15 Essential Summer Vacation Home Safety Tips

Follow these summer home safety tips to have a relaxing vacation and get your home prepared for the lonely winter season.
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Photo: istockphoto.com Joe Hendrickson

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What You Need to Know

  • Upon arriving at a summer home, owners will want to check the locks, perform any necessary maintenance or repairs, turn on the water and appliances, check mouse traps, adjust the thermostat, and give the home a thorough cleaning.
  • During the summer months, homeowners will want to ensure their fire extinguishers and first-aid kits are stocked, check their pool safety features, and practice fire safety.
  • Once summer is over, homeowners will want to turn off the water, lower the thermostat temperature, lock the doors and windows, set their home security system, and take care of landscaping. They can also ask a neighbor to keep an eye on the home over the winter months.

Having a summer vacation home is an incredible privilege, but it also comes with plenty of added responsibilities. Not only is it important to open your summer home properly to ensure all its systems are working as intended, but you’ll also need to carry out a series of steps to close it at the end of the warm months and get it prepped for the cold winter ahead. 

Aside from opening and closing the home, you’ll want to ensure it’s stocked with safety essentials should you or a family member encounter an emergency. Checking and installing security gear is also important, as it can help prevent a break-in from happening while the home sits unoccupied during the offseason.

It can take a while to develop a routine for your summer home, but if you need help getting into a good habit, here are the best summer home safety tips to get you started.

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Photo: istockphoto.com Irina Gutyryak

Top Safety Tips for Opening Your Summer Home

The first visit of the year to a summer home is often the most stressful, as owners will need to undo all the preparations that got the house through the cold winter months. However, vacation- home owners can follow these easy tips for the summer to make the transition as smooth as possible until they develop their own home safety checklist for their specific property.

1. Check all window and door locks to ensure they’re functioning properly.

Checking window and door locks is one of the most important summer safety tips to follow when opening a summer home. Doing this immediately after setting foot in the home will ensure the property is safe and secure for the rest of the season. If a door or window won’t lock, owners will want to have it repaired as soon as possible. 

For broken door locks, homeowners will want to consider upgrading to one of the best smart locks, as these let users check in on its status remotely. This gives homeowners added peace of mind that the summer home is secure all year long. Those who are unsure about what a smart lock is will first want to learn more about these unique products before installing them in their homes. Smart locks offer a wealth of functionality, but unless users understand how they work, they could become a nuisance.

Assessing the status of locks can also let owners know if there’s been a possible break-in over the past few months. If a forced or broken lock is observed, homeowners may want to contact the authorities before checking the rest of the home.

2. Perform an audit of the home to identify any maintenance issues that need immediate attention.

Once the locks have been checked, the homeowner will want to move on to the rest of the home and look for anything that needs to be repaired. Depending on the location of the summer home, it may have taken a beating during the rough winter. This is especially true for cabins in the mountains or homes located along a coastline. 

Maintenance issues to keep a lookout for include leaky roofing, decks or patios in disrepair, broken electrical outlets, and debris around the perimeter of the home. Homeowners will want to keep an eye out for smaller maintenance tasks (such as dead light bulbs or misplaced tool kits), as these are just as important.

3. Turn on the water, water heater, refrigerator, and other appliances.

Unless the summer home is a rustic, off-grid cabin, there’s a good chance owners will need to turn on a variety of systems and supply lines. This typically includes water lines, a water heater, a refrigerator, and other appliances such as washers and dryers. Each property will have its own specific method for activating utilities and appliances, though it’s usually beneficial to have at least two people present for this task, especially when dealing with water. One person can slowly open the valve to get water flowing to the property, while the other can examine the line for any leaks.

The same goes for activating a water heater, as leaks may appear several minutes after the system is turned on. Users would be wise to linger around the home for an hour or so after turning on the water heater to ensure no leaks spring up in their absence.

4. Check mouse traps or other pest traps and empty them if necessary.

Nothing is more attractive to animals in the winter than a warm, empty home. It’s not uncommon to find pests in a summer home upon the first visit of the season, so owners will want to take the time to check any mouse traps or other traps lying in (or around) the home. It may also be worth looking into natural pest solutions for the property, such as planting certain flowers or attracting insect-eating birds to help keep things under control. 

The severity of the pest situation depends on location and how well the home was prepped for the winter. Homeowners can also contact one of the best pest control companies (such as Orkin or Terminix) to help eliminate any pest infestations in the home.

5. Adjust the thermostat to the ideal temperature and change the HVAC filters.

There’s no reason to keep the HVAC system running at full blast over the winter. But that means the home may not be at the ideal temperature when the owners return for the summer season. Homeowners will want to set the thermostat to their ideal temperature and replace the furnace filter upon arriving at their vacation home. 

Homeowners may also want to consider purchasing one of the best smart thermostats, as these devices make it easy for users to control the temperature remotely. Not only is a smart thermostat convenient, but it lets users adjust the thermostat should they forget to do so before leaving for the day. Many smart thermostats can also learn about a user’s temperature preferences. This lets it automatically regulate its settings throughout the day to keep the home comfortable while also saving homeowners money.

6. Thoroughly clean and dust the home.

A summer home that hasn’t been touched in months is bound to be dirty, so homeowners will want to prioritize a thorough cleaning when they arrive. Along with vacuuming and mopping the floors, they’ll want to tackle tasks such as cleaning windows, checking gutters, cleaning the fridge, checking the attic or crawl spaces, and clearing any debris that may have appeared on the property throughout the winter. In short, a full cleaning and inspection of the home is warranted, and it will help make the rest of the summer more enjoyable. 

To guide the process, homeowners will want to learn how to deep clean a home properly. Alternatively, homeowners may want to hire one of the best cleaning services, such as The Maids or Merry Maids, to do the dirty work for them.

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Staying Safe While Using Your Summer Home

Opening a summer home is just the first part of enjoying the sunny season. It’s also advisable to follow some basic guidelines to improve safety at home while visiting the property. From stocking up on medical gear to being aware of fire hazards, here are some basic summer safety tips for your home to prevent you from making mistakes while on vacation.

1. Stock safety essentials, including a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit, in an easy-to-reach place.

Every home needs at least one fire extinguisher and first aid kit, and a summer home is no exception. However, it’s easy to forget about them if they’re stashed away in a hard-to-reach location. Instead of tucking these essentials out of sight, homeowners will want to consider keeping the fire extinguisher in the laundry room for easy access and the first aid kit in the kitchen. Not only will this make it easy to use the products in an emergency, but it’ll be a reminder for the homeowner to check to see if anything needs to be replaced. Most fire extinguishers and first aid kits can go years without any maintenance, so homeowners will want to keep tabs on them to ensure they’re ready when needed.

2. If you have a backyard pool, make sure you have a fence with a locking gate and a pool alarm to let you know if a pet or child enters the pool unattended.

Pools are arguably the best part of summer, offering folks an easy way to stay cool during scorching heat waves. Despite their appeal, pools can be incredibly dangerous, especially for small children and pets. If the summer home happens to have a private pool, homeowners will want to consider installing a fence with a locking gate to keep people (and pets) from wandering in. Homeowners can also install one of the best pool alarms to get alerts whenever anyone (or anything) enters the water. Pool alarms come in a variety of styles, but most are tamper-resistant and trigger a siren when an unauthorized entry is made.

Pool safety is a common summer safety topic. Any homeowner who needs help securing their pool can reach out to a local expert for a wealth of personalized advice. It’s also advisable to enroll any children in swim classes, as most instructors offer lessons on summer safety for kids, ensuring children know how to behave around (and in) a pool.

Keep fire pits and grills at least 10 feet from any flammable materials and keep animals and children at least 3 feet from the fire.

Even though temperatures are much warmer during the summer, some locations can still get chilly at night. Fire pits are common sights at summer vacation homes, as they give residents a way to stay outside and unwind after summer’s hot weather turns into a crisp evening under the stars. When using a fire pit, homeowners will want to ensure they follow all local regulations to prevent wildfires. It’s also important to always keep both fire pits and grills at least 10 feet away from flammables to prevent embers from drifting onto them. If kids are on the property, it’s important to keep them at least 3 feet away from fire at all times to stop them from accidentally touching the open fire and to prevent them from getting too warm. Summer heat safety tips apply to both the warmth of the sun and the warmth of a campfire, so adults will want to monitor young children and ensure they’re staying hydrated and aren’t spending too much time in the heat.

How to Close Your Summer Home Safely and Keep It Secure for Next Year

As the summer comes to a close, homeowners will want to start preparing their summer vacation home for the cold months ahead. Doing so isn’t too difficult, but there are a multitude of tasks to carry out, including turning off the water, locking doors and windows, and prepping any security devices. Figuring out how to close a summer home will vary from property to property, but the following home security tips are a great place to start.

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1. Turn off the water and lower the thermostat temperature to keep bills low—but not so low that the pipes will freeze over the winter.

Turning off the water supply to a summer vacation home can help prevent leaks while the owners are away from the property. Additionally, homeowners will want to lower the thermostat—but not so low that the water lines are at risk of freezing. Owners can also open cabinet doors underneath sinks to expose them to warmer air, mitigating the risk of frozen water lines.

2. Lock all doors and windows, and consider switching out your door locks for smart locks for additional security.

Locking all doors and windows is an obvious thing to do before leaving a summer home, but it’s an easy step to forget. This is especially true for large homes. Windows located in the basement or on the second floor of a home are often neglected, so homeowners will want to double-check these entryways before leaving. This is another good time for homeowners to consider upgrading door locks to smart locks, as they give remote access to the property and help homeowners ensure it’s safe even if no one is around.

3. If you don’t already have one, install a home security system to monitor your vacation home.

Home security systems are worth it for most homes, but they’re especially valuable for summer vacation homes. A properly installed security system can dissuade intruders from breaking into a vacant building, allowing owners to have peace of mind even if they’re hundreds of miles away. Many of the best home security systems (such as one from Vivint or ADT) offer professional monitoring, which allows a dispatch team to respond to alerts around the clock and contact the authorities as needed. 

Security systems are highly customizable, allowing shoppers to find the right variety of entry sensors, motion detectors, and other devices to protect their summer home. For an affordable alternative, shoppers may want to consider purchasing one of the best DIY security systems. However, homeowners will want to keep in mind that a DIY security system is usually installed by the owner without help from a professional, so it may not be a good fit for everyone.

4. Install motion-activated lights and security cameras outside the home if they’re not already present.

Many security systems include motion-activated lights and security cameras, but shoppers who aren’t interested in buying an entire security system can instead add them to their home separately. Motion-activated lights are a powerful deterrent; they’ll automatically turn on when an intruder walks into range, giving the impression that someone is actively watching. Security cameras are just as important, as they’ll record any motion on the property. This footage can then be shown to the authorities as needed. Since users can remotely tune into feeds to see exactly what’s happening at all times of day, security cameras can offer reassurance that nobody is walking around the vacation home. 

The best outdoor motion sensor lights make it easy to keep a home illuminated at night, with some models serving as floodlights that can also record motion. Others are basic lights that simply activate when nearby movement is detected and turn off after a set interval of time. Shoppers who pick up a motion sensor light that doesn’t record footage can pair it with one of the best outdoor security cameras for better protection.

Owners who keep valuables in their vacation homes may also want to invest in one of the best home safes to store their items to better protect them from burglars.

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5. Trim shrubbery around the home to remove any potential hiding places for intruders.

Plenty of landscaping maintenance probably happened while opening up the vacation home (after all, it’s likely sat vacant for months), and the same will happen when closing the property for the winter. This time, it’s crucial to look for spots that may allow intruders to hide from cameras, neighbors, or other visitors. That means trimming shrubs to a smaller size than usual, clearing any branches that block the view of security cameras, and clearing anything else littering the yard that provides shelter to strangers. Homeowners may want to consider planting roses or other thorny vegetation near windows to prevent burglars from gaining easy access.

6. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your summer home when you’re not using it.

There are plenty of things summer homeowners can do to prepare the space for the winter, but arguably the most important is to politely ask the neighbors to keep an eye out for strange activity. Having someone nearby to help in the event of a break-in or natural disaster is often the best line of defense, though it may not be an option for everyone. Properties in remote locations likely won’t have neighbors close enough to keep tabs on the land, but condos or single-family homes in a subdivision can easily be monitored by a trusted neighbor.