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DIY Home Security Tools and Accessories

There are a ton more security options out there besides alarm systems.
There are a ton more security options out there besides alarm systems.
Brand X Pictures/ThinkStock

Your home is your sanctuary, and it's important to keep it safe. From something as simple as a recording of a barking dog attached to a motion sensor near your back door to a set of good landscape floodlights, there are quite a few easy, effective and often inexpensive measures you can take to make sure your family and belongings are protected.

Your lifestyle will have an impact on your home security, too. If you live in a neighborhood where there are lots of alarm systems, your house is less likely to become a target, even if you don't have an alarm yourself. If you have a dog or live in a neighborhood with a watch group or a very visible and interested neighbor, you're also in better security shape.

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Light, sound, locks and eyes on the ground are all great ways to ensure that your belongings will be waiting for you when you get home at night. On the next couple of pages, we'll take a look at a few popular and practical ways you can turn your castle into a safe refuge whether you live uptown, downtown, in the country or in the 'burbs.

A solid door and good lock are the first line of defense against break-ins, so it's important to invest in reliable locking equipment. When you move to a new home, always change or rekey the door locks as an added precaution. The old latches can usually be uninstalled by removing four simple screws. To measure for a new lock, just determine the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the knob hole, and also measure the thickness of the door itself. This will give you the information you'll need to buy a new door locking mechanism.

Lock Upgrade Options

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When you do change your locks, there are some upgrades you might want to consider. One option is to purchase a latch and deadbolt combo. This will replace the old knob with a more secure deadbolt style lock that extends further into your jamb. Even if you already have a deadbolt, it will provide additional protection. Another option is to purchase a do not duplicate (DND) key lock. If, for some reason, your house key falls into the wrong hands, having a no-copy key will make it harder for someone to duplicate your key without your knowledge.

If you don't have a deadbolt on your door now, install one today. Deadbolts are excellent deterrents. Instead of placing your new deadbolt directly below the knob, though, consider moving it down 12 to 24 inches. Allowing more space between locks will make it harder to kick in your door. If the idea of having to carry all those keys around bothers you, have all the locks set to open with the same key, or consider a deadbolt that works on a remote controlled system. Look for a remote deadbolt that automatically changes the code after each use as an added safety feature.

Whatever system you choose, make sure your family uses it consistently by locking the doors behind them every time they enter or leave the house.

Adding Door or Window Bars

Putting bars on lower story windows is one effective way to send a message that your home is on security alert. Most break-ins are crimes of opportunity, and the harder you make it for someone to gain access to your home, the more likely it is they'll find someone else's house to rob. Even though some window bars have an ironwork look that's intended to appear decorative, they can still look like -- well, bars on the windows. Some styles are better at camouflage than others, especially over basement windows. Before you buy security bars, make sure to evaluate their quick release features. Some bar styles have raised entrapment concerns, especially during fire emergencies.

Newer security camera don't have to be this intrusive. There are much smaller options available.
Newer security camera don't have to be this intrusive. There are much smaller options available.
Hemera/ThinkStock

"Lights, camera, action!" is the new buzz phrase in home security. Everyone is putting electronic cameras on entrances to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and you can, too.

Home Security Cameras

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There are a couple strategies you should employ when equipping your home with security cameras. You can take the direct approach by installing large, wired cameras at your home's entry points. One nice thing about being obvious is that any potential miscreant will realize he's being monitored and may leave the premises. If he does hang around, a wired system will give you a nice, crisp picture to show the police later. Wired cameras in multiple locations on your property can be tricky to install, so this is one option you may want to have professionally designed and fitted.

Wireless cameras have become very popular in recent years. They're small and easy to conceal, and being hard to spot makes them more likely to catch the bad guys heading out the back door with your flat screen. Even though they're and easy to hide, wireless camera solutions have a couple of drawbacks you should think about. The photo quality can be questionable, especially if there are other electronic signals flying around and creating interference. Wireless camera feeds can also be intercepted by others, making the view of your front porch, driveway, patio or family room a lot more public than you'd probably like. Still, they're easy to install and operate, and prices for basic systems are coming down all the time.

The idea that being recorded works as a natural deterrent to criminals has led to a whole line of products that are actually just empty camera housings. They look intimidating but don't do much else. This option is less expensive than buying a real camera, but it's a lot less effective at nabbing the crooks if you do become a victim. Take a pass on these unless you're a great poker player who specializes in bluffing.

Outdoor Lighting

Adding outdoor lighting is a simple, inexpensive and common sense home security alternative. Crooks don't want to be spotted by you, your neighbors or passersby, and anything you can do to make them more visible will help reduce your risk of being robbed or worse. Although you may want to install some solar options, large, wired spotlights near your entrances and along walkways that receive the most foot traffic are the best spots for additional illumination. While you're at it, cut back the shrubbery around your entrances, too. It will give potential home invaders fewer places to hide.

Security alarm systems run the gamut from simple magnetic sensors that will alert you when a door or window is opened to perimeter protection that will notify you if anything breaks intersecting beams installed across your property. Potential threats aren't all coming from outside of your house, either. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are important home alarms that can warn you about life-threatening dangers, too.

Among the most popular alarms are motion detection devices that turn on lights when they sense movement. Your budget and safety concerns will determine how sophisticated you want a system to be and what functions you need it to perform.

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Alarms can be wired to single or multiple devices and attach to a common sound system that will alert you either locally or remotely when a sensor is tripped. On more sophisticated devices, the alarm sounds can be customized to represent specific dangers, like fire or a potential intruder at the back door. Alarms can also be silent and connect directly to the police, fire department or to a pay service that will evaluate the incident and notify the proper authorities for you.

Your lifestyle, family and belongings will help you determine the types of alarm components you'll want to install, like a car, motorcycle or camper alarm if you maintain your vehicles on a driveway or concrete pad. If you have a pool, you may want to consider adding a pool alarm that will warn you of unusual surface wave activity that may mean a toddler, animal or unauthorized adult is using the pool. These are all ways you can use alarm technology to notify you of threats in and around your property, and in some instances notify others who can respond even if you're away or incapacitated. Installing individual alarms may be relatively easy for a DIYer, but integrating multiple alarms or installing an elaborate system will probably require the assistance of a security professional.

Security alarms are becoming more economical, smaller and easier to use, so employing an alarm system as a safeguard makes good sense. Depending on your carrier, installing one could reduce your insurance rates, too.

Related Articles

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