Securing your house against potential break-ins is round a clock job. Fortunately, now there are multitudes of smart home security products that make the job easier. Items like home security cameras, smart locks, and contact sensors are becoming more cost-effective by the day. The best part, not everything requires a professional to install. So how do you decide which ones are the best?
Home Security Camera
The security of your home begins with entrance points. It is important to decide how many cameras you will need to keep an eye on the exterior of your house. Cameras come with lots of features, so it is a good idea to decide which features will best suit your needs. Some common features include:
- Ability to communicate using Wi-Fi or wirelessly.
- Battery-powered or hardwired
- Designed for indoor or outdoor use
- Capable of live-streaming and smartphone app control
- Continuous recording even after a half-day power outage, videos stored in SD card or cloud storage
- Automatic and accurate alert on smartphone app when triggered by motion
- Have two-way audio and built-in alarm, sensitive sound detection allows you to see, hear and talk to visitors
- Use standard field of vision or wide-angle lenses with pan/tilt capacity, 360 degrees rotatable
- Flexible home mode for more family members
- Clear color night vision
Indoor or Outdoor?
Compare to indoor cameras, outdoor cameras require some additional features:
- Waterproof and better heat dissipation. Indoor smart cameras and outdoor smart cameras have different outer shells. The outer shells of outdoor cameras are usually made of magnesium alloy or aluminum alloy. They must be sealed and waterproof. Also, alloy shells have better heat dissipation and weather resistance than plastic. However, for indoor cameras, the only thing you need to care about is the style and position. Outdoor cameras can be used both outside and inside, while indoor cameras can only be installed inside the house.
- Higher position. Outdoor smart cameras should be installed at a higher position to have overlook and wide-angle shooting. This can also effectively avoid direct exposure to other light sources, and prevent the lens from dirt, which will affect the shooting effect. For indoor cameras, the best position is where you can clearly see your baby, pets, and nanny.
- Backlight compensation. Outdoor security cameras must have a backlight compensation in other direct light sources, such as sunlight, car lights, etc.
Wired or Wireless?
The first step is to select between a camera that is wired or wireless. The word “wireless”, in this case, does not refer to how the camera is powered but how it communicates. Wired cameras transfer their footage via wires, whereas wireless ones do it over Wi-Fi. Here is some important terminology you need to understand.
- Wired: a camera using cables to connect to a power source and the internet.
- Wireless: A camera that uses cables to connect to a power source by Wi-fi to connect to the internet.
- Wire-Free: A camera using Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and is powered by batteries.
The wired cameras are more secure and reliable. The video quality is more consistent, and they require no monthly cloud storage dues. The drawbacks are that they require professional installation. Mobile apps are not always user-friendly. Not all work with systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The wireless cameras are easy to operate and can be installed on your own. They use cloud storage that can be viewed from anywhere. Unfortunately, the storage comes at a cost. The video quality may not be that great, depending on Wi-Fi. Batteries have to be recharged and are prone to hacking.
Video doorbell is essentially a security camera with a built-in doorbell. Typically, they use your home Wi-fi to stream live video directly to your smartphone. Some features include motion detection, video storage, alarms, and the ability to function in conjunction with additional smart devices.
You have the option of selecting from devices that run on batteries or are hardwired via doorbell wiring. Each comes with its own sets of pros and cons. A wireless video doorbell is easy to install on your own. No need to call an electrician to turn off the power to make the connection.
The problem is that batteries run out and need to be replaced or recharged frequently. You can forget to replace them, in which case you will be without protection. Power may run out when you least expect it to. The battery-operated devices tend to be bulky compared to hardwired ones.
Wired video doorbells get power from your home utility service. Usually, they can just be hooked up to your existing doorbell wiring. It is as simple as removing the old doorbell and replacing it with a video bell. The smaller ones with finishes to complement your home exterior tend to be more costly.
Video doorbells do not have their own storage. That means you will have to sign up with a cloud subscription plan if you wish to store videos. Prices can start from $3 monthly for access to 30 days or more of storage
Smart locks are another top home security product. They allow you to gain access to your home via a numerical keypad or through your smartphone. Depending on the features, they can also provide alerts regarding who is entering or leaving the property. Additionally, they can automatically engage other smart devices such as security systems or lights. The best part is you can do all this from your sofa or work!
Essentially there are two types of smart locks. The first kind completely replaces your existing lock. The second type is mounted above the rear thumb-turn cylinder located on the inner side of the door. This type leaves the prevailing key lock on the door front untouched.
Benefits & Drawbacks
The replacement smart locks are preferred over retrofit smart locks since they offer more entry options. The visible smart lock is in itself a deterrent, unlike the retrofit, which gives no visible clues. Replacement smart locks let the person thinking of breaking in the knowledge that they are being watched. Other benefits include:
- Convenience: no need to fumble around for keys or losing them ever again.
- Speed: Opening mechanical locks takes time. A smart lock takes only three to five seconds to open and then close again.
- Security: Fingerprint-operated smart locks are more difficult to break into. Smart locks use more latches than the typical two in normal locks. The keyhole can be replaced with a biometric reader or smartphone recognition. All additional security measures that ensure break-ins can’t occur.
While the new technology is great in so many ways, that does not mean it does not have its issues. Regardless of how good it is, any wireless technology can be hacked. Connectivity can also become an issue if your Wi-Fi goes down. If the smart lock loses power, there will be additional headaches.
Types of Smart Locks
Combination & Keypad
This type needs a passcode to unlock the door. It is possible to have a passcode assigned to each person. They are available in many varieties such as keypad deadbolts, keypad deadbolts and knobs, and keypad deadbolts. The locks may have physical buttons or be touchscreen. Lots of models are compatible with smart home centers.
Wi-Fi Smart Lock
These locks allow you to unlock a door from any location via a wireless connection through an app on your phone. You can share e-keys with others and keep track of door opening and closings. The Wi-Fi connectivity also allows you to pair them with home hubs like Amazon Echo.
Bluetooth Smart Lock
This smart lock gives the same functionality as your Wi-Fi lock with the advantage of not draining your battery quickly. You can lock your door with your mobile phone instead of using the smart home system. However, the mobile has to be within roughly 30 feet to work. This feature makes Bluetooth locks more secure than Wi-Fi locks. Because the potential hacker has to be near the lock to hack it.
Fingerprint Smart Lock
Such locks unlock doors with fingerprint or biometrics, converting them into a numerical template. Sharing the template allows you to share access with others. These are great for people who have a tendency to forget because you can’t forget fingerprints.
Smart plugs and outlets allow you to convert electrical appliances like T.V., lamps, or coffee makers into smart appliances. You can then control that device via your smartphone or voice command.
Occasionally there is confusion over the difference between smart outlets and smart plugs. While they serve a similar function, they are different items.
Smart outlets are devices that totally replace the standard outlets located on different walls of your house. They are harder to install because they require hardwiring to the home electricity supply lines. While those of you who are more capable may be able to do it yourself others will need to call in an electrician. They are available in the standard two outlet design. Since they are fitted into the wall, they aren’t portable. They are also more expensive compared to smart plugs, with some models going as high as $100.
Smart plugs are devices you plug into your regular outlet. They fit into one of the three-pronged outlets (for North America) and can then accept other devices to power. They are available as single units or in multiple strips. Heavy-duty, waterproof ones are available for outdoor use, or you can purchase indoor ones. They can be taken out and used in any other area of the house as they are not fixed. They require no installation and tend to be about half the price of smart outlets.
Some Features to Consider
- Voice Compatibility: a lot of the smart plugs work with Amazon Echo, Googe Home, and others. This will allow you to turn your devices on and off with voice commands.
- Power Limitations: not everything that is plugged in will automatically become a smart unit. Most of the smart plugs can only handle a few hundred watts. That is sufficient to run a lamp, or T.V but not things needing more power like a hairdryer. You have to read the fine print to see exactly how much electricity your power plug can deliver.
- Integrated Dimming: Connecting a lamp with a smart plug will allow you to convert to a dimming lamp. Make sure it has a dimmer switch. The switches have buttons that control dimming or it can be done through an app.
- Energy Monitoring: Want to find out how much power your device is using? Some models have mobile apps that will allow you to do this. Tracking energy will allow you to better manage your energy consumption and reduce bills.