20 Tips to Harden Your Home Security for Next to Nothing
secure is your castle?
The FBI says more
than a million homes across America were hit by burglars last year, grabbing an
average of $2,200 worth of stuff each time.
good news: It takes a lot less than you may think to install sophisticated
security equipment yourself, and you’ll save plenty over the cost of a
professional alarm company.
better, there are tons of easy, no-tech ways to improve your home’s security
for free or next to nothing. Stacy
Johnson tells you how in the video below. Check it out, then read on
for more ideas.
burglars work the daytime shift, just like most of us do. “Daylight jobs
require a burglar to be quick, typically spending around 45 minutes selecting a
home to target and just three minutes actually doing the job,”
decide whether to hit your home based on appearances: Is it easy to crack or
not worth the trouble? The most effective improvements are the ones that
convince a burglar to move on to the next guy’s home.
easy and free ideas
Enlist local police. Local police departments
typically will send a trained officer to your home to do a “walk through” with
you, pointing out your vulnerabilities and suggesting simple fixes. Check your
police department’s website for crime statistics and tips. For example, here is
the Los Angeles
Police Department’s detailed list of home-security tips for
residents. Remember to alert police when you’ll be out of town.
Chat up the neighbors. Join
the local Neighborhood Watch program
or start one. Chatting with neighbors updates you on local crime problems and
enlists allies who’ll watch your home while you’re away. Neighbors are terrific
watchdogs. My retired neighbor up the hill who likes peering out his window
through a giant telescope spotted and chased a pre-dawn intruder from my garden
Use your locks. Even if your neighborhood feels
safe, make locking up a habit. Burglars often test a home by knocking on a
door and, if no one answers, opening it. Keep every exterior door and window
locked, including the door between the garage and house.
Fake it. Getting a dog is a great
security move. But if you can’t, pretend to have one, McGoey advises. Buy a
couple “Beware of Dog” signs at a hardware store and put them up. When a
stranger is at the door, make a show of putting the “dog” in the other room
before you open the door.
Install dummy security cameras
Paste a local security company’s sticker on
your front window.
Keeps the place looking lived in.
Rotate lights on timers when you’re gone. Sign up for USPS’ Hold Mail service,
reschedule expected deliveries and get friends to drop by randomly to water
plants or just walk around.
Trim shrubs. Bushy trees and shrubs
provide cover for bad deeds. Keep the foliage well-trimmed.
Use your head. “Don’t open the door — and
don’t let kids open the door — to uninvited strangers,” McGoey tells MSN Real
Estate. Stay home when workers are in or around your home. Don’t put keys in
obvious places like fake rocks and under pots and doormats. “Train children
(especially teens) to keep key locations, alarm codes and other family security
information private from their friends,” the article adds.
Light the night. Install bright,
motion-triggered security lights outside the front and back of your home.
Battery-powered lights start at around $10 each. Hard-wired products start at
Replace the door … or don’t. The
best entry doors are solid wood ($100 and up) or 16-gauge minimum steel ($120
and up). Use non-removable hinge pins and avoid
doors with glass windows unless the glass is burglar-resistant. Tests of entry doors found, however, that a strong door
frame may count more than the door: “All [doors] eventually failed because the
doorjamb split near the lock’s strike plate, though we also found that
beefed-up locks and strike plates can greatly increase a door’s kick-in
Install a high-quality deadbolt – or two. Whatever
you do, don’t rely on a simple knob lock (built into the door handle) alone.
Install a deadbolt above a knob lock. Recommended:
Use a solid core or metal door for all entrance points.
Use a quality, heavy-duty deadbolt lock with a 1-inch
Use a quality, heavy-duty knob-in-lock set with a
Use a heavy-duty, four-screw strike plate with 3-inch
screws to penetrate into a wooden door frame.
Use a wide-angle 160-degree peephole mounted no higher
than 58 inches.
Tested deadbolt locks: “Many of the dead-bolt locks we tested don’t
provide the level of protection you might expect.” CR recommends the Medeco
Maxum 11WC60L lock in brushed nickel (brass tarnishes), found online for under
$200. Video demonstrates how to install a keyed deadbolt.
Replace the strike plate. Consumer Reports also found that a strong strike
plate makes a big difference:
locks come with a strike plate that attaches to the door frame. But as we’ve
reported in the past, far too many of those are flimsy. Except for the Assa M80
[lock], $95, the kick-in resistance of most locks improved dramatically when we
replaced the strike plates with a Mag High Security Box Strike, $10.
installation home security systems
a wide range of home security products. Here’s the lowdown on the wired type:
“Basic home security systems, or burglar alarms, are typically wired to a
central control panel in the home that will activate when windows or doors are
opened while the system is armed,.”
DIY systems, however, use wireless technology. They’re easier to install and
can save you a bundle over a wired setup, reviewing pros and cons of both. These products begin under
alarm companies may charge little to install a system but they’ll make up for
it with monitoring fees. Some, but not all, wireless systems let you hire a
professional service for monitoring, so you can comparison shop for price. Or
monitor your wireless system yourself, through your computer or smartphone.
Says Fox News,
in a review of products:
in online and you can get live video feeds from all over your home, text alerts
when anything moves, and even adjust the thermostat that you forgot to program
before you left.
DIY systems include a video monitoring option. Or you can purchase cams
separately. Think nannycams, but at the front door.
CNN reviews one
“dead simple” product called Dropcam ($199): “The small, basic surveillance devices
hook up to a wireless network and live stream video to phones and tablets,
acting as an extra pair of eyes for the smartphone age.”
camera is engaged by a motion sensor. Monitor the video feed with an Android or
iOS app on a high-speed mobile device.