For many of us, our spring cleaning rituals are well underway. And although clearing away the clutter, shaking dust from rugs, wiping down woodwork and dusting off outdoor furniture can bring much satisfaction, there are other tasks you should be adding to your to-do list. They don’t just make your home look better — they make your home more secure.
To protect a home from intruders, fire or floods, Art Miller, vice president of marketing at Vector Security, advises his clients to pay as much attention to the outside of their house as the inside. Here are some of his top tips and a few of my own — garnered from years as a homeowner — to make your home safer and more secure.
Your outdoor checklist
• Make sure your home address numbers are properly positioned or painted on your mailbox, front door or another visible spot. This ensures that first responders can easily find your house in the case of an emergency.
• If you have a security system, Miller says, clearly display the company’s sign in your yard. “Keeping your yard sign clean and free from debris will be a clear indicator that you have a security system installed in your home,” Miller says. If you don’t have a yard, place the company’s logo sticker on a visible window. If you have access to an alarm company sign without paying for a service, the sign can still be a deterrent, he says. “However,” Miller cautions, “it will give one a false sense of protection. True security is a monitored system with first-responder response in the event a fire or intrusion occurs.”
• Maintain your home’s landscaping by trimming back bushes and shrubbery, allowing you to see out all windows and eliminate potential spots for intruders to hide.
• Clear drains and gutters of leaves and debris to prevent flooding.
• Inspect and repair damaged fences or other outside boundaries.
• Check outside lighting around your house and replace bulbs and batteries that aren’t working.
• If you have outdoor security cameras, make sure they haven’t been damaged by snow or harsh winter weather. Check that cameras are plugged in and that the lenses are looking at what you want them to look at. Clean lenses with a microfiber cloth and tighten camera mounts. As summer approaches, you may want to protect your cameras from spider webs and insects that can obscure the view. Miller suggests a couple of clever ways to do this: Attach a dryer sheet to the outside of your camera with a rubber band (just make sure not to cover the lens); the strong smell will keep bugs away. You can also loop a flea collar around the camera.
Your indoor checklist
• Check that security sensors, motion detectors, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are free of dust and cobwebs by wiping them with a microfiber cloth. A clean device is a better-working device, Miller says. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries if necessary. And it’s a good idea to make sure everyone in your home knows what the detectors sound like in case of an emergency. Keep in mind that detectors don’t last forever; most have a life span that ranges from five to seven years, so check expiration dates on the device or consult the device’s manual.
• If you have an alarm system, use the change in seasons to change your access code and remove passcodes you’ve given out to contractors, cleaning people, babysitters or guests who no longer need access to your home. Test your security systems regularly to ensure they are functioning properly and communicating with the central station. Miller recommends a weekly or monthly test. “It’s not a difficult or time-consuming process,” he says, “and it will give you peace of mind.”
• To protect your home from a carbon monoxide leak, have your heating system, water heater and other fuel-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician once a year.
• Miller says flooding is the single largest source of loss for homeowners, so he urges everyone to install water leak sensors in flood-prone areas. The sensors will detect accumulation of water caused by cracked or broken water pipes, loose pipe connections, inadequate drainage, or flooding. Some sensors connect to larger security systems, some work alone, emitting a loud siren, and some connect to an app on your phone.
• Move boxes or other items at least 30 inches away from your furnace and hot water tanks; crowding either could lead to a fire.
• Remove ash from your wood-burning fireplaces and clean the grates. Schedule a chimney cleaner to inspect the flues once a year.
• Check window and door locks. If any seem loose or faulty, tighten or replace them.
• If cleaning your windows isn’t already part of your spring cleaning routine, add it. Clean windows will make your home brighter and improve the visibility of your surroundings.
Elizabeth Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”