One of the most valuable tools in safe-guarding your summer cottage/cabin during the off-season is an inexpensive security camera system that will allow you to see what's happening at your summer home from any internet enabled computer. Guardian Vision is one such camera system that is offered exclusively by Guardian Alarm. For more information visit http://www.guardianalarm.com/residential/residential_video_systems.asp.
See below for other helpful tips in safe-guarding your summer getaway.
Closing the Cottage
It's sad, but it's sadder to come back to a wreckBy MARTA HEPLER DRAHOSmdrahos@record-eagle.com
Nancy and Jeff Forrest have been coming to their Lime Lake cottage for 25 years, ever since they fell in love with its simple charm.
The gray-shingled, white-trimmed bungalow is a former fishing camp with just one bathroom. No phone and no cable TV. But there's no place the retired Portage couple would rather be -- at least until late October or early November, when they shutter it for the winter.
"When you take the dock out, it's like, 'We're closing,' said Nancy Forrest, who often spends time at the hideaway with her sister, who's married to Jeff's brother. "It's kind of sad. When the leaves fall, it's the end of the season."
Closing the cottage is an autumn ritual for many in northern Michigan, and one that can produce as much anxiety as loss. For some, it signals an end to a carefree summer and a return to a life of obligation. For others it means the stress of packing up and protecting an empty cottage from weather damage or break-ins.
Lucky cottage owners can hire a professional caretaker to close the cottage and check on it periodically, or can install video surveillance cameras and alarm systems to alert police to trouble.
But if you have to secure your home-away-from-home the old-fashioned way, here are some tips that can help.
-- Turn the heat down, but leave it on so the pipes don't freeze.
-- Invest in a freeze alarm that alerts you by phone when the temperature goes below 45 degrees or if the power goes out.
-- Give your neighbor a spare key and your phone number or hide a key in a safe place in case of emergency.
-- Cap chimneys and tighten vents to discourage animals from getting in.
"We've seen devastation with animals," said Glenn Heiney, of Heiney Maintenance, which provides cottage opening and closing services and security checks in Leelanau County. "We don't really worry about people breaking in, in our area. It's the animals that can cause damage."
-- Leave the doors to all rooms closed in case a bird or other animal crashes through a window or doorwall.
"If we can contain the damage to one room, it's a lot better," Heiney said.
-- Unplug everything that doesn't need to be plugged in, including the stove and refrigerator.
-- Remove all food from the freezer and refrigerator and prop open both doors to keep mildew from forming.
"I've had people leave bread and cheese, and come spring, it's a nightmare," said Steve Bentley of Up North Home Care in Traverse City, which offers cottage care and "cottage watch" services along with remodeling and renovations and glass restoration and replacement.
-- Make the cottage look lived-in by arranging for regular yard care including mowing, trimming and snow removal.
-- Set a few indoor lights on an automatic timer to go on and off at different times. Check outdoor lights to make sure they're working and program them to come on with light- or motion-sensitive switches.
-- Stop mail and newspaper delivery or ask a friend or neighbor to pick it up.
-- Attempt to drain appliances and water lines without professional help unless you know what you're doing. Even a little thing like an ice-maker can cause big damage if it doesn't get proper attention, Bentley said.
"If your house hasn't been winterized, even a handy homeowner shouldn't attempt to try it," Bentley added. "No matter how diligent you are, it's hard to do it right. It's not a good feeling to come back to your cottage and turn on your water and find out there's a leak."
-- Use poison to kill mice that can get in and out of your cottage.
"Other animals can eat the mice and die from the poison," Bentley said.
-- Hide your spare key in obvious places near the front entrance like under a doormat or rock, in a flowerpot or above a door ledge.
-- Post your surname on your mailbox or cottage. A burglar can use directory assistance to get your telephone number then call to find out if you're home.
-- Leave outgoing telephone messages that could tip off a burglar that you're not home.