It’s hard to think of anything more chilling than the idea of a stranger trying — and succeeding — to gain access to your home.
You can protect yourself, your loved ones and your belongings by installing an effective alarm system and by taking additional steps that are much more low-cost and low-tech.
The following tips can help you figure out how to proceed depending on your circumstances.
1. Err on the side of strength. Make sure all of your home’s exterior doors are solid, not hollow, and be on the lookout for any windows or glass partitions that may be situated in vulnerable spots, such as near doorknobs. You could replace the glass in those areas with polycarbonate that is shatter-resistant.
2. Batten down the hatches. Invest in good deadbolt locks for your exterior doors, and make sure your windows have locks as well.
3. Brace up sliding doors. If your home has sliding-glass doors, place a strong bar along the track when the doors are closed and locked. A sturdy broom handle or baseball bat can work nicely.
4. Lock that garage. The rest of your home may be nice and secure, but how easy is it to enter your garage? Be sure the garage door’s lock is strong, and remember to lock inside doors that lead into your garage. If you have a garage-door opener, opt for remotes that automatically change the signal code every time they’re used.
5. Prune back those bushes and trees. It’s hard to hide in neat, trimmed shrubs. Keep your greenery under control so neighbors can see whether or not anyone is skulking about your property. Also check to see that your trees can’t provide access to second-floor bedrooms.
6. Let there be light. Install motion-detection lights outside, and keep a few key interior lights on timers so it always looks like someone is home – and possibly awake. Look for a timer with a battery backup system in the event of power failures.
7. Plan ahead for vacations. Going away for a while? Remember to have someone bring your newspapers and mail in each day and also mow your lawn while you’re gone. Consider keeping a radio tuned to a talk radio station so it sounds like people are conversing somewhere inside the house.
8. Look into alarm systems. High-end systems that connect to every window and door of your home really do work. They’re pricey, though: About $3,000 or so, plus a monthly bill in the $20 to $30 range for the alarm system’s monitoring center.
9. Shop and compare. Contact at least three companies and compare estimates. The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (http://www.alarm.org/info_ctr/consumer.htm, (888) 447-1689)offers advice on how to choose an alarm system and can provide you with a list of local contractors. Some systems may qualify you for a discount of up to 30 percent on your homeowners insurance, so check with your agent about that.
10. Keep the system activated. Many homeowners end up deactivating their alarm systems for extended periods of time because they don’t want to trigger false alarms. Make sure you understand the system well enough that you’re confident enough to use it.
- “The Stress-Free Guide to Family Finance,” from the Editors of Consumer Reports