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Smart Home Checklist: Prepare your home for the holidays



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Josh Miller / CNET

The smart home appeal is partly the management and supervision that happens when you are at work or out after night. Your smart home can work just as well for several days or even weeks away, with the right guidance from you. If you hit the road this peak season, we have the tips you need to leave your smart home alone with confidence.

Thermostats

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Set thermostat thresholds to save the most energy when you are away.


Chris Monroe / CNET

If you have a smart thermostat, most types will find that you are gone and offer a way to remotely change the thermostat. After all, that's probably why you bought the thing in the first place. It is a nice benefit when you are out for a few hours or a working day.

For longer periods or for thermostats that include a vacation mode, it is a good idea to check the threshold settings before a longer absence. Sure, you can adjust them remotely, but the whole idea here is to set up and go. So before you go, set the temperature ranges on the thermostat so you can save money while keeping your home safe.

Read our review of the Nest Thermostat E

Thresholds for high and low temperatures save most energy when they are set closer to the outside temperature than you probably prefer when you are at home. But they should still be safe enough for your home.





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Lights & Shades

My parents always left the TV when we were away so people would think we were home. I thought it was a weird game to pretend as a child, but now as a homeowner it makes sense. Lighting is not a failed protection against intruders, but having your lamps or TVs to mimic human activity is a good start. Smart switches and schedules can do just that.

Read our review of Lutron Serena remote controlled shadows

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

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


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

If you have automatic window screens, consider setting them to stay down while you are away. Keeping the lights on can deter crime, but if you leave your shades open, you can make your living room a window for a burglar.

Cameras, door clocks and security systems

Several new smart home security systems hit the market recently. While they do most of the work for you when they are out of the box, it is important to give them a quick status check before you leave. Security settings will vary depending on the products you have. Regardless of brand, it's a good idea to make sure motion sensors, cameras, locks and door bells have fresh or fully charged batteries and notifications properly activated to reach the right emergency contacts.

  ring-video-doorbell-two-4 Chapter19659029 Dollring-video-doorbell-two-4 Chapter19659030 Make sure that your door bells and cameras have a clear view of your front door, unobstructed by debris or decorations.


Chris Monroe / CNET

Read our review of Ring Video Doorbell 2

When it comes to cameras, make sure the lens is free of dirt, cobwebs or decor that can obstruct the view. If you have turned off motion sensitivity or set the camera to ignore motion in certain areas of your home, now is a good time to return these features to maximum alertness. Finally, make sure all notification settings are set to notify appropriate people at the right time.

Environmental Detectors

Delicious, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors offer peace of mind every day, and even more when you are out of town. Making sure all of these have fresh batteries, a solid Wi-Fi connection, updated apps or firmware and accurate notifications are worth a few minutes of your time before you go.

Read our review of Nest Protect (second generation)

  halo-photos-3 12719659038 1988 detectors and sensors are running and ready to notify you in the event of an incident.


Chris Monroe / CNET

If your detectors are not connected to a live monitoring service, it is even more important to have a message sent to the right mobile device. This way you can ask a friend or neighbor to check out any suspicious warnings.

Robot vacuum and other small appliances

There are several robot vacuum cleaners out there with some version of a scheduling option. If it's a feature you use frequently, you can turn it off while you're away. If no one is home to move, the vacuum does not need to be run. In addition, if you have improved the sensitivity of the motion detector part of your security system (as I suggested), a robotic vacuum can trigger false alarms.

  robot-vac-promo-photos-4 Chapter19659045strongrobot-vac-promo-photos-4 Chapter19659046 ?? Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Read our first impressions of the iRobot Roomba S9 +

You save battery time and wear on your vacuum by making sure it doesn't run when it doesn't need to. The same goes for other small appliances that can run according to a smart schedule or with smart switches. Run through your list of managed devices to make sure everything is on or off.

Add a human element

Yes, smart homes are cool. They can do a lot for you daily, and they keep you connected to your home when you are thousands of miles away. Still, smart homes are not perfect, and it's a good idea that one or two very trusted (and tech savvy) people keep an eye on things.

Whether it shares a camera stream, security code or Bluetooth key, knowing that someone can physically check your house if something looked suspicious helps you to travel happier.


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