of your home.

Here are seven steps you should take to prepare your home to remain secure while you're away:
1. Stop the mail. Home safety experts agree: a stuffed mailbox is a sign of an empty home. The U.S. Postal Service allows you to request a vacation hold on your mail up to 30 days before your departure date. Go to holdmail.usps.com to see if this service is available in your area. You should also put newspaper and package delivery on hold, too, as uncollected newspapers or parcels in front of your house could also alert others that you're not home.
2. Turn off water and gas. If a water or gas leak occurs while you're not there to address it, the emergency could cause significant damage to your home. You can reduce risks by turning off water flow to appliances such as the clothes washer. To conserve energy and money, you can also turn off the gas flow to your water heater.
3. Adjust the thermostat. You don't need to spend money to heat or cool your home when you're not there. Turn down the thermostat, but don't turn your HVAC system completely off. Extreme temperatures can harm your home and its contents. A programmable thermostat, such as one made by Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning, can take care of temperature adjustments while you're away. A free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone — leave your internet connection active so your thermostat can communicate with the app while you're away.
4. Put lights on timers or sensors. A well-lit home looks lived in and is less appealing to burglars. Put outside lights on sensors so they'll turn on when the sun goes down. Use timers to turn interior lights on and off at appropriate times.
5. Prep your kitchen. Go through the refrigerator and pantry and throw away any food that could go bad while you're away. No one wants to come home to smelly, spoiled food. Empty the trash and arrange for a neighbor to put the trash at the curb on your scheduled pickup day. Unplug all small appliances such as the coffee maker, toaster ovens, food processors, etc.
6. Power down electronic devices. Computers, TVs and phone chargers all draw power while plugged in, even if they're not switched on. Turn off and unplug electronic devices to reduce power usage in the house and protect electronics from power surges while you're away.
7. Secure the garage. This is especially important if your home has an attached garage with direct access into your home. Most garage doors have a simple bolt lock that can be engaged from inside to prevent the door from being raised. Remember to also lock the door from the garage into your house.
With some simple prep, you can ensure your home stays secure while you're away.
COURTESY BRANDPOINT

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017