Lights, camera, action! How to defend your home

With burglars now using online social networks like Facebook to see when people’s homes are empty, it's time for us to fight fire with fire and use technology of our own to keep them at bay.

Dog sitting on a door mat that says Home
Fitting strong locks to your doors and windows is a no-brainer, and many of us already have burglar alarms – but you can take home security to the next level with gadgets such as CCTV cameras and automated lighting.

It's particularly important to secure your home at this time of year, as many of us jet off on holiday, leaving our homes unattended for days and even weeks at a time. So, if you’re thinking about upgrading your security, here are some things to look out for.

Lights

Nothing will frighten a burglar using the cover of darkness to sneak about quite like a motion-activated security light, but MoneySupermarket research has found nearly a quarter of us (24%) don’t have one.

There are three types of security light to choose from, which should be installed to cover as many points of entry to your home as possible.

A standard Passive Infrared Detector (PIR) security light will switch on when it senses the heat from someone’s body, within its arc-shaped view.

Dusk-to-dawn security lights basically stay on all night, and high-low lights automatically adjust to lighting conditions throughout the night, providing low light at dusk and full brightness when their PIR sensors catch movement or body heat within their range.

The standard PIR should be the cheapest to buy (at around £30) and to run in terms of energy consumption. As long as you fit them in the right places, PIR lights should provide sufficient protection too.

Camera

Installing CCTV cameras in itself may not earn you any home insurance discounts, but their presence could put off burglars – which in turn could save you from having to make a claim for burglary and from forfeiting your no claims discount, which will keep future home insurance costs down.

If you’re thinking about installing a CCTV system, the first thing you should do is speak to your neighbours to see if they have any objections. You may even find they’re happy to split the costs and share the system with you.

CCTV equipment starts from as little as £17 for an indoor camera and goes up into the hundreds and even thousands for a top-of-the-range network.

While you don’t have to spend a fortune for a decent set up, cheaper systems might prove to be useless if they give you grainy, pixelated footage, and dummy cameras can be spotted by seasoned burglars.

Whatever you’re spending, here are a few things to look out for:

  • Storage: Home CCTV systems either transmit their data to a hard drive in a digital video recorder (DVR) or in a PC. The DVR option can be great because it’ll have its own dedicated hard drive, whereas footage captured from a PC-linked camera will be competing for hard drive space with all your documents, media and software. That said, the PC-linked option often comes with software to view and export the footage, which will be useful if you need to send it to the police, whereas DVR-based systems might require a lot of faffing about to get the footage off them.
  • Colour: Colour feeds might give you the best footage during the day, but you won’t see a lot at night. Monochrome cameras with infrared will give you the best chance of catching night-time prowlers.
  • Resolution: Low resolution cameras will be cheaper, but you’ll get a grainier picture. If you do catch an intruder on film, it’ll be harder for police to identify them. The minimum you should go for is 352 x 288 pixels, but remember that the higher the resolution, the more memory it will take up on the hard drive.
  • Weatherproofing: Outdoor cameras should ideally have an IP (International Protection) rating of at least 66.
  • Wired or wireless? Wireless systems tend to cost more, but you won’t have to deal with data cables running from the camera to your DVR or PC. However, wireless systems need to be set up properly and securely to make sure the signal can reach the recording device and can’t be intercepted.

Thanks to the web, there are now systems you can monitor from anywhere in the world. For example, the Logitech Alert system (£179) allows you to watch a live feed from the cameras on your property no matter where you are, as long as it has a web connection.

For around £50 you can also install a digital peephole in your front door, replacing the old glass peephole with a pinhole camera that transmits to your TV, a smartphone, tablet or dedicated receiver.

Action

Summer is a busy period for burglars. During the peak holiday season last summer, insurers dealt with 752 home burglary claims every single day – more than at any other time of the year, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

But even if you don’t plan on installing any new security equipment, there’s still plenty of action you can and should take to make sure your home is secure.

As I explained recently in my article Boost security to beat the burglars, you should keep all doors and windows locked when you’re not at home, or when they’re not in sight. This should include when you’re out in the back garden enjoying the sun.

If you have to leave your windows open at night so that you’re cool enough to sleep, consider installing restrictors which limit the amount a window can be opened.

And if you’ve been out in the garden and had furniture, garden equipment and toys out on the lawn, lock them away before you go back inside.

Meanwhile, if you’re going away and leaving the house unattended for an extended period, ask a neighbour to keep tabs on the place. And if you’re taking your car on holiday, ask if there’s anyone who can park a car on your drive for the duration, rather than leaving it empty.

And a final word of warning – if you’re having CCTV, an alarm or any other security equipment installed, make sure you use a reputable installer. You can search for one in your area using the British Security Industry Association website.

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