Your complete smart home security checklist before the holiday

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Vacations should be fun, but worrying about your home while you’re away can be a headache. Smart technology has made it a lot easier: from cameras that can send smart alerts when they detect humans in a certain area, to smart locks that you can control remotely or share nearby, with Wi-Fi your home is still at your fingertips. Add a pet sitter or plant caretaker, and you’re set to be away from home for weeks at a time.

The next time you go on a holiday break, check out our list and take an hour or two to change some settings and plan some new purchases. Once you have your holiday ways set up, they’ll be ready whenever you need them!

The phone features Philips Hue lighting and Vacation Mode. The phone features Philips Hue lighting and Vacation Mode.

Many smart devices have vacation or away modes that you can set to create a stay-at-home experience.

CNET

Today’s smart home and home security settings not only have an Away mode, but they often also have a Vacation mode. This is a routine you can set to work while you’re away for several days or longer (if your Home app doesn’t have a Vacation mode, you can modify your Away or Eco mode or set up a new routine). Philips Hue Lights And platforms like IFTTT make it easy to create complete routines that cover multiple devices.

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Vacation routines can turn smart lights on and off both indoors and outdoors, so it looks like someone is still home. They can also operate other compatible devices, such as managing smart irrigation systems, activating smart cameras, and more. Set up a routine like this once, and you can use it over and over for trips.

Check the motion detection settings for your video doorbell

Ring Video Doorbell Wired on a Gradient Fuchsia Background Ring Video Doorbell Wired on a gradient fuchsia background

A vital device for keeping an eye on your home: the video doorbell.

The Ring/CNET

Video doorbells are great at tracking movement, and their algorithms are getting better at detecting humans and other objects. Companies like Eufy are even working on motion detection that can identify suspicious behavior like avoiding main routes and spot poor security.

However, the motion detection that works best in your day-to-day life is not always the same detection that works when you’re on vacation. We recommend visiting the doorbell and home camera apps to view your motion detection settings. Consider steps like these:

  • Increasing motion detection sensitivity
  • Set object detection to humans only to reduce alerts
  • Set detection zones in places near your home and windows where people might try to enter
  • Turn on beeps or light indicators that indicate the camera is on and monitoring
  • Set notifications to send to your phone screen instead of just limiting them to the app
  • Look for web app options, such as Nest’s support for online viewing and control, which is ideal for overseas holidays

Additionally, if you pay for a subscription plan, check if it supports 24/7 emergency help contact so you can call the police or fire department immediately from an alert. It may be worth upgrading to that type of plan if you’re going away for a month or two.

Keep your curtains open or on automatic

To keep your home liveable, it’s a good idea to keep your curtains open while on holiday (and this lets the sunlight in and keeps things from getting damp). Or if you have smart curtains or smart shades – which are also available as retrofits for existing curtains – you can program them. Create a schedule to open them during the day and close them at night to have the best effect. Smart blinds like these don’t have to be expensive: even Ikea has an affordable version.

Manage remote entry with a smart lock

Aqara U100 lock, showing the keypad on an open brown door. Aqara U100 lock, showing the keypad on an open brown door.

Aqara’s Smart Lock deadbolt replacement looks and feels great.

CNET/Tyler Lacoma

Smart locks not only let you know if you forgot to lock the door. They also autolock for you under certain circumstances and support a variety of scheduling options.

The most useful smart locks, such as the Aqara U100 or Schlage Smart LeverAllows you to create passes or temporary codes to give to visitors. This lets you set up checkups for pet sitters, plant waterers, helpful neighbors, and other people you want to let in, but only at certain times. Smart locks pair particularly well with video doorbells — just make sure you’re in an area with a reliable Wi-Fi connection to use them remotely.

Adjust your heating and cooling

ecobee's app options, including setting up vacation mode. ecobee's app options, including setting up vacation mode.

ecobee offers a dedicated vacation mode for its smart thermostat.

ecobee/CNET

smart thermostats from Nest, ecobee And others even have Eco and Away modes that you can use to set different vacation schedules. Ecobee even has a dedicated Vacation mode in the thermostat settings that you can use just for this.

The best temperature range varies by season, but it should be lower than what you’re used to when you’re at home. For summer, that means setting the thermostat 5 to 10 degrees higher during the day, but with a hard cap around 80 to 85 degrees to protect indoor plants and other items. For winter, aim for the opposite, with a hard cap around 50 degrees during the day.

If you have pets in a warm climate, this temperature calculation changes. You’ll want to limit the temperature to between 70 and 60 degrees for cooling and around 60 degrees for heating to keep the home more comfortable.

Set up a “listening” service like Alexa Emergency Assistance

Illustration of a conversation using an Echo speaker on a table to call Alexa for help. Illustration of a conversation using an Echo speaker on a table to call Alexa for help.

Alexa’s emergency assistant is an affordable listening and connectivity service.

Amazon

Listening features use simple algorithms to recognize “uh-oh” sounds like breaking glass, smoke detector alarms, and even loud dog barks. Home security systems like Abode or Ring offer listening options, but you don’t always need a home security device to enable it.

For example, Amazon’s Alexa smart speakers and smart displays have the Alexa Emergency Assistance service, which is the successor to Alexa Guard. It costs about $6 monthly, and gives you access to voice recognition as well as 24/7 emergency response services and emergency contacts for family. If you’re going on a lot of vacations for a season, enabling it for a few months is a good deal, and two-way audio on all Alexa speakers means you can talk to them live whenever you want.

Stay monitored with an armed security system

If your home doesn’t have a whole-home security system that can monitor multiple access points like windows and doors, now’s the time to consider one. Today’s home security systems don’t even require professional installation or a monthly subscription to protect your home — and many systems even work with third-party smart devices.

Take a look at our guides on the best DIY home security systems, the best affordable security systems, and the best overall systems for your home to learn more about your options.

Install leak detectors in sensitive areas of the home

Kangaroo Climate Leak Sensor Kangaroo Climate Leak Sensor

Kangaroo also includes a climate sensor, aka leak detector, in its expanded eight-piece home monitoring kit.

Kangaroo

A leak detector is a clever little device that has an open circuit on the floor. When water completes that circuit, it plays all sorts of alarm bells and app notifications to let you know a leak is present. This makes them useful when you’re away from home for long periods of time. Stick them near the toilet, under the kitchen sink, next to the water heater or under pipes that might be prone to freezing during the winter holidays.

Leak detectors are available as add-ons for most home security systems, but you can also find standalone versions such as Eufy’s $35 model (requires HomeBase) or Alexa-compatible The Kidde Leak Detector starts at $45We recommend these models because they work with apps, which is important if you’ll be away from home completely.

Tell your home monitoring center that you will be leaving

If you spend money for professional home monitoring, check their website and find a contact email or phone number to let them know you’re going on vacation. Many home monitoring centers will adjust their official responses when they realize everyone is going to be away from home.

Call your mail service (optional)

It used to be a simple matter of calling the post office when going on vacation. And if your vacation is going to be a week or longer, we still recommend sending a message to your local mail service and requesting to have your mail held. This is really easy to do and you can complete all the steps online in just a few minutes.

However, these days we don’t get as much mail as we used to, and it’s harder than ever for strangers to notice when someone’s mail is piling up. If you’re only going away for a few business days, you can probably safely skip this step.

Be careful when posting online

A family with luggage comes in through the sunlit front door. A family with luggage comes in through the sunlit front door.

Holidays are great, but be careful about posting too much information on social media.

Mihailomilovanovic via Getty

We know it’s tempting to post about your holiday plans on social media, but it can also be an invitation for thieves or intruders to come to your home. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know and trust Everyone Those in your friends list, or friends of their friends who can also see status updates.

To be safe, avoid posting information and photos about your trips until they’re over. Then you can relax and post all your best photos on Instagram, TikTok or Facebook.

Bonus tip: If you’re renting, take a look at your lease

Some leases require tenants to inform landlords that they are going on vacation for a certain period of time, such as more than a week. Other leases don’t mention it at all. See your lease for details. Even if you don’t have to alert anyone, you may find additional requests such as turning off the water main, setting the temperature to a certain level, arranging for pet sitter access, and more.

Finally, now is the perfect time to read our guide on how to prevent thieves from breaking into your home, information on whether thieves are actually using Wi-Fi jammers in smart homes, and overall security tips for setting up different parts of home security.

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