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7 ways to prep your smart home before you go on vacation

You no doubt know the basics of home maintenance when you’re headed out for a vacation: Arm the security system, leave a light on so it looks like people are home, arrange for pet and plant care, and turn the thermostat down. But there’s an easier way to do it all automatically.

Today’s smart home systems are packed with features, and many of them can help you prepare for a vacation, and take care of some important details while you’re gone. Here’s everything you can do with smart products and why it helps!

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Set the vacation mode on your thermostat

Wyze Smart thermostat. installed on wall being adjusted.

Manually changing your thermostat settings is a pain, especially if you have to change them back when you return. But many of today’s smart thermostats make it easy. Nest thermostats, for example, have a Hold Temperature mode that freezes the temperature where it’s at, or an “Off” mode that will only heat or cool your house when temperatures start to reach dangerous levels. Ecobee models sport a straightforward Vacation Mode you can enable with start and end dates to make scheduling easier. If you look at your smart thermostat settings, you’ll be sure to find something that can help.

Program your lights

Ring Smart Bulb being installed in light fixture.

Smart lights are easy to schedule, setting them to turn on and off at specific times. This feature is especially effective for making it look like someone is still at home. You can set the lights to turn on in the evening and off at night, or on and off throughout the day. Some smart bulbs and smart plugs come with a vacation mode that will do exactly that, otherwise, you can quickly set up a new schedule and disable it when you come home. Read our guide to smart lights to learn about installation and setting them up.

Make sure your video doorbell is charged

The Blink Video Doorbell is an affordable option for home security.

A video doorbell is one of our favorite devices for vacation-proof security. They are motion-activated, so you will get automatic alerts whenever someone approaches your door. They have two-way audio, so as long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can talk to the person on your porch no matter where you are. And, of course, you can see if you get any unexpected packages and arrange for a pick up if necessary.

The key is that many video doorbells are battery-powered, with rechargeable batteries that last a few months before needing to be recharged. It’s a really good idea to connect your video doorbell to its charger overnight and set it up so that it’s ready to operate for months if necessary. The same is true if you have wireless security cams that haven’t been charged in a while.

Prep your smart lock passes

Lockly lock and app.

Smart door locks ensure you can lock or unlock your door regardless of your location. If you are going on a lengthy vacation, you may be more interested in another feature — the ability to create codes or passes that can automatically let others unlock your door for a specific amount of time. Consider creating these guest passes for house sitters, cleaners, pet walkers, plant waterers, and anyone else who may need regular access to your home.

Set your smart plugs to power down

Eve Energy smart plug installed with oscillating fan.

If you use smart plugs for devices around your home, you may want to set them to stay off all the time, or only turn on briefly, depending on their purpose. This step is an easy way to save power while you are gone while ensuring that unnecessary devices stay off. You should also check your current smart plug schedules to make sure that, for example, your coffee maker won’t continue to turn on at 6 a.m. every morning.

Set up a leak sensor

Wyze leaker sensor under cabinet.

Flooding is an insidious catastrophe when you’re on vacation. There’s little warning, burglar sensors won’t pick it up, and neighbors won’t be able to tell it’s happening, but it can cause massive damage. Fortunately, there are smart leak sensors available that you can set up in bathrooms, near water tanks, under sinks, and close to crawlspaces. These sensors will activate when the floor under them pools with water, sending you an alert so you know there may be a problem. Many home security systems offer compatibility with leak sensors like this, and they are typically very affordable, only $20 to $30 for added safety.

Set modes like Alexa Guard

Enabling Alexa Guard.

Full security systems can typically take care of themselves throughout a vacation, as long as they’re armed before you go (although the ability to look at security cam live feeds at any time is nice). Even if you don’t have a whole-house security system, there are still steps you can take.

An excellent example is Alexa Guard, a mode you can enable on any Echo device you may have in the house. With Guard on, Alexa will listen to sounds like the breaking of glass or a fire alarm siren, and send you a mobile alert through the Alexa app. Echo audio allows you to speak through the mics if you prefer. If you’ve got an Echo Show, you can even enable the camera and take a look around to see what’s happening, then choose to call the authorities. You could even pay more for Alexa Guard Plus, which adds more alerts and access to an emergency helpline.

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