- Inspect your exterior doors. All of them; from the front entrance to the sliding glass patio doors to the roller door in the garage, even the door that leads from the inside of the garage to the house. If any are hollow, and therefore easy to compromise, replace them with solid-core fiberglass versions, which are durable and resist rot and warping. Replace decorative glass sidelights with impact-resistant glass, and get rid of openings like mail slots and pet doors.
- Install energy-efficient security lighting. Shield overhead lights so the beam points to the areas that need lighting and not into your neighbor’s window. Rig your security lights to motion sensors or timers so they turn off when they’re not needed. And choose energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or solar-powered floodlights, which rarely need replacing.
- Use landscaping to create a subtle barrier around your house. Examples: Plant some prickly pear cactus or low-growing, thorny bushes under windows, or uproot overgrown bushes where an intruder could hide. Trim tree branches away from your house so a skulker can’t use them as ladder to an upstairs window and spread gravel or pebbles under windows. It’s pretty hard to sneak around outside with noisy, crunchy gravel underfoot.
- Install locks on all of your windows and doors. If you’re replacing your home’s windows, buy models with good locks…and lock them; a huge percentage of burglars enter homes through unlocked windows. Don’t forget about your doors; add deadbolt locks to all doors. Coupled with the lock on your doorknob, they provide an added level of security. If your doors don’t have any glass parts, a single-sided deadbolt is enough; if part of the door is a window, you’re better off with a double-sided deadbolt.
- Make it clear that your home is your personal space. Display big, visible house numbers out front. Raise the home’s entrance by a few inches to give the impression of a barrier. Add a small statue or piece of landscape art to mark the end of the public space and the beginning of your private yard. Engrave your family name into a garden stone or onto a metal nameplate near the front door. A study of burglaries in Utah showed that houses with nameplates had fewer break-ins than those without.
- Invest in a home security system. The more automated it is, the less you have to remember to do. Choose one that lets you program your lights to turn on and off at specific times to give the impression that your home is occupied when it’s not. Your system can include sound and motion sensors, which can be connected to a computer, and even notify you or the police via phone or e-mail if it “senses” that there’s an intruder, a flood in the home or a fire. Fancier systems even let you monitor your home over the Internet or your smart phone while you’re at work or away for the summer.
Different families need or feel comfortable with different levels of security.
Consider your lifestyle and your budget, and talk to a security professional, who can show you all of your options before you invest in expensive security equipment.