Get smart with security

With warmer weather coming back and long-term lockdowns easing off, lots of us are making the most of our new-found freedoms and heading out of the house for the first time in ages.

While shaking off the cabin fever is great, it’s still sensible to take precautions when you’re out enjoying yourself - and that goes for your home as well. Burglaries typically peak over summer when people are away, while opportunistic thieves take advantage of windows and doors that are kept open or unlocked.

However, making your home secure is easier than ever before, all thanks to the phone in your pocket.

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Keep an eye out

Security cameras used to be the preserve of businesses looking to protect their premises, but the rise of cheaper, wifi-enabled cameras means that anyone can keep a lookout over their home, wherever they are.

The main benefit of wifi enabled cameras is that they don’t need to be physically tethered to a central security system, meaning they can be placed almost anywhere, with all the video footage being stored remotely for you to access.

There are models that can be used both indoors and outdoors. Although some need to be plugged into the mains, many run off batteries which can last for several months or up to a year before needing to be replaced.

Fitting them is also relatively simple - many just use sticky pads, especially if indoors, while weatherproof outdoor cameras will typically need to be screwed into the wall - a simple job for a handyman to do.

You can monitor the camera feed via an app on your phone - look for cameras which are Full HD, or 1920 x 1080 pixels to make sure you get the clearest possible picture.

Some systems record the footage to an SD card either in the camera or a connected base unit, while others upload footage to the cloud. Depending on the system you buy, you may need to pay a subscription to get full access to this.

Other features of modern smart cameras are motion sensors, so they only activate and alert you when they spot something, and two-way comms, so you can speak through the camera - useful if you’re using it to monitor pets, or children.

Popular brands include Arlo, Yale, Google Nest, Hive and Blink. They can start as cheap at £30, rising to around £300 for larger set-ups with more features.

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Don’t be alarmed

Cameras are just one potential aspect of a full security system. Traditional alarm systems relied on sensors which detected windows and doors being opened, all connected to a central security unit, and this can all be recreated with wireless sensors and controlled from your phone.

Smart alarm systems come in two varieties, open/close and PIR. Open/closed systems make use of sensors on your doors and windows, which are triggered when they are separated, setting off an alarm. PIR systems use motion detection, so you can place them in key spots like hallways to monitor any movement in those spaces.

These systems usually require a central hub unit, but controlling the system can be done entirely on your phone, so you can set it to active even if you’ve already left home.

Smart systems don’t typically come with external alarm units that can be placed on the front of your home and act as a deterrent to potential intruders, so you may also want to install a dummy box. As with traditional systems, you can still choose to have your system externally monitored, which can trigger a response from emergency services if your alarms are not deactivated - this will require a long-term subscription beyond the initial set-up cost.

In terms of price, you can expect to pay around £150 to £400 depending on how many sensors you need. Traditional security brands like Yale produce systems, as do manufacturers like Abode, Simplisafe and Somfy. Many systems will also be compatible with cameras as well, giving you completely integrated smart security.

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Lock it up

If you want to make a full switch to smart security, you could consider installing a smart lock on your front door.

It means removing your conventional lock, and replacing it with a smart lock, which instead of using a key, can use a keypad, smart phone, or even fingerprints to unlock,

These locks are not compatible with all types of door and might require specialist installation from a security systems installer or locksmith to make sure they’re fitting properly. They cost between £100 and £250, which might be worth it depending on how often you lose your keys.

Ring the changes

Another popular extra for full security are smart doorbells, which function as cameras. Ring and Nest doorbells have really grown in popularity over the past few years, and they mean you can always see who’s at your front door - even if you’re somewhere else entirely.

Prices for smart doorbells start at around £80, and are a good first step into upping your home security, the smart way.

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