Vacation Mode.

August 21, 2013

It’s vacation season, that time of year when you turn your thermostats up to an unlivable temperature, lock your doors and hire the neighbor kid to pick up your mail and newspaper—as you head out for some fun in the sun. Ever worry about what’s going on at the house back home?
In my family, every year we would head to Newport Beach, California, for two weeks with all our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Luckily, we were able to leave our house without too much worry because we had a home automation system and my dad would put the house in “Vacation Mode” which included the following:
  • COMFORT: He’d set our thermostat to a higher temperature to save on the A/C bill, but not so high that our goldfish would get boiled in his bowl.
  • SECURITY: All the doors were locked and the system was set to email or text us if any doors or windows were opened.
  • MOCCUPANCY: Lights and TVs would come on at random times throughout the days and evenings to make it appear as though someone was actually living in our house.

It was great, and gave us all a little peace of mind while we were away. One year however, my dad went overboard with the security.
We had hired a neighbor kid to bring in the newspaper and mail and to feed the goldfish and the rabbit. The goldfish only needed to be fed every few days and the rabbit was in a hutch outside, so it took a couple of days before the neighbor needed to get in the house. She had a key and went to let herself in, the door opened … and she just about jumped out of her skin. An ear-splitting siren started playing over the home audio system and then my dad’s voice came booming out (with the sound of dogs barking in the background), “Stop! I’ve got a gun and I’m calling the police!” She ran home crying, leaving our door wide open, and had her mom call us to “turn the house off.” Needless to say she didn’t want to housesit for us again. 
But when we got home our smart home was safe and sound, and the thermostat was even back to a normal, livable temperature. (We had turned off vacation mode remotely about two hours before we arrived.) Not a bad way to end a vacation, even though it may have been a bad way to end a house-sitting relationship.