In the security of your own home, it’s easy to avoid thinking about how comfortable a burglar could get while you’re away or even fast asleep. According to the FBI, the number of home burglaries ticked down a bit last year, but they’re still frequent enough that the Bureau’s one-burglary-every-15-seconds estimate holds. That means every home is at risk for a burglary or break-in, especially those offering easy entry to thieves through the neglected details that lead to big losses.
If installing a top-of-the-line home security system is beyond your budget, fear not--there are many cheap home security tips and tricks you can use to keep your family and property secure.
- A well-lit home is much less likely to be broken into, so make sure your home's exterior is fully illuminated with motion-detector spotlights and other strategic outdoor lighting fixtures.
- When you’re away, use timers on interior lights to give the impression of home life as usual. Manual and digital timers can be found at your local hardware store or home center for a few dollars a pop.
- Tall trees can be accessories to crime when dense branches come close to your home and create pockets of darkness where burglars can hide. Keep trees well-trimmed to avoid giving thugs a place to hang out.
- Dense shrubs can also create a hideout, so keep hedges low and plantings near doors and windows neat and transparent.
- A door with only a handle lock is an easy mark for a crook armed with finesse, a plastic credit card and the desire to break your home security. Instead, add a good-quality deadbolt at each entry. The best deadbolts require a key on the outside and incorporate a thumb latch on the inside. Further strengthen every installation by substituting long, heavy-duty screws for those provided by the manufacturer so that entry doors can be secured to the wood-framed door opening in the wall.
- No matter which lock you choose, it’s only as strong as the door itself, which is generally weakest around the lock. Add a decorative door reinforcement plate (about $10) to make this zone more secure. For more entry door security tips, check out our Front Door Entryways tips.
- Improve home security at the patio door by adding a patio bar, which can stop the inside door from sliding open or being pried off if the lock is broken. A sturdy piece of wood strategically placed in the open track can also improve door security.
- When leaving home for day trips or longer, keep your garage closed to intruders by inserting a large stove bolt through one of the side track holes to prevent the door from being slid open.
- Install a wide-angle (200-degree) peephole in your front door so that you can easily see who’s come knocking.
- Never hide spare keys in “secret” places outside your home, because smart burglars know which flowerpots to look under.
- Be smart about issuing spare keys. Even though you may be careful about who they’re issued to, you can’t control the paths they may cross or situations in which your key may be exposed to duplication.
- Windows can be the weakest link in home security, especially if left open and unattended. Make sure all units are closed and locked before you leave home for even the shortest errand, and add window dressings and shades to discourage prying eyes.
- Modern windows include sash locks, but you can improve security by drilling a hole from front to back where the top and bottom windows overlap and installing a long nail in the hole. If the integrated window lock breaks, the nail will stop the window from sliding open. Security bars on ground-level windows are also an option, but make sure they’re fitted with quick-release mechanisms that allow them to be opened from the inside in an emergency.
- Low-cost, high-technology home security systems incorporating infrared motion detection, remote controls and easy-to-install door and window break-in sensors are available for application in apartments and small homes. If you have pets, you can prevent false alarms by looking for systems incorporating “pet alley” settings that keep detection just above their usual paths.
- For more security with doors and windows, purchase individual alarms to supplement existing security measures.
- Perhaps the most important home security measure of all is to document your home’s contents, particularly the valuables. Get out the video camera and take a thorough tour of your home, then deliver a copy of the resulting tape and any other helpful documentation to your safe deposit box. If your home security is ever really threatened by a burglary, you’ll have the proof you need to supply to the police and to your homeowners insurance company.