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THE LOCKDOWN LOWDOWN

Leaving home for the summer? If so, here's how to prepare and protect your place so you can enjoy your travels and rest peacefully all summer without worrying that something went wrong at home. Here are some suggestions.

Bring in any outside furniture, especially anything that has cloth on it. The fabric is susceptible to mold, and the constant heat will damage plastic or wood furniture if you leave it outside all summer.

Nonrefrigerated foods should be placed in airtight containers so bugs don't think your house is a free-for-all buffet. Clean out your refrigerator. Condiments and water will survive in the fridge, but not much else will. Empty the ice tray and turn off the automatic icemaker. If you intend to turn the refrigerator off, leave the doors open for circulation. If you intend to leave the refrigerator on, fill it with water bottles because it will use less energy when full than when empty.

Remove combustibles. If you have propane tanks in the garage, get rid of them because they are flammable. Any other combustible chemicals in the garage also should be removed.

Replace the batteries in fire alarms, automatic watering systems and any other battery-operated items, such as thermostats and security systems. Turn the water heater off. Leave all the doors inside the house open for circulation. Unplug any appliances, computers and entertainment units to prevent damage in the event of an electrical storm.

It is wise to close all the drapes so the heat stays out. Hire a trustworthy company to maintain the yard and pool. Houseplants need care, so if you have any, put them outside by the sprinkling system or give them away before you leave.

Be sure to notify the local authorities that you will be leaving for the summer so they can keep an eye on the place. If you have a trustworthy neighbor, you might leave him or her a key in case of an emergency. If you can afford it, hire a company to stop by every couple of weeks to check the premises to be sure all is well inside and out.

Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, is author of "Mystery of Color."

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