Q: I would feel more comfortable with better security at home, but I cannot afford a complete monitored system. I do not want the electric cost of using floodlights all night. Are there any other good options?
A: Having your yard well-lighted is typically considered to be a good deterrent to break-ins, but outdoor lighting is expensive to install and operate. Excessive outdoor lighting also contributes to our national energy shortage and air pollution problems.
If you do decide to use outdoor lighting, install the light fixtures only at locations where you feel security is a major concern. Installing motion-sensing lights is the most economically and environmentally sensible option. Since they are on for only a short period of time, solar-powered lights make the most sense — and they are the easiest to install yourself.
Don't write off a monitored security system as too expensive until you've checked around. Many of the companies install the equipment for a low initial cost or for free. In addition to providing standard security, many monitored systems also include smoke detectors that trigger a call to the fire department when smoke is detected.
If you opt not to have a security system, good dead-bolt locks on the doors and keeping the windows locks tightly closed are two of the best deterrents to thieves. There are differences in the security level of dead-bolt locks. In general, you usually get what you pay for, so don't just buy the cheapest dead bolt in the security aisle.
Select a dead bolt that is bump resistant. With a bumping key, a thief can open most pin tumbler locks in seconds. Master Lock offers "Night Watch" technology. From indoors, this dead bolt can be set so even a key cannot open it from outdoors. I use an electronic Schlage LiNK dead bolt. It uses a changeable combination and can be controlled remotely from a laptop computer.
Other security options are an outdoor wireless videocamera (prices on these have come down); loud barking dog sensors attached to doorknobs; and inexpensive individual battery sensors that can be mounted on some windows and doors. Although these sensors are not monitored, the loud alarm would certainly wake you and might scare off a thief.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, St. Petersburg Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.