Before you make a big purchase on a security system, take a good hard look around your home. A few simple, low- or no-cost measures will significantly deter a would-be thief from targeting your home.
Hold a household meeting
Make home security a habit, with every member of the household including kids agreeing to a routine that should include such simple rules as:
- Use door and window locks. It costs nothing and takes little energy. Make it a habit to lock every door and window when leaving, after entering, and before bedtime.
- Do not open the door to uninvited or unwelcome visitors.
- Close and lock the garage door.
- Secure your home even if you’re doing work around the house and yard.
- Use your alarm system all the time, even when you take a quick trip to the store or visit next-door neighbors.
Call on the police
Many municipal police departments offer complimentary home inspections. An officer walks through your home and recommends simple, cost-effective changes to tighten security.
Remove the ‘hidden’ house key
The key under the mat, inside the mailbox, beneath a rock everybody hides a house key. Problem is, burglars know you’re hiding places. Instead, give it to a trusted neighbor.
Place keys and garage-door remotes in a smart spot
Don’t leave car and house keys and remotes near the door or otherwise visible inside your house. Secure them inside a cabinet or a drawer to keep them hidden.
Add foreboding signs
Post security-company signs or window stickers near all entryways whether you have a security system or not. Maybe you have signs/stickers on hand from a previous contract with a security firm, or maybe you can get some from a friend. In addition, post a few “Beware of Dog” signs in visible spots, say at the front of the house or on a gate to the backyard.
Lock up the ladder
Don’t store a ladder outside. A burglar, perhaps posing as a handyman or contractor, could use it to gain access to a second-floor window or balcony.
Check our buying guides for entry doors, door locks, and windows. And find the best homeowners insurance policy.
Light up the outdoors
If you don’t have them already, buy and install outdoor lighting with infrared motion sensors and install one near each point of entry. Replace any burned-out light bulbs and put your porch lights on timers. Find the best bulbs for outdoor uses.
When you leave for work or appointments or go on vacation, you can create a “someone’s at home” look using timers on lights and TVs. No surprise, there are lots of gadgets available. Fake TV, for instance, simulates the flickering lights of a television, and from outside, it appears that someone is watching TV.
Secure air conditioning units
Unsecured window air conditioners could provide an easy entry point for a crook. Use an air conditioner bracket, sliding window lock, or corner braces.
Eliminate hiding spots
If your shrubbery is too tall, bushy, or not well spaced, you’re providing a nice hiding spot for a potential burglar. Trim and prune plantings.
Are the window locks operable? If not, get them fixed or replace them. Also consider installing aftermarket window locks, which let you open the window a few inches while still keeping it secure. Another alternative is to use inexpensive window-break alarms. Check our home window buying guide.
Okay, so you’re probably not going to be able to install new doors by yourself over a weekend. But you can inspect your front, side, and back doors. Replace hollow (read: low-quality and easy-to-breach) doors with solid-core (made of wood or metal) or metal-clad doors. Check our buying guide for entry doors.
Sliding-glass doors have a latch to close them but are often an easy point of entry for burglars. To make one more secure, place a wood dowel cut to size or an adjustable safety bar in the interior floor track, or consider adding a floor bolt.
Electric garage doors are not a common point of entry as long as they are closed.
Replace weak locks
Locks are the weakest point on a door. Make sure you have a grade 1 or grade 2 dead-bolt lock that penetrates the door frame. It’s not necessary to get one at a specialty locksmith; these can be purchased at a big-box home store. The strike plate the stationary piece that the bolt enters must be heavy duty, made of solid metal or brass, with six three-inch-long screws that penetrate the door jamb and the door frame.