Are you lucky enough to be escaping the winter weather on a sun holiday or hitting the slopes for some downhill fun? You will definitely enjoy your trip more knowing that your home is safe and secure while you are away.
Your home is more vulnerable to burglaries, storms and freezing temperatures in December and January. But there are numerous steps you can take to minimise the risk.
Here are some of ours:
1. ‘Winter Proof’ your home before you leave
Make sure your home is ‘winter proof’ well before you go away. Harsh winter weather can cause damage to your home. Chartered building surveyor Roy Ilott says “the outside of a house takes a battering in the winter so a realistic, 360 degree assessment of its current condition is advisable – think roof, walls, floors, windows and doors and repair, seal or insulate where possible.”
Burst pipes are one of the most common occurrences during a winter freeze. You can minimise this risk by setting your heating to come on for an hour or two every day. Although you may be tempted to turn the heating right down to save money, the Redcross recommends going no lower than 13 degrees Celsius. It is also advisable to insulate pipes with special products such as heat tape. Even insulating them with newspapers can help prevent them freezing.
Another option is to drain the water system before you go away. In order to do this you need to turn off the main valve and run every hot and cold water fixture until it stops. If in doubt, consult a qualified plumber.
Check pipes for any damage or cracks. Clean out gutters and drains of dead leaves, and repair any loose or damaged roof tiles. Loose tiles can cause a lot of damage during a storm.
If your home is at risk of flooding make sure to protect against floods as much as possible before you go away.
2. Don’t give burglars a chance
Burglaries rise by 25 per cent in winter, according to a Garda report from 2014.
The Garda report notes that “the most common points of entry by burglars are front door (29%), rear window (26%), rear door (22%) and that 20% of burglaries take place through an unsecured door or window.”
There are ways to significantly reduce your risk of being broken in to. Eoin Dunne of Eircom PhoneWatch says “In my experience burglary as a crime is opportunistic in its nature. Small steps can deliver a powerful deterrent.”
Fit your front and back doors with a secure Chubb lock and deadlock, and put a cage around your letter box to stop ‘fishing’ of keys. Never leave keys of a door in the lock. Lock your garden shed very securely and lock any bikes inside to each other. Never leave shovels and other garden tools in your garden – they can be used to force entry into doors and windows.
Motion sensor external security lights can also be a deterrent.
3. While you are away
Don’t leave your garden furniture unsecured in your garden. Aside from the fact it might be stolen, it could cause damage being blown around during a storm.
If you are going on holiday before Christmas don’t leave presents under the tree – if they’re still there after the 25th it will be a dead give-away to burglars. Don’t display a calendar in the kitchen that circles the dates when you’re going to be away.
Try and make it look like the house is still occupied. Get a timer for your lights and set them to come on in the evening. Cancel any deliveries and ask a local friend or neighbour to park in your driveway.
Plug out electrical appliances so that if there is a power surge (which is common after an outage) your flat-screen TV or PC won’t get damaged. Just before you leave do a final check of all windows and external doors and make sure they are all locked and the keys are not in the lock. Don’t forget to switch on your alarm!
Then relax and enjoy your trip!