The FBI reports that there were an estimated 1.7 million burglaries in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available. The average loss of property was $2,251 per household. Certainly, no one wants to become part of those statistics. With improvements in home security technology, though, it has become easier than ever to safeguard your home and family.
There are two ways to go about securing your home without resorting to expensive professional alarm installation: DIY security systems, and DIY security hacks. Ultimately, we recommend the DIY security systems, since they are effective and have generally become very affordable.
DIY Security Systems
Our top picks for DIY security systems all come with sturdy equipment, reasonable pricing, and good customer service:
“If you’re looking for no-stress, no-hassle, straightforward home security from a company with a long history of superior customer service (think Nordstrom levels of service), then go with Frontpoint. They’ve been our #1 pick for nine years running, and we’re confident that you’ll love them.”
“Protect America is one of the most transparent security companies in the industry. They have a solid lineup of products and services, and we’ve been consistently impressed with their dedication to customer service, including their willingness to address customer concerns and feedback directly on ASecureLife.com.”
“With low monthly monitoring fees, a one-year contract, and no cancellation fee, LiveWatch is an all-around good option for those looking to get into home security without a long-term commitment.”
Our Best and Most Affordable Home Security Systems in 2017 list has even more options, so you’re almost certain to find one that fits your needs and budget.
DIY Security Hacks
There are a few things you can do yourself, though, to supplement the systems mentioned above. Here are a few cheap and easy home security hacks:
UNC Charlotte did a study in 2012 to understand burglars’ decisions and deterrents. They report that “burglars reported being deterred from targeting a particular location by a lack of potential hiding locations.” Use good lighting to keep hiding places at a minimum. You can strategically place lights at key points around your home, front and back, to keep valuables and potential entry points visible at night.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle and expense of wiring new lights, try solar-powered, motion-sensored outdoor lights (view on Amazon). They’re not true flood lights, but they’ll light a strategic area well at no continued cost to you.
Security Cameras (Real and Fake)
Even worse to an intruder than being seen is being recorded. Even the threat of admissible evidence is often enough to deter would-be intruders. If you want to really catch someone in the act, check out some indoor and outdoor camera options.
Security cameras are becoming inexpensive enough that you can almost certainly find one that will fit your budget. There are fake security cameras on the market, but burglars can often spot them. So skip the fakes and grab the real thing.
If you own a home with a yard, you’ve probably thought about the aesthetics of your yard, but your landscaping can be practical, too. Plant some sizable bushes under and around windows to deter easy access. Keep them well trimmed, though, remembering that burglars shouldn’t be allowed convenient hiding places.
Some go the extra mile and plant thorny or prickly bushes. There are tons of choices, and many of those thorny plants aren’t very attractive. But there are good-looking options, like roses or bougainvilleas.
Dowels for Sliding Doors and Windows
Ask your local police depart and they’ll tell you: Burglars love sliding glass doors. Among the easiest ways to secure your sliding doors and windows is to set a sturdy dowel in the track of your sliding doors and windows. The best lock pick in the world can’t get into a door that’s immovably blocked.
First, measure the doors and windows you want to block, then head to the hardware store. Select a good dowel size (it should fit snugly into the track, and should not be able to bend) and then cut it down to the right length.
Like the landscaping suggestion, this can serve more than one purpose. Alarming your windows and doors is a great way to scare off someone trying to get in. As a bonus, they’ll also alert you to someone trying to get out. For this reason, magnetic door alarms are a favorite of those with small children or loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The principle is simple: Align the magnetic sensor on the door or window and its frame, and if they come out of alignment, the alarm sounds. Try access sensors from Scout, one of our favorite DIY security companies. As a bonus, Scout also provides low-priced monitoring.
Leave the TV On
When you’re on vacation, or just out of the house, making a potential intruders believe that you’re home and awake is likely going to be enough to keep them out. So having the flickering, color-changing glow of a TV coming through the living room window tells potential burglars to stay away.
This is such a common technique that you can now get a “fake TV” for about $30 on Amazon. It simulates the flicker and glow of a real TV, but with a lower power consumption. However, TVs themselves are such low power-consumers these days (about $1.50 a month in energy, on average) that we recommend you just leave the TV on.
File this under the same category as the fake TV: It’s all about making someone believe you’re home and awake when you’re not. Light timers are very popular for those heading out on vacation, or who simply want to automate their home a bit, on the cheap.
These timers can be used for just about anything electric: fans, space heaters, or anything else you plug in. Analog models (view on Amazon) are inexpensive, or you can spend about $20–30 for the digital timers (view on Amazon).
If you’re concerned about your home’s security, it may be time to think about a home security system. The hacks above will help, but there’s no replacement for the monitoring and service you can get from the right home security company. Use our 2016 ranking guide as a base for your research into which company will work best for you and your family. And be sure to let us know in the comments of any unanswered questions you may have.