If your winter plans call for holiday travel, consider these helpful tips to make your home more secure and more energy-efficient while you are away.
Step 1: Check window locks to assure they are functional. Properly installed locks pull sashes tight and reduce air infiltration. Replace broken or missing locks. If windows are unaligned, use nylon washers to shim up the keeper portion of the lock to temporarily allow the locks to function. For added security, pin type or keyed locks can also be installed to reduce the chance of unwanted window openings.
Step 2: Improve door security by adding additional shims between the frame and the rough opening of the door. Remove the inside trim around the door and insert shims around the frame. Add blocks of wood or shims behind hinges and strike plates to reinforce the frame in these areas. Replace hinge and strike plate screws with longer ones that take advantage of the added frame thickness. Fill in remaining gaps around the door frame with minimal expanding foam made specifically for window and door use. Use a nail set when reinstalling the trim to avoid damage.
Step 3: Replace existing exterior lights with motion-sensing lights. Motion sensing lights turn on and off throughout the night relative to any movement in the yard. This action leaves potential intruders unsure if the home is vacant and is more efficient than a light left on all night. For added security, consider installing battery operated or solar powered lights in areas where electrical power is not readily accessible.
Step 4: Install timers to operate lights automatically. Using a timer to turn lights on and off throughout the night while you are away makes your home more secure and uses less energy than leaving lights on all day. Regular light switches can be replaced with programmable timer switches and table lamps can be operated with plug in wall timers. For traveling purposes, variable wall timers will turn lights on and off at slightly different times each evening, to assure those watching closely cannot assume lights are being activated by a timer.
Step 5: Turn down thermostats, reduce the temperature on your hot water heater, unplug all unused appliances and switch off surge protectors to increase energy savings and reduce chances of problems while you are traveling.