Smart Home Security Gets Even Smarter – and Easier

Smart home security can give you a virtual lock on protecting your home and peace of mind.  Once upon a time, installing a smart home security system was complicated and expensive.  To get one, you had to call a company specializing in this.  They would send out an installer to drill holes in your walls and run wires throughout your home.  You could spend a considerable amount of money for the installation and a multiyear maintenance and monitoring contract.  Since then, technology has changed.  With moderately priced equipment, you can do it yourself.    Your options include smart doors locks, security cameras, video doorbells and motion sensors you can install yourself.  Smart home security systems run on Wi-fi,  Zigbee, or Bluetooth, with no wiring needed.  You can monitor these systems with an app on your phone.

Because of this simpler, more affordable technology, home security devices are more popular.  Market researchers report that half of U.S. consumers now own at least one smart home device, up from 35% in 2020.

Smart Door Lock  A smart door lock is a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled device that lets you lock and unlock a door via an app on your phone.  Smart locks work by opening and closing a deadbolt electronically.  This form of keyless entry lets you open a door with an icon tap or a voice command.  That way, you won’t be fumbling for keys while your arms are full of groceries.

Pros: You have alot of control over comings and goings at your house.  You can see who opened the smart door lock and when, so you can check to see if your children got home from school on time and you’ll know if the dogwalker showed up at noon!  And you can do it all while sitting at your desk at the office.  You can give out virtual keys.  These codes will let a guest or family member unlock the door with their phone.  You can set the keys to expire or work only during specific times.  You won’t have to leave a key under the doormat or give away house keys you won’t get back.  Burglars can’t pick them!!  Smart locks don’t have a key slot, so they’ll foil analog burglars.

Cons: If you lose power on your phone, you may not be able to get into your house.  If you don’t have power you won’t have Wi-Fi.  That means you can’t open your smart lock.  The same chain of events happens when you lose your phone.  You need a backup plan, like being able to log into your smart lock from another device.  It’s the digital equivalent of a spare key.  If the batteries die, you won’t be able to unlock the door.  You must change the batteries periodically.  Digital theives can hack them.  They can try to override your entry code and unlock your door.  The good news:  Your lock will alert you that there’s been an unauthorized entry.  They’re more expensive.  Smart locks cost $150 to $300, significantly more than a dumb lock.

Video Doorbell  A video doorbell lets you see who’s at your door when you’re not home.  The device, also called a doorbell camera, uses Wi-Fi to stream live video to your phone.  Here’s how it works:  When someone rings the doorbell or when the ccamera detects motion, an app will notify you.  The video doorbell will livestream video to your phone so you can speak to the person at the door.  You can record the video and save it to your phone or the cloud, which comes in handy if you want a record of who did what on your porch.  Industry analysts predict that the number of users will continue to grow significantly over the next few years.

Pros:  You can answer the door wherever you are.  Whether you’re on the other side of the door or the other side of the world, you can see who’s at you door and find out why.  They help stop porch pirates!  Roughly 36 million Amereican’s say they’ve had packages stolen from their porch in the last year.   When a delivery person leaves a package, a video doorbell will alert you so you can bring it inside or tell the person where to place the package.  The porch pirates will probably think twice about stealing a package if they know you have a video doorbell.  You don’t need to rush to the door every time the bell rings.  Instead, check the app on your phone.  If it’s a friend…..get off the sofa and let them in.  If it’s a stranger, you don’t have to interrupt your “Ted Lasso” binge.

Cons:  Some video doorbells need to be hardwired to your existing doorbell wiring.  This may not be a do it yourself job, since you’d have to handle electrical wires.  Somes run only on batteries.  They’re easier to install, but you’ll need to replace the batteries every few weeks.  They’re more expensive than a normal doorbell.  Video doorbells cost $100 – $350, depending on the features.  That’s as much as eight times the cost of an analog doorbell.  Some companies try to upsell you on a confusing array of services and features.  You can hook your device up to a 24/7 monitoring center or get more storage space in the cloud by paying extra fees.  If you’re a regular online shopper, consider a package detection upgrade that some video doorbells offer.  It will alert you when a delivery person picks up or drops off a package.

Motion Sensor  A smart motion sensor is a battery-powered device that detects when anything or anyone crosses its path and triggers an action.  It communicates over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave or Zigbee.  A motion sensor can do everything from turning on lights when you enter a room to telling you when your toddler is climbing our of her crib.  You can run motion sensors through an app on your phone to control devices including smart lights and speakers just by tapping an icon.

Pros:  You can install motion sensors easily and almost anywhere.  You can mount them on the wall or set them on a flat surface in minutes.  Motion sensors can lower your energy bill by telling your smart bulbs, smart speakers, and TV sets to turn off when a room has been empty to long or at a set hour each night.  You can use them to turn a houseful of smart home gadgets into a smart home.  Place motion sensors around your home, link them to your smart devices via your smart speaker, and the sensors can help everything work together.    They’re super affordable.  You can get a motion sensor for as little as $20.00.

Con:  Motion sensors use batteries.  You’ll need to check and change them regularly to keep them working.  Most will let you know when the batteries are getting weak.  If they run on Wi-Fi, they may hit dead zones in your home and stop working.  You’ll need to boost their range with a mesh router – also called a mesh network – that pairs two or more routers together to deliver a seamless Wi-Fi network.  If your home is larger than 3,000 sf or multi-story a mesh router is a good idea.  A bridge – a device that joins two or more Wi-Fi networks so they can work as a single network will boost your home’s Wi-Fi coverage.