Whether you're leaving your vacation home at the end of the season or just leaving your primary residence for a week in the Caribbean, you've undoubtedly wondered: Will your home be secure while you're away?
After all, it's not like you can just jump in your car and drive across town. Sure, it has a security system and motion-sensor lights, but wouldn't it be great if you could use your smartphone to check up on things? And what about security when your college buddy uses the place for a weekend? Sharing your alarm code beyond immediate family is risky but what's the alternative?
Advances in technology have made possible all sorts of smart-home conveniences, including the ability to monitor and control the security system in your vacation home from anywhere. Let's look at some of the possibilities.
Remote Access and Control
The alternative to sharing codes is hiring a custom electronics professional to set up an "access control" system so you can arm and disarm the alarm from your smartphone/tablet or a PC in your home or office. More to the point, you can create unique codes for each guest or renter. This same technology can be applied to keyless-entry systems, which replace the traditional front-door key lock with a keypad lock, and temperature control.
Remote thermostat control is not only convenient but can save money and prevent disaster. "If you mistakenly leave the heat turned up and don't return for a month, you've just wasted $1,000 in energy," observes Robert Gilligan, sales and design consultant for San Francisco-based Engineered Environments. Likewise, you can adjust the thermostat from anywhere to make sure it's low enough to save money during the winter but not so low that the water pipes freeze.
Lights On…and Off
Lighting is another key aspect of vacation home security. "If it looks like somebody is home, the bad guys tend to move along," Gilligan says "With a lighting control system you can put the house in vacation mode and really make it seem like there's activity, as opposed to having one lamp in the living room that turns on every day at 6 o'clock."
Video surveillance provides another layer of security. Imagine having a system of security cameras in and around the vacation home that you can monitor from your smartphone. "You can see what's going on with the property - check snow levels or make sure there's no flooding when a storm rolls in," Gilligan says.
Savvy Sensors and Custom Features
When you think of a security system, the first thing that comes to mind is motion sensors. But there are all sorts of other devices that can be put to use, running the gamut from "asset-protection" sensors for valuable possessions to water sensors that trigger a text alert if water is detected in the basement.
The folks at Engineered Environments have also learned from experience that a "snow button" can be a godsend if there's a gate at the foot of the driveway. "If your vacation home gets hammered with 3 feet of snow and you drive up two days later after you've been plowed in, you're screwed," Gilligan says. "We can set up a snow button that's remotely administered so you can open and close the gate during the storm to clear a path. Life is going to be much easier when you finally make it to your ski cabin."
For more information on how to keep your vacation home safe, consult a professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member electronic systems contractors in your area.