How to protect your home

Home security tips
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Home security tips

Most householders do their best to avoid burglary by taking the basic precautions of keeping their valuables out of sight, closing their windows and locking their doors, but for greater peace of mind, you need a home security system.

These come in all shapes and sizes: this guide explains what the options are and how to choose the best home security system for your situation.

Types of home protection systems

Like many aspects of life today, home protection has been revolutionised by smartphones, with a huge range of smart home security systems now available that allow you to monitor and control what’s going on in your home remotely via an app on your mobile. These often include smoke and poisonous gas detection too, keeping you safe when you’re in your home as well as when you’re out.

That said, the majority of UK homes fitted with a security system still have a traditional ‘bells only’ or ‘audible-only’ alarm, or an auto-dialler alarm which calls a pre-set list of your phone numbers when triggered by an intruder as well as or instead of setting off an audible alarm.

For many people, these types of smart or traditional systems provide an acceptable balance between protection and cost, particularly if they live in an area with an active neighbourhood watch system and have local friends who are at home during the day and are happy to be keyholders. However, if you live in a high theft area, or have particularly valuable possessions in your home, a further option is to have a full monitoring package which contacts a 24 hour Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) if the burglar alarm is triggered. The ARC then contacts the Police if it gets a second notification for the same event, although the Police response is dependent on what resources they have available at the time.

Understanding home protection technology

Home security system components

The hub of a home security system is its base station which sits in your house but can be located out of site to make it hard for an intruder to disable as soon as they’ve gained entry. You can then connect any of the following to the base station:

  • Motion detectors.
  • Sensors that trigger when a door or window is opened.
  • Indoor and outdoor cameras that record continuously or are motion-sensitive.
  • Motion-sensitive outdoor lights.
  • Sirens.
  • Video doorbells (smart systems only).
  • Smart locks (smart systems only).

These components have traditionally been wired to the base station but new home security systems almost all use wireless connections via radio frequencies. Although a wireless system is generally a bit more expensive to buy, they’re simpler and therefore cheaper to install and you don’t have to face ugly cables running around your home or the hassle of redecorating.

Most modern alarm systems offer a key fob which you can use to deactivate it when you return home so you don’t need to remember a code or go through the stress which occurs if you mis-type it and the alarm goes off.

Smart home protection systems connect to the internet via your wifi so that you can access them remotely on a computer or phone. Being online also gives you the option of uploading recorded footage to the cloud which costs more than simply storing it within the base station on an SD card or connected hard drive, but provides an added level of security (the intruder can’t remove it from your property) as well as more capacity. It would be frustrating to come back from a week’s holiday to find that the crucial coverage of a burglary on your first day away had been over-written by a more recent file.

Tip: If you have pets, make sure you reduce the sensitivity settings of any motion detectors that form part of your system, other than lights, so that they don’t trigger false alarms.

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Video doorbells

Video doorbells let you see who’s at your door without having to be near it or even in the property at all by ringing an app on your phone which you can then use to speak to the visitor wherever you are. For those comfortable with using app technology, their advantage over spyhole door viewers is that they can be set to record video when approached.

Smart locks

Smart locks are digital locks which are controlled from an app on your phone. You can generate separate codes for different individuals, such as members of your family, cleaners, tradesmen or even guests, which you can de-activate when they’re not needed for added security. Additional features include logs of who came and went and when they did so, autolocking which automatically locks your front door behind you when your phone goes out of a specified perimeter distance from your house, and voice activation where you simply need to tell your phone, “Unlock the door.”

How to choose a home protection system

The best home security systems offer an extremely wide range of features and monitoring packages. Identify the options that you need by matching the response level and technologies to the likelihood that you will be burgled and the potential impact if you are.

Consider smaller companies as well as the household names when you get to the stage of selecting a supplier for your home security system. Although choosing a big brand can feel reassuring, check for recent online reviews by existing customers to get an up-to-date picture of their customer service levels for dealing with alarm activations.

How to protect your home from burglary

For more information on how to protect your home from theft, read our 12 tips to prevent burglaries home security guide.

Frequently asked questions about home security systems

Can burglar alarms call the police?

Not directly. The first point of contact for all ‘Police-calling’ alarms is an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) which only passes the call to the Police if it can confirm that the activation is genuine. The Police will only attend a ‘confirmed activation’ i.e. one which has two signals from separate sources during the same intrusion.

Even if there is a confirmed activation, the Police response is limited to the resource they have available at the time. If your system makes three false alarms within a year, the police will no longer attend.

How much does a home security system cost?

The cost of home security systems is made up of three components: the purchase price of the equipment, installation costs, and any ongoing monitoring contract you choose. Wireless home security systems are usually more expensive to buy than wired alarms but have no installation costs. The number of components such as sensors and cameras you need depends on the size of your home as larger properties require more of these. Basic home security kits start at about £120.

A ‘lite’ option for smart home surveillance is to use an old smartphone as a security camera by installing an app like Manything which live streams over your house wifi (no sim necessary). The video footage can also be stored in the cloud.

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