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How to secure your home like a pro: 20-plus expert tips and strategies for DIYers

Jake Widman | June 30, 2015
Feeling secure in your home is important, whether you're a homeowner or a renter. That's why security plays a central role in all the best connected-home systems. The easy way to secure your property is to call a professional service provider: ADT or Vivint, for instance, or a custom installer like Control4 if you want something fancier. Those firms will send someone out to look at your residence, assess your needs, and make equipment recommendations. Alternatively, you can do it yourself by acquiring the hardware from a DIY-friendly provider such as Frontpoint or Simplisafe. Those companies will provide some relatively generic advice, but they don't have agents in the field who can customize a package for your specific needs--that's why they cost less.

And the questions aren't just about who enters the house and when. Soloway advises, "The professional dealer will ask you do you get up and go to the bathroom at night? Do you walk downstairs?' They'll make sure the sensors are put in the right place where it'll detect a criminal but it'll allow you passages through your home so you won't trip off the alarm system."

Anybody home?

Even if nobody's home, it's always a good idea to make it look like there's activity in the house. People have been leaving a light on for that purpose since the advent of electricity, but connected-home devices offer much more creative and flexible ways to create the illusion of occupancy. "Criminals don't like light, and they don't like movement," say Soloway. "When it comes to timers for your lights, for example, to give a lived-in look you could have a lamp that comes on at a certain time and goes off at a certain time, or a light in the upper bedroom window--things you can see from the street--so it looks like people are moving around. Or the TV could come on every once in a while, so you see the flickering--you want to have that look." Soloway suggests that you could even stagger these events to strengthen the illusion. Have the TV and lamp go off followed by the hall light and upstairs light going on, so it looks like people are going to bed.

Leveraging the way connected-home devices interact like that is even more powerful when you have one action trigger another. Johnson-Pino recommends tying your HVAC system to your smoke detector, for example, so that when the smoke detector goes off, it triggers the ventilation fan to shut down to prevent it from spreading smoke throughout the home. Also, she says her kids will sleep through a smoke alarm, but will wake up if their lights go on. So she sets the lights to flash if the smoke detector goes off.

These tips should get you started with the device-oriented aspects of do-it-yourself home security. But don't overlook the other old-school steps you can take, like making sure you have good locks on your doors and keeping your yard clear of anything that could be used to access second-story windows. And it doesn't hurt to advertise that you have some kind of alarm system--even if you don't. "You're 300 percent more likely to be a target without an alarm system," says Johnson-Pino, "so signs and decals alone do a lot. People buy those on eBay and stick them in their front yard."

Remember, the main goal isn't to alert you to an intruder, but to avoid having an intruder in the first place. Basically, you want to make your home look to a criminal like it's more trouble than it's worth.


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