When you're traveling, nothing gives you more peace of mind than knowing your home will be safe and secure while you’re away. From securing doors and windows to adding security lighting, there are some things that you can do to make sure you have a stress-free homecoming.
Install Security System
Installing a security system is the most effective home security option and burglary deterrent. Sometimes, the mere placement of a sign advertising that your home is protected by a home security service can be enough to make some burglars pass by your home or think twice before committing the crime.
Some homeowners adorn their windows and their lawn with stickers and signs claiming their home is protected by an alarm system, when it actually isn’t. While these notifications can be a deterrent, many burglars may not be swayed by the ruse. Signs and stickers should be backed up with an actual system for true protection.
There are a number of reputable home security system service providers, such as ADT or Brinks that can install an alarm system and monitor your home for a monthly fee. A basic home security setup consists of a control panel for activating/deactivating the system, among other tasks, and a network of zones where sensors are placed at windows and doors. Motion sensors can also be used in addition to window and door sensors. When the system has been armed and a sensor is tripped, the alarm is activated locally (meaning a loud sound is heard in your home and by your neighbors) and authorities are notified.
Keep in mind that many security providers require that you sign a contract of service (three years, for example). There is usually a penalty for breaking the contract, but they can be transferred. Consider this when you are thinking about having a monitored system installed.
You can also install an alarm system yourself that only provides a local alarm inside your home. While this is often enough to scare away an intruder, you don’t have the extra coverage of home monitoring company. Depending on the population density of your neighborhood and the fortitude of a burglar’s nerves, a local-only alarm can be ignored or even decommissioned by a professional.
Secure Doors and Windows
Beefing up exterior doors is a good and inexpensive way to greatly improve home security because it will make your doors stronger and harder to trespass. You can reinforce the doorframe by first removing the inside trim around the door. Doorframes are hung between rough framing and are rarely ever a snug fit. You’ll find some filler or shims were initially used to secure the frame. Adding more will only make it stronger. Add blocks or shims behind all hinges and around the latch and deadbolt strike plates. Make things snug but take care not to move the doorframe when placing the shims.
Use this opportunity to fill any open spaces with expanding foam insulation to stop drafts and make your home more energy efficient.
Re-attach the trim using finishing nails and replace the hinge and strike plate screws with new ones at least one inch longer to hold deeper into the framing and strengthen the overall installation.
Consider adding steel-reinforced, steel core or solid steel doors in place of your existing exterior doors if they are old or otherwise in a weakened condition. An enterprising burglar can easily penetrate a flimsy door.
If your home entry doors don’t have deadbolt locks, add them. You may even want to add an additional deadbolt for boosted security even if your doors already have one. Purchase the lock of your choice at your local True Value® hardware store. An expert at the store can help you choose the right deadbolt.
Sliding doors and windows can be secured by placing a wooden stick on the track to keep the sliding door from moving. For placement, measure the distance between the sliding section of the door/window and the door or window frame, and then cut the stick to fit using a saw.
Before you leave for your trip, check that all windows are closed and that their latches are securely locked. You can also install window locks, available at your local True Value hardware store. These are easily attached to the inside of your windows and are available for different types of windows.
If you have double-hung sash windows, you can also make your own window locks. All you need is a power drill and a metal bolt. Drill a hole through the window’s lower sash and into the upper sash. Then slip the metal bolt into the hole so that the window cannot be pushed up from the outside. Be sure that the bolt is long enough to be inserted and make the window secure, but also has enough of it sticking out so that you can easily remove it once it’s in place.
Install Security Lighting
Install motion-activated lighting. This type of light fixture turns on when a sensor detects motion, which is an effective deterrent against intruders. Today, many decorative lantern-style fixtures automatically light up otherwise dark porches and patios when it gets dark. A motion-activated sensor also can be retrofitted to most existing light fixtures and are affordable and easy to install. These types of lights should be installed near your front and back doors, near your garage or utility shed doors — anywhere where darkness can potentially hide someone’s efforts to break in.
Keep bushes and trees around your home and garage entrances trimmed so intruders can’t use them to hide from view.
If you have a large area that requires substantial amounts of light and you want to accomplish it with a single fixture, a high-pressure sodium or metal halide security light will do the trick. A 70-watt sodium security light will illuminate more than 8,500 square feet; provide 6,300 lumens of light and last up to 12 times longer than a standard incandescent floodlight. Most sodium and metal halide security lights come with a built-in photo control and the light will automatically turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn with no timers or switches.
You can improve safety and discourage prowlers by installing motion-activated lighting and timers inside, as well. A standard wall switch can be replaced with an in-wall digital timer that will turn interior or exterior lighting off at predetermined times or at random intervals that give the illusion that you’re home. A plug-in timer for a table lamp can also create the illusion of an occupied home and keep would-be intruders away. Timers are inexpensive and easy to install. Besides providing improved safety and security, motion-activated switches and timers are energy efficient, especially if you have youngsters who forget to turn lights off.
Miscellaneous Security Tips
There are other things you can do to boost security while you’re away. Here are a few ways to decrease your chances of being targeted by thieves:
- Hold Mail and Newspapers – Contact the post office to have your mail held until you get back. You can do it online for convenience. Don’t forget to do the same with newspapers or other items that might pile up on your doorstep and tip off burglars that you aren’t home.
- Ask a Neighbor to Keep Watch – Let a trusted neighbor know that you’ll be away. Ask them if they can keep an eye on your home. They might also pick up your mail and newspapers too! Don’t otherwise advertise to the neighborhood that you’ll be gone.
- Keep Blinds and Curtains Drawn – Keep blinds closed and curtains drawn so that potential intruders can’t peer into your home to inventory your belongings or take note that no one is inside.
- Leave a Vehicle in the Driveway – If you have a vehicle you’re not using for your trip, park it in the driveway so that it appears you are home or that someone is visiting.
- Keep up Landscaping – If you’ll be gone for a couple of weeks or more, hire someone to mow your lawn while you’re away. An unkempt lawn gives the impression that you’re not around.
- Hire a House Sitter – Ask a family member or trusted friend to stay at your home while you’re away, especially if you have family pets or other responsibilities that require attention. There are a number of professionals available for hire as well. However, do your research when considering this option. Only hire from a reputable agency whose employees have been through a background check.
That’s it! Now you have some tips to keep your home safe while you’re away.
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