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Nearly 2 million burglaries are reported in the United States every year and only 17 percent of homeowners have a home security system. Experts highly recommended that you pick up a home security system in order to monitor your home for potential break-ins, but there are several things you can do to add an extra level of protection to your home. Here are just five simple things you can do to make your home less susceptible to burglaries. 1. Lock Your Doors and Windows This is the simplest and most effective method, and hopefully, you're doing this out of habit. High-quality door locks can be purchased at any home improvement store for about the same price as a night out to the movies. If you have a deadbolt lock, that's excellent. Aluminum window sills are dangerous because they can be easy to break into, so consider replacing those. Make sure to test your windows to be sure the locks are solid before leaving the house or going to bed. Some home security companies have developed tools that allow you to lock your doors remotely. All you need is a mobile device with a special app and the corresponding electronic locks. If you leave for work or to go on vacation and you've forgotten to lock your doors, all you need to do is open up your app and tap a few buttons. It's that simple. As long as you have internet access, you're secure. 2. Make Your House Look Lived In The key to making your house looking lived in is to be realistic. If a burglar stalking your home notices that the living room light is still on at 3:00 in the morning, that may look a little suspicious. Keep a porch light on at both the front and back of your home during the night. Also, keep your blinds open or closed according to your usual habits. If you normally keep them open, but then you close them, this is a sign that you're not home. Home automation can make this job easier as well. Some advanced home security systems will have functions that allow you to turn lights on or off remotely or even set them on a timer if you're away. This is especially helpful if you're away for an extended period of time, such as a vacation. 3. Install a Stronger Back Door Many houses come with a strong, attractive front door. Homeowners may think this would be ideal for protecting against burglars and predators. Well, that's not exactly the case. Burglars are actually much more likely to break in through your back door, and if you have a weak door made of cheap wood with an old, inexpensive lock, a burglar can have access to your home with one well-placed kick. It would be smart to get that replaced sooner rather than later. Go to your local home improvement store and consult with an expert about what doors are best. Make sure to take the measurements of your door before you go. Most doors have standard sizes, but you don't want to buy a door only to take it home and discover it's the wrong size. Also, be sure to get a tough deadbolt lock to match. It won't cost much more. 4. Get a Dog Dogs aren't a sure-fire way to ward off burglars, but it's enough to make them think twice. Burglars want to get in and out quickly and dealing with a dog introduces too many variables: "Are they going to bark a lot and alert the sleeping family or neighbors? Are they friendly? If not, do I want to risk getting bitten? How will I distract the dog?" Most burglars will pass up a home with a dog to pursue an easier target. If you already have a dog, consider getting a "beware of dog" sign and put it somewhere obvious that prowlers will be sure to see. 5. Put Things in front of Windows Make life as difficult as possible for burglars if they decide to climb through a window. Put objects in front of a window like tables and desks with plants or pictures. If a burglar pulls open a window and tries to climb through, they will have an array of noisy obstacles to overcome before they can get inside. Most burglars will spend less than two minutes trying to ransack a house, so if they have to spend longer than this just getting inside, they'll usually move along. The Extra Mile These steps are simple, but getting a dog or replacing a door might still cost a penny or two. If you're planning on spending a few bucks to beef up your personal security habits, don't rule out researching home security systems. Some systems cost much less than you may think, and many of these home automation features mentioned earlier are becoming more affordable. Take a look at top companies to see if any of their pricing plans fit your budget and needs.
Different home security companies will have different approaches to producing, distributing, installing, and monitoring their systems. For the sake of this comparison, Best Company took two well-known home security companies that have different approaches and compared their services according to our criteria. Here's what you need to know: Professional Installation vs. DIY Installation Vivint is well-known for teams of orange-clad representatives canvassing neighborhoods, pitching potential clients on security systems that will protect their homes while offering robust smart home features. When you sign a Vivint contract, the representative will set an appointment to have a professional installer come to your home. From that point on, your home is professionally monitored 24/7 for burglars, fires, floods, and carbon monoxide. On the other hand, Protect America doesn't have any of these door-to-door representatives or in-person professional installers. Instead, you select a package from the company's website and the company mails the system directly to your door. From that point, you're free to install the system yourself or call a customer service representative to walk you through the process. Protect America systems also feature the same professional 24/7 monitoring as Vivint. Clearly, these companies have different approaches to distribution and installation, but what about everything else? Monthly Price Vivint prefers to quote you a monthly price, but the company website does indicate that monthly fees start at $39.99. However, this is a little high compared to some of the top-ranked companies in the industry. When you want to add home automation features, it'll cost you extra. Protect America features packages that start at $19.99 per month for any consumer—one of the lowest price tags in the industry. This package is the most basic of systems with just a few door/window sensors and a landline connection, but this may be acceptable for consumers who just want the basics. Upfront Fees Neither Vivint nor Protect America feature any installation or activation fees. This is encouraging, considering that many home security companies will charge hundreds of dollars in activation and installation fees. Contract Length Vivint features a 60-month contract, so make sure you've read every inch of the fine print before you sign on the dotted line. If you need to move your system within the contract length, Vivint also charges a hefty move fee. On the other hand, Protect America works on a 36-month contract. If you want to cancel your services before the expiration date on the contract, you must pay the remaining balance upfront with both companies. Monitoring Options For any reputable home security company, your system will be monitored day and night by certified staff through a landline, broadband, or cellular connection. However, not all companies offer all of these options. Vivint only operates based on a wireless/broadband connection. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if the internet goes down at your house, so does your home security system. If you're considering installing a security system at your remote cabin in the woods, Vivint might not be your best option. Protect America features packages in all three of these monitoring options. The landline packages are the least expensive, but broadband and cellular options are available at about $20/month extra, and these are the plans that feature home automation options. Depending on whether you want just the bare basics or the extra goodies, you'll pay a different fee. Equipment/Tech Vivint Features: SkyControl Panel Vivint Sky App Monthly Professional Monitoring Smoke Detectors Motion Detectors Window/Door Sensors Doorbell Camera (extra cost) Element Thermostat (extra cost) Kwikset Smart Locks (extra cost) Amazon Echo Compatability (extra cost) Vivint Ping Camera (extra cost) Linear Garage Door Control (extra cost) Light Controls (extra cost) Protect America Features: Touchscreen Control Panel Mobile App Monthly Professional Monitoring Smoke Detectors (extra cost) Motion Detector Window/Door Sensors Smart Locks (extra cost) HD Wireless Video Camera (extra cost) Amazon Echo Compatability (extra cost) Light Controls (extra cost) As you can see, the biggest difference is that Vivint's features are arguably more robust, but Protect America features very similar applications at a slightly lower price tag. Vivint will definitely win in this category, but that's only if you decide you want all the bells and whistles and not just the bells. Customer Feedback Unfortunately, Vivint customer feedback is plagued with dissatisfaction. Most customer reviews reflect experiences involving pushy sales reps and lackluster customer service, especially when it comes to canceling services or relocating your system. There are plenty of reviews that speak highly of the customer service and the quality of the systems, so it appears as though positive experiences with Vivint Home Security are hit-and-miss depending on the representative you work with. As of the time this article is being written, Vivint has a customer score of 3.7 out of 10 based on 87 customer reviews. On the other hand, Protect America's customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Based on over 700 reviews, the company has an overall score of 8.8 out of 10. Many customers comment on the easily-installed system, low prices, and helpful customer representatives. Overall The Vivint Breakdown: Leading home automation features Professional installation Lackluster customer experiences Slightly higher prices The Protect America Breakdown: Low, upfront pricing plans DIY installation with step-by-step help Exceptional customer experiences Competitive home automation features The deciding factors in this comparison are prices, customer service, installation, and home automation features. Protect America clearly has the upper hand when it comes to pricing; its basic system costs half the price of Vivint's basic system and still features professional monitoring. However, Vivint has a slightly wider array of home automation features, if you're willing to pay the difference. Protect America's installation is do-it-yourself and features helpful customer reps to help you through the process, but Vivint will take care of the entire installation process for you. Lastly, Protect America's customer service experiences are noticeably better than Vivint's, even if service is hardly ever in person. For a list of the best home security companies operating in your state, click here.
Purchasing a contract for a home security system can feel like a big step. Maybe you're currently on the fence, wondering if it's really worth the cost of installation and a recurring monitoring fee. It's obvious that a home security system helps protect your valuables, but there are many benefits of a home security system that might surprise you. In the following, we'll break down the important aspects of purchasing a home security system. But first, here's why it's important. The Facts Did you know that a burglary happens in the US approximately every thirteen seconds? That's no joke, and it's one of the main reasons why the home security industry is growing so rapidly right now. For the most part, bolting your doors and locking your windows will help you keep your home pretty safe, but sometimes it isn't enough. No one is without risk when it comes to a break-in. Here are some things you may not know: Approximately 2 million burglaries are reported in the United States every year 66% of burglaries are residential break-ins Homes without security systems are 3x as likely to be burglarized 33% of residential assaults are the product of burglaries Despite all this, only 17% of US homes have a security system You might find the numbers surprising. Thinking a little harder about joining that seventeen percent? Well, here's what a home security system can do for you if you choose to opt-in. Burglars Will Pass You By According to the Electronic Security Association, nine out of ten burglars will pass up a home if they know the home is armed with a security system. A study by Rutgers in 2009 also showed that home security systems help protect other homes in your neighborhood. That's right! If multiple homes in a neighborhood have home security systems, that neighborhood as a whole is less likely to be targeted by thieves and burglars. Some ways that burglars can tell if you have a home security system include video surveillance cameras and security company signs outside your home. Many home security companies will give you a small sign you can place in your yard to indicate that your home is monitored twenty-four seven. Cameras placed by doors and windows will also be a deterrent for nosey crooks taking a closer look at your property. Burglars want an easy target. The quicker they can get in and grab a couple thousand dollars worth of merchandise, the more likely they are to strike your property. They'll rarely attack at home that's fortified with multiple security measures. In the rare case that an intruder is brave enough to force entry into your home, alarms will sound on your security system to deter them. Within seconds, police will be notified of the break-in. This is when the would-be robbers will peel out. Reduced Homeowners Insurance Cost On average, a home security system can help you save approximately 20 percent on your homeowner's insurance because it makes you less likely to file a claim with your insurance company. Homeowner's insurance typically costs about $35/month for every $100,000 that your home is worth, so if your home is worth $300,000 you might be saving over $250/year. In some cases, that covers the cost of the home security system itself. What this means is that your home security system isn't costing you any more money than you're used to and your home is fortified against burglaries, fires, water damage, carbon monoxide poisoning, and so on. The cost of your homeowner's insurance will vary depending on your coverage, payment options, location and so on, so the above mentioned is a generalization. It's safe to infer, however, that your homeowner's insurance will decrease when you install a home security system. The best course of action is to find a home security system that you're interested in and contact your insurance agent to see what it will do to decrease your premiums. Helps You Regulate Your Home Some home security systems come equipped with features such as smart thermostats that will help you maintain steady energy use. This is done by regulating things like your home's temperature without the need of getting up to change the thermostat. When you have your home's temperature regulated, you can save up to 33% on your heating and cooling costs! This is great to know if you are trying to decrease their carbon footprint. Smart thermostats will also allow you to adjust your home's temperature remotely. Most systems will have an app you can download to your smartphone so you can control the temperature even when you're not home. This is helpful in situations such as spontaneous parties or dinners where you'll want to make the house comfortable for guests, or maybe when you forget to turn off the air conditioning before you leave on vacation. Both are just small benefits of having an automatic, remotely controlled system. Aside from temperature controls, a home security system is also great for video surveillance. Most home security companies will offer wireless video surveillance that you can access from your phone. For example, Protect America currently offers an HD wireless video camera that produces images at 720p and 30 frames per second, all accessible remotely from your smartphone. The system also includes night vision and audio. Not only is this good for monitoring your home for things like burglaries, but also for simple things like seeing if the kids are home. Lastly, home security systems are beginning to become compatible with devices such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo. With these devices, you can lock your doors, turn on lights, or arm your system with as little as a vocal command. Small Scale Deterrents There are some things you can do now to help you fortify your home against burglars, and they might be easier than you think. Install large window and door locks in plain sight. Install deadbolts on all your exterior doors. Call your local police officer and ask them to do a home security check for you. They can point out the weak spots in your home's defenses so you can improve them. More often than not, this service is free. Get motion-activated lights that turn on and off based on infrared signals. These can usually be installed anywhere outside your home and can be purchased at any major hardware store. Install thick doors. Approximately 70% of burglars enter your home through a door, so installing a door that's harder to break through will increase the security of your home. Don't forget the deadbolt lock to match. It should be noted that some of these measures will cost as much if not more than a home security system. For example, a steel entry door can cost over $300, which could cover the cost of installation and several months of monitoring. Both options are good measures to deter burglars, but home security systems definitely offer more variety and options. The Next Step There it is. You've got the basics. There are a plethora of things you can do to protect your home without subscribing to a monthly fee, but with home security systems as readily available and affordable as they are, it's likely not out of your budget. If you're serious about obtaining a home security system, there are dozens of home security companies that are ready to help. Websites like BestCompany.com have done the research in determining who are the best home security system providers on the grounds of price, equipment, and customer satisfaction. A list of the best providers in your state can be found here. Most companies offer plans for as low as $30/month, but some companies such as top-rated Protect America offer basic plans for as little as $20/month.