Summertime should be about fun, sun, and running around all fancy-free-like. But the reality is, like the temperatures, home break-in numbers go up by at least 10% every June, July, and August, according to the FBI. During those summer months, consider using smart gadgets to keep your home safe!
If you want to keep your home safe from intruders, the worst thing to do is broadcast to the world you’re taking a vacation. Humble-bragging about your huge envy-inducing trip on social media? Big no-no. Also, don’t let your mail pile up or leave your car sitting in the driveway. Those are all obvious signs that you are not at home.
Instead, use these smart gadgets to keep your home safe and these simple tech tools to make it look like you are hanging around the house, even when you are really out climbing Mount Everest or just max-relaxing on the beach.
Our editor-in-chief, Jennifer, just got back from two weeks on the road for her daughter’s college graduation (congrats Jeneva!). Here are the steps she took and make it look like someone was always at home. Ha! Fooled you would-be burglars!
Are Smart Shades Worth It?
Smart blinds and shades are the epitome of pretending-to-be-home smart tech. Jenn’s family installed (and are totally in love with) the Hunter Douglas PowerView Gen 3 Automation smart shades. You can control them by pressing a single button on a remote, using a voice-enabled helper like Alexa, or through an app. You can even adjust how much they raise or lower from afar if you go for the top-down-bottom-up versions as they did.
You can also set schedules to raise or lower the shades at various times on different days to really convince the outside world that you’re tucked away inside your house. And when you actually are at home, these totally help you stay cool during the hot summer months or warmer in the winter. In addition to tricking their neighbors (and of course, any and all would-be-burglars…) that Jenn’s family was home when they weren’t, they have also steadily saved more than 50% of their cooling and heating costs ever since they installed them last summer.
Ring the Alarm With A Plethora of Smart Home Security Gadgets:
Smart LED Light Bulbs
The Ring Smart LED Light Bulbs ($14.99) is an easy way to create a network of security lights inside your home. This way you can set a schedule to brighten your home—even when you’re away so it looks as if you’re there.
Ring Outdoor Smart Plug
For the yard, we installed a Ring Outdoor Smart Plug ($29.99). This plug turns your outdoor string lights and decorations into smart lights. You can set schedules and control the outlet from the App. It’s a solid way to keep the yard bright to deter all that pesky wildlife from trying to eat your flowers (and human intruders, too).
Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro
The Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro ($249.99) combines a security camera and a traditional flood light so you can brighten the yard and keep an eye on your property from afar.
Ring Glass Break Sensor
We also like the Ring Glass Break Sensor ($39.99) which detects the sound of glass breaking up to 25 ft away and sends a mobile alert or sounds an Alarm siren when armed in Home or Away mode. Take that home invader…or tree branch breaking the window.
The Old Ring Classic—With A Significant Update:
You can also go the traditional smart doorbell route with The *NEW* Ring Battery Doorbell Plus ($179.99). This smart gadget to keep your home safe is extremely easy to set up. It’s also Ring’s first new video doorbell in two years. Just connect it to the WiFi and it’s ready to go. The best update about it is a taller head-to-toe field of view. (Let’s you see packages right under the camera.) You control the whole thing from an app on your phone or watch and get notifications when anyone’s at the door. Answer with live two-way talk or just a prerecorded message. (This is great for people like me who hate answering the door to strangers and having to make small talk.)
Smart Sensors That Make Sense
The weather is expensive. Dealing with leaks that have been sitting forever or frozen pipes can be extremely costly and it is just a major buzzkill to come home to if you’ve been away. Ring’s Flood & Freeze Sensor ($34.99) alerts you when there is water leaking somewhere in your home. It also lets you know when the temperature drops below 40°F. If you are a traveler living in an area prone to heavy rain or frequent freezes, this sensor is a no-brainer.
Zooz also offers an assortment of sensors to fortify your home against weather and water. Currently flooding your backyard because you forgot to turn off your irrigation and went away for the weekend? No problem. Their Titan Water Valve Actuator allows you to control the opening and closing of water valves remotely through their Z-wave app. And the Actuator will turn off your main water valve automatically if a leak is detected…preventing quite a lot of $$ in water damage.
DIY Security systems
A few years ago, before we moved to our current home, we spent a fortune on a well-known home security system and got locked into a two-year contract. We were stuck…even AFTER we sold that house.
How things have changed! And for the better. There are a handful of DIY alarm bundles that make it easy, inexpensive, and something you can do in about 20 minutes yourself! Ring Alarm is currently offering DIY Home Security Bundle (starting at $199). You can tailor these systems to your particular location and add virtual security guards or additional sensors (like the Flood & Freeze mentioned above) as needed.
Ring also offers its Ring Protect Pro Plan, which costs $20 per month and provides 24/7 professional monitoring. If there’s ever a threat, emergency services will automatically be dispatched to your home—it doesn’t get much safer than that.
Abode also offers a variety of DIY security options like the Iota Security Kit ($329) which includes an integrated camera, alarm, key fob, and a range of motion and door/window sensors, or the Abode 4-piece security kit ($279) which includes a motion sensor, a key fob, and a mini door/window sensor to get you started. Both work in tandem with HomeKit, Alexa, or Google Home and you can opt into professional security services.
Protecting Your Packages
Worried about a package coming but planning to be away? No problem. Loxx Box ($398) is a secure place for your parcels to live unbothered by people, animals, or the elements while you are out enjoying yourself. (And not thinking about your mail.) It’s made of steel so nobody is getting in (without a great deal of equipment) and the interior is temperature controlled— for deliveries of the delicious kind. The lock is simple to use and controlled via an app.
Your Amazon Echo Show 8?!
Of all the smart gadgets to keep your home safe, you might be wondering why we included something often used for entertainment. However, the Amazon Echo Show 8 offers several cool features that will come in handy when you’re away on vacation. For instance, the Alexa Guard skill, like Ring’s glass break sensor, will monitor for the sound of glass breaking and/or smoke alarms and send you an alert if anything out of the ordinary is detected.
There are many other wonderful brands out there that we’ve covered quite a bit before as well, such as Wyze, ADT, SimpliSafe, and many others. Be sure to read our insights on all of them and pick what works best with your platform(s) of choice!
It’s a major bummer to have to think about all that can go wrong when we are away from our homes, but it’s better to worry before you leave on that dream trip than to return to chaos. Thankfully, Smart gadgets to keep your home safes are getting better and smarter extremely quickly…so our vacations can actually feel like…vacations.
Read Jennifer’s latest columns at USAToday.com/tech or follow her @JennJolly on Instagram or her website at Techish.com