Safety is one of the highest priorities for every homeowner. At first, it can seem that improving your home safety will cost a fortune. That may be true if you are installing a high-end surveillance system, but to be honest, that is not something that an average home needs. Sometimes, you only need to implement free and simple ways to make your home safer.
Since we bought our new house in Lewes, I have felt some pressure to buy a monitoring system for our home. About a month ago, one of our neighbors’ car alarm went off apparently because of attempted car theft. Also, my homeowner’s insurance company sent me a letter offering a small discount if I show proof that a theft protection alarm has been installed.
I am not against paying for an effective surveillance system, but I feel that we first need to learn about and implement free and simple safety solutions for our home. Some of those solutions only require a change in your habits.
In this article, I will list the best ways to protect your home, completely free. I will also mention a few more inexpensive solutions, which can be an excellent upgrade for the free ones.
1. Lock Your Doors
Most burglars and unwanted guests enter the house through the front door — 34% of all home burglaries are through the front door.
Some people leave it opened to let the fresh air in, while others close it but forget to lock it.
Don’t lower your guard because it is day time. Contrary to popular belief, most burglaries occur during day time, from 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. because this is the time frame when most homes are not occupied.
Burglars like to observe the house before they enter, and if they notice that you don’t lock the door while gardening in the back yard, they can enter, grab something like a phone or laptop, and run away.
No matter where you go, always lock the door, even if you are inside the house. Having a burglar in the house while you are there can be extremely dangerous.
You may want to check these 16 ways to greatly improve your front door safety.
Beware of faulty locks – If you notice something is loose or not working correctly, fix it. This is not a DIY you want to procrastinate. You can find instructions online, and you don’t need special tools.
Inexpensive addition ► Change the locks or add a deadbolt.
2. Lock Your Windows
Windows are also very vulnerable. Leaving them open to get fresh air while you are away can be dangerous. Especially if the windows are in plain sight from the main street. Burglars can jump in and steal whatever they want. They can even open the front door from inside.
You should always check the windows before going out of the house. The same goes while you are sleeping. If you leave the window open in the living room, someone can sneak in and steal.
Don’t forget to inspect the windows to make sure all the locks are in working order.
Inexpensive addition ► Add a motion sensor light. If someone or something enters its field of view, the lights will turn on.
3. Keep the Lights On
If you are working night shifts, or you like to go out at night, you should set-up your house to look like someone is at home.
Leave the porch light on. You can leave the TV on in the living room. Maybe a bathroom light too. If someone is observing, it will seem someone is in the house.
Some devices can be connected to Wi-Fi and controlled remotely. If you have an entertainment system that works like that, you can turn it on and off from your location to give the impression that whoever is at home is wide awake and doing something.
Inexpensive addition ► Install motion-activated porch lights.
4. Close the Garage Doors
Some homeowners frequently go in and out of the house, and they use their car to do so. Others keep different tools and landscaping devices in a garage and use them daily.
In both cases, they tend to leave the garage door open for convenience.
Some garages are attached to the house and have a door that connects them. By leaving the garage door open, you enable the burglar to go inside your home. If your car is unlocked, they can steal from the car or the car itself. If they enter your house, anything could go missing.
Close the garage door and the connecting door at all times.
Inexpensive addition ► Install a motion-activated alarm.
5. Set up a Wi-Fi Password
Nowadays, most homes have Wi-Fi and multiple devices connected to it. We send e-mails, use internet banking, buy items, and order deliveries.
Our lives are connected to the internet. With no Wi-Fi password, your neighbor can download movies or browse the internet, but that is the least of your worries.
Your banking and other transactional passwords are vulnerable. Someone can connect to your Wi-Fi and hack your accounts. Internet fraud is a reality, and you should protect yourself.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to do that. Set up a difficult to hack password. Lifewire recommends setting a password with at least 12 characters (16 preferred) and a mix of symbols, numbers, and upper-case and lower-case letters.
Inexpensive addition ► Buy anti-malware programs.
6. Don’t Get Carried Away with Landscape
Lush vegetation may look great, but it is also a great hiding spot for burglars. They can observe from proximity without anyone knowing. They can stay there and wait for you to leave the house.
By trimming the vegetation, you are reducing the risk of intrusion.
Instead of having large bushes, you can plant flowers and short plants. Having freshly trimmed vegetation gives the impression that someone is regularly there.
7. Remove Expensive Items From Sight
As already mentioned, burglars observe houses they want to rob. They may appear to be casually walking by your neighborhood.
Keeping brand new laptops and other expensive items at your garden table and leaving them unattended attracts unwanted attention. The same goes for jewelry. Do not leave your favorite necklace on the dinner table. You don’t want burglars to think that you are both wealthy and careless.
Store the laptop when not in use, and keep your jewelry in a box that looks cheap so that it doesn’t attack attention.
Inexpensive addition ► Buy a small safe for expensive jewelry.
8. Display Fake Security Sign
Installing top of the line security system requires professional help and a lot of money.
But you can fool the burglars by placing a sign that says that the house is under surveillance. They will see it and conclude that it is not worth the risk, even if they don’t see the cameras.
You can also add a “beware of the dog” sign. Burglars may think you have one and may not bother taking a risk to be caught with your house.
Inexpensive addition ► Buy a large dog water bowl for under $10 and place it in a prominent place.
9. Develop a Relationship with Your Neighbors
Having a good relationship with neighbors is always a good thing, even if it is difficult at times. When it comes to home security, it can be your biggest free tool against invasion.
If you are traveling out of town, you can ask them to keep an eye on your house. Ask them to take out your garbage when they take out theirs.
If you trust them, leave them an extra pair of keys so that they can go in and turn on a light at night to give the impression that the house is occupied.
Make sure to return the favor and become each the best allies against burglary.
10. Use Old Phones as Cameras
Every year, a lot of new and improved models of smartphones enter the market. Many of us buy new ones even if the old ones are still working.
Instead of throwing them away, you can repurpose them into a security camera device using an app. The video below shows creative ways to use them with the Alfred or Presence app.
Inexpensive addition ► If you don’t have an extra smartphone, you can buy one for a few dollars. Of course, you have to be pretty techy to get them running.
11. Create a Fake Jewelry/Cash Box
No matter how careful you are, a burglar may enter your home. And burglars usually check the drawers, closets, and open spaces.
Their goal is to take something valuable and run away fast before someone sees them.
If you have some fake jewelry, put it in a box in the top drawer. If you have an old laptop, leave it on top of your coffee table. Burglars will take it and run before they find the real valuables. Cut a few pieces of paper, fold them and wrap them with a small but real bill. If the burglars are in a hurry, they will take it without checking.
Inexpensive addition ► Install a lock on any closet or drawer that contains valuables, but keep it out of sight (avoid bedrooms and living rooms, choose a basement or attic).
12. Do Not Update Social Media Accounts About Your Vacation
A lot of us post all kinds of updates on social media. No matter how good your privacy settings are, a lot of people can see it. Announcing your vacation means that the house is empty.
If you are traveling to an exotic place, it may appear as if you have money to spare. We all like to share our vacation experience, but do it when you come back, not before you go.
Instead, update your status to show you are at home. Post a funny story about doing all kinds of chores. Be active online. Inactivity also means that something is out of order, and that can attract unwanted attention.
13. Do Not Provide Tools for Burglars
Some homeowners enjoy working around the house. They tend to leave tools unattended because they want to continue their work later on.
By leaving tools, ladders, and similar objects outside, you are making it easy for burglars to enter your home with no effort. Besides, burglars can steal those tools, and you know how expensive those can be.
14. Increase Your Awareness
We are used to staring at our phones or laptops a lot, and we rarely look out of the window. Instead of having your coffee inside, go out into the yard for a few minutes, walk around, enjoy the fresh air, and look around.
If you are aware of your surroundings, you will quickly notice that something is out of order. Maybe there is a suspicious car driving up and down the street or stalking from a distance. Talk to your neighbors about anything suspicious or even better, let the police know about it.
15. Is Your Mailbox Telling on You
When you are out of town, your mailbox will be full of mail. You may even receive packages by your door. For a burglar who is observing, it will be evident that no one is in that house.
When you go away, ask your neighbors to empty it for you and pick up boxes from your doorsteps. Burglars could even read the letters addressed to you to find out more about you and your habits. That could help them learn more about your life and find the right time for their illegal activities.
If you are going away for a while, consider putting your mail on hold at your local post office. The USPS Hold Mail™ service can hold your mail safely at your local Post Office™ facility until you return, for up to 30 days.
16. Close Curtains and Blinds at Night
When you come home at night, close the curtains and blinds. Having the lights on the inside enables burglars to lurk from the dark. Your eyes are light-sensitive, and you won’t see them outside. However, they will be able to see things inside.
Closing your curtains and blinds not only hides your home from potential burglars but also sends a message that you are vigilant and that you take care of your privacy. All this will likely discourage them from targeting your home.
17. Hide Your Real Valuables
Almost every person has something valuable. Some have their family jewelry, while others have expensive cameras. Even when you are at home, those items should be safely stored. And choose the location carefully. Burglars know that closets and drawers are places where people usually keep their valuables. Be smart and creative. Hide it in a kitchen cabinet where you keep your pots or somewhere similar.
Inexpensive addition ► Build a hidden compartment behind a closet, under the floor, or wall.
18. Fake Greetings/Fake Alarms
This is something you should practice if you notice some suspicious activity around the neighborhood.
When you exit the house, pretend that someone is inside and loudly greet them. Say something like “bye; I will be back soon” or “see you later, don’t forget to feed the dog.”
It will seem like there is someone home and that they will be there during the day. If you see someone coming too close to your property, wait for them to step onto your lawn or a driveway and activate the car alarm on purpose. They will get scared and run away. In a panic, most burglars will think that they somehow triggered it.
Inexpensive addition ► Instead of installing a real surveillance system, order cheap fake cameras online.
19. Don’t Hide Your House Key in Obvious Places
Sometimes you need to hide your house key for various reasons: maybe to let someone in the house when you are not there or perhaps make sure you don’t lock yourself out of the house.
Whatever the reason, don’t hide your key in obvious places. What is an obvious place, you ask?
You may be surprised to learn how many places are already obvious, especially to professional robbers.
Vivint Smart Home considers these are the most common house key hiding places you should avoid:
- Fake rock
- Plant pot
- Rain gutter or spout
- Front door ledge
- Porch light
- Stepping stone
So, where should you hide them? If we list alternatives here, then, they may become obvious. Try to think of a different place.
20. Don’t Forget to Secure Your Basement Windows Or Door
When you have a basement you don’t usually think of it as a top security risk area.
However, if left unsecured, it could be a very easy entry point. If you have an outside basement door, you should ensure it is closed at all times.
You should also be able to secure all basement windows from inside the home. Ideally, glass basement windows should be replaced by polycarbonate material.
Like in the front of the house, all ground shrubs close to basement windows should be clipped or removed to prevent potential intruders from hiding.