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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Smart Home

Traveling for the holidays? Here's the smart home list to check twice

Leaving your home behind for a long vacation can be stressful, even with a smart home. Here are some tips and tricks so you can feel good about hitting the road this holiday season.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Friends and families are piling into planes, trains and automobiles to visit loved ones. The appeal of the smart home is, in part, the management and monitoring that happens while you're at work or out for the evening. Your smart home can perform just as well over multiple days or even weeks away, with the right guidance from you. If you're hitting the road this holiday season, we've got the tips you need to leave your smart home home alone with confidence.

Thermostats

If you have a smart thermostat, most will detect that you're away and offer a way to change the thermostat remotely. After all, that's probably why you bought the thing in the first place. It's a nice perk when you're out for a few hours or a workday. For longer periods of time or for thermostats that include a vacation mode, it's a good idea to check the threshold settings before an extended absence. Sure, you can adjust remotely, but the whole idea here is to set it and go. So before you leave, set the temperature ranges on your thermostat so you can save money while keeping your home safe. 

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Set thermostat thresholds to save the most energy while you're away. 

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High and low temperature thresholds save the most energy when they are set closer to the outside temperature than you'd probably prefer when at home. However, they should still be safe enough for your home. 

For a climate with a cold holiday season, somewhere between 55 and 65 degrees should keep pipes safe (you don't want them to freeze). Set your smart thermostat to these economical thresholds, and it will keep energy costs down while you're away.

Lights and shades

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My parents always left the TV on when we were away so people would think we were home. I thought it was a weird game of pretend as a kid, but as a homeowner it makes sense. Lighting isn't a fail-safe protection against intruders, but having your lights or TV set to mimic human activity is a good start. Smart switches and schedules can do just that.

A good rule of thumb is that outdoor lights should be on at night and off during the day, while indoor lights should go on and off in different rooms. If you have smart switches, consider creating a schedule based on time of day that replicates what you'd typically do while home.

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If you have shades or window coverings, it's best to lower them in your absence.

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If you have automated window shades, consider setting them to stay down while you're away. Keeping lights on might deter crime, but leaving your shades open could turn your living room into a holiday window display for a burglar.

Cameras, doorbells and security systems

Several new smart home security systems hit the market this year. While they do most of the work for you once they're out of the box, it's important to give them a quick status check before you leave. Security settings will differ depending on what products you have. Regardless of brand, it's a good idea to make sure motion sensors, cameras, locks and doorbells have fresh or fully charged batteries and notifications correctly enabled to reach the right emergency contacts. 

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Make sure your doorbells and cameras have a clear view of your front door, unobstructed by debris or decorations.

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When it comes to cameras, be sure the lens is free of dirt, cobwebs or new holiday decor that might obstruct the view. If you've turned down motion sensitivity or set your camera to ignore motion in some areas inside your home, now is a good time to put those features back to maximum vigilance. Finally, ensure all notification settings are set to notify the appropriate people at the appropriate times.

Environment detectors

Leak, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors offer peace of mind every day, and even more so when you're out of town. Making sure all of these have fresh batteries, a solid Wi-Fi connection, updated apps or firmware and correct notification settings is worth a few minutes of your time before you hit the road. 

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Be sure detectors and sensors are powered up and ready to notify you in case of an incident. 

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If your detectors aren't connected to a live monitoring service, it's even more important to get a notification sent to the right mobile device. That way, you can ask a friend or neighbor check out any suspicious alerts.  

Robot vacuums and other small appliances

There are several robot vacuum cleaners out there with some version of a scheduling option. If that's a feature you use often, turn it off while you're away. If no one's home to make messes, the vacuum doesn't need to run. Plus, if you've enhanced the sensitivity of the motion detector portion of your security system (as I suggested), a robot vacuum could trigger false alarms.

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Some appliances like robot vacuums might not need to run their normal schedule while you're away. 

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You'll save battery life and wear and tear on your vacuum by making sure it isn't running when it doesn't need to. The same goes for other small appliances that might run on a smart schedule or with smart switches. Run through your list of managed devices to be sure everything is on or off accordingly.