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Home security demystified: How to build a smart DIY system

By Jennifer Tuohy | May 29, 2015
Homeowners and renters can now build and maintain their own custom-designed home security system easily and inexpensively.

Get smart about locks

An open door is an open invitation, so locking your home is clearly the first step in security. But locks are also inconvenient, especially when you have your hands full of groceries, or your mother needs to get in to feed the cat and you forgot to leave her a key. This inconvenience leads to serious safety lapses, such as hide-a-keys under the doormat or leaving it unlocked when you'll "only be gone a few minutes."

It only takes a few minutes for a thief to clear a home of valuables. As part of your home security system, consider installing a smart lock to help mitigate this problem.

Electronic locks are relatively new in the security space and there are a variety of different levels of "smart" you can opt for:

* Keypad — If you just want to avoid endlessly handing out keys, a keypad entry provides a safe and secure way to allow entry to multiple trusted people without cutting multiple keys. You can also change the code if you want to revoke someone's access without changing the locks.

* Smart locks — Smart locks don't require a physical key (although most still work with one). Instead, they use your smartphone to authenticate access, normally via Bluetooth. This technology allows you to send digital keys to visitors or other people you need to grant temporary access. Additionally, smart locks allow you to lock and unlock your door remotely and set it to unlock on approach, so you don't need to get your phone out of your pocket. Plus, you can receive notifications about the comings and goings in your home.

* Smart doorbells — Doorbells are also getting smart, and these once insignificant devices are poised to play a growing role in home security systems. Although there are relatively few products on the market currently, the concept is solid: when someone rings your doorbell, your phone will ring and a built-in-camera will show you who is at the door. Two-way communication can let you talk to the person, giving the illusion you are at home even if you are halfway around the world.

* Smart garage door openers — Garage doors connected to WiFi, such as the Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Controller ($129), let you open and close your garage door from anywhere, plus check to make sure it is open or closed. This is another great option for allowing secure access to your home when necessary.

Consider a Home Security Kit

If the idea of building your security system piece by piece is a little overwhelming, there are kits you can buy that come with a selection of simple plug-and-play home security components. These systems mimic traditional wired security systems, but with the benefit of being easier to install, easy to relocate and often include no monthly monitoring fees or long-term financial commitment. Also, because you are in control of these systems, you are less likely to trigger a false alarm, which can be costly in some communities.


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