Home Security System can bring peace of mind if you choose the right option.
1 June – Miami Herald – by Jana Soeldner Danger
Thinking of putting in a home security system?
You’re not alone. Interest in home security systems is growing, said Andy Garcia, a safety expert at Safehome.org, a San Diego based rm that researches security and safety products and companies. “The smart home revolution has fueled and renewed interest in home security systems,” he said.
How to choose the right system?
“The first step is to identify what you want to protect,” said Rebecca Edwards, senior security writer and safety expert at Salt Lake City-based Safewise, a company that researches and provides information on a variety of safety-related topics. “Is it people, pets, property or a combination? Budget is also important.”
Think about your lifestyle and environment. “Consider whether you own your home or rent, how many points of access and egress there are, your communications and networks, and who occupies your space,” Garcia said. “Doing your research before choosing a system is a must.”
Think about your ability to respond if there’s an issue. “Do you want to just look and see what’s going on, or do you want 24/7 monitoring?” said Javier Garcia, senior vice president of marketing for Comcast. “If you see something happening, what are you going to do about it? Do you want to be able to do every protection,” thing remotely?”
Maurizio Pejoves of P&O Global Technologies, a security camera company in Fort Lauderdale, recommends that at a minimum, a home should have two cameras, and possibly three: “One to cover the front door, and another to cover where you park your cars,” he said. “If the home has water access in the back, you should have a camera there. You want the cameras to be visible because a larger camera can be intimidating.”
On the other hand, it depends on the individual. “The minimum or necessary level of security is whatever makes you comfortable,” Andy Garcia said. “It’s a personal preference, and the good news is that there are a lot of systems on the market that offer versatile setups and custom packages.”
NOT JUST ALARMS
Today’s security systems offer many different functions. “They can provide much more than intruder Edwards said. “They can help you manage your whole life.”
“Technology has evolved so they’re no longer just alarm systems,” Javier Garcia said. “You can integrate them to turn on lights and adjust the thermostat. Anything that’s connected to the Internet can be managed.”
But don’t forget the budget. “It’s tempting to go out and get all kinds of things you don’t need,” Edwards said. “You don’t have to risk financial security to have home security.”
DIY OR PROFESSIONAL?
Many products today can be installed by a competent do-it-yourselfer. “With wireless technology, professional installation isn’t necessarily a must,” Andy Garcia said. “Changing technology has given consumers systems that are pretty much plug-and-play, and that lowers the barrier for entry, especially for renters and young people. You can get some really impressive cameras and self-monitoring setups for as little as $100.”
On the other hand, people who consider themselves technologically challenged might want to consider professional installation. “They’ll come in and walk you through everything,” Edwards said. “They’ll set it up, train you how to use it, and identify potential vulnerabilities. They’ll also give you an assessment of what they think you need to keep you safe. But the risk is that you might upgrade too much.”
A homeowner who does choose to install components him- or herself should be sure they’re manageable. It’s a good idea to have features that will connect to a smart home hub like Alexa or Google Home so they can communicate with each other, Edwards said.
It’s also a good idea to have components that can be controlled with an app on a smartphone. “Mobile apps are incredibly useful,” Andy Garcia said. “They give you all the power that your home security control panel does while allowing you to manage your system from wherever you are.”
But with a piecemeal system, there’s a danger of it becoming too complicated. “It’s best to have one app so everything works together,” Edwards said. “If you have to go to 10 different apps, it’s not user-friendly.”
“Grabbing a basic system on a whim isn’t the worst decision you could make, but it’s potentially limiting,” Andy Garcia said. “While you might be able to upgrade later, your options may be limited. Not all systems and brands play nicely with each other.”
A homeowner should choose options that t his or her lifestyle but don’t break the budget. Here are some ideas:
The front of the home is the first place many people think about when considering home security. “Video doorbells are some of the most useful security devices available, and they’re becoming more useful as package theft becomes more common,” Andy Garcia said. Freestanding video cameras are also an option. Some cameras record only for a limited time; others will continue recording as long as there is motion so a homeowner can look back at the history. Some systems send an alert to the homeowner’s phone when someone approaches the door; others will just sound an alarm or turn on a light when they detect motion. “They’re not as preventive, because a lot of us ignore sirens and alarms,” Edwards said.
Some locks today open by simply pushing a button; others have a security code that needs to be punched in. For a family with kids old enough to be home alone after school, but young enough so they might lose a key or forget a code, a Bluetooth electric lock might be an answer, Edwards said. It can be programmed with a smartphone so that when that particular phone gets close to the door, it automatically unlocks. “It’s nice if you’re carrying groceries, too,” she added.
There are other helpful tools for working parents. “You can get a text that tells you when your children come home so you know they’re safe,” Javier Garcia said.
Some products also allow back-and-forth conversation. “After your kids get home, you can ask them about their day,” Edwards said.
BEYOND THE FRONT DOOR
Some homeowners will want to put motion sensors on windows all the way around the house, especially those on the first floor. Sensors that light up areas of landscaping that might offer a place for an intruder to hide can also be useful. Some garage door sensors will learn a homeowner schedule and be able to tell if the door is open when it shouldn’t be. “That way, you don’t have to wonder if you forgot to close it,” Edwards said.
A sensor on the door to the pool can send an instant alert if someone opens it, Javier Garcia said. It’s a safety feature that can give peace of mind to parents with small children, and also to families with an elderly person living there.
Some homeowners may want to invest in a system that is professionally monitored at all times. “It’s the most foolproof way to go,” Edwards said. “Otherwise, if you get an alert, you have to call 911 yourself, and that takes time. The professional monitoring system will send help immediately.”
Suppose an alarm is set off inadvertently? “A professional monitoring system will call you before they call the police,” Javier Garcia said.
If there’s no answer, the monitor will then call the police.
Whatever system a homeowner chooses, there is one major mistake to avoid, Edwards said. “Don’t forget to arm it.”