House alone?


The chaos of Thanksgiving is behind you. The holiday of all holidays is ahead. You sat down yesterday and made a list or two but they don’t look the ones Santa has. These lists are what you need to do before you leave town to visit family and Christmas arrives. With concerts, parties and shopping, a lot of what you will do is away from home. Is there a way to let your house look like someone is there even when you aren’t?

Home improvement guru Bob Vila has some tips.

  1. Car park

Ask a neighbor to park his car in your driveway while you are away. If they have extra guests for the holidays, they probably won’t mind.

  1. Go postal

Mail—cards, letters, boxes—piled up in front of a house will be a major clue that you’re not home. Go online to have your mail held. You’ll need to go to your local post office branch to get your mail, but you’ll also have a safer front porch.

  1. Trash takeover

Again, ask a neighbor, but if you happen to leave your trash can full, this helpful neighbor can roll it to the curb on trash day and back to its resting spot after the trash has been picked up.

  1. Weather watch

If the forecast calls for wintry weather while you are gone, ask this friendly neighbor or a professional snow removal company to plow your driveway, walkway and sidewalk. No one will notice you are gone and perhaps you’ll come home to clean concrete and asphalt.

  1. Let there be light

A low-tech version has been an electric timer, but you can upgrade and use your smart phone to turn on and off lights in several rooms of your house. A WeMo Switch will allow you to set schedules and receive customized notifications. It works with your existing Wi-Fi router and any Apple iOS (v5 or higher) and Android smartphone or tablet. Amazon Prime price is $42.

  1. Bright bulbs

Another tech-savvy alternative on the market is the smart bulb. Rather than connecting a whole appliance or floor lamp to WiFi, you can screw BeOn bulbs directly into your lamps like any other attachment and then control the entire system straight from an app on your smartphone. Even better, they can switch on and off mimicking lighting when you’re home and even react when your doorbell rings using a built-in microphone and instantly illuminate wherever they are plugged in.

  1. Get shady

Leaving blinds open makes it easier for would-be burglars to see into your home and notice you are out of town. Consider investing in programmable window treatments that you can open and close on cue or timer. Most window treatment companies now offer the smart option, which you can set up for every window or just a few.

You can always choose the low-tech option and ask that friendly neighbor to raise and lower blinds, open/close curtains.

  1. TV time

The flickering blue light of the TV can now be recreated without calling in a house sitter by setting up a Fake TV. This device switches on at dusk and emits colorful light patterns. It even can be programmed for daytime viewing. This handy device has the economical price of $25.

While you’re gone, you will want to pick up a nice thank you gift for the neighbor that has helped your house look like you’re there.

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