Get smart with home security
Many homeowners are now opting to fit their own CCTV cameras or invest in alternative security measures, such as motion sensors, in an attempt to protect your home. We take a look at the benefits of having an alarm and some of the best home security gadgets and ask how they compare to professional systems.
There are many measures homeowners can take to reduce the risk of burglary, from simple and practical deterrents to installing the latest technology. However, the most effective way to protect your home is to have a visible burglar alarm fitted.
Burglars don’t want to be seen or heard, so the threat of setting off an alarm can work as an effective deterrent as well as a way of alerting you that someone has entered your home. The key is to make sure the alarm is visible to uninvited guests.
Professional systems can be pricey, especially when you factor in installation costs. Prices vary depending on individual specifications and the size of the property. Basic systems from well-known brands, such as ADT or Banham, typically start at £100, rising to £600 for an alarm that notifies the police or has vandal-proof CCTV.
Systems that notify the police if there’s a break-in have to be installed by a member of the National Security Inspectorate or Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board so there’s no easy way to cut back on installation costs with these. The alarms also need to be registered with the police and it’s recommended households get at least two quotes before investing in a security system.
Gadgets to protect your home
Although security experts do not recommend replacing an alarm on the exterior of a house with an indoor camera or motion sensor, they have become popular with householders looking for added protection.
Earlier this year, budget security gadgets hit the headlines when a hapless burglar was caught in the act by a camera fitted by the homeowner.
Images of the intruder were streamed to the victim’s mobile, who then called the police, and the burglar was arrested nearby shortly afterwards.
A quick search on Google for ‘home security’ and ‘alarms’ throws up thousands of products – from basic motion-sensor plugs that can turn on a light or radio to complete home security kits, including motion sensors, indoor and outdoor cameras.
Deciding what will be best to protect your home can be quite overwhelming, even for a self-confessed technology geek.
Gadgets start at less than £30 for a simple motion detector or light timer, while a modest camera monitor that hooks up to your phone or tablet via an app can be bought for less than £100. It’s worth noting that more sophisticated systems can cost as much as a £600 for a camera CCTV kit that can cover every room, as well as the outside of your house and garden.
At the basic end of the scale is a plug that detects if a window or door has been opened. The Plug Safe Intruder Home Sensor costs £28.56 from Qvcuk.com and works by measuring sonar waves. You plug it into a socket and then plug an appliance into the front of it, such as a lamp or radio. If it detects movement then it turns on the appliance, potentially rumbling intruders by letting them know you’re on to them.
It’s even possible to install cameras into your home and view what’s happening while you’re not there. Tom Wiggins, tech boffin and deputy editor at Stuff magazine, says: “Being able to connect cameras to the internet has revolutionised how we keep an eye on what goes on when we’re not home but think about what you need before buying one.
“Most will allow you to store the video you record online but some providers charge depending on how much data you want to keep, so you need to beware extra monthly charges.”
He also recommends paying attention to what sensors a camera has, as not all of them will detect sound and motion, and to look at what resolution it can record at. “If it’s not high definition, you could end up with some pretty grainy footage.”
These devices start at around £100 for a basic indoor camera that connects to the internet and streams footage to you via an app or website, meaning you can monitor what’s going on while you’re away from home.
While at the top end of the range price-wise, the Swann DIY security kit costs £474.99 from Costco and comes with two cameras and a four-channel recorder so you can add an additional two cameras. It can record continuously for up to 48 days, and you can monitor footage via a mobile and tablet – so you can go away on holiday knowing that your home is protected by CCTV.
Is it legal?
As long as you own your home, then it’s perfectly legal to install CCTV in your home to protect against intruders and trespassers, as long as you don’t need planning permission or are not breaking any building rules.
The cameras should only be positioned to observe activity on your property and not your neighbours. If you live in rented accommodation, then you’ll need written permission from your landlord. For more information on rules, visit the information Commissioner’s Office website at Ico.org.uk.
Are you fully insured?
As well as making sure your home is unattractive to burglars, it’s vital to have home insurance cover in case you fall victim to theft. Sadly, installing a security system will have little effect on your home insurance costs.
Ben Wilson, home insurance spokesperson at GoCompare.com, says: “Some insurers may offer a discount for having specific locks or professionally fitted burglar alarms. However, any discount offered is unlikely to be significant enough to offset the cost of getting a security system in the first place.
“As such, it’s probably not worth getting a burglar alarm purely for a discount on your home insurance. Instead, look at buying one as an investment in keeping your property secure and making it unattractive to burglars, which could in turn prevent future break-ins and potential home insurance claims that could raise your premiums in future.”
Bear in mind that some insurers may stipulate that alarms must be set whenever the house is unoccupied and failure to do so could invalidate your policy if you were to be burgled and need to make a claim.
Tried and tested
Moneywise put three camera security systems across a range of prices to the test. Thankfully, the only intruder we caught on film was a kitten. Here’s how we got on...
Motorola Focus 85, £72, available from B&Q
The Focus 85 records constantly and saves 15 seconds of footage whenever movement is detected. It then sends a notification to your phone, so you can either take control of the camera and view a live stream or review the captured footage. You can also receive alerts when sound is detected or when the temperature changes. The built-in speaker lets you speak directly with anyone within range of the camera, too.
Our verdict: The camera was easy to set up and connect via wi-fi. You simply download the free Motorola Hubble app to monitor it from your phone, tablet or desktop computer. Many of the reviews online suggest that it is used more commonly by parents as a baby monitor rather than as part of their home security but the motion-and sound- triggered recording would alert you if an intruder was in your home. Perfect for technophobe homeowners who only want to monitor one room, and the price seems reasonable.
Belkin WoMo SD NetCam & Smart Switch, £104, available from Qvcuk.com
This camera-and-switch combo was relatively easy to set up, as was downloading the app to monitor the camera. If you want to store recordings or get alerts when motion is detected, then you’ll have to sign up to the Belkin Cloud subscription for £6.50 a month. The camera and smart plug work with its WeMo app that can be linked to other gadgets, including lights, to control when you’re away from home.
Our verdict: It does what it says on the tin but it’s a tad pricey.
Panasonic smart home monitoring and safety kit, £229, available from Currys
This multi-pack includes a base, two door sensors, a smart plug and a camera. Again, as with the other products tested, it was easy to set up and install. The main hub (base) connects via your router, not wi-fi, to keep images safe from hackers. Download the app to your mobile and tablet and monitor your home while you’re not there. The outdoor camera has built-in night vision, while the indoor camera can play sound (presumably to placate noisy pets rather than scare intruders). The smart plug allows you to turn off appliances remotely, which is pretty handy but not unique to this particular multi-pack. You can also buy a basic pack, including the hub and motion sensors, for £129.99. The camera, smart plug and additional sensors are all available individually.
Our verdict: This is our favourite of the lot because of the ease of installing and the additional features, including the smart plug.