Is Full DIY Home Security for you?
Our series on DIY home security systems we’ve tested in our own home
Part 2: Protecting what’s Important
We started our DIY smart home journey by adding technology for convenience before we started thinking about securing our home. We love to travel, so naturally smart home products became a way to help us stay in touch with what was going on at home while we were away.
As we discussed in part 1 of this series, neither of us are especially paranoid about someone breaking into our home and haven’t really been in any of the places we’ve lived. We always lock our doors and are mindful of leaving things out in the open in our cars but we aren’t the kind of people who worry too much about break-ins and home invasions.
If you are interested in some simple ways to monitor your home without committing to a full security system, there are plenty of technology solutions you can use to get started. But first, it’s good to spend some time thinking about what’s important to you and your family.
Discover your needs
Before you start buying cameras and sensors, think about what security means to you. Do you live alone and worry about someone coming in? Do you have kids and worry if they are home or not? Do you have a loved one who lives somewhere else that you’re concerned about? Do you worry about someone breaking in when you’re not home? Or do you worry about other things happening when you’re away, like a fire, water leak or other issue?
You can address a lot of these fears and worries with smart lighting, sensors and/or cameras, and these days it’s fairly easy to make them work together for you with your phone and voice assistants like Alexa. If you want to get more sophisticated and make more things work together, the opportunities are almost endless. And you can do a lot of this on your own without having to hire a security company and worry about false alarms.
In the United States, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, there were an estimated 1.1M burglaries in 2019, with about 63 percent of those at residential properties. If it makes you feel better, the burglaries fell 9.5% from 2018 to 2019, and have been in steady decline for decades.
Surprisingly, almost 45 percent of those reported burglaries occurred during the day, when it was assumed people weren’t home. There are no statistics published yet for 2020, but we suspect that trend may have shifted considering more people have been working at home than ever before.
Whether it’s day or night, most burglars don’t want to break in when someone’s at home. So one of the simplest things to do is make it look like someone is there, even when you’re not. You can use smart lighting to keep lights on that you can see from the outside.
If you’re using this strategy, make sure you use lights that you can see from the back and side doors as well as the front of the house, and put them on a schedule so it looks like someone eventually goes to bed at night and doesn’t stay awake 24/7. There are smart plugs, light bulbs and smart switches available at almost every price point and these are all easy to add and control with your phone or a voice assistant.
Protecting the Perimeter
Whether you are home or not, it’s a good idea to think about all the outside entry points to your house and decide how you want to protect them. Doors and windows are obvious places people can get in, and the best defense is to keep them locked. And don’t forget about your garage door and your backyard gate.
You can protect the outside of your house whether you’re home or not with door and window sensors, glass break sensors, with cameras, and with a smart garage door opener, or any combination. Sometimes it’s great to have a back-up method, especially if you are monitoring your home yourself. For instance, put a smart camera in the garage so you can catch the person who opened the door, or double-check that it has actually been opened or was left opened and it’s not a technology glitch from your smart garage door opener (it happens).
Keeping the indoors safe
Once you’ve secured the outside, you may still worry about what’s going on inside your house. This may have nothing to do with a burglary, maybe you just want to know if your kids brought their friends home or if your dog has gotten into the garbage. Or you may want to know if there’s an emergency like a fire or a water leak. Smart home tech can help you with all of this and more, with sensors, cameras and smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Adjust your expectations
If you’re monitoring your home yourself with smart home technology, remember that if someone actually does break into your home while you’re not there, it’s highly unlikely you would be able to stop the robbery.
The average burglary lasts between 8 and 10 minutes and even if you have a siren they are probably still going to try to grab something before they leave. By the time you notice the alert on your phone, open up an app and see what’s happening, it’s probably all over. You may not even hear the sound, feel the vibration, or even have your phone nearby when the break-in occurs.
So even if you have tech it’s good to have insurance and keep your valuables out of plain sight. However, the technology will help you have a good record of what happened, to help the police catch the burglar or make adjustments yourself so it’s less likely to happen again.
Managing your own home security
If you decide to go the fully Do-it-Yourself route for home security, remember you are the monitoring service. It may take you a while to get used to all of the notifications on your phone and understand what alerts you can ignore and which ones you should take seriously.
And while the smart home ecosystem is more mature, we still don’t believe there is one best app to rule them all. As you install more devices and get more comfortable, you’ll probably wind up with several apps you use to keep tabs on your home.
In our next article, we’ll talk about protecting your perimeter with cameras and sensors.
What do you think? Do you use some of these technologies already or do you have a full alarmed system? We’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at feedback (at) appmyhome.com or on Facebook or Twitter.