Home Security has come a long way in the last few years. It is no longer a luxury only the upper class can afford or even need. Everyday individuals of all backgrounds and living situations become victims of a break-in. In fact, according to US government agencies:
There are over 4,500 home burglaries EVERY DAY in the US alone!
The time is now for everyone, and that includes you, to take your home security seriously. We know the entire idea can be overwhelming. We also know that ignoring it can have disastrous results.
We’re here to help. We’ve designed this guide to help you understand what home security involves on several levels, both in and around your home. We will provide you with the must-haves that every home needs to increase their security, protect your property, and most of all, your loved ones.
What is Home Security?
Home security is much more than a keypad on the wall that you punch a code into every time you leave or return home. It is also much more involved than just getting a big loud dog. Home security involves the many steps you take to ensure that every entrance in and out of your home is secure. For some individuals, they require home security that helps protect them from accidents as well as intruders.
Home Security also means being aware, of your home, the surrounding neighborhood, and recognizing potential threats from individuals and environmental conditions.
Who Should Worry About Home Security?
The easy answer is that everyone should worry about home security to some degree. However, there are some situations that may make a home or property more susceptible to damage or invasion. These include:
- Empty Homes – Homes that are empty for long periods of time, such as when you are at work, are at a higher risk. This is especially true if you and your family have set schedules and come and go at regular times.
- Homes in Residential Areas – Residential areas are prime targets for intruders. They are often outside the city proper and further from police and fire stations. It is also easier for an intruder to blend in as they are watching a home.
- Elderly Residents – Elderly residents are at an increased risk since it is assumed, they do not pose a threat themselves. They are also often in possession of priceless and sentimental property that thieves hope to sell.
- New Construction – The last type of dwelling that should be especially concerned is newly constructed homes. Would-be thieves see dollar signs when it comes to new homes. The idea that if you can afford to build a home, leads to, you have nice things they can steal.
Types of Home Security Systems
Now that we have likely made you paranoid, we’ll dig into the different types of home security systems.
Wired vs. Wireless
Home security systems and devices come in all shapes, sizes, and several other options. However, all home security systems are either wired or wireless. As technology advances, more and more homes are moving to wireless home security options.
Although there are still some advantages to a hardwired system. Unfortunately, most homes are not automatically built with security systems or even the necessary wired connections to add it later.
Professional Home Security Systems
Professional Home Security Systems are often the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when you discuss home security. Visions of scenes from movies where a keypad alarm allows an intruder to gain access or the unending commercial ads for professional services that scare you into buying their services.
These days there are several options that bypass the forceful salesperson. There are even several profession home security systems that can be purchased through third-party retailers and installed yourself. These offer the professional-grade devices but often save you a bit of money on installation fees.
Both professionally installed and DIY installed professional systems can usually utilize the same professional monitoring services.
DIY Home Security Systems
The growing trend in home security is DIY security systems. These systems are designed and installed by you. There are endless choices for customization with a DIY system and you can even enlist professional 24/7 monitoring with many of them if you choose.
In addition to customization options, DIY home security can even be achieved using devices from several manufacturers, as long as they are compatible or can be controlled by you in some way. The only caution is, if you choose to add profession monitoring to your own system, they may not be able to successfully monitor your entire system.
Primary Home Security Devices
When it comes to home security devices, there are some bare-bones devices that we consider as must-haves for any home security system. While you may choose to add other devices or increase the number of a type of device to meet your needs, these are the foundation pieces.
Must-Have Home Security Devices
- Smart Hub/Control Panel – No matter how many devices you add to your home security system, you are going to need some way of monitoring and controlling the system. Smart home security devices often need a Smart Hub to communicate with them. While other systems can be controlled using a central control panel. The bare minimum is to use home security devices that can be monitored by a smartphone.
- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors – This is a selection of devices that we contend should be in every home, even those without additional security. These detectors prevent so many unnecessary injuries and deaths each and every year.
- Motion Detection – Basic home security can be had with the use of one or more devices that utilize motion detection. These can include exterior sensors, motion-activated lights, and even indoor sensors that can detect movement when and where there should be none.
- Locks – This may seem obvious, but you may be surprised to know that people either do not have adequate locks on their doors and windows or worse, do not use them.
Many of us come from a time when we could leave our door unlocked all the time, day or night, even when we were away from home. Unfortunately, those days have long passed. Have strong reinforced locks and deadbolts on your doors, and windows is definitely a must-have.
- Cameras – Some will surely disagree with cameras being on a list of must-have devices. The reality is that cameras, visible cameras specifically, are the number one deterrent to criminals that may be considering breaking into your home. There is a wide range of cameras available, in all price ranges, quality, as well as different camera options.
Other Primary Security Devices
The items above were the bare bones must-haves, however, there are a few more devices that most people will want to consider and for some may fall into their must-have category.
- Alarms – Alarms can refer to several home security devices. Specifically, devices that emit some type of audible sound when activated. Most people have some familiarity with fire alarms from the days of having to practice fire evacuations in school.
Alarms can also be silent alerts that signal you (or your monitoring service) that there is an issue. Alarms are also often integrated into other home security devices.
- Sensors – Sensors refer to a wide range of device that detects some type of change. Sensors often involve two pieces, one that is stationary and one that when moved away triggers the sensor to alert.
There are also several types of sensors that can detect environmental changes, such as water leaks, vibrations, movement, and sound. Motion detectors and smoke alarms both utilize sensor technology.
Home Security Sensors are often used on doors, windows, and other points of access to your home. They send an alert when a door or window is opened.
Additional Home Security Devices
These devices are optional home security devices that are used to customize your home security to meet your specific needs. In addition to more advanced versions of the devices listed above, many of these devices offer a wide range of monitoring capabilities and even home automation option.
- Video Doorbell – One of the trendiest security devices it the video doorbell. With the rise in delivery package thefts and other home exterior security issues, video doorbells have given many people a sense of security. Video doorbells can offer the user the ability to see who is at their door, record video and audio, as well as two-way communication using another connected device; even a smartphone.
- Lighting – Smart bulbs, motion-activated lights, solar lights, and many other options are available to add security to your home. While most understand the advantage of motion-activated lights, smart bulbs may be a new idea.
Smart bulbs offer much more than automated power options. They can be powered on and off remotely, most using a smartphone app. This gives you the ability to make it appear as if someone is in your home, which discourages intruders.
- Panic Buttons – Pack buttons can either be a stationary button or the kind of buttons that hang from a lanyard to be worn around the neck. Panic buttons are great for individuals who have medical issues or physical disabilities that make it difficult to get to a control panel. Panic buttons offer an easy way to call for help.
- RFID Tags and Readers – RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) offers homeowners flexibility and control. RFID Readers are often used at primary access points, such as a door or garage. When an RFID tag comes within range of the reader the significance of the tag is recorded. Using individual RFID tags, you can know when individual family members arrive or leave. Some systems allow you to grant temporary access to a tag, perfect for services such as dog walkers.
In addition to recording access information, RFID technology paired with a control system can be used to activate specific systems. For example, a reader can signal the control panel that your child is at the door; the control system can then automatically unlock the door. Some home security systems are even constructed entirely using RFID technology.
- Sirens – Sirens send a clear message to intruders and your neighbors that there is a threat. Sirens are much louder than traditional alarms and are an immediate signal to intruders that they have been detected. Unlike alarms, sirens are not as likely to be triggered by accident causing individuals to ignore the sound; much like most people ignore a car alarm these days.
Bonus Add-ons and Features to Consider
When it comes to special add-on devices and features, the idea is always to make your life a little easier, while giving you peace of mind. While the options are almost infinite, there is a couple of things that could be added to almost any system with ease for added control and monitoring options.
- Keychain Remote – Many systems now allow access by keychain (sometimes called key fobs) remote. The main advantage is that like a car remote, you can easily arm and disarm your security system. The portable control can be used by anyone you desire; like the dog walker mentioned above. The benefit of using a keychain remote is their limited range, just like you have to be within a fixed distance to, unlike your car.
- Mobile apps – Many systems, including DIY installed systems, have mobile apps that you can access on your smartphone or tablet, and possibly even a PC or Mac. A good home security app will give you full control of your system; allowing you to arm or disarm your system and control individual devices.
TIP: A great way to get started is to purchase a starter bundle, available from many DIY home security manufacturers. This will give you the basic necessities and then you can customize it to fit your needs.
Budget-Friendly Home Security Devices
All of the above-mentioned options are great, but not everyone has the money to spend on a complete home security system. That’s where our budget-friendly options come into play. Whether you are renting or in another type of temporary housing, like a dorm, or just don’t have it in your budget to buy home security system; these options will give you some control and at least some added protection.
- Smart Speaker – A smart speaker, coupled with reliable internet, can be a great addition to any home. All of the voice assistants have some level of connectivity that can allow you to alert someone in an emergency.
For example, the free Alexa Skill “I’m Hurt” can be enabled and set up to send a text message to anyone you choose that you are injured. With new technology advances every day, these skills and applications will only get better.
- Personal Alarm – A personal alarm is a must-have for anyone who spends time alone, especially when you are away from home. Personal alarms can be found in keychains, necklaces, or simple to use push-button devices. They are extremely portable and allow you to alert people around you if there is a danger.
- Discount Door and Window Alarms – every discount store, or big box store carries inexpensive sensor alarms that can be placed (without tools) on your doors and windows. These sensors operate on batteries and usually have a simple on/off switch. They emit a sound when triggered.
The advantage to these devices is that a potential thief will not automatically recognize that they are the discount option, often deterring them entering.
- Window Blinds – One of the most basic home security options is to conceal the inside of your home, especially items of value, such as electronics and jewelry from curious eyes. Intruders are also less likely to enter a home if they are unsure if someone is inside. Window blinds, curtains, and other window coverings can be a budget-friendly option for many homes.
Fake It Options
There are a surprising number of fake security items that look just like the real deal. Since they do, they can cause intruders to hesitate or abandon their plans completely. Here are some options for adding, what appears to be real security to your home.
- Fake Cameras – Believe it or not, fake cameras, sometimes called dummy cameras, are commonly used in commercial buildings to make it seem that you are being watched, even when there is nothing behind the lens. Retail stores, though likely have some working cameras, are one area where fake cameras are regularly used to deter thieves.
Fake Cameras should be installed where they are visible, but not so much that it is obvious they are false. They can also be added to actual systems to make your system appear more robust then it is. If you decide to use a fake camera, avoid ones with a blinking red light; a sure sign that the camera is fake, since most real cameras have no light.
- Dog Barking Alarm – A dog barking alarm usually consists of a sensor, that when triggered starts a stream of loud barking sounds. Since most criminals, when asked after being caught, admit that they were less likely to steal from a property that has a dog, there is some validity to the barking alarm.
Unless you are willing to put out the money and necessary ongoing expenses, time, and energy of getting an actual dog, a barking alarm may be an alternative.
- Signage – There is an ongoing debate as to the effectiveness that home security signs and window decals provide. When used in conjunction with a real security system, they are obviously going to alert potential intruders.
When it comes to using signage without an actual system, you must be sure that the signs look legit to have any effect. Several studies involving criminals do claim that signs and decals can be a valid deterrent if they are made of quality materials. Better than nothing.
What to Avoid When Planning Your Home Security
When you are preparing to install a home security system or even when you are adding a single device, there are things you should avoid. These suggestions will help you pay off costly mistakes down the road.
- Incompatibility – When it comes to any smart device, the ability to connect to other devices in your system should always be your first question. Just like you would not use a Philips screwdriver for a flathead screw, purchasing a smart device for your home security that cannot communicate or worse block some of the features of your existing devices, is nothing more than a waste of money.
- Highlighting Weaknesses – This mistake is more common than you may realize. Many times, homeowners use the wrong security devices and end up creating a vulnerability that can act as a neon sign to intruders.
One of the most common is using stationary dusk to dawn lights. Since these lights are controlled by light levels, they are predictable. If you think about it, if a thief is determined enough, all they need to do is cover the sensor to turn off the light.
Stationary lights also usually have dead zones, areas just beyond that light that provides a great cover for burglars to hide and wait for their opportunity. When setting up security lighting, the best option is motion-activated lighting that can either pan an area or can be adjusted to cover an entire area leaving no deep shadows.
- Not Covering All Access Points – Access points are any way your home can be entered. This includes all doors and windows, including second-story windows. Multi-story homes that are invaded are often done through these less accessible areas. Thieves are very adept at reaching what may seem like unreachable areas. Don’t risk it, secure all of your windows; if you do not add sensors to them, at least keep them locked.
- Choosing Cost Over Quality – It is very easy to choose less expensive options when it comes to DIY home security. Unfortunately going for the cheapest option often results in decreased security than you may even know. When shopping for home security devices focus on the compatibility the device has with any existing devices and how well it fits your security needs rather than the price. Even if you pay a little more upfront, over time, you will reap the rewards.
Going Beyond the Gadgets
Home Security is much more than a pile of electronic devices, they have to communicate effectively with each other, operate properly, and most importantly, you need to be able to control them. Finally, they need to work when something happens. Below are some of the non-device must-haves related things to keep in mind when it comes to home security.
Most modern home security systems available for direct purchase are wireless systems. This allows them to be easily installed by individuals with even very little technical skills. This allows homeowners the ability to completely customize their home security to fit their needs and lifestyle.
People who are not confident they can handle the installation themselves can still enlist the services of a professional installer. The availability may be limited depending on your location, though you can likely find someone with more knowledge of technology to help, even if you have to pay them.
Once you have your system completely installed you are likely going to want some type of monitoring. You have the option of monitoring your entire system yourself or hiring a professional monitoring service. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Self-monitoring is common for DIY home security and is often still used even if professional services are included. Self-monitoring simply refers to a system that is only checked and regulated by you without the services of a monitoring service.
Advantages of Self-Monitoring
- Costs – usually little or no cost
- Absolute control and access
- Flexible alerts
- No Contracts
Disadvantages of Self-Monitoring
- Slower respond time
- No one watching when you are asleep or busy
- No backup
- Can be stressful
Professional monitoring services are available in most areas and can offer several options for homeowners depending on the system and needs. These services are sometimes less expensive than the expense associated with professional systems and monitoring, though not always.
It is important to remember that professional monitoring services may have limitations with more complicated DIY systems or systems that are not properly configured. You may want to consider contacting potential monitoring services before spending money on the wrong devices.
Advantages of Pro-Monitoring
- Highest level of security
- Less stress – worry-free
- 24/7 protection, whether you are home or away
Disadvantages of Pro-Monitoring
- The cost can vary depending on location, service package, and any additional charges
- Limits customization of some DIY home security systems
This article has provided several suggestions for the must-haves for your home security. Depending on your personal needs, you may need several of the devices on this list or maybe just fine without some of them. You will likely use more than one of several of the devices, such as sensors, just remember to check compatibility and you will be able to add layers of security to your home. Stay Safe!