This is a guest post by Jennifer Tuohy for The Home Depot


Home security once felt like a boring, expensive concept — call up a legacy security company, hand over a pile of cash, and then forget about it until disaster strikes (or your daughter sneaks in through the back window and sets it off at 2 a.m.).

Before you had kids, home security was probably one of those things you thought you should have, but never got around setting up. But once you have a family, that parental urge to fiercely protect your young finally drives you to open your wallet.

Stop! There’s a better solution. A DIY home security system is not only less expensive than a traditional, monitored system but with the advent of WiFi and smart technology, it has many added advantages beyond securing your home. Some will even help you keep an eye on your offspring.

Here’s a look at five of the best smart gadgets for securing your home, that will also give you some peace of mind as a parent. 

1. Door and Window Sensors

Tag, you’re it! Put tags on your children’s backpacks, combined with door sensors, so you’ll know when they’re home safely.

Security Benefit: Wireless, WiFi enabled door and window sensors are one of the simplest, least expensive, and most effective ways to secure your home. Just stick them on the doors and windows, download the app, and whether you are home alone or away from home, you can receive a phone call, text message, or notification on your smartphone whenever a door or window is opened.

Many door and window sensors can also be connected to a complete DIY security system such as iSmartAlarm ($199 for a complete system including a hub, two door and window sensors, one motion sensor, and two tags), that will trigger a loud siren when a sensor is tripped and the system is armed.

Parenting Benefit: Sensors integrated with a DIY home security system are a great way of knowing if and when your child gets home safely. iSmartAlarm comes with remote tags that each member of the household can use to arm or disarm the system, so they don’t need a smartphone (sorry, kids). But the tags also act as a dedicated identification key and can be assigned to specific users, so you can easily check to see whether Johnny got off the bus okay, or if Jenny really came home before curfew like she said she did.

The tags that come with iSmartAlarm’s system are also pretty sturdy, so they can be attached to a backpack without fear of them getting damaged.

2. WiFi Smart Camera

Set custom motion zones on your WiFi camera so you’ll be alerted when someone enters a specific area.

Security Benefit: A wireless, Wi-Fi enabled camera is another simple way to keep tabs on your home. Easy to install (just plug it into a power source), these gadgets allow you to look into your home when you’re not there and make sure all is safe and sound. Pair it with motion sensors and when you’re notified of movement in the house, you can check in with the camera to see what’s up and take the appropriate steps. More advanced WiFi cameras, like the Samsung SmartCam, have motion sensing built into them. You can even set up custom zones so that, for example, you’ll only receive an alert when the front door opens. 

Parenting Benefit: This one’s a no-brainer — at least until your teenager figures out how to re-route the feed. Being able to check in remotely on your older children when you aren’t home is a technological advancement that will put an end to all impromptu house parties, forever. For the younger ones, these devices can be set to record constantly, meaning that when little Suzie crawls for the first time, you don’t have to run and grab your smartphone to capture it — you can just enjoy the moment and then access the footage from the cloud DVR to share with friends and family.

Another benefit available in the higher end cameras, like the Samsung SmartCam, is the two-way communication. With fewer homes having landlines, when you can’t get your babysitter or teenager to answer their phone, you can simply open your app on your phone and talk to the occupants of your home through the camera’s microphone. It’s much better than leaving in a panic midway through that much-needed date night, all because the sitter left her phone downstairs.

3. Smart Lighting

Security Benefit: Before there were smart light bulbs, people would set their living room lamp on a timer when they went on vacation, so it would turn on at certain intervals to make it look like someone was home. Even the dumbest burglars quickly cottoned on to that one.

However, with WiFi powered smart bulbs such as the GE Link LED bulbs (starting at $15), you can easily set up an authentic looking lighting schedule through your smartphone to make it appear you are home when you’re not. Or if you already have your smart lights programmed to come on and off when you need them to as part of your daily routine, simply leave that running while you’re away. As all smart bulbs use LED technology, they use very little power, so you needn’t worry about consuming too much energy while securing your home.

Parenting Benefit: The power of lighting was vastly underestimated as a parenting tool until smart light bulbs came along. Trust me, they’re invaluable.

As a mother of two, I use my smart lights — which include Philips Hue and GE Link bulbs and Lutron Caseta wireless switches — to “guide” my family through everyday life. They turn on when it’s time to get out of bed and switch to red when it’s time to go to bed. The reading lamp by my son’s bed is set to dim by 10% every five minutes during reading time so that after 30 minutes, it shuts off completely, just as he’s closing his eyes. My favorite trick, though, is having every light in my house set to flash at precisely the moment we have to be walking out the door. That way, no matter where anyone is in the house, they know it’s time to skedaddle. Yay!

4. Smart Locks

Security Benefit: Smart locks work just like regular locks, with the addition of remote access, courtesy of WiFi or Bluetooth LE capabilities. This allows you to easily unlock the door from afar for a child who forgot their key, or make sure the door is locked after everyone has left. You can also assign “virtual” keys to different people, such as a repairman, and then remove access as soon as the work is done.

This is an excellent security tool as it means no more leaving a key under the doormat, or struggling to keep track of how many spares you’ve handed out. More advanced smart locks, like the Kwikset Kevo ($199), will work with other smart home products such as the Nest Thermostat, and do neat things like set your HVAC to Home or Away depending on the status of your lock. The Kwikset also knows when you’re home and prevents unauthorized access, so you can sleep soundly knowing your little ones are safe from intruders.

Parenting benefit: Virtual keys leave a digital trail, so you can keep track of who is at home and when they arrived or left. Some versions, like the Kwikset Kevo, open automatically as you approach — perfect for when you’re struggling with three backpacks and arms full of groceries. 

5. Video Doorbell

Security Benefit: Video doorbells, such as the Ring Video Doorbell ($199), allow you to see who’s at your door from the comfort of your couch — or from a sun lounger in the Florida Keys — via streaming live audio and video of your front doorstep directly to your smartphone. This makes them a great safety device, as you can talk back to the person without them ever knowing you’re not behind the door. Additionally, built-in motion sensors detect movement up to 30 feet, allowing you to know what is going on outside of your home whether or not anyone actually rang the doorbell.

Parenting Benefit: As a security feature, this is a great tool for parents whose children are old enough to be left at home, as you no longer need to worry about them accidentally opening the door for someone they shouldn’t.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing ways smart technology can help us secure our home and family, making everyday life a little bit easier. Have you tried out any of these new gadgets yet? If so, please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Jennifer Tuohy, a mom of two and technophile, writes about creative ways to use technology to help secure your home and make parenting a bit easier. You can find the ismartalarm and other Home Security products Jennifer talks about in this article at The Home Depot. Photos courtesy of the author and The Home Depot .

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