Now that you’ve finally found that perfect home, you’re itching to get settled in and comfortable in your very own space. This is the fun part! You get to put your personal stamp on things and enjoy your new place to the fullest. But in order to do that, you want to make sure that your most important asset, that brand-new home, is fully protected. And of course you need to ensure that your loved ones are safe, too.
If you're new to the world of home security, you might (understandably) have some questions about the best way to go about this.
Your parents, your friends, your co-workers, even a well-meaning neighbor are all going to have opinions on home security. But what actually works? What do you need to ensure you feel completely comfortable in your new space—when you're home and when you're away? We have you covered. Here are the answers to your most common home security questions.
1. How important is a home security system?
“For the utmost peace of mind, we always recommend a professionally installed and monitored home security system,” says Angela White, president of the Electronic Security Association.
Why is it so important? In a study by the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation, 83% of home invasion offenders said they’d check for an alarm first.
Plus, today’s modern systems aren’t the one-size-fits-all models your parents bought. You have a range of options—from smart home security systems that can be controlled from an app when you're away to a simple system with motion detectors and window sensors—so you can choose what feels right for you.
2. Should I display security system yard and window signs?
It might seem like a small thing, but you should indeed display those security system yard signs and window stickers prominently. The majority of study respondents told AIREF that security system signs were effective at protecting the home.
Thinking about only displaying fake signs, without adding the security system? Resist the temptation. Fake signs can be easy to spot. Only a real sign accompanying a real security system will ensure real protection in the long run.
3. Are visible exterior cameras effective?
Not too long ago exterior home security cameras often stuck out like a sore thumb, prompting many people to wonder if their neighbors were secretly celebrities.
Today, they're common outside homes because homeowners have figured out they can be a valuable tool. From being able to see who's at your door, to just feeling safer knowing the cameras are there, homeowners have increasingly been turning to this relatively simple security strategy.
"I personally don't think you can go too big when installing a home security system if it makes you more comfortable as a homeowner," says Lee Walters, a security expert with 30 years' experience in law enforcement and founder of FortifyMyHouse.com, a security education website.
Security cameras are just another effective "tool in your arsenal," Walters says. And they're affordable, too—as the technology has become more prevalent, the costs of purchasing and installing those cameras have gone down.
4. Should I leave the lights on when I leave?
We’ve all heard this one: If you leave the lights on when you leave, people will think you’re still at home. Many people even leave their lights on a timer when they'll be gone for an extended period of time. But does it work?
“Interior lighting can be an effective deterrent,” Walters says.
The key is to develop a smart system that works for you. Try turning different lamps on at different times when you leave, so that your system isn't predictable.
A better option? Try a smart home security system.
“All of the interactive technology now allows you to simulate that you are home and to check in to remotely monitor what is happening in real time,” White says. Interactive systems allow you to control lights from your phone, so you can illuminate different rooms at different times—and that's far more convincing.
5. Should I leave the TV or radio on when I leave?
"It should appear that someone is home, and leaving the TV or even a radio on can do that," Walters says. In fact, a study by KWG in Portland, OR, found some home invasion offenders weren’t willing to risk it if they heard noise inside.
And if you're leaving your furry family members at home, the sound of a TV or radio might make them feel comfy. It isn't an exact science, but many experts believe the sound of voices can help pets with separation anxiety.
6. Should I install a home security system myself?
DIY home security kits abound on the internet. Most of these kits work in similar ways: A security camera to record video (or send it to your phone) or an alarm that sounds if a door or window is opened. These kits—and professionally installed and monitored systems—seem the same on the surface, but you'll be missing out on a ton of helpful features if you opt for the DIY.
Modern home security systems are like virtual butlers. You can check on your pets from your phone while you're running errands. You can turn the lights on remotely when you pull into your driveway so you aren't stumbling around in the dark when you walk inside. And if you need it, emergency services—such as the fire department—are just a push of a button away.
"If homeowners are looking for a trustworthy security company that can work with them to install a security system, we recommend that they visit Alarm.org to search for a member of the Electronic Security Association in their area," White says. That way you'll not only know what you're getting in advance—and how well it will work—you'll also have the option to personalize the system to make it fit your lifestyle.
In the end, the experts recommend not relying on one home security strategy alone. The best approach is a well-rounded one: Get the alarm system, but go ahead and leave the radio on, too. Because in order to feel safe, you need to be safe.