Homeowners have more options than ever these days for making their homes less tempting targets for thieves. • But before laying out obstacles for would-be burglars, they must get past hurdles of their own: determining just how much security they need and how much they can afford.
At the top of the security wish list is a comprehensive home security system with remote monitoring, because thieves are more likely to target a house that appears not to have an alarm rather than risk breaking into one that does, says Frank Santamorena, a principal at Security Experts, Consulting & Design.
Affordability is key, because top-end home security systems for large homes can easily run several thousand dollars when you add in monthly monitoring costs.
Still, the advent of wireless technology has helped bring down installation costs, eliminating the need and expense to run wires throughout a home from every door and window sensor. That has brought many alarm systems within range of budgets for single-family homeowners.
One example on an entry-level to midrange alarm system is GE Security's Simon XT, which can be found for around $200 — higher for a deluxe version — plus the $30 to $50 a month for monitoring by a separate central monitoring station.
Out of the box, the unit can track activity in 40 zones, or areas of a home such as windows or doors equipped with remote sensors. Like many systems today, it can be programmed to alert the homeowner over their cell phone when a sensor is triggered.
Connect a digital videocamera and the system can also relay images, such as of the front door, for example, over the Internet.
When shopping for an alarm system, experts say to look for one that includes sensors for all the perimeter doors, interior doors leading to a garage or mud room, several passive infrared motion detectors inside the home and glass-break sensors.
The system should also have an inside and outside siren to scare off intruders, but also a silent alarm code, in case someone is inside and forces the homeowners to shut down the alarm.
Santamorena says to make sure there are at least three alarm keypads in the house: near the front door, back door and the master bedroom.
Avoid the temptation to buy fake alarm company stickers. Experienced thieves will see right through them.
Even if a monitored security system is beyond one's reach, a slew of other products on the market offer ways to fill in the security gaps.
One item, by Armor Concepts, can prevent someone from kicking in a door.
Dubbed the Door Jamb Armor, it's a series of metal supports that slide over the existing door frame on a standard entry door, reinforcing it at the door jamb, the lock and the top and bottom hinges.
A full set runs about $125.
Another option to beef up doors is to install biometric locks that use fingerprint recognition technology instead of a key. Artemis Solutions Group's BioCert Guardian XL biometric door lock runs on battery power and can store fingerprints for up to 30 users. It's available for $189.
Alarm systems and souped-up doors may still not bar a determined prowler. What then?
Experts recommend homeowners have a safe bolted to the floor in which to keep their jewels, key personal documents and other valuables.
Santamorena says homeowners can employ other measures that can be effective in dissuading the casual burglar.
In addition to putting indoor lights on a timer when you're out of the house, also put the television or a radio on the timer.
One inexpensive way to dupe burglars into thinking someone's home is the Fake TV. The device flashes intermittently, simulating the light output of a television. It retails for about $31.