20 Tips to Harden Your Home Security for Next to Nothing

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How secure is your castle?

The FBI says Americans lost $4.5 billion to burglaries last year, and residential properties made up 74 percent of the total reported.

The good news: It takes a lot less than you may think to install sophisticated security equipment yourself, and you’ll save plenty over the cost of a professional alarm company.

Even better, there are tons of easy, no-tech ways to improve your home’s security for free or next to nothing. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson tells you how in the video below. Check it out, then read on for more ideas.

Appearances count

Most burglars work the daytime shift, just like most of us do. They decide whether to hit your home based on appearances: Is it easy to crack or not worth the trouble? The most effective improvements are the ones that persuade a burglar to move on to the next guy’s home.

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9 easy and free ideas

  1. Enlist local police. Local police departments typically will send a trained officer to your home to do a walk through with you, pointing out your vulnerabilities and suggesting simple fixes. Check your police department’s website for crime statistics and tips. For example, here is the Los Angeles Police Department’s detailed list of home-security tips for residents. Remember to alert police when you’ll be out of town.
  2. Chat up the neighbors. Join the local Neighborhood Watch program or start one. Chatting with neighbors updates you on local crime problems and enlists allies who’ll watch your home while you’re away. Neighbors are terrific watchdogs. My retired neighbor up the hill who likes peering out his window through a giant telescope spotted and chased a pre-dawn intruder from my garden once.
  3. Use your locks. Even if your neighborhood feels safe, make locking up a habit. Burglars often test a home by knocking on a door and, if no one answers, opening it. Keep every exterior door and window locked, including the door between the garage and house.
  4. Fake it. Getting a dog is a great security move. But if you can’t, pretend to have one. Buy a couple of “Beware of Dog” signs at a hardware store and put them up. When a stranger is at the door, make a show of putting the “dog” in the other room before you open the door.
  5. Install dummy security cameras (about $5).
  6. Paste a local security company’s sticker on your front window.
  7. Keep the place looking lived in. Rotate lights on timers when you’re gone. Sign up for USPS’ Hold Mail service, reschedule expected deliveries and get friends to drop by randomly to water plants or just walk around.
  8. Trim shrubs. Bushy trees and shrubs provide cover for bad deeds. Keep the foliage well-trimmed.
  9. Use your head. Don’t open the door, and don’t let kids open the door, to uninvited strangers. Stay home when workers are in or around your home. Don’t put keys in obvious places like fake rocks and under pots and doormats. Train children (especially teens) to keep key locations, alarm codes and other family security information private from their friends.

4 cheap fixes

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Comments & discussion

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  • http://calgary-homesecuritysystems.com/ Calgary Home Security

    Really nice list of tips.

  • http://www.ivisaustralia.com.au/ Mickey David

    Ask neighbors to be your eyes and ears. You may have a security system installed so that a potential burglar will think twice about robbing a place with security installed. thanks Lewis for sharing the tips.

  • speaksthetruth

    My house was broken into while my husband and I slept in the next room. They went into my husbands office and took his computer and monitor. We didn’t hear a thing till the next morning and see his office was gone. Just happy they didn’t hurt us in any way. Take what you want our lives isn’t worth it.

  • speaksthetruth

    The nerve of some people. What happened?

  • Lorilu

    A friend was robbed during the day, probably by someone from a landscaping crew servicing an adjacent property. They left their house, all locked up, for a short errand. When they returned, the door had been kicked in and the house robbed. The noise of landscaping equipment would be a good cover, and their presence was not suspicious, and the crew saw the family leave.

  • Lorilu

    Ask a neighbor to take your mail, too, and collect any advertising circulars or newspapers left on your property.

  • Barb

    After things started disappearing from my home and I did several searches to be sure that I had not hidden things from my self, I did my own security installations. I put large heavy C hooks on either side of my door. About 6-8 inches from frame and in heavy wall studs. Then I bought a length of of angle iron with predrilled holes the entire length. The C hooks were pointing UP. The angle iron slips over the C hooks and is impossible to manuver off from the small amount of space the door can be opened. The door CANNOT be kicked in. The bar is always in place but in an emergency it can easily be twisted loose to exit house. The garage door opener uses a rolling code, which I reset if I suspect anyone has the opportunity to clone it. Seems to be working out quite well. My neighbor told me that my adult child had been stealing from me. Have proof that it was actually that neighbor.His wife made mistake of bragging to my face. He’s retired sheriff deputy. No chance of help from law. I may be little old lady but if I can protect myself, so can you. The hardest part was climbing ladder to reach garage door opener controls. If you think bar and hooks are ugly, paint them.

  • mona

    Great tips to secure doors from both author and reader comments. However, I never have understood why homeowners, and apparently thieves too, seem to be so focused on doors. There are relatively flimsy windows all over the house that would take little force to bash in. I am aware of techniques to prevent opening windows, but how do you prevent someone just bashing in or shooting out a window? Are there impact-resistant windows and sliding glass doors? Are those very expensive?

    • mrphy42

      Nobody is shooting a window to get into your house. It is loud and really unnecessary. And the reason people are focused on doors is because climbing in a window is suspicious and draws attention. If a door is available, that is going to be the main point of entry. It is easier and draws less attention.

  • smokey347

    get a dog. no burglar will enter a house where a dog is. and you can provide a home to an animal in need.

  • Steven T

    I was robbed a year ago. Kicked in the rear sliding glass door during the day. Honestly, there is no way to protect your property from this happening. Especially when the modern suburban home has the standard 5-6 foot fence “protecting” the rear yard. Remember, the sound of the glass breaking and falling only lasts one second. If a neighbor is startled by this but doesn’t hear anything further, he/she doesn’t know where it came from and can’t see over your fence. When I installed my alarm system, I opted for a very loud siren on the eve of the roof. That way, the neighbors KNOW which house it is. I also have a very loud siren (2) in the house. That way, the thief can’t think straight and needs to flee. And, like I stated, you cant keep someone from actually gaining entry through glass but you can do your best to keep them out and get noticed so the police will be called. The best detector/sensor is a GOOD glass break detector connected to your system. This is a special microphone that listens for the sound/frequency of breaking glass. I have three in the rear rooms of the house. They can’t be to far from the glass, 14 feet at the most. AND, it needs to be tested every month or so (there are ways to do this correctly). Hope this helps. It’s peace of mind for us.