Feeling safe inside your home is a big concern, whether you rent an apartment or own a house. It's hard to fully unwind and relax when you're concerned about the safety of your property when you leave as well as your own safety when you're home at night.
There have long been a variety of home security system options, some linked to an outside monitoring service and others serving only as an alarm to deter burglars. But they also come with a reputation of being ineffective, too expensive or too much of a hassle for homeowners to use properly, explains Thad White, director of home security products for Ooma, a telecommunications company that has more recently entered into the security industry.
"The typical model is you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have sensors professionally installed in the home. And then worse, you pay $40 to $50 per month to have the so-called professional monitoring option where a call center will call your home in the event of an emergency," White says. "What we heard from people is more than half of our [phone] customers who had home security in the past have canceled it because of that recurring cost."
A Bankrate survey released in February of more than 1,300 homeowners found that they spend an average of $130 per month on home security systems. On top of that, home security has, for decades, required professional installation that can't be moved from place to place, making the options for renters limited or nonexistent.
The home security industry has begun its transformation, however, as smart home technology advances make alarm and monitoring systems more user-friendly, inexpensive and mobile.
Rather than having to learn how a wired security system works, how to arm it and disarm it and what parts of the system are more sensitive than others, Herman Yau, CEO of home security company Tend, says the goal is to make home security more intuitive and a normal part of people's daily routines: "The less education we have to do, the more likely it's going to be integrated into their daily lives."
First and foremost, the most important action to prevent a break-in is to lock your windows and doors. Beyond that, a home security system will also be ineffective if you don't use it regularly, and stickers and signs for a home security brand can't guarantee burglars will be deterred.
Your best bet for protecting your property and your family is to take on a home security system that you can operate confidently and with features you can easily fold into your daily routine. Here are five home security system options both homeowners and renters can take advantage of today.
Smartphone access. One of the biggest reasons home security is seeing a transformation is the near-universal use of smartphones. "The market has changed a lot, really with the advent of smartphones," White says.
Many home security systems today can be monitored and operated from a smartphone app, as well as have their software updated in the same manner any mobile app is brought up to speed. If something out of the ordinary is detected, a notification to your phone allows you to determine if it's an emergency, explains Sophie Le Guen, product manager for Nest Secure, the home security branch of the Nest home system. "The verification part is key," she says.
Easy in and out. Key to making an alarm system more effective is to prevent false alarms going in and out of the home, not to mention the pressure to get out the door once the countdown starts after you've armed your system.
"We realized that one of the main sources of false alarm was actually users themselves not knowing how to arm and disarm their system," Le Guen says.
Nest, like Ooma and Tend, among other home security options, allows you to arm your system from your phone. Nest Secure also includes tags, which act like a key fob to arm and disarm the system, as well as a key pad to let you, your family and even your dog walker use the best mode to get in and out of the house.
The Nest Secure system even has a feature that keeps the system armed while opening one door without setting off an alarm, by pressing a release on that door's sensor. This way, you can leave for work early in the morning while the rest of the family is sleeping or let the dog out at night without fearing waking up the entire house.
Self-monitoring. Helping to cut down on the cost of a little peace of mind, most wireless home security systems allow you to monitor your house on your own, without having to pay for a company to track your alarm.
Ooma exclusively runs on this model, having received feedback from its phone customers on preferences for home security options. "When you detect an emergency, you can choose to trigger a 911 call from your cellphone, but it comes from your home," reaching the appropriate local dispatcher, White says.
Subscription third-party care. But, of course, relying on your own diligence to check your phone may not be enough to keep you from worrying. Nest Secure is built for self-monitoring, but it also offers subscriptions to Brinks Home Security.
"Some consumers want to the peace of mind that someone will watch over the house, so then they have this option to subscribe to professional monitoring," Le Guen says. "Some other consumers want to be empowered directly," which is where the self-monitoring through a smartphone comes in handy.
Advanced cameras and sensors. Of course, the ability for room, door and window sensors to function properly and move easily is a major component to making your security system a smart investment.
Fortunately, many security companies offer wireless sensors that can easily be moved about the home to better fit your needs, and they can be moved to your next place without you having to purchase a whole new system.
Ooma, Tend and Nest all offer cameras with ever-advancing technology that help reduce false alarms and know more about what's happening at home while you're away. Facial recognition can let you know when an unfamiliar face comes into your home while you're gone, and smart heat sensors reduce the chance of triggering a security alert when your dog walks around the house during the day.
By installing outdoor cameras on the exterior of your home, "you can extend your perimeter," Yau says, helping you to feel safe not just inside the walls of your house at night, but on the rest of your property as well.
Yau explains that the goal of advancing technology in home security, particularly with cameras, is not just to try and catch the bad guys should a break-in occur, but to work the security measures into your everyday life with little disruption. The easier it is to incorporate into your routine, the more likely you are to use it and successfully deter would-be burglars.
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