About 25 years ago, we had something highly unusual happen in our 2nd story bathroom, and it could have been disastrous.  I walked into the bathroom one weekend afternoon and discovered the tank on the toilet had cracked – somehow – and there was water all over the floor.  Because the tank couldn’t fill and the float was in the “down” position, water kept flowing into the (now broken) tank.  Fortunately, I’d discovered it before it did any real damage.

So…  guess what I do whenever we leave home for more than a few days.  I go around the house, closing the little valves on all the toilets   …as well as the valves on the washing machine hookup.  Yes, it’s moderately insane, but it gives me greater peace of mind.

Another:  at our current home, we had an issue with the garage door opener…  it’d mysteriously open all on its own every once in a while.  Imagine being away all day and returning home to find the garage door wide open.  That particular problem stemmed from a bad circuit board, (since replaced), but I also unplug the garage door opener when we’ll be gone for more than a few days, and lock the door (as well as the door between the garage and our house).

How about you?? Do you have any things you do when you’ll be gone for a several days – or longer?  Please share by commenting – and thanks in advance!

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10 Comments on Ask the readers: what things do you do when you leave your home alone for a week or more?

  1. Adriano says:

    1- Locking everything (obvious…) sometimes even with a very old lock which can be opened by a huge key (It would be curious to see a burglar trying to open it, with torsion wrenches and such!)
    2- Turning off the gas valve.
    3- Asking my neighbour to collect mail

    Something I will soon do is installing an automatic system which randomly turns on and off the lights, showing that there is someone at home…


  2. Gary Williams says:

    Shoot, I turn off the water to the washing machine after each laundry session. But for travel, why hit each individual shutoff valve; why not just turn off the one master valve? Stopping the mail or having it collected is most essential. And randomly turning lights off and on sounds good; but I wonder whether even more security could be obtained by turning on and off a television–at enough volume that it can be heard from outside, but in a location where a peek through a window will not reveal that it’s not being watched.


    Adriano Reply:


    IMO turning off the master valve could have some nasty side effects, such as blocking the heating system (the one I have works with water and could need some top-up, sometimes), resulting in radiators cracking. In other seasons automated lawn watering systems will be affected…
    Sure, random turning on and off TV sounds better, but not so feasible, at least with a normal, off-the-counter switching device. Just try with your TV set: unplug it when it is on and plug it in again – you’ll see that it goes standby only and not back to image and sound (at least, mine works this way)… A radio should work, though.


  3. airport runner says:

    I freeze a plastic shot glass full of water, put it in a small zip lock bag and put it upside down in the freezer. If we have an extended power outage, the ice melts and runs into the bag and lets us know to discard the contents.

    I take the NAS box that I use to back up our home computers to my neighbor’s house. I don’t like to keep my personal information in the office. I’m not sure what we’d do if we lost that information.

    We have several web cams configured to record motion to a server at my business. I usually vpn to my office daily even when I’m on vacation. I look at any files that show up from the cameras. I’ve been doing it for years, nothing unexpected yet. I am hopeful that one year I’ll see the Easter bunny.


    Kevin Reply:

    Great comment; thanks. Your web cam surveillance system has me intrigued… I may have to do something similar; thanks for prompting me.



  4. Patrick F. says:

    First, I unplug everything that I know won’t need to stay on.

    Second, I try and have someone stay in the house or check on it. Usually this is a family member or a long-time friend. I know many people that have someone watch over their house. Of course, the most important part is the person’s trustworthiness.


  5. Maria says:

    If you live in a snowy climate, and do not have a snow removal service…ask a neighbour that if it snows while you are away – to pull their car in and out of your driveway a few times plus walking back and forth several times through the snow to the front door from the car. (Maybe they will shovel the snow too!) Extra tip – when you are home and it’s snowed out, if you are heading out after it has snowed, don’t just walk out to your car and pull away – leaving one set of tracks away for the residence. Go back and forth – leave footprints back and forth, plus tire tracks.

    Better yet – ask your next door neighbour to park their other car in your driveway while you are away, no matter the season.


    Adriano Reply:

    Interesting piece of advice, that of walking hence and forth in order not to hint that someone has left home and hasn’t come back yet.
    But, if there is noise and/or lights inside home, all burglars who don’t know the number of people living in that household will probably presume that there is someone in there.
    As of ‘local’ criminals, well, they have access to so much information (from neighbours, regular home delivery supermarkets etc.) that they could be sure when a house is empty, so even a light on could be useless.
    This bring us to the weakest component in every security system: the human being. Social engineering is based on this truth… So when I leave, I give this information to very few people. Potential criminals however will need to know when the other components of my household are not there – as well as my neighbours. I also ask my friends to open the blinds in the morning and close them in the evening… (automated rolling shutters would be better, but they are not customary around here…)


  6. Dianne says:

    Turn thermostats up in summer or down in winter, unplug washer & dryer, turn off washer spigots, turn water heater to vacation setting, unplug kitchen counter appliances, check all door locks, put security pin in sliding patio door, set alarm system.


  7. K-eM says:

    I’m afraid I’m not so thorough as you.

    First, I clean and do laundry so that when I get home I have no old issues to deal with, just the laundry from the trip and cleaning after we’ve been home a few days.

    Second, I have my sister-in-law or good friend/neighbor to come to the house every day to care for our pets and take care of things. So someone is there at least a few minutes of every day.

    I encourage them to stay if they wish and watch TV or movies on our system (nicer than theirs) and even ask them to do chores such as watering, putting out trash, collecting the mail… I pay them $100 a week to do this. It’s not a lot, but we both seem to find it reasonable. My house and pets are cared for and it looks more lived in than it would otherwise.


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