Home security is an important issue, but it’s often overlooked. Given the rarity of home invasions and burglaries, most people don’t think about taking steps to protect themselves, their families, and their property until it’s already too late.
Part of this may have to do with the confusing world of home security. Experts and websites often also recommend confusing and expensive cameras, lights, and monitoring equipment, or even professional monitoring services, and they often don’t give you any helpful advice that you can use in your day-to-day life.
Well, that’s what we’re here for. In this guide, we’ll go over some simple items you can buy, and behaviors that you can implement to help protect yourself and your home from break-ins and burglaries.
Whether you’re interested in protecting your home from criminals, or just curious about the subject, read on and learn with us.
Defining Home Security
Home security is a pretty simple to define, right? It’s just all the locks, cameras, alarms, and everything else that you’ve got in place to protect your property.
Wrong. That’s only half the story. Home security, as a term, encompasses both your physical and your behavioral practices, both of which are at least equally important when it comes to home security.
Home security is important to all of us who own homes (or apartments, for that matter.) I’m not trying to scare you with numbers, or claim that if you don’t adapt home security best practices you’ll be burgled, but the fact is that burglaries do happen, even though they are (relatively) rare
According to the FBI About 2 million home burglaries are reported each year in the US. And according to information from the 2015 US census, there are 124.6 million households in the US. That means that, if we crunch the numbers, we can see that each household has about a 1.6% chance to be burglarized each year. Obviously, these numbers differ based on the specifics about your neighborhood, income level, etc.
That seems low, so you may be asking yourself; why bother with trying to increase my home security anyway? I’m probably not going to get burglarized, so why spend any time or money on it at all?
That’s a relevant question, and the answer is simply peace of mind. If you had a button in front of you, and you were told that if you pressed it, there was a 98% chance that nothing would happen, but a 2% chance you would get a nasty electric shock, would you push the button?
No, you wouldn’t! You’re not crazy! So I invite you to look at home security in a similar way. By spending a little time, effort, and maybe a little money on increasing your security measures, you massively decrease your chances of getting burglarized, and you can feel safe and secure, knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to prevent a home invasion.
Burglary By The Numbers
Let’s go over some more statistics frp, Safewise.com. relevant to this topic before we dive into how to increase your home security measures.
- First, 30% of all burglaries are accomplished without the use of force. This means the burglar simply locates an open door or window, and walks right into your home. This is especially common during warmer weather, as people are more likely to leave windows open at night, or neglect to lock them after they’re closed.
- 34% of burglars enter through the front door of your home. They simply kick it in or pry it open, and walk in, taking whatever they want, usually starting with the master bedroom.
- 60% of burglars report that the presence of a security system influenced their decision to target another home! The presence of stickers declaring that your home is protected by a security system can cause burglars to simply ignore your house, whether it’s actually protected or not!
- Most burglaries take place in less than 10 minutes! This means that the longer you can delay a burglar from getting into your house, the less likely he is to be able to break into your house. Every second counts.
- The average property loss of a burglary is $2,251, and only 13.6% of burglaries result in arrests. It’s not hard to see why burglaries are hard to make arrests for; by nature, if you don’t have a security camera and nobody is home and sees the burglar (which is the exact thing he works very hard to avoid) you lack very little evidence with which to catch the culprit.
- Finally, someone is home during 30% of burglaries, and experiences violence approximately 7% of the time. This is what you want to avoid most of all. The property loss of $2,251 is unfortunate, but it’s nothing compared to having violence inflicted upon you or a loved one who is unlucky enough to wander into the path of a determined burglar. I am not trying to scare you; by the numbers, this is still rare, but it does happen, and I believe that all steps should be taken to avoid it.
The Most Common Cause of Poor Home Security
The most common cause of poor home security is inattention. As mentioned above, physical devices such as locks, alarms, and cameras only help increase home security if they are used correctly.
The strongest lock in the world won’t do anything if it’s left open every night, and the world’s best security camera won’t help you if you forget to turn it on, or don’t put it in the right place. Behavior and habit are just as important to increasing your home security as purchasing the right equipment is.
Before you purchase any products to help increase your home security, I recommend you do a thorough assessment of what you already have, and how it can be utilized more effectively.
Do you have a motion-sensing floodlight with a broken bulb that you haven’t replaced in a year? Do you have doors and windows that you habitually forget to close? Do you take any precautionary measures to prevent theft when you leave the house for an extended period of time, such as on a business trip or vacation?
Consequences of Poor Home Security
If you do not have good security habits, you are both more vulnerable to a burglar breaking into your home, and more vulnerable to his attempt being successful.
It is important to realize that, while they are sometimes well-planned and well-executed, most burglaries are a crime of opportunity. A burglar monitors your home and your habits, and targets those who are most susceptible to burglary.
If a burglar knows that you pay careful attention to your security, and have good security habits, he is much less likely to try to enter your home, regardless of whatever security systems you may have in place.
Simply having good security habits like locking your doors and windows, knowing your neighbors, and taking precautions to make it less obvious when you are going to be out of town for extended periods of time (such as telling your neighbors, and stopping newspaper and mail delivery) can help increase your home security without costing you a cent.
However, as stated before, that’s only half of the topic. Physical countermeasures and equipment drastically reduce your chance of being burglarized when used in concert with good home security habits. Having a well-implemented, clearly marked security system decreases the likelihood of a burglar targeting your home by up to 300%, according to statistics from a study conducted by safeguardtheworld.com.
That’s a huge difference. As said before, burglars are opportunists. If they know you’re a hard target, they won’t even try to break into your house. It’s not worth the chance of getting caught.
Even inexpensive countermeasures, such as stronger locks and door/window alarms make a huge difference; you don’t necessarily have to shell out for a monthly service such as ADT or SimpliSafe, though those are options. Read on to find out more about some of the options you have to increase your home security level.
How to Analyze and Increase Your Home Security Level
There are many options available to you to increase your home’s security level. We’ll start with the simplest and most inexpensive options, and continue on to more expensive, but effective, solutions. Read on and learn with us.
Door locks and Alarms
Every external-facing door you have should have a deadbolt lock. The common spring locks built into doorknobs are much less resistant to forced entry, as the spring-loaded mechanism can be retracted simply by applying force to them, even without a key. While this is convenient when opening a door, it’s much less safe than a cylinder-driven deadbolt lock.
Deadbolts cannot be rotated without the correct key, meaning a burglar has to work harder, apply more force, and make louder noises, even if he decides to break one of your doors. This means that your deadbolt may stop him in his tracks before he even tries to break in; he may simply choose an easier target.
Deadbolt locks are inexpensive; a highly-rated model can be purchased from Amazon.com for for only 15 dollars.
The installation of deadbolt locks is a simple affair, and you can do it yourself if you’re handy, or you can get a contractor or locksmith to do it for you for a reasonable price.
Door alarms can also be purchased to provide another layer of security if your lock is forced. Alarms such as this GE Deluxe Wireless Door Alarm. can be purchased for a low price. When the magnetic contact is triggered, it will emit a loud 120dB tone, warding off potential criminals.
You should also make it a habit to keep your doors locked whenever you aren’t home, and to check them often.. This includes both day and night. Make a mental checklist of your easily accessible, outside-facing doors, and go through it every time you leave the house. Did you lock all of the doors?
Window Locks, Alarms, and Security Bars
All of your easily-accessible windows should have locks on them, and they should be closed This includes accessible first-floor windows and basement windows. Now, this may not be enough to stop a burglar, but it does mean that he’ll have to use more force to gain entry, and won’t simply (and quietly) be able to walk in. Every moment a burglar has to waste and every extra noise he must make will make him more uncomfortable, and increase the odds that he will abandon his burglary attempt.
Now, window locks are not the most secure; certainly not as secure as a strong wooden door with a deadbolt lock. They don’t open with a key, just a simple latch which can operated by anyone inside the house.
They can usually be pried open with a crowbar or other metal implement of some sort. One way to help guard against this is with a battery-powered window alarm. These window alarms are quite inexpensive,come in a pack of 2, do not require any wiring, and they can be installed on almost any type of window.
When a window is slid open, the magnetic contact triggers, and a loud chime or alarm will be set off, depending on how you set the alarm. This will scare off a potential intruder, and help keep you and your family more safe. Install them on any floor with windows that open to outside and are easily accessible to intruders.
Now, a burglar may simply smash through your windows to break into your home if he is determined. In that case, the above alarm won’t help you, but the burglar has to risk making a lot more noise and leaving more evidence behind.
There is one further step you can take to prevent a burglar from coming into your home through a window. Window security bars. These are a serious countermeasure, and shouldn’t be installed in your home without a full understanding of the fact that they are generally unattractive, and hard to remove. However, if you are seeking top-tier security for your home, they are certainly your best option.
This Prime-Line Products Fixed Window Guard is adjustable, durable, and a neutral color. It is very hard to remove once installed, even by the person who installed it, so think through where you plan to place it very carefully.
Motion Activated Lighting and Video Cameras
Lighting can play a big part in home security. Motion-activated floodlights give burglars a scare when they’re trying to sneak around at night, and indoor motion-activated lights can startle them even if they attempt to break in during the day.
These solar powered lights install easily, require no extra wiring, and have a sensor range of up to 10 feet with a 120 degree sensing angle. They are waterproof and heatproof, appropriate for any climate.
When a burglar is sneaking around, the last thing he wants is to be startled by a light. Consider purchasing these lights and placing them on the appropriate corners of your home. Anyone who tries to sneak around will get a nasty shock.
You can also purchase interior motion-sensing lights. These are not as effective for preventing break-ins, because the burglar won’t encounter them until he’s inside, but they’re both convenient for when you want to be able to walk around at night without turning all of your lights on and off, and for startling an intruder who doesn’t expect any lights to turn on.
Now, lights are one thing, but if you pair a set of motion-sensing lights with a video monitoring system, your would-be burglars will run off faster than you can imagine.
Video cameras are useful both as a preventative measure, and for catching thieves after the act. Thieves are much less likely to try to enter your home if it’s being clearly monitored by a video system, because they know that if they do, they’re more likely to get caught.
Naturally, video cameras are also one of the only ways you can collect evidence against a home invader to help police catch him and recover any stolen property.
Therefore, video cameras are one of the very best investments you can make if you are concerned with your home security, and willing to pay a little more money for both peace of mind, and the knowledge that you are more likely to recover items stolen from you, even if a bold burglar decides to proceed into your home.
Now, there are many security camera systems out there, ranging from Wi-Fi models that work through apps and are meant only for interior use, to full-sized outdoor monitoring systems complete with night-vision abilities, monitoring stations, and support for dozens of cameras.
For home use, we recommend theArmcrest Security 960h video system. The convenient design and easy installation of these cameras, weatherproofing, and motion-detection features, along with their 6-day continuous recording time and night-vision features, make them a natural choice when pairing them with a set of motion-sensitive lights.
We realize that these cameras are expensive, but think of it as an investment. Not only do you get constant monitoring and peace of mind, making your home more secure as burglars are less likely to choose it, you get the knowledge that even if a break-in occurs, you are more likely to recover your property.
As stated above in the study by Safewise,, the average burglar makes it out with $2,251 worth of goods. So if you can spend, say, half of that in total to prevent a burglary, it’s still worth the money! And according to an Excite.com home security study, 60% of criminals admit that the mere presence of an obvious security system would cause them to seek a different target altogether, and 9 out of 10 criminalssay that an obvious video surveillance system would cause them to ignore that home entirely.
Anti-Burglar Decoration and Signage
Just having the above cameras and lights isn’t enough to deter criminals if they aren’t in the right locations. This may seem obvious, but it’s important. If your goal isn’t to hide your cameras and lights to catch criminals in the act, but instead you wish to ward them off entirely, you should place them in conspicuous locations around the outside of your house.
When a burglar is looking to break into your house, it should be immediately obvious that you are protected, and that those video cameras are recording their every move. This will cause them to rethink their plan, and abandon any hope of breaking into your well-protected house.
Another way to make it clear that you’ve got a security system in place is to buy a sign! A sign like this helps make it clear to burglars that you’re recording them, and when they see your well-positioned lights and security cameras, they’ll realize that they’ve got no hope of breaking into your home, and leave you be.
In addition to this, anything that helps prevent a break-in can be considered a security measure, up to and including your exterior decorations.
You can place camouflaged anti-burglar spiked fencing below your easily-accessible windows, adding another layer of security to your home.
If you don’t want your precautions to be that obvious, consider planting rose bushes or other aesthetically pleasing and thick shrubs that are thorny outside of your easily-accessible windows.
As previously stated, anything that inconveniences a would-be home invader counts as a security precaution. Burglars don’t enjoy getting stabbed by thorns any more than you do, and any discouragement is valuable, costing them time with which they could be robbing your house, and making them more likely to be detected.
Dogs are the oldest alarms in the world. Guard dogs were first used in ancient Rome, and are still in use today in many places around the world. There are two basic types of dogs that can protect your home from intruders.
First, there are large, strong, aggressive Guard Dogs such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies. These dogs are loud, big, and intimidating. Simply seeing one of these dogs may be enough to ward off a potential burglar, as they don’t want to get attacked and bitten by them. Any large dog breed that barks loudly and can pack a fierce bite fits this category.
Second, there are “Alarm Dogs”. Any dog that barks at strangers will work as an alarm. Intimidation is not necessarily a factor here, because any additional noise worries a burglar. They fear that the loud barking may wake up the owner of the home, or perhaps a neighbor, increasing his chances of getting caught in the act.
So If you’ve got a dog in your home, you’ve already taken this security measure! Burglars tend to avoid homes with dogs in them because it’s just another alarm that can alert neighbors and people in the house to their presence. To make it clear that you own a dog, consider purchasing a “beware of dog” sign, or leaving clear indicators of dog ownership around your yard; dog toys, food/water bowls, or doghouses.
Professionally Installed Home Security Systems
If you are truly worried about your home being invaded, you may believe that there is no substitute for a comprehensive home security system, installed by professionals and paid for by a monthly fee. However, these systems are often quite expensive, and there is no evidence that they’re necessarily more effective at warding off burglars than security systems that you implement yourself.
These systems do a better job of monitoring the interior of your home, and contacting emergency services when your home is broken into, but as stated before, the most effective way to ward off criminals is by making it clear that you have some sort of home security system in place.
If the criminal knows this, they will not even attempt to break into your home. Whether it’s your own system, or one installed by a professional, they will have the same effect.
Creating Good Home Security Habits – When You’re At Home
It’s relatively simple to create and maintain good home security habits. Here are some tips for doing so.
Check the doors and windows whenever you leave the house. This one is obvious, but it bears repeating. All of your locks won’t protect you if they’re left open, and as mentioned before, 30% of criminals simply walk into your house through an open door or window.
Make a mental checklist of all of your most-used doors and windows, and go through it every time you leave for the day. By doing this, you’ll get in the habit of remembering which doors and windows are often unlocked, and it will be easier for you to remember to lock them before leaving.
The same goes for your window and door alarms. If you have window and door alarms, chances are you turn some of them off during the day, when you’re entering and leaving your house, opening windows, and so on.
Make sure that before you leave the house, or before you go to sleep, you go through and turn on all of your alarms if they’ve been deactivated. They’re not useful if they’re not on, so making a habit of making sure they’re all active is recommended.
It’s also helpful to get in the habit of making it clear that you are at home when you’re at home. When it’s obvious that you’re home and active, burglars are less likely to target you. Keep your car parked in a consistent and obvious location, leave porch lights on, watch TV and play music. All of these steps make it clear to a potential burglar that you’re at home and awake, and they’ll be less likely to target you.
Creating Good Home Security Habits – When You’re Away
- Stop mail and newspaper delivery. This is one of the most obvious things that a burglar can notice. If they see multiple newspapers or an overflowing mailbox, they’ll know that you haven’t been at home for a while, and that there’s nobody to stop them from robbing your house.
- Purchase and install some electric timers, such as thisCentury 7 Day Heavy Duty Digital Programmable Timer. These digital timers can switch lights and appliances on and off based on times and durations you program. This makes them ideal for simulating normal day-to-day activity, such as watching TV, turning on lights in specific rooms, and turning on appliances. You can use these to simulate your normal day-to-day activity, making it seem as if you’re still home. This will make you less likely to be targeted by a criminal.
- Consider a house-sitter if you’re going to be out of town for a long time. Even better than the light timers, having a real live person in your house means that a criminal will likely not target your home for invasion. There’s also the added advantage that a house-sitter will be able to collect your mail and newspapers, preventing the need to stop delivery, and will feed your pet and take care of house maintenance. If you’re going to be out of town for quite a long time, this is certainly the best option.
Getting Started – Basic Security System Products and Recommendations
All of the products mentioned throughout this review are great starting points for increasing your home security.
Here’s the list, one more time.
For a basic home security system, we recommend checking and upgrading all external doors with strong deadbolt locks, and installing window and door alarms. Window bars can also be used to further upgrade your window security.
- Kwikset 660 Deadbolt Lock
- GE Deluxe Wireless Door Alarm
- GE Personal Security Window/Door Alarm
- Prime-Line Products S 4768 Window Guard
A video surveillance system is also a great purchase, paired with motion-activated floodlights for both the outside and inside of your home. In addition, you should purchase a sign, declaring the presence of a home security system and place it in a clear, well-lit area of your property. This will make the criminal check and see your video cameras, and will discourage them from attempting to steal from your home.
- URPOWER 8 LED Outdoor Motion Sensor Light: Waterproof, wireless and solar powered
- Motion Sensor Night Light: For protection throughout your house – stairs, hallways, closets and more
- Armcrest Security 960h Video Monitoring System
- No Trespassing Sign
In addition, for times that you are away from home for extended periods of time, we recommend light self-timers, so that you can turn your lights and appliances on and off, simulating the activity of your day-to-day life.
Just don’t forget that any kind of home security system is useless if you don’t make a habit of using it often and using it correctly. Learn the abilities and limitations of whatever products you purchase, and make a habit of check on them and their function regularly.
Where to Go from Here – Advanced Security Systems
If you have already purchased all of the above items, but still feel as if your home is not secure enough, you may want to consider items such as another set of video cameras for interior home monitoring.
You could also consider getting a professional home monitoring system installed. While expensive, they are very comprehensive, often including carbon monoxide and smoke/fire detection systems along with the standard complement of home security measures. They have a quick emergency response time.
However, these systems are generally overkill for most people, and since you have to pay for installation, service, and monthly premiums, they get expensive fast.
The first step towards making your home safe from criminals is understanding the systems that you already have in place. Take a careful look at your locks and vulnerable areas, and think through ways that you can improve security, such as remembering to lock exposed doors and windows, making it clear that you are home when you are home, and so on.
The next step is to understand what kind of security system you want. Any kind of obvious security system has the advantage both of deterring criminal activity, and making it easier to catch a criminal if they still try to burglarize your home.
By making your home unappealing to criminals by installing clear, robust security systems, you massively decrease the chance that you will be targeted by a burglar, and you gain peace of mind for both yourself and your family that is invaluable.
These systems don’t have to be expensive. A great starting point is all of the products that we’ve mentioned above.
We hope this article has been informative, and has helped you better understand the advantages both of purchasing home security products, and forming better habits and gaining an understanding of who criminals target. Again, home invasion and burglary is rare, but if you take the right actions and install the right equipment, you can lower your risk to nearly 0%.
Take a look at the products we’ve mentioned above, and take the next steps towards protecting you, your loved ones, and your property today.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.