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How to electronically secure your home when you’re away


Maybe you’re worried about keeping your home safe, but you’re just not ready yet to buy a whole-house security system. There are new lower cost devices out there to provide some protection that might be great to try first. In addition, many are easy to install, especially if you know a little about electronics. Some require installing an app on your phone.

Smart doorbells have become something of a craze. Even homeowners who don’t want security systems seem to fall in love with the concept of a smart doorbell that can send a video of the person at your front door to your smartphone. Sensors that activate the video are activated by built-in motion detectors or when someone rings your bell. Depending on the device you buy, you can speak to the person at the door even if you are not at home.

Among the brands you may have heard of: Ring, Blink, Nest Hello, August Hello. But there are lots of others ranging in price from about $150 to $200 or more.

Why would you want one? So that you can open the door to a repair person or housekeeper when you’re away from home – provided that you have a smart doorlock. Also, so that you can spot a thief who might be stealing a package at your front door or so that you can call the police if someone is trying to break in or acting suspiciously. Of course, if you buy a whole house security system, this is one of the features that a security company can provide.

Front door cameras ($100 to $200) are similar kinds of devices and operate on the same principle as motion activated lights that come on when someone or an animal approaches your door. These cameras can send you real-time warnings and photos so that you can call police when you’re away from home. Make sure you buy an HD camera that has good resolution.

Electronic watch dogs that bark range in cost from $75 to $100. Motion sensors in these devices are activated when someone approaches your home when you’re not there. These devices plug into wall outlets but can also operate on batteries. The dog’s bark can get louder as the intruder gets closer. This type of device would also be handy in some cases to keep javelinas from trashing the plants around your front door.

Timed lights going off and on inside your home at appropriate times have been around for a while and can scare off intruders when you’re away. But then again, if the devices keep switching off and on at the same times at night, a burglar might guess that you’re not really at home but are using a lamp on a timer. But now there are devices ($20 or more) that you can plug into an outlet that will control three or more lights or appliances at the same time so that you can vary the switching on and off from night to night. That might fool a thief into believing you really are at home.

Fake TV simulators are small devices with LEDs that simulate the light of a real television screen inside your home and thus will make it appear as if you’re there watching TV. Most of these devices cost $30 or less and use up far less power than an actual television would waste if you left it on all the time while you’re gone from home.

Remote-controlled window shades and blinds are another way to fool potential intruders. After all, if you close all your shades when you leave on vacation, crooks may decide you’re not at home. Now several companies, like Hunter Douglas and Pella, have shades that can be set to go up and down at various times of day. Some systems allow you to control your shades remotely using a cellphone ($300 to $500 per window).

Rosie on the House

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