Guide to Home Security

It wasn't so long ago that when an intruder broke into a house, the home security system would sound an alarm and, if monitored, alert the police. Today, advances in video surveillance, motion sensors, wireless technology, and home automation have made it possible not only to make sure your house is locked up tight, but also to let you know who's coming up the driveway, ringing the front doorbell, walking in the backyard, opening a window, or tampering with the pet door. In many cases, the system can alert you conveniently on your mobile device.

There are many commonsense approaches to home security, as well as a range of options. If you think it's time to install a security system, be sure to do your research, evaluate your needs, and consider your budget, taking into account both the cost of installation and any required monthly fees. Use this guide to home security as a first step toward making your home and family as safe as possible.

When it comes to home security, the best defense-aside from common sense-is reinforcing existing structures.

  • Change out door locks (consider upgrading to a Grade 1 deadbolt), and check that all windowpanes are secure and locks are properly functioning. Reinforce the less obvious home entry points, such as skylights or pet doors.
  • Prune bushes or shrubs along the home's exterior to make it more difficult for an intruder to hide while prying open a window.
  • Join (or start) a neighborhood watch group-there's no substitute for knowing your neighbors and having extra sets of eyes.
  • Exercise common sense. When you're away, don't change your answering machine greeting or leave notes on the door for deliveries. If you're working on a home improvement project, store ladders and tools out of sight.

Proper lighting around a home's exterior allows for surveillance, defines space, and guides guests safely onto and away from your property. Inside your home, lighting should create the sense that someone is always home.

  • For exterior lighting, photosensors can enhance security, maintaining light levels during the night and shutting off during the day.
  • Motion detectors turn lamps on automatically when motion is detected.
  • Plug-located timers are common and inexpensive. Equipped with a clock that can be programmed with on-off times, they plug directly into a wall socket and offer one or more outlets that can accommodate lamps, stereos, televisions, and other electronics.
  • Socket-located timers fit directly into the medium-base socket of an incandescent lamp. The timer activates when the lamp is turned on and automatically turns off after the designated amount of time elapses.

If you've decided on a whole-home security system, it's important to be extremely thorough when incorporating it into your home. The alarm system needs to activate before someone enters your home, not while that someone is walking around inside.