It’s summertime and that means it is time to pack the bags, hit the road and explore parts unknown.  But, before you walk out the door, there are a few things that you should do so that you can rest easy while on vacation.  Consider this your pre-vacation checklist.  

Check the Smoke Detectors

Of course, you’ll want your smoke detectors to be in full working order should the unthinkable happen and a fire break out inside your home while you are away, that is a given.  However, there is another (arguably more likely) situation that you could find yourself potentially facing should you neglect these devices - one that this author has had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand.  Let’s say that you have not followed the advice that you so often give - to be sure that the batteries in your detectors are changed often, and that detectors are regularly cleaned, so that dust, spiderwebs, etc, do not block the sensors inside.  Let’s also say that before you take your family on a camping trip where you will have no reception for multiple days, you did not perform this important cleaning task.  While you are away, and in the middle of the night, some nefarious spider, or villainous dust particle made its way deep into one of your detectors, tripping the sensor and causing every detector throughout your home to blare with the urgency of a three-alarm fire.  This leaves your cul-de-sac very confused and concerned, while requiring the local fire department to make a trip over to your empty, yet frantically beeping house, sirens and all.  At this point, your terrified, yet helpful neighbor, with whom you left a spare key (in case of an emergency) will have to let the weary firefighters inside.  After finding no sign of an actual fire, they will go through your house and check, clean and change the batteries in your detectors - which you clearly should have done some time ago.

Once you arrive home, you will, undoubtedly, have to walk into said local fire house, tail between your legs, with enough pizzas to feed a small army.  Sorry.  The moral of the story?  Before you go, give your smoke detectors some attention.  

Set your Thermostat

Consider your time away from home as an opportunity to save a little bit of money on your electric bill.  While maximum comfort while you are at home might mean that your HVAC system starts pumping out the cold air as soon as the sun is up, while you are away, the air conditioner can take a bit of a vacation too.  Be warned, however, you probably do not want to shut it off all together, as this can leave you open to potentially damaging electronics and appliances if the humidity level within your home gets too high.  Generally speaking, it is recommended that you set your system to kick on somewhere between 80 and 85 degrees.  Like most things, the exact  temperature will vary depending on where you live, but you’re likely safe if you follow these guidelines.  

Unplug

There are multiple reasons to unplug your devices and small appliances while you are away for any extended period of time.  First, doing so reduces the risk of a house fire, which is always a good thing.  Additionally, as we have talked about on this site before, many devices which have been lovingly deemed “vampire” devices/appliances use electricity when they are plugged in, regardless of whether or not they are turned on or in use.  The simple act of unplugging these devices can save you some serious money if you do it regularly, but doing so while you are away is a great step.  Before you leave, unplug devices like TVs, computers, printers, coffeemakers, microwaves and the like.  Don’t go crazy pulling EVERY plug, however, you’ll want to leave your refrigerator plugged in, lest you come home to a very unpleasant surprise.  Lastly, unplugging your stuff can help to extend its life.  Should a power surge happen while you are gone, things that have been left plugged in run the risk of damage.  Long story short, unplug.  

Take out the Trash

It may seem trivial, and it is certainly easy to overlook while you are checking off the “big” stuff and  (possibly frantically) running out the door, but take the time to empty all the trash cans within your home and garage if possible.  The combination of time, as well as elevated temperature inside your home (like we talked about earlier) can be the perfect combination to create some seriously stinky situations upon your arrival back home.