Homes can get more charming as they age, but they can also become less safe. From high-tech security upgrades and structural improvements to simple preventative steps, the tips in this MasterKit will give you everything you need to safeguard your home against common hazards and be prepared if that safety is compromised.
Innovative smart home devices can warn you about potential threats and real-time problems with your property. These tech upgrades are often easy to install in homes of any age, and many are surprisingly affordable, too.
Your home should be your safe haven, but burglaries, fires and even toxins can put you and your property at risk. However, adding certain "smart home" technologies can put control back into your hands. When properly installed, automated appliances, smart sensors, and other devices can guard your home and help you to take action before problems become major threats.
Check out our primer on smart home technology and find out how you can use it to make your home safer all-around and easier to monitor.
1. Point of Entry Protection
One of thefirst places you can protect with technology is access to your home. And there are several smart products available that do just that.
Smart locks are high-tech, wireless locks that provide entry into your home without keys you can lose or have stolen. Some automatically unlock as you approach (most function using Bluetooth connectivity), or you can choose a lock with a keypad that uses customizable pin codes.
August Smart Lock (a Liberty Mutual partner) lets you create entry codes for different visitors, and you can grant or take away their access at any time. You can even customize codes to work at certain times of day, which is particularly helpful if you need to let in workers like house cleaners or contractors. Plus, the app keeps a full, detailed log of everyone's comings and goings.
Video doorbells are increasingly popular because they have built-in video cameras and microphones that actually allow you to see and talk to anyone at your front door, even when you're not at home. Since 65 percent of home invasions occur during the daytime, when many houses are unoccupied, this extra layer of security can make all the difference in deterring intruders.1 Plus, the camera can take a picture of who's at your door in the event of suspicious activity. This inexpensive, easy-to-install technology can easily improve the safety of your home, whether it was built last year or decades ago.
Smart gates are useful for monitoring who is coming and going on a larger property, whether it's your primary residence or vacation home. Think of these driveway gates as a mash-up of video doorbells and smart locks - smart gates will open as an authorized user approaches and then close automatically, all while keeping a detailed user record that’s typically complete with video recording.
Pro Tip: Need to let the dog out? Smart doggie doors open only when your pet approaches while wearing a special collar. You can also program the door to be temporarily locked or unlocked, depending on your pet's needs.
2. Lighting Automation
Homeowners have long used light bulb timers when traveling to deter intruders, but these timers can be unreliable and easy to spot. The newest automated lighting and entertainment systems, however, let you program your lighting and other devices, like the television, so your home actually looks occupied. You can easily control when the lights or system turns on and off, as well as brightness/dimness levels.
You also have options: You can either invest in an entire lighting system, replace existing electrical outlets with smart outlets that control lamps and appliances plugged into them, or opt for individual smart bulbs equipped with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity. Possibilities are available for nearly all budgets, and these simple, easy to install measures can give you peace of mind about security, no matter where you are in the world.
Pro Tip: Some smart plugs/outlets feature built-in USB ports that automatically sense the charge needs of the inserted device, then stop when complete to prevent overcharging.
3. Motion-activated Lights and Security Cameras
When the sun goes down, many homes are plunged into relative darkness, with street lights doing little to cast a glow on suspicious activity. Fortunately, a number of smart devices are available to deter or even catch wrongdoers.
Canary (a Liberty Mutual partner) makes a line of smart home security cameras (both indoor and outdoor) that will notify you via your smartphone in case of suspicious movement or activity in your home. Then, using one-touch access, you can alert the appropriate authorities to investigate, even if you're not home. Some other models also incorporate smart motion-activated flood lights, which immediately light up your yard and home when someone approaches.
Smart indoor video cameras and motion sensors are also helpful when you're traveling or away from your home. Many full-fledged home security systems offer them as a package deal, or you can install cameras room-by-room and monitor the video feeds yourself. Smart motion sensors even allow you to program the times you’ll be away, and will send alerts should unexpected activity occur. Most models are a cinch to install yourself using provided wall mounts, or you can hire a professional to do it for you.
4. Smart Thermostats
Homes of any age, especially those in colder climates, can benefit from these easy-to-install preventative tools, which are quite affordable. That's because smart thermostats quickly become attuned to your heating and cooling preferences, and adjust your home's temperature accordingly. This comes in handy for more than just energy efficiency and cost savings, however. If the weather turns ugly at home while you're traveling, your smart thermostat will alert you to remotely adjust the temperature. This can help prevent disasters like frozen or burst pipes, which can cause major damage, particularly if the problem goes undetected for any length of time.
Pro Tip: Some power companies are so keen on helping you save energy that they offer discounts to people who choose to install smart thermostats. Check your local utility for more information.
5. Other New and Improved Detection Devices
Whatever might go terribly awry inside your home, there is a smart device designed to sense it and notify you in short order.
Smoke alarms have undergone serious makeovers, and not a moment too soon, since dead, missing or disconnected batteries are responsible for the great majority of smoke alarm failures.2 Smart smoke alarms automatically check their own functionality hundreds of times a day, rather than the manual monthly test users are supposed to do (but often don't). They can sense both smoke and carbon monoxide, then alert you to the specific danger and location, and even offer directions about where to go (with a carbon monoxide event, it's critical to head immediately for fresh air). The alarm can also be silenced using your handheld smart device if a relatively benign crisis like an overdone bag of popcorn has passed, even if traces of smoke remain.
The Roost Smart Water Leak and Freeze Detector (a Liberty Mutual partner) can also stop minor water-related issues before they get out of hand. The device senses abnormal humidity levels, water leaks and major temperature fluctuations, then notifies you so you can address the problem. This minor investment has the potential to prevent expensive water damage, from frozen pipes or leaks in virtually all areas of the home.
Radon is a silent threat that can lurk unknown in homes. Exposure to this often naturally occurring radioactive gas causes roughly 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year and is the top cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.3Smart radon detectors can alert you to the presence of radon in your home and provide a detailed report on how the levels have fluctuated over time. This is critical because radon levels aren't necessarily static, so occasional testing using traditional methods can miss potential exposure issues.
6. A Hub to Control Everything
Finally, the last thing you can use to make your home smarter is a hub. It's technically an optional central control point for all of your other smart devices, but consolidating them into one spot makes it much easier for you to manage all their safety benefits. Some in-home hubs are voice activated and others feature touch screen controls. Whichever you choose, make sure that it's compatible with all of your devices, whether they're controlled by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or another connection mechanism.
Pro Tip: Many hubs lend extra independence to senior citizens because they can be programmed to offer audible helpful reminders, such as medication or appointment prompts. The voice-activated variety of hubs and other devices are also helpful for those with limited mobility, or in case of an emergency.
Each of these smart devices is affordable and simple to install and operate in your home. Since most of these threats can pop up when you least expect them, making your home a smart home is a wise investment, no matter the age of your property.