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Home Security Without Breaking the Bank- Part I

BY JIM CORBETT Dedicating some time and effort to improve the security of your home is something all of us want to do but we don't seem to get around to it. Another excuse we ...

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Dedicating some time and effort to improve the security of your home is something all of us want to do but we don't seem to get around to it. Another excuse we use is that installing an alarm system and paying monthly monitoring charges is too expensive. The topic of this article is to offer some inexpensive ways to secure your home. The article is in two parts, Part II will be published later this week.

The first thing you need to do is to think like a potential criminal would. Examine your home to look for ways it would be easy to gain entry without alerting anyone inside the home or the neighbors, if you can think of it so can the bad guys. Pay close attention to the entry routes most preferred by criminals. These routes include the rear or side windows or doors of your home, preferably that are in an unlit area where bushes or shrubs provide concealment. Basement windows are a favorite of criminals because it is less likely you would hear them enter the basement from your bedroom. Another favorite route is attached garages that have doors leading into the home.

The best home security system you can have is a loud dog. Notice I did not say large dog, though this would help if it also had a loud bark. Criminals do not want to wake you up or draw neighborhood attention and will divert their efforts to homes that do not have dogs. Remember signs saying there is a dog in the house, even though you do not have a dog, work only if the criminal does not have time to observe your home before their attempted break-in.

Obviously, the second best system you can have protecting your home is an electronic security system that is connected to central station monitoring. I will save an in depth analysis of electronic systems for a future article but for right now you should know that the price for installing these systems has come way down. Many alarm companies will even install the system for free if you commit to a central station monitoring contract for a specific time. There are also very good wireless systems now that are inexpensive and easy to install. If you are really on a budget they sell window and door magnetic contact alarms in the local hardware stores. These alarms are battery powered and stick onto windows and doors with double sided tape. There are two pieces of each alarm and if the magnetic contact is broken between them a loud alarm signal is activated. So for a window; one half is on the frame and the other on the window. If the window is opened the contact between the two pieces is broken and the alarm is triggered. There is a switch on the alarm to turn it off when you want to open the window. There are a couple of problems with these alarms: many people turn them off to open a window during the day but forget to put the switch back on at night, so always make sure you turn them on when closing windows, they are battery operated so remember to change the batteries on a regular basis, and criminals can quickly disable them once they go off so they won't work well at alerting the neighbors when you are not home. Do not buy the stickers you see in the store saying you have an alarm system when you don't. The bad guys do go to the store and they know what these stickers look like.

And the third best thing you can do to improve your home security is to have adequate outdoor lighting. Most criminals attack unoccupied homes during the day hours but my most important goal is to protect the safety of my family and that means concentrating on improving security when we are home at night. I always recommend that you leave your front porch light and lights by rear or other entrances on all night everyday. A criminal does not want to work on breaking into your doors while he can be viewed in the light. Place the lights high enough so it is not easy for criminals to unscrew the bulbs. If you are worried about energy costs these lights do not consume much power but you can buy long lasting, low energy consuming bulbs if you really need to pinch pennies. Motion activated floodlights are a great investment. They only activate when someone is in the area which saves you energy costs from having many lights on all night. One good location for these lights is by your driveway and garage. This will light up the area if a criminal tries to enter your garage and lights up the driveway when you return home at night. Make sure you position the floodlights so they light up the largest area possible and that they don't point directly in your face when you pull up in your car. You don't want a criminal being shielded from being seen because you have glare in your eyes. Install these lights in other areas around your home's perimeter to cover the backyard and sides of your house if there are entry points a criminal can use. As with porch lights install these lights high enough that a criminal cannot easily disable them. Make sure the motion sensor is pointing towards the path a criminal will take and not out at the street so it goes off every time a car drives by. Conduct tests by walking pass the sensor to make sure it is covering the proper area and that there are no blind spots. Remember most of these sensors work best when an object crosses its sensor's path and not when an object moves directly towards the sensor. There are brands on the market where you can buy additional motion sensors that signal to the light to turn on if they are activated. These sensors can be placed in different locations and at different angles to provide full coverage. I recommend that most motion sensor floodlights you have should be direct wired to your home's electricity and not solar powered models. Several days of inclement weather will not allow the solar power models to charge and motion floodlights will activate with rain and heavy wind lowering their charge. But the solar powered lights will probably be cheaper to install so if you do go this route make sure the solar panel points directly towards the sun during peak times, 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM. It is also a great idea to have backyard floodlights that you can manually turn on from inside the home. Don't have floodlights point towards your home, they should always point away. In some commercial applications pointing lights towards buildings can be acceptable but in your home it just provides cover for criminals outside because the glare is in your eyes inside the home. If you are building a new home or conducting a serious renovation that is the best time to install outside lighting. It will be more expensive to add these lights later on.
Stayed tuned for Part II.
If you have any questions on the above topic please contact me at