First off – what are the top three things any home needs to be secure?
“The first is physical barriers to entry. All points of entry (think windows, doors, etc) must have strong and secure locks, not only to prevent burglars from entering the home, but to put them off even attempting to do so. Then there’s visible deterrents. To protect your home, you want to make it so that any would-be burglars don’t even think about trying to enter your property. Physical deterrents – such as visible cameras and alarms, CCTV, floodlights, etc – are the things that ultimately stop burglars from trying their luck. Finally, think about what I call the consequences on entry. There needs to be consequences if a burglar does enter your property; this means alarms, police response, even keeping valuables in a safe to slow the perpetrator down.” – Robin Knox, security expert & CEO of smart home security company Boundary
“Equipment-wise, you want to be looking at reinforced locks to secure the property, a burglar alarm system to alert the homeowner and to deter the criminal, and finally a CCTV kit to monitor any activity.” - Anthony Neary, managing director at Safe
Should the level of security always be relative to the size of a property?
“Not necessarily. It can all depend on the layout of the building and the blind spots that need attention. For example, a good quality security light could be as effective in a smaller yard as it is in a bigger garden. A small ring doorbell camera could be as effective as a full CCTV system. It depends where you live and which areas of the building need security. If you’re unsure, consult with a security specialist or retailer for recommendations before spending more money than needed.” – Anthony
So, what are some of the different options out there?
“In my opinion, what we call ‘alarm systems’ are some of the best tools out there to improve home security. They monitor your home using a suite of sensors like motion sensors and detectors, door and window sensors (also called entry sensors and contact sensors), carbon monoxide detectors, glass break sensors, smoke detectors, security cameras and garage door sensors. If you’re confused, remember security sensors have descriptive names 99% of the time – you usually know what they do by what it says on the tin.” – John Carlson, researcher at Safewise
“A good security network will involve a range of devices designed both to protect against intrusion and to deter potential intruders from trying to access your property. CCTV cameras in particular can play a vital part in protecting your home, being a visual deterrent for burglars and providing evidence to the authorities in the unfortunate event of a break-in. With more efficient manufacturing processes and wider markets, these products have also become less expensive and more accessible to the general public. Even the latest smart CCTV systems are available to purchase for only a few hundred pounds and can be easily installed, making them a smart investment for many homeowners.” – The experts at Yale
Can you break down the different types of alarm systems for us?
“Generally speaking, there are four classes of security systems. Professional security systems take a traditional approach that comes with professional installation, have lower starting costs, and almost always require a long-term monitoring contract. It’s the most expensive type of burglar alarm. DIY home security systems make you install all of the equipment yourself (it’s easier than you think), though you’ll pay for it all beforehand. DIY security systems are perfect for renters since they usually don’t have a contract. Instead, you pay for professional monitoring month to month. Self-monitored security systems also make you pay for all equipment up front, but there’s no professional monitoring. They rely on you to respond when an alarm goes off. This is the cheapest kind of alarm system because there are no monthly fees. Finally, takeover systems use old security system equipment you might have in your house and connect it to security monitoring from a different company.” – John
And what are some of the latest technological developments?
“Advancements in CCTV technology are popular for many reasons right now. Some systems have 4k imagery for clear visuals and can be viewed via your phone or TV. It’s recommended you look into the different types to see which suits your home and living situation best.” – Anthony
“Machine vision and AI external camera systems are some of the latest technological developments in the home security sphere and can help you get the jump on intruders. In my opinion, this is where the future of home security is headed.” – Robin
“Smart home security systems will connect to your smartphone or tablet, which then alerts you via an app when your alarm is triggered. These systems also allow you to control your smart security from your phone, even when you're away from home. Smart home systems will be connected to a ‘hub’ which then will connect a range of products, giving you full control over your home security. Through the hub you can connect accessories such as motion sensors, door contacts, smart plugs and lighting which allow you to switch lights on and off when you're out.” – The Yale team
What should you do if you’ve bought a property with existing security already in place?
“Your first job should always be to change the locks; you can never be sure how many keys have been cut or who they’ve been previously given to, so make this your primary concern when it comes to security. Also, look to reset any alarm codes to something memorable to you, and if your home is fitted with smart security devices, contact the manufacturer to check how you can reset any passwords and owner information to prevent any unauthorised access. Then it’s time check your property for any additional security needs. Start by taking a walk around the parameters of your property, checking your boundary for weak points, such as broken fence panels or gates and sheds without locks. Next check your windows and doors are secure, with no ‘floppy’ handles or protruding cylinders (they should never protrude more than the depth of a £1 coin to prevent lock snapping attacks) and upgrade your lock’s cylinders if needed. If you have cameras, look to see if they are working correctly, check their field of view, and if the rear of your property can be accessed through a gate, consider adding a weatherproof padlock and hasp to improve security. For a full checklist of what you do to ensure your home’s security is up to scratch, check out the National Home Security Month’s website.” – The Yale team
“It largely depends on the type of house, situation of the property and what needs to be protected, but you might look at whether the full package of security needs upgrading. You shouldn’t take the existing security for granted. Many local security companies will offer to come and check the entire property for you, and by and large, they will provide this and a quote, free of charge.” – Robin
“Test any security equipment as early as possible, so you know what condition it’s in. Like you would test a fire alarm, it’s definitely worth going through existing security to see if any requires attention or replacement. Just remember that for a site visit, a company would be looking to sell you a monitored system that includes monthly monitoring payments going forward.” – Anthony
Additional security devices seem to be endless these days – how do you know what’s really worth it?
“Each household is different and will have its own requirements and budget, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Think about what your home needs and what makes you feel safe. For example, an elderly person may prefer a video doorbell that allows them to see who’s at the door and speak to them before answering, while a country house might benefit from a more complex solution with early warning and perimeter security. Any physical deterrents – anything that would make the burglar spend longer getting into the property are good value – Hormann garage doors and gate openers are top quality, in my opinion.” – Robin
“CCTV kits are great for external use, as are electric gates – although choosing to install them would depend largely on location. Generally, the more remote the property the more likely you are to need electric gates or some form of perimeter fencing.” – Anthony
Let’s talk about security cameras quickly – what can you tell us?
“Adding a security camera or video doorbell to your home alarm system lets you view live footage in your security system’s app. This is convenient if you already have a security system, but it comes with a big drawback: you often need to pay for monitoring plans to get the cameras. And even with security cameras in your system, security companies don’t usually watch your video unless there’s an alarm triggered. The monitoring station doesn’t assign someone to watch over your home 24/7—they react only when there’s a reason to do so. However, one reason to add security cameras to an existing system is that some cities require video verification after an alarm before dispatching police to your home. Video verification also helps you avoid any false alarms.” – John
And what about internal security – is that it worth the money, too?
“Absolutely; it shouldn’t be underestimated how little time a burglar will want to spend on the premises. Provided appropriate deterrents are installed correctly, they can slow down a criminal significantly, ensuring that your most valuable possessions are not easily accessed, and force them to search for less valuable and more easily replaceable ‘quick wins’ instead. Broadly speaking, a monitored alarm system for the average three- or four-bed house can be procured for around £500-£800, with monthly fees in the region of £25 for police response.” – Robin
“Agreed – if a resident has any important items such as jewellery or documents, not only does having something like a secure safe keep them from being stolen, it also increases chances of a successful insurance claim. Some are also fireproof which can save a lot of heartache, especially for irreplaceable, sentimental items.” – Anthony
“If you want to make some internal improvements, consider replacing your front door with a security door that can resist forced entry. You can get a door with a solid wood core, metal cladding, or even a reinforced screen door for summertime airflow. If you’re not ready to get a new door or want to save some cash, try a door jammer to reinforce your existing door. Door jammers are basically doorstops on steroids. Also, if your windows didn’t come with locks or offer only basic fasteners, you could get aftermarket window locks or window security film. These can be especially helpful on ground-level windows that are easy to reach.” – John
Can you tell us more about maintenance costs?
“This may vary, but a monitored alarm system would typically include one annual maintenance visit. Storage fees for different security cameras are variable, but can be £4-£10 per camera per month depending on the solution – some brands offer solutions with no monthly fees but you always need to ask what you are trading in return for this; either privacy or risk of limited longevity/support of the product.” – Robin
“Agreed, this would vary. But security companies such as ERA alarms provide a maintenance and tracking service that can be paid for monthly. Others have call-out fees and some have none at all – it largely depends on the product purchased.” – Anthony
Finally, for those on a budget, are there any quick and free ways to improve your home security?
“While integrated home security systems are always recommended, there are a few cost-free methods to explore as well: neighbourhood watch schemes; checking that existing locks are always used; ensuring valuables are locked away and are not visible from outside; and not advertising on social media or elsewise that your home is empty.” – Robin
“Installation costs vary on every item, however some small security kits such as Ring doorbells are made with efficiency in mind and can be installed by the user with ease at no cost. However, if you’re looking for other ways to keep your home secure with zero cost whatsoever, then being vigilant is essential. If you see anything suspicious, ensure your doors and windows are locked and call the police.” – Anthony