Category Archives: Home Security

8 Helpful Holiday Hints for the Last-Minute Mayhem

Although not everyone is in it for religious reasons, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, and that means the countdown is on. To help you stay safe (if not necessarily sane) during the last few days before Christmas Day, we’ve pulled together a list of eight posts you’ll find useful—but might not be thinking about because baking and wrapping is top of mind! 

1. Prepping your vehicle for road trips
If holiday travel is on your agenda and you’re headed over the river and through the woods, make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip—especially if you might encounter winter weather. 

2. Protecting your packages
Porch pirates are real: 23 million Americans have packages stolen from their front porch each year. Definitely read this post if you’re getting packages delivered and you’re considering ways to keep them safe, because you’ll get tips for thwarting the porch pirates who’d like to make your packages into their booty. Or find out if you need a service like Amazon Key or if your home security system will protect your packages for you. 

3. Getting teens to town safely
If you have college students who are homebound for the holidays by car, go over the safety advice in this post to ensure safe travels. If they are traveling by plane or train, see this post for excellent advice to share with them. 

4. Making sure Fido will be fine
If you’re traveling and your pets will need looking after, follow the advice here on finding a good pet sitter and ways to prepare your pet and your pet sitter before you leave. Read more…

5. Decorating with a safety-first mindset
This post offers holiday safety tips to use throughout your home as you’re decorating! Also see tips for keeping your Christmas tree fresh and less fire-prone. 

6. Staying safe if you’re still doing your shopping
Many of us are still shopping up until the last minute! Read the tips in this post to make sure you’re safe, whether shopping online or in person. Although the advice is specific to Thanksgiving weekend, it applies to the whole holiday shopping season. 

7. Taking safety into account when buying toys
All toys are not created equal and some pose a bigger threat than others. Before you start your toy buying, review the safety tips in this post to ensure the toys you give will be both fun and safe. 

8. Giving home security as the gift that lasts all year
If you’re stumped for gift ideas, consider home security. This post explains why it’s an excellent gift the whole year long. Read more…

Despite the decline in the religious reasons for celebrating the holiday, Christmas is still a major event for most Americans, making it a busy time of year that can lead to mistakes and missteps. Review this list of posts for reminders, and stay safe this holiday season and into the new year! 

Have Yourself a Greener Little Christmas…with Gifts that Last

The environment is top of mind for many this holiday season, after a year of horrendous natural disasters. That might mean we’re a little greener in our Christmas preparations this year. And even if wildfires and hurricanes aren’t pushing us to be greener, the rising awareness of plastic waste should be. As we switch to re-usable grocery bags and restaurants stop offering straws, we are paying more attention to that waste. And now is the time to do it, because the amount of trash we throw away in the U.S. increases by an estimated 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Yes, that makes the holiday season an excellent time to step back and figure out ways to make less waste of all kinds…starting with gifts. To help you get greener, we offer four ways to give gifts they’ll love—with less waste.

Give quality gifts
Choose a higher quality product if it will last longer, and most definitely avoid kitschy things that no one really wants anyway. (Hint: If it looks like it belongs a White Elephant party, it belongs at a White Elephant party.) Spend a little more and give a little less if you have to make up the difference in price. When you spend more for a higher quality product that lasts, you benefit in the long run by cutting down on waste.

Restrict your buying to local, independently owned shops
One way to cut back on waste is by driving less and spending more locally. It’s easy to go online and go on a splurge, buying things people might not need or want and generating lots of plastic shipping material that gets thrown away. Try shopping locally and you’ll make less waste while benefiting your local economy. (We are trying an experiment at our house this year: We are taking the money we saved for Christmas out of the bank as cash and only using that to do our Christmas shopping, forcing us to shop at brick-and-mortar stores and not online.)

Give gifts that keep on giving
It might not be glitzy but a gift like home security is a gift that keeps on giving without generating more waste. It’s something useful and much appreciated. It doesn’t take up any room or need storage, but it gives plenty of peace of mind. And it’s a gift that causes the recipient to think of you every time he or she uses it. Home security can be a priceless gift that keeps on giving. If not home security, maybe it’s a subscription to a publication, or a donation to a charity, or something else your loved one would appreciate.

Wrap naturally
Although we’ve been saving and re-using the same Christmas wrapping bows for years now (and admittedly, some are looking haggard and worn!), we are transitioning to all natural materials for gift wrapping. Check Pinterest for ideas, and you’ll see how gorgeous this kind of gift wrapping can be!

As our awareness of plastic waste increases, organizations and businesses are taking steps to decrease the amount of that waste. You can read updates on the fight against plastic waste at the National Geographic website. And you as an individual can take your own steps to reduce waste by going a little greener with gifts this season!

What’s New in Home Security? We Look at the Latest in Locks

If your car is new enough, you probably don’t have a key to unlock the door or even to start the engine. Instead, you have a “proximity key” which means something you’re carrying will unlock your car door for you when you are close enough.

As someone who drives an older car with an old-fashioned key, I can’t quite wrap my head around that yet, but I’d better get caught up soon because door locks for houses are going high tech too!

A home security or home automation system is a smart way to protect your home, but—as we’ve said before—it’s not enough. You must take other steps too, including secure door and window locks. And those locks are getting ever more sophisticated while offering multiple advantages as high-tech locks. You can lock or unlock your door remotely using your smart phone when necessary. You can assign a temporary code to a non-family member who needs to access your house—say a neighbor who’s feeding the cat while you’re away. You can get a notification when the lock is used. And those are just a few of the new-fanged features!

When your lock’s looks count…
Your lock is a security feature, but it’s also prominent on the entry point of your home, so appearance might be of utmost importance to you. If you care about appearance and you want a lock that looks like a lock, you can find them. Some smart locks can be opened with a code on a keypad, as a keyless entry, or with a key, but they have a classy low-tech “lock look” even though they’re high tech on the inside.

When you want high-tech features with a low-tech look
Some new-fangled locks do double duty when they look like a regular deadbolt but are all high-tech. You can even find locks with a place to insert a key, but they work via a biometric scanner that’s hiding behind an innocuous looking lock. You put your finger under the scanner to gain access.

When you want your high-tech lock to have a high-tech look
Other new locks look as high tech as they perform–all sleek and streamlined, screaming they’re high tech and not pretending to be anything but!

Of course, you have other options for locking your front door that are low tech, and those options are fine too, as long as you’re using high-quality locks and the whole family is diligent about locking them. But if you want something more sophisticated, one of these high-tech options might be the best choice for you!

Tips for Getting Lit Up Before the Dark Days Arrive

October is here, Halloween is fast approaching, and daylight savings will end November 4th. Yep, it’s time to look at lighting! Use the tips below to make sure your lighting is adding to your home’s security, both inside and outside your home.

Inside your home
With a home automation system, you can put your lights on timers so they turn on when it starts to get dark, even if your house is empty. There are two safety reasons for having your lights turn on automatically.

  1. The lights turning on all of a sudden makes it look like someone’s home, to help deter burglars.
  2. When the lights are already on, you or your kids can see when first coming in the front door, reducing the risk of trips or falls in the dark.

Also take a walk around as dusk falls to evaluate your lighting needs. Are there dark corners or stairs that would be safer with better lighting? Are there nightlights for anyone who gets up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water during the night? Fix any problems spots you find, to decrease the chance of accidents.

Outside your home
Good lighting outside will also help deter burglars and reduce accidents, but it’s a little trickier because you’ll have to experience the dark spots to know where you need to make adjustments. Do your assessment when it’s dark and check for the following:

  • Are sidewalks and pathways clearly lit, for your family, but also for visitors?
  • Is the path to your shop or detached garage clearly lit?
  • Are there dark areas by doorways or windows where someone could hide while breaking in?

As you’re improving your outdoor lighting, keep in mind these three tips so your yard doesn’t end up looking like a brightly lit runway:

  1. Use motion sensors to provide light only when and where needed. Perhaps a soft light is enough most of the time, but a motion sensor can turn on a brighter light as someone approaches the house.
  2. Be wary of really bright lights that shine like a spotlight because they will also create dark shadows—and you want to avoid that.
  3. Be a good neighbor and make sure your lights are not annoying or pointing into anyone else’s yard.

And now? Now let the darkness come. You’re ready…

Home Security: Not the Most Glamorous Wedding Gift, but Perhaps the Most Thoughtful!

August gone and the fall season looms near. Where did the summer go? I can’t tell you, but I can tell you it’s no longer the season for weddings. Nope. September and October are now the most popular times for weddings, with 19% of weddings taking place in September and 14% in October. That means if you’re getting a wedding invitation, it will probably be for a fall wedding. (We have one on our calendar for September!)

If you’re wondering why we’re talking about weddings as the month of September approaches, it’s because we have an unusual wedding gift idea for you: home security. Sure, it’s not a glamorous gift, but it is a thoughtful one.

Making home security doable
Although Americans are waiting longer to get married, with the average age now 27 for women and 29 for men, there’s still a chance they will be living on tight budgets, especially if they are buying a house. Adding a home security system to their monthly expenses probably won’t be a priority once they’ve taken on a massive mortgage payment.

If you’re older and your financially established, you can give home security as a wedding gift, with the monthly cost easily less than the cost of a dinner out. You’ll hardly notice the cost of the monthly fee. Then later when the young couple is financially more stable, they can take over the payments. In the meantime, you’ve helped to keep them safe, and they’ll get into the habit of having the home security system, making it easier to budget for later.

Keeping clutter at bay
A home security system also makes a practical wedding gift because it doesn’t add to our ever-growing collection of “stuff.” The peace of mind it provides is not tangible like a dinner plate or throw pillow, but then again, who can put a price on peace of mind? Yet it takes up no room, doesn’t need storage space, and won’t someday end up at a garage sale.

If you’re headed to a wedding this fall and you want to avoid working your way through the dreaded online registry, consider home security instead. Learn more about the benefits of the gift of home security, a gift that keeps on giving—peace of mind, that is, without causing clutter.

5 Steps to a Quick Home Security Inspection Before the Seasons Change

At our house, we’ve been suffering from an unusually hot and dry summer that has taken its toll on our hay field, our pastures, our horses, our garden and—in truth—us. Despite the heat, however, we are looking ahead to the fall, knowing that the rains will be back. And the question is, will we be ready?

It’s not just the time to prepare for a change in the weather, however, but also a good time to do a home security inspection before the days get shorter and everyone gets busier with the new school year and activities.

To make sure your home is secure heading into this fall, follow these tips. Also check out the resources below for checklists you can use to do a more thorough home security inspection.

  1. Start in the street
    Start your home security inspection outside of your home, looking at it from the street the way a burglar will. Make sure your home is decidedly unattractive to a burglar! Cut back bushes that offer hiding places, especially by doors and windows. This applies to your garage too. If you have a tall fence or hedge that hides your house from the street, rethink that. Try to keep a car parked in the driveway when no one is home. Make sure you have your home security system sign displayed in your hard.
  2. Check all doors and windows
    Check the locks on your doors and windows, but also check the construction. Consumer Reports has a very quick rundown on locks here, as well as good advice about doors and strike plates. Make sure all the windows lock in both closed and open positions, and that you keep them locked. When locked in the open position, make sure the opening is too small for anyone to get through. Do this same inspection on your garage and any outbuildings too.
  3. Turn on the lights
    Review your use of lighting both during the day and then again at night when it’s dark. Also compare your lighting that’s on when you’re home vs not home. Does your home look occupied when you’re gone? If not, use timers or your home automation system to make it look lived in.
  4. Take a night view
    While it’s dark, check for additional hiding places caused by shadows or poor lighting. Most break-ins happen during the day, but not all. And what might not be a hiding place in daylight could be concealed in the shadows of the night.
  5. Review your home security system
    Finally consider your home security system. Is your home security system aging? It might be time for an upgrade, especially when you want to take advantage of the home automation features now widely available. Also review where you have your video cameras set up, in case they need to be moved around.

Bonus: Use a home security checklist
If you want to go beyond our simple list (and you should!), take advantage of the many resources you can find online. Below are two home security checklists we recommend using for a more thorough home security inspection:

And to answer the question posed at the beginning about whether or not we’ll be ready for the rain, I don’t know yet! But my fingers are crossed!

3 Easy Ways to Bolster Your Home Security

A home security system is one of the best ways to protect your home, both because the sign in the yard is a “line in the sand,” and because the noise of the alarm can scare off a burglar before they do much damage. But your home and family are safer if you have more than just a home security system. You also need a practical and pragmatic approach, one that will lead to comprehensive coverage.

Below are just a few easy ways to increase your home security setup:

1) Level up your locks and bolster your bolts
If your window and door locks came preinstalled, take another look at them and make sure they measure up. We’ve heard stories of those types of locks being easy for burglars to force open. Read more about types of locks and what to look for here.

And once you’ve leveled up your locks and bolstered your bolts, make sure you lock your doors and windows whenever you leave. This includes your garage and any outbuildings too. With the right home security system, you can lock doors remotely should you or your kids forget to do so. But it’s better to make sure everyone is in the habit of locking all entry points all the time—even second-story windows.

2) Keep temptations out of sight
It’s shocking how many people almost invite burglars in by leaving temptations in plain sight…things like fancy bikes or expensive equipment in the yard, or valuable objects that can easily be seen through a big window. Take a look around: What temptations are you leaving in plain sight? Hide them.

Packages on the front porch are also a temptation. They might not lead to a burglar breaking in, but they will lead to someone coming on to your property and stealing from you nonetheless…and giving someone a chance to get a better look at your house for a burglary later. Try these alternatives to getting packages without getting done in.

3) Be tricky about it
If you scan the Internet, you’ll quickly learn people have all kinds of ways to make their house less attractive to burglars. We usually suggest having a car in the driveway and using your home automation system to turn lights on and off so it looks like someone is home. But we’ve also read great ideas like leave a big pair of men’s work boots right outside the door, and a big dog bowl and leash on the front porch. Beware of dog signs seem to be useful too. Your goal is to make your house less attractive, and making it look like someone is home and that you own a big dog can help.

Your home security system will do a lot to deter burglars, but you’ll be even safer if you take other precautions as well to both make your house less appealing and make it harder to break into. The best burglar deterrent is a well-advertised home security system, but use commonsense to keep your home and family safe too!

5 Ways to Make Your Home Less Attractive to Burglars—so They Pass You by

We usually don’t think about home burglaries until it’s too late. It always seems like something that will happen to someone else, right? But with a home burglary taking place every 13 seconds in the U.S., there’s a very good chance that someday that “someone else” will be one of us.

The time to take action to prevent a burglary is before such a tragedy strikes. And prevention is probably easier than you thought. One of the most important steps you can take is to simply make your home less appealing to a burglar looking for an easy target.

We offer five such tips below. While these tips shouldn’t take the place of a traditional home security system, they may convince a burglar to pass by your house and choose a different target instead:

1) Get a fence
Burglars want to get in and out of a home within a few minutes. Having a fence to jump over can be a huge deterrent, especially if it’s a metal or wooden picket fence with pointed tops. A fence can definitely make a burglar think twice about breaking into your home because they could be injured or get hung up on the fence posts as they try to clear it. One caveat to this, however: Don’t make your fence so tall that it blocks your house from the street. With a fence like that, a burglar will be more tempted by your property because—once over the fence—they can work in privacy.

2) Leave the dog outside
If you have a dog, get a “Beware of Dog” sign and display it clearly. Move the doghouse into a visible spot in the yard and let the dog run around (weather permitting). A burglar wants to get in and out of a home as quickly as possible, and a dog introduces many variables. A burglar won’t know if a dog is friendly, or will bark loudly or even attack. When a dog is on the premises, the burglar will likely move on to the next target.

3) Trim bushes and shrubs
Burglars like places to hide while they break in, so trim any bushes or shrubs that are getting big enough for a grown man to hide behind. Focus on those shrubs near entry points like doors and windows, and remember to do the same for garage doors and windows too. A couple of hours with a pair of hedge clippers should be sufficient time to eliminate any hiding places and make your house less appealing.

Install bear traps and trip-activated nets
Just kidding! You don’t need a lawsuit on your hands.

4) Light walkways
Although most burglaries happen during the day, your house is at risk during the night time hours too. Plenty of outdoor lighting that will expose anyone sneaking on to your property can make your home less appealing to a burglar. In addition to other exterior lighting tips we’ve offered in the past, consider adding small solar lights along your driveway and walkway. You can buy these in packs at any major hardware store. The solar panels charge internal capacitors during the day, then emit a low-level LED light at night, thereby increasing the visibility in your yard without being distracting. This will make potential burglars easier to spot, which will turn them away to an easier target.

5) Put away your ladder
Burglars usually break in through the front door (34%), first-floor window (23%) or back door (22%). But every once in a while they will get in through a second story window if they have access (2%). For that reason, you should stash away your ladder rather than leave it where a burglar can use it to reach that open window.

Final thoughts
These are simple steps you can take to make your home less appealing to burglars without much effort, and they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To take yet another step to protect your home and make it a challenging target for burglars, consider investing in a home security system equipped with motion sensors, cameras, and door and window sensors. Modern plans may be less expensive than you think, and peace of mind is priceless.

Homeowner’s Insurance and Home Security: 3 Things You Need to Know

At our house, we’ve been talking about our mortgage payment because it switches to an adjustable rate mortgage at the end of this year and we’re nervous. We also got our property tax bill last week and it was significantly higher than in previous year’s—about 25% higher, which was a surprise. All that adds up to housing costs being top of mind today!

Fortunately, among the trifecta of home ownership costs—mortgage, property taxes and insurance—homeowners do have some control over one of the three at least: insurance.

If you’re shopping around for less expensive homeowner’s insurance as a way to defray other costs such as rising mortgage rates or increasing property taxes, below you’ll find some useful advice on lowering your costs,

One, how to lower the cost of your homeowner’s insurance
The Insurance Information Institute lists 12 practical ways to lower your homeowner’s insurance costs:

  1. Shop around: You never know when you might find a better deal!
  2. Raise your deductible: The Institute says raising your deductible to $1,000 could save you as much as 25% on your insurance!
  3. Insure the house, not the land: People get confused about the value of their home because they think in terms of what they paid for it. But you don’t need to insure your land, only your home. If you paid $350,000 to buy your house and $250,000 of that was for the house, you only need to insure against that $250,000.
  4. Get a bundled discount when you buy your homeowner’s and auto insurance from the same insurer.
  5. Disaster-proof your home, as much as you’re able. The tasks involved depend on where you live and the kinds of natural disasters that are common in your area. But you might get a discount on your insurance by being prepared. Plus you might minimize the damage should a disaster strike!
  6. Emphasize home security: Smoke detectors, dead-bolt locks, a home security system…insurance companies will give you a discount when you emphasize home security because you are both deterring an incident, as well as minimizing damage should an incident occur.
  7. See if you can get a discount either based on age or through a professional association.
  8. Maintain a good credit score. Many insurers look at your credit score when determining how much they’ll charge you for your insurance.
  9. Stay put…with that insurer, that is. If you can find a good deal with the insurer you already have, stay put for discounts that come from longevity. Of course, if those discounts don’t lower the costs enough to beat out another insurer, it might make more sense to leave!
  10. Review what you’re insuring once per year. Some items covered by your homeowner’s insurance might decline in value, or you might not own them any longer.
  11. If you’re in a government plan, shop around and see if private insurance might be cheaper.
  12. Consider the cost of insurance even before you make an offer on that new house. A house with an outdated electrical system might cost you more in insurance, for example, or one that’s farther away from the nearest fire extinguisher.

Two, get a home security system
A home security system can lower your costs for homeowner’s insurance by up to 20%, but a home security system is also a deterrent—and wouldn’t you rather avoid the burglary in the first place? Since 90% of burglars say they ignore a house with an obvious home security system, you’ll decrease the chance of a break-in, which protects not only your property but also your peace of mind.

Third, do an inventory just in case
Despite the best laid plans, your house might be burglarized. If that happens, you’ll lose items of monetary value, but you’ll also lose your sense of security—for a while, at least. It will be hard to feel safe in your own home. You can minimize the damage done by a burglary with an inventory done ahead of time. An inventory will only note your physical possessions, not your mental state, but having that document will give you something concrete to hang on to and work with in your initial shock. Find tips for a household inventory here.

A home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, and it does come with ongoing costs for the mortgage, taxes and insurance. It’s also full of your prized possessions, memorabilia and family. You want to keep all of it safe, but you don’t have a bottomless budget. Use these tips to get the most out of your homeowner’s insurance and see if that helps.

Burglars Getting in Through the Garage? Yep! It’s That Easy

Some time back, a YouTube video showing how to break into a garage in 6 seconds went viral. Then videos showing how to prevent such a break-in proliferated, including this Texas news clip.

The idea is that a burglar quickly and easily gets into your garage, then shuts that door and gains effortless access to your house. Yes, an open garage door is noticeable, but if it is then closed quickly, chances are it won’t be noticed. And the burglar is in. Even if the door between your garage and house is locked, the burglar is now able to take his or her time breaking through that door to gain entry. A home security system would set off an alarm, but most burglars are fast, in and out of a home in between 8 and 12 minutes, which gives them plenty of time before the police show up.

Although the garage door is not the most common way to break into a home—thieves use the garage to gain access to a house 9% of the time—you as a homeowner want to prevent any kind of access point to decrease your chances of becoming a victim. And much of the advice for preventing garage break-ins is the same as general home security advice. So we offer tips below that are specific to your garage and your house both…

Make your house less appealing
Burglars don’t choose houses at random. They know exactly what they’re looking for. Decrease the appeal of your house and garage with these tips:

  • Cut back trees or shrubs by the road that give burglars a place to hide while they break into the garage. If you have a tall fence curbside that provides cover, consider replacing it with something shorter that neighbors and passers-by can see over.
  • If you have a detached garage and a burglar might be tempted to steal from that, not your house, don’t keep expensive equipment out in the open where it becomes an invitation to break in.
  • Make it look like someone is home. Keep the spare car in the driveway, not parked on the road. Use your home automation system to have lights turn on and off automatically. Have packages delivered to your workplace rather than left on your doorstep.
  • Make sure your home security system sign is clearly visible from the road.
  • Double check your lighting by going out at night and looking at your house and garage from the street. Does your lighting leave shadows where a thief could hide while breaking into your garage?

Practice prevention
Sometimes the old sayings are the best sayings, and in this case, a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure definitely applies.

  • Even if you won’t be gone long, keep your garage doors locked, both the large door on the front of the garage and any regular doors used to access the garage on foot, either from the outside or from the house. Use heavy-duty locks. Also make sure any garage windows also have better locks than the factory-installed kind.
  • Take advantage of the remote capabilities of your home security system to double check that the doors are locked when you’re not at home.
  • Install home security cameras in obvious places where a burglar can see they’re going to be seen while trying to break in.

Much of this advice applies to other outbuildings too, even if no one can gain access to your house through an outbuilding. They can still steal expensive tools and violate your property while erasing any sense of security you once had. In that way, home security measures should be comprehensive, taking into account more than your house to include any part of your property that is vulnerable—including that sturdy looking garage.

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

-

We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

-
Read more reviews