Tag Archives: lighting

Changing Times Call for Changing Habits: 3 Ways to Keep Senior Citizens Secure

Gone are the days of leaving doors unlocked and not having to worry about securing all electronic belongings. Every year cyber predators get more sophisticated, but one rule still holds true: Most criminals like an easy target. Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber safety, senior citizens are that easy target. Handwritten checks, passwords written on a note taped to your computer, and trusting other online users are all red flags to criminals that they have found their mark. Whether you’re of the older generation or you’re worried about the cyber safety of an older parent, here are some tips to stay ahead of the bad guys and feel more safe and secure…

Guard Your Passwords
Creating a secure password is the first step to keeping your information private. A secure password is a unique, long (at least 8 characters), and personal code that you create. By personal, this does not mean your birthday or any other easily guessed and attained information, but rather something you will remember. A password that includes your favorite high school teacher and the year you graduated is a lot harder for a stranger to figure out than your anniversary. Once you’ve created this unique password, do not write it down to store near the device you are securing. This practice might be easy for your own access, but it could also lead to a breach in your security. Nor should you use the same password over and over again at different websites. If it’s compromised once, then it gives a thief access to everything.

Don’t Trust Every Phone Call
Many scam artists have begun to target senior citizens with phone calls pretending to be someone they are not. The IRS will not call and threaten to throw you in jail for delinquent taxes. Microsoft does not call you because there was a security breach. Companies and governments do not have the time to call individuals to resolve the issues over the phone. Mortgage companies and banks do make you confirm your identity before discussing your account, however, you should only trust that these companies if you called them. Do your research on the company calling before giving away personal information.

New Home, New Gadgets
Many senior citizens downsize or move to retirement homes as their children grow up and move out. In a previous home, you may have known your neighbors and felt safe and secure. There are no guarantees that your new neighbors will be as trustworthy. The best way to avoid problems is to equip your home with preventative security. Lights set on a timer are a great example! If certain lights turn on even when you’re not home, then a burglar or nosy neighbor will never be able to learn your schedule. Setting up a new WiFi? Make sure to connect one with a secure network. Most phones and devices will remember the password, so only visiting grandchildren will be inconvenienced. And not allowing strangers to access your WiFi will make everything you do online safer!

Sure, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but personal security is no trick. Changing our habits comes with the changing times, and online or home privacy is no exception. Even if you yourself aren’t a senior citizen, helping a friend, relative or neighbor ensure their security is a great way to practice the habits for yourself. Here’s to longer, happier, and more secure lives for us all!

3 Ways to Make Theft Prevention Part of Your Daily Routine

When leaving for vacation, we take all kinds of precautions. We hire a pet-sitter and have them bring in the mail every day. We pack a huge suitcase with enough clothing to survive the apocalypse. We make sure every door and window is locked and secure for the two weeks we spend getting away. All this effort for less than 4% of the year is great, but what about the other 96% of the time that we aren’t traveling? Because burglaries don’t just happen when you’re clear across the world

Three out of every five home burglaries happen during the day while people are away at work or school. You probably won’t think to take as many precautions before you go to work as you do before you go on a vacation. So here are three easy ways to make theft prevention part of your daily routine.

One, Don’t Be a Show-Off
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of having nice things, only that while you are away from home, valuables should be stored and put away out of sight. While cleaning up any clutter, make sure that jewelry, cash and small electronics can’t be seen from any windows. If you’ve recently made any large purchases, such as a new TV or gaming system, break down the cardboard boxes they came in before putting them out on the curb for recycling pick up–so no one sees the evidence.

Two, Knock Knock…Anyone Home?
Making it appear that someone is home is a great way to deter break-ins. Leaving lights on a timer not only fools potential burglars but also allows you to come home to a nicely lit environment. (And a home automation system makes this incredibly easy to do.) If you’re out running errands and will be back in a few hours, you could leave the radio or the TV on for noise. If you have an extra car, consider parking it in the driveway instead of the garage for the day when you’re gone, to trick any would-be burglars into thinking you’re there.

Three, Invest in Home Security
There’s no shame in getting some help from professionals! Only 17% of homes have a home security system, and yet 90% of convicted burglars say they would avoid a home with an obvious alarm system. Whether you’re doing a quick grocery store run, heading to work for the whole day, or heading halfway across the world on vacation, you can have peace of mind that your home is safe with a professional home security system.

It may not be New Years, but it’s never too late to make some changes to your routine. By incorporating just a few small habits into your morning before heading out the door or investing in a home security system, you can help keep your home safe and secure. And maybe with all the comfort you get from a burglar-free home, you can push through that work stress until it’s time for your next vacation…

Is Your Home Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

As our phones get bigger and smarter and the technologies we use every day get more sophisticated, so too can our homes. With the Internet of Things now upon us, we’re poised to go from smart homes to smarterhomes in 2019 as home automation systems become commonplace and off-the-shelf products offer the convenience of smart home technology.

Here’s a quick look at just some of the tasks you can hand over to automation and smart home technology:

Home security: This one you’re probably already familiar with, but it gets better and better every year. Today’s home security systems offer video to let you see who’s at the front door, smart locks you can operate from anywhere, and even home automation features that let you program heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Lighting: Speaking of lighting, your home automation system can be set to turn lights on or off. You can now also buy lighting systems that let you control the brightness but also the color. You can even match the color of the light in a picture on your phone. This system can also turn lights on slowly to help you wake up in the morning.

Thermostats: Your home automation system can be used to control your thermostat or you can buy a “learning” thermostat that adapts to your lifestyle.

Household chores: Would you like to hand over some of your household chores to technology? You easily can. You’ll find devices that can handle some of the most mundane tasks for you, including window washing, vacuuming and floor mopping.

In the kitchen: We’ve heard all kinds of chatter about smart appliances already, like refrigerators that can track your groceries for you and ovens you can turn on remotely on your way home from work. But the one I’m ready for is the coffeemaker that knows when I wake up and brews my coffee just in time!

In the yard: You can lighten your load inside with smart home technology and automated devices, but you can also hand over some of the outside jobs too. Technology today offers automated lawn mowers and sprinklers, pool cleaners, and even a gutter cleaning device. (That’s the one at the top of my list! I do not like ladders!)

In the bedroom: Even your mattress can now help you sleep better, using biometric sensors and your smart phone.

And for the not yet smart? For those appliances that aren’t yet “smart,” you can get an outlet that lets you control whatever is plugged into it from your smart phone.

Experts say we are on the verge of the Internet of Things revolution, and that it will change our lives as fundamentally as the Internet did 20 years ago. As a homeowner, you won’t have to wait for the benefits of this technology, because you can easily start making your home smarter than a fifth grader with all the home security features and home devices already available to 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…

Is Your Brain Overloaded? Home Automation Takes on Task Saturation!

My husband recently introduced me to a new term: task saturation. Task saturation happens when your brain has so much information coming at it that it can’t absorb any more. I was complaining about being so forgetful lately and he suggested that my brain is overloaded. It sure is!

I’m not alone. Many of us suffer from task saturation because we have high-pressure jobs with looming deadlines, constant communications via email and text, financial stresses as we try to make ends meet, and more…in addition to simply raising our kids, making our meals, taking care of our homes, and getting through each day reasonably sane.

That’s where home automation can help. It can remove a few of the tasks from our lists and free up our brains to handle other information.

Free up brain space when you automate some tasks
Forget about setting the thermostat or regulating the air conditioner. Your home automation system can take care of that. In the winter, you can set it to warm up the house right before you get home but save money by keeping the house cooler during the day when it’s empty. And the opposite is true during the summer. If you have pets, your home automation system can be set to keep the temperature correct for their needs without using too much energy—and without your having to worry if the dog is okay on a really hot day.

Your home automation system can also turn lights on and off, so you don’t have to come home to a dark house on a cold winter’s night—and if your kids get home first, they’ll appreciate the welcoming look of a warm, well-lit house.

The big benefit here is you can simply stop thinking about heating and cooling and lighting. You’re welcome, brain!

Home automation also protects your home—despite your forgetfulness
Your home automation can also free your brain from worrying about home security. You no longer have to nag the kids to remember to lock up, because you can lock and unlock doors, and even arm or disarm your security system, remotely using your phone. Or maybe you forgot to double check something because you were rushing out the door to work and your brain was full of thoughts about that big meeting later in the day. It’s okay. If you did forget, you can take care of it later from your office or while on the road.

We don’t function well when we suffer from task saturation, so we should be trying to get out of situations that cause it if we can. But at least a home automation system can offer a little bit of relief on the home front.

Are You One of the Many Going Green in 2018? Home Automation Can Help

Although Americans tend to say they are environmentally conscious more than they act like it, there is definitely a trend toward a greener America. From re-usable grocery bags to organic foods to hybrid cars, the signs that we’re sitting up and paying attention to the consequences of our actions are all around us. Even fast-food giant and mega brand McDonald’s is going green. When that happens, we know something is afoot!

If you’ve been contemplating ways to green up your life, maybe as part of your New Year’s resolutions, and you’re shopping for a new home security system, you’re about to have a win-win situation. That’s because a home automation system can help you to be more green and consume fewer resources (while reducing your utility bills, which is a nice add-on). Here’s how:

Home automation can green up your thermostat
Heating an empty home in the winter or cooling the same in the summer are both huge energy drains. But no one wants to walk into an icebox at the end of the day in January, or an oven at the end of the day in July. With a home automation system, you can have smart control over your home’s temperature, and use your energy wisely.

Your house can stay moderately warm or cool while empty, but then your furnace or AC can kick in before you get home, so you walk into a comfort zone, not a hot or cold one. If you have pets at home, or kids who get home from school before you get home from work, you can adjust the temperature accordingly—and automatically.

Home automation can cut your electric bill
Coming home to a dark house at the end of a long day can be a dreary start to the evening, and sap your energy even more than your work and commute already did. But you don’t want to leave lights on all day just so you can drive up to a cheerful sight once it’s dark out. That’s wasteful.

Enter the home automation system that lets you program your lights to turn off and on at scheduled times, so you can have the lights off while gone but come home to a cheerful, well-lit abode. And if you have kids who leave lights on when they leave, because that’s what kids do, you can turn lights off remotely.

A home automation system won’t include solar panels or wind energy or make your washing machine more energy efficient, but every little bit really does count. Imagine what a difference we could make if all 324 million Americans cut their energy usage by just a fraction: huge!

Finally, if you’re looking for other ways to be a better citizen in the year ahead, be sure to check out these 101 tips on going zero waste. Many are ridiculously easy to do. And again, every little bit counts!

12 Days of Safe Holiday Decorating: How to Avoid Decor Disasters This Season

Would any holiday comedy be complete without at least one decorating mishap? Whether it’s a scene showing Dad falling off the roof while hanging lights or Mom plugging too many lights into one electrical socket causing sparks to fly, safety isn’t exactly a staple in these films.

Accidents might be funny on-screen, but the last thing you need to add to your holiday to-do list is a trip to the emergency room or a call to the fire department. In order to survive this holiday season without any scrapes or bruises on you or your home, follow these 12 tips to get into the holiday spirit, safely.

  1. A partridge in a well-watered tree: If you love the smell of a live tree in your home, keeping your tree watered is a must. A healthy, hydrated tree will be less flammable in the case of a string light breaking. Also be sure to keep any greenery away from heat sources, such as fireplaces or radiators.
  2. Fake it ‘til you make it: Maybe a live tree isn’t the best option for you, and you prefer to buy artificial. Although you won’t have to worry about keeping it hydrated, do be sure that it’s labeled “fire resistant,” just to be safe.
  3. Three is not a crowd: Your decorating team should include you, your ladder and someone securing the ladder for you. When you’re hanging decor out of reach, make sure the ladder is sturdily grounded and your partner has a good grip.
  4. Check your cords: Not your caroling chords, but your extension cords. Use heavy-duty extension cords, and only use outdoor-use cords outside the home. When setting up your lights, don’t plug in more than three sets of standard cords to one extension to avoid overloading.
  5. Not just the stockings should be hung with care: Prevent electrical damage by avoiding nails or tacks when hanging lights. Instead, opt for hooks or insulated staples indoors, and clips to safely attach lights to the house outdoors.
  6. Rearrange those lights: Indoor lights should be kept away from curtains, furniture and carpeting.
  7. Turn it off before you turn in: Power down any lights indoors before you go to bed or leave your home, and use a timer for outdoor lights.
  8. Careful with those candles: Provide candles with a sturdy base to prevent tipping, and never leave a lit candle unattended.
  9. Reduce, reuse and recycle that paper: Instead of burning wrapping paper in the fireplace, which can cause a chimney fire or give off toxic fumes, either recycle or reuse it. Of course, if you do choose to reuse it, that means no ripping that paper to shreds come present-opening time!
  10. Arrange ornaments the smart way: Place fragile ornaments higher up and unbreakable ornaments closer to the ground. For any ornaments that plug into a bulb to light up or spin, use no more than two per strand, or check the manufacturer’s directions.
  11. Purge poisonous plants: Although poinsettias are beautiful and festive, they are also toxic when consumed, so keep them out of reach of pets and children. Another option is to go artificial and skip the real ones altogether.
  12. Speaking of kids and pets: Try to avoid any decorations that look like candy or food, since these can be easily mistaken for the real thing. You don’t want to end up with a glass ornament in a little one’s mouth because it looked like a tasty snack. (We are speaking from experience here.)

You’ll find more holiday safety tips at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Whether this season fills you with holiday cheer or holiday fear, at least home safety will be something you can check off your list. Maybe check it twice, just in case though.

Stop Blaming Ben Franklin and Focus on Getting Ready for Darker Days Instead

Daylight Saving Time ends November 5th, and most everyone will be looking for someone to blame when the sky starts getting dark an hour earlier than we’re used to. But did you know that the man who invented the bifocal glasses did not invent Daylight Saving Time?

A Short History of Daylight Saving Time (DST)
Although Ben Franklin did write an essay on using daylight hours more efficiently by getting up earlier, it was actually New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson who in 1895 first proposed setting clocks forward two hours in March and setting them two hours back in October. That idea didn’t stick, but a small town in Canada kicked things off by setting their clocks one hour forward in 1908, followed by the rest of the country and then popularized by Germany. By 1918, the United States had passed legislation to establish DST, and by the end of World War II, most European countries also followed the time change.

Time to Perform a Lighting Audit
Whether or not you agree with setting our clocks forward and backward in the middle of the night when the time changes, soon it might be dark by the time you get home from work. And if you can’t see the pathway walking up to your house, it’s probably time to reevaluate your home lighting—before the days get any shorter.

One way to check the adequacy of your home lighting is to walk up to your home in the dark as if you don’t live there. Come up the sidewalk as if you’re a guest visiting for the first time.

  • Can you see your feet, the path right below you, and the path in front of you?
  • Check your porch or your front door: Is it well-lit from the outside?
  • Are there lights on inside the home to ensure suspicious characters know the house isn’t empty (even if it is)?
  • If you walk to your outbuildings, are they well-lit?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you could be risking someone tripping and hurting themselves in the dark, or even inviting burglars in by giving them darkness to hide under.

Light It Up Instead
If you’ve taken a look around and decided your lighting could use some adjustments, what then? You can place small pathway lights leading up to your home and to any outbuildings, reducing the risk of tripping over an unseen obstacle. Another option for these outdoor lights is to install motion sensor lights, which work well to eliminate hiding spots by dark buildings. If you’re home while the skies get dark, you can make sure to turn on any outside lighting and leave on a few lights inside as well. If you aren’t home, your home automation system can be used to turn on your lighting at any time you set it to, or even remotely. You can be halfway around the world, and as long as you have WiFi, you can turn on your lights.

Although we’re talking about shorter days, it is also a good idea to keep a couple lights on inside while it’s still light out as well since 65% of burglaries happen between 6 am and 6 pm. Just because it’s daytime doesn’t mean your home isn’t vulnerable after you leave for work.

We have a lot of things to credit Ben Franklin with (even swim fins are his invention!), but we can’t blame him for losing that extra hour of sleep in the Spring and that extra hour of light in the Fall. Instead, we can keep our houses well lit, thank him for our bifocals while reading a good book, and settle into the darkness and quiet that fall brings.

Going on Vacation? 5 Ways to Make Your Empty Home Look Anything But

You’ve earned your vacation and you’re looking forward to it! But don’t get so caught up in your plans for getting away that you forget to secure your home before you go. And part of securing your home is to make it appear that you’re still there. Since installing cardboard cutouts or mannequins as silhouettes against windows is only a short-term solution—until the burglars figure out that those “people” never move—here are five other ways to make it look like you’re occupying your vacant home while you vacate your way to some rest and relaxation.

Tip 1: Get a house sitter
The absolute best way to make it look like someone is in your house is to have someone in your house. This works even better if you have a dog that would otherwise go to the kennel while you’re gone. With the house sitter occupying the house and the dog barking alarms, you now have two deterrents to burglary.

Tip 2: Leave a car in the driveway
A car in the driveway definitely gives the impression that someone is in the house. If you have an extra car that you normally park on the road or in the garage, park it in the driveway so it’s easily seen. If you only have one car, consider getting a ride to and from the airport so you can leave your car conspicuously in the driveway.

Tip 3: Hire someone to take care of your lawn and yard
This tip is a little trickier because it would be better if you hired someone well before you left, not just for the week or two that you’re gone, for two reasons. One, if someone is watching your house, they’ll know there has been a change in the routine. Two, you want to make sure this person or company is reliable before leaving your yard in their care. Now, if you can follow tip one and find a house sitter and this house sitter will keep up with the yard maintenance, you’re twice blessed!

Tip 4: Keep the electronics going
If you don’t have a house sitter, or even if you do but they are gone for work, use timers and/or your home automation system to keep lights and electronics like radios and TVs turning on and off.

Tip 5: Keep your vacation to yourself…
…at least until after you get home. As we’ve said before, broadcasting your vacation via social media is the same as telling the world your house is sitting empty. So don’t. Save your vacation pictures until you get home and then share them. That way you can make sure you’re only sharing the best of the best, besides, rather than inundating friends and family with far too many photos.

It only takes a little effort to provide a lot of protection, so put in that effort now and enjoy more peace of mind while you’re away.

4 Ways a Home Automation System Can Help You Enjoy Summer More

With summer in full swing, we were thinking about all the ways a home automation system can help to keep summer time an easy time. Here’s our list of the top four ways a home automation system can help you get the most out of your summer.

Temperature control
During the cold winter months, a home automation system can keep the heat turned down while you’re away at work but then turn it up before you get home, so your house is toasty warm when you get there—but you don’t waste energy (or money) heating an empty house while you’re gone.

During the summer months, your home automation system can regulate your air conditioning in the same way, saving you money on your energy bills and making you a greener homeowner.

Knowing when doors or windows are open
The kids are out of school! That means doors and windows will be left open as they’re running in and out or opening the window to yell outside for something. Your home automation system can let you know when doors or windows are left open so you can make sure they’re closed when they need to be—like when the air conditioning is on and you don’t want that nice cool air heading outside to be wasted, or when you’re leaving for the evening and you want to make sure the house is secure.

Speaking of secure…
Many people spend more time away from home during the summer, either traveling for vacation or taking day trips to the beach or pool. With a home automation system, your time away doesn’t have to put your property at risk. Even if everyone ran out the door in a hurry to catch the train, you can use your smart phone to make sure everything is locked up and alarm-ready from afar. You can also check on your home using video cameras from clear across the world (as long as you have an Internet connection).

And then there’s the lighting
Summer is kind of funny when it comes to daylight. We have our longest day of the year at the very start of summer, then days get shorter as summer goes along. That makes keeping up with lighting tricky! At our house, we spend a lot of time outside trying to take advantage of every bit of the evening light, and we can easily forget that the house is dark until it’s time to go in and we’re fumbling around for a light switch. This is admittedly a bit jarring because we’ve just gone from a lovely soft evening light into a dark home that’s suddenly brightly lit. A home automation system ensures your lights come on when you want them too, both inside and out, easing the transition for you.

Automated lighting can be a bonus outside too. We don’t have anything fancy like a pool or fancy deck…yet. But in the future when we do, I can foresee wanting the outdoor lights to come on automatically without my having to stop what I’m doing to turn them on once it’s dark enough.

A home automation system offers countless benefits year-round, and it’s easy to see that it earns its keep during the long, warm days of summer just as much as it does during the short, dark days of winter!

View all of our security plans and features!

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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!

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