Smart home holiday vacation checklist: Prep your house to be home alone


The appeal of the smart home is, in part, the management and monitoring that can happen while you’re out running errands or at work. Your smart home can perform just as well if you’re gone for days or even weeks, with the right setup.

If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, we have the tips you need to leave your smart home home alone with confidence. 

Read more: The best travel gifts | Best DIY home security systems to buy in 2021

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The new Amazon Smart Thermostat is currently our top pick for smart home climate control. 


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Thermostats

If you have a smart thermostat, most types will detect that you’re away and offer a way to change the thermostat remotely. After all, that’s probably why you bought the thing in the first place. It’s a nice perk when you’re out for a few hours or a workday.

For longer periods of time or for thermostats that include a vacation mode, it’s a good idea to check the threshold settings before an extended absence. These temperatures are the minimum and maximum your system will allow before it kicks in. To save energy, set them to a bit colder and warmer than you would if you were home.

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Sure, you can adjust the temperature remotely, but the whole idea here is to set it and go. So before you leave, set the temperature ranges on your thermostat so you can save money while keeping your home safe. 

Read more: Amazon Smart Thermostat review: A steal at $60

High and low temperature thresholds save the most energy when they are set closer to the outside temperature than you would probably prefer when at home. However, they should still be safe enough for your home. 

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


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Lights and shades

My parents always left the TV on when we were away so people would think we were home. I thought it was a weird game of pretend as a kid, but now as a homeowner it makes sense. Lighting isn’t a fail-safe protection against intruders, but having your lights or TV set to mimic human activity is a good start. Smart switches and schedules can do just that.

Read more: Our review of the Lutron Serena Remote Controlled Shades

A good rule of thumb is that outdoor lights should be on at night and off during the day, while indoor lights should go on and off in different rooms. If you have smart switches, consider creating a schedule based on time of day that replicates what you’d typically do while home. You can also set smart light bulbs to power on and off intermittently. 

If you have automated window shades, consider setting them to stay down while you’re away. Keeping lights on might deter crime, but leaving your shades open could turn your living room into a window display for a burglar.

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The Ring Alarm Pro is our top pick for DIY smart home security. 


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Cameras, doorbells and security systems

You have plenty of choices when it comes to both DIY smart home security systems and professionally monitored ones. While they do most of the work for you once they’re out of the box, it’s important to give them a quick status check before you leave. Security settings will differ depending on what products you have.

Regardless of brand, it’s a good idea to make sure all the integrated motion sensors, cameras, locks and doorbells have fresh or fully charged batteries and notifications correctly enabled to reach the right emergency contacts. 

Read more: Our review of the Ring Video Doorbell 4

When it comes to cameras and smart doorbells, be sure the lens is free of dirt, cobwebs or decor that might obstruct the view. If you’ve turned down motion sensitivity or set your camera to ignore motion in some areas around your home, now is a good time to put those features back to maximum vigilance. Finally, ensure all notification settings are set to notify the appropriate people at the appropriate times.

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Be sure detectors and sensors are powered up and ready to notify you in case of an incident. 


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Environment detectors

Leak, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors offer peace of mind every day, and even more so when you’re out of town. Making sure all of these have fresh batteries, a solid Wi-Fi connection, updated apps or firmware and correct notification settings is worth a few minutes of your time before you hit the road. 

Read more: Smoke detector placement guide: Where and how to install sensors

If your detectors aren’t connected to a live monitoring service, it’s even more important to get a notification sent to the right mobile device. That way, you can ask a friend or neighbor to check out any suspicious alerts.  

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The iRobot Roomba S9 is our favorite robot helper.


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Robot vacuums and other small appliances

There are several robot vacuum cleaners out there with some version of a scheduling option. If that’s a feature you use often, turn it off while you’re away. If no one’s home to make messes, the vacuum doesn’t need to run. Plus, if you’ve enhanced the sensitivity of the motion detector portion of your security system, a robot vacuum could trigger false alarms.

Read more: Our review of the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus vs. Neato Botvac D7 Connected

You’ll save battery life and wear and tear on your vacuum by making sure it isn’t running when it doesn’t need to. The same goes for other small appliances that might run on a smart schedule or with smart switches. Run through your list of managed devices to be sure everything is on or off accordingly. 

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The human element

Yes, smart homes are cool. They can do a lot for you on a daily basis, and they keep you connected to home when you’re hundreds of miles away. Still, smart homes aren’t perfect, and it’s a good idea to have one or two very trusted (and tech-savvy) humans keeping an eye on things.

Whether it’s sharing a camera feed, security code or plain ol’ house key, knowing someone could physically check on your home if anything looked suspicious will help you travel happier.



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Early prep, correct gear and staying informed are key for smooth travel this winter


 OLYMPIA – With winter just around the corner, now is the best time to make plans and prepare for winter driving.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to get themselves and their vehicles ready for winter weather well before they head out. Drivers can visit WSDOT’s winter driving web page for tips and information. WSDOT also asks travelers to always “know before you go” and get the most up-to-date transportation information both while planning trips and during travel.

“Our crews work hard to keep roads clear, but we also need the public’s help to keep traffic moving during winter weather,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to preventable spin outs or crashes with vehicles going too fast or not having proper winter equipment.

“This winter, being prepared and staying informed will be even more important because staffing shortages will affect our ability to clear roadways and passes as quickly as in years past,” Morin added.

WSDOT crews are already planning for winter storms, but ongoing staffing challenges mean that some areas may not see the traditional 24-hour service, some roadways will not be plowed as often, and compact snow and ice will remain on roadways longer than a typical winter. This will be especially true during large or long-lasting storms. WSDOT determines its storm response based on safety, available resources and pre-set priority plow maps for highest volume and/or critical roadways. Travelers should be sure to check conditions before and during travel and always have proper winter weather supplies before heading out.

To check conditions and prepare for winter weather:

Alternatives to chains
Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, the state’s traction device laws still apply to all vehicles. These requirements exist to help keep all traffic moving safely during extreme winter conditions.

The Washington State Patrol provides an online list of state-approved alternative traction devices on its vehicle equipment webpage under “traction tires.” These approved alternatives meet state traction tire requirements and can be used instead of chains when chains are required. Not every alternative on the market has been approved by WSP, so please check the website before making purchases. All travelers are reminded to prepare for changing weather conditions and avoid a costly ticket by carrying chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes. Failure to obey a tire chains sign can mean a ticket of up to $500. Special chain enforcement patrols will be keeping an eye on mountain passes this winter.

Studded tires
By law, studded tires are only legal for use in Washington state from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist to allow for earlier use of studded tires.

WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned roadways (asphalt and concrete roadway damage combined) each year. WSDOT encourages motorists to visit a tire dealer to learn more about their winter tire options, including stud-free, winter tread traction tires. This type of tire is different than an all-season tire, is legal year-round and does not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires. More information about studded-tire restrictions and requirements can be found in the FAQ on the WSP website.



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Thursday (March 4) Quincy Notre Dame Raiders Continue Preparing For Their Season Opener On The Prep Soccer Pitch Against Macomb And Western Illinois Basketball Standout Will Carius Honored Today By The Summit League


It’s been a busy week on the turf at Quincy Notre Dame. The Raiders soccer team, under the watchful eye of longtime head coach Greg Reis, are gearing up for their 2021 season opener on the pitch. That contest is coming up next Tuesday in Macomb. That’s where the “Blue and Gold” will face the Bombers to open their 15 game spring schedule that was brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. . We’ll check in with Coach Reis and standout forward Seth Anderson and get their thoughts on being back together again at 10th and Jackson.

The Suns of Southeastern will return to action on the prep hardwood tonight. Danny Stephens and his teammates are set to travel to Warsaw to tip-off against the Titans of West Hancock. We’ll also take a look at some of the other prep games on the schedule in the “Land Of Lincoln” that we’ll be watching very closely this evening.

Western Illinois University’s Will Carius is certainly one Leatherneck who has shown he understands how to score the basketball on the college hardwood. For his sensational exploits this season, the Iowa native was honored today by the Summit League in a very special way. We’ll have an update from Macomb.

Iowa All-American center Luka Garza is also back in the national spotlight. The reining Big Ten Player Of The Year is still in the running for one of the top awards in the country for college basketball players. We’ll have the latest from Iowa City. That’s where the 5th-ranked Hawkeyes are preparing to face Nebraska later tonight. We’ll have details on what’s coming up at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena.



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PREP SPORTS ROUNDUP: LaRue girls win, Central girls fall Saturday | High School Sports


Central Hardin girls’ basketball dropped to 1-2 on the season Saturday at George Rogers Clark High School. Taking on Bishop Brossart as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic, the Lady Bruins fell to the Lady ‘Stangs 59-22. No statistics on the game were made available.

Central Hardin returns home Monday for a district game against North Hardin. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

LARUE COUNTY 57, CHRISTIAN EDUCATIONAL CONSORTIUM 32. The Lady Hawks picked up their third win of the season at home over the visiting Christian Educational Consortium home school team. No statistics on the game were made available.

LaRue County (3-1) hosts Bethlehem Monday with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m.

JOHN HARDIN 71, BULLITT EAST 52. The Bulldogs improved their season start to 3-0 Saturday on the road against the Chargers.

Jalen Tyus led the team in scoring with 22 points, just ahead of Devon Rogers at 21. Anthony Bowen brought in 10 points. Darius Williams and AJ Doctor each had seven points. JaKarius Barnes added four points.

John Hardin travels to Central Hardin Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. 17th District matchup.

LARUE BEATS GREAT CROSSING, CENTRAL HARDIN. The Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 start on the season Saturday with wins over the Warhawks and the Bruins.

LaRue County came out with a 62-15 victory over Great Crossing and followed this with a 54-21 win over Central Hardin.

Senior grappler Thomas Hoppes also picked up his 200th career win.

The Hawks travel to Nelson County Wednesday to take on both the Cardinals and Spencer County. Central Hardin also returns to the mat Wednesday to host Meade County.

E’TOWN 79, MARION COUNTY 39. The Panthers improved to 3-1 on the season with a dominant 40-point road win over the Knights.

Jaquais Franklin led the team in scoring with 22 points. Khia Sherrard followed with 17 points. Alandre Murphy picked up 14 points, just ahead of Kam Sherrard at 13. Camden Williams brought in eight points, with Jacob Moberly adding five.

Khia Sherrard led Elizabethtown in rebounding with 10 of the team’s 31.

Elizabethtown travels to North Hardin Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Trojans.

MEADE COUNTY 62, SCOTT COUNTY 53. The Green Wave moved up to 2-0 with a road victory over the Cardinals. No statistics on the game were made available.

Meade County returns home Tuesday for an 8 p.m. contest against Trinity Whitesville.

ELIZABETHTOWN 68, MERCY 57. The Lady Panthers kept their undefeated start in check Friday with a win over the Jaguars.

It was another big night for Leah Macy, who led the team in scoring and rebounding with 27 points and 22 rebounds, respectively. Macy was also 10-10 from the free throw line.

Kayra Freeman followed in scoring with 21 points. Presley Payne and Brooklyn Cann each added eight points. Kiarah Dornan brought in four points.

Elizabethtown (6-0) travels to Cecilia Friday to take on Central Hardin. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

JOHN HARDIN 58, THOMAS NELSON 46. The Lady Bulldogs picked up their first win of the season over the visiting Lady Generals.

Quiona Clay led the way for John Hardin with 17 points. Sharon Tidwell followed with 14 points. Destini McCallister brought in 10 points. Reana Butler added eight points, just ahead of Jayden Young’s seven. Kristeen Kettlehake scored two points.

Tidwell was the team’s top rebounder, with 10 of the Lady Bulldogs’ 27.

John Hardin (1-1) returns to action Tuesday with a 7:30 p.m. home matchup against Bullitt East.

MEADE COUNTY 61, HANCOCK COUNTY 58. The Lady Waves held on to win their first game of the season over the visiting Lady Hornets. No statistics on the game were made available.

Meade County (1-2) stays at home Tuesday to take on Mercy Academy. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.



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