Also, Towns says, "Turn off the volume on your home phone, so the ringing won't signal an opportunity to passersby - and don't change your voicemail to say you're out of town."
Warm temperatures indoors can cause mold and mildew to grow in just the few days you might be gone. "Set the air conditioner to 82 degrees, and your house will stay cool enough to prevent both," says Craig Muccio, of Florida Power & Light Co.
Ask a neighbor to check on your house every other day and to bring in any unexpected deliveries such as phone books, circulars and FedEx notices. Make sure the neighbor has a key to your house.
I have my mail delivery interrupted starting the day before I leave for vacation. Thanks to online bill-paying, I'm down to credit card offers and circulars, which I'll recycle.
Flag care. A salute to my friend Emmet Pierce, who writes for SpareFoot.com, for these timely holiday-weekend tips:
The flag never should be used as a drapery or as a decoration.
It should not bear any drawing, mark, insignia, word, number or figure.
The flag should not touch the ground.
If you decide to put your flag in a self-storage unit, choose one with air conditioning and humidity control. Regardless of materials, flags do best at 55 percent to 75 percent relative humidity.
Never throw away a U.S. flag. The flag should be destroyed by burning it in a dignified manner. Contact an American Legion, VFW or Boy Scout chapter for details about flag-retirement ceremonies.
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