Six DIY Simple Security Tips to Keep Your Home Safe

security tricks

Summer is officially here and that means while we’re planning weekend getaways and family vacations, burglars are prepping for summer break-ins. To be sure, a monitored home security system is often the best way to keep burglars at bay, but there are also some simple (and cheap!) ways to keep your home extra safe and secure when you’re home, out for the night, or gone for a week. Yahoo Makers talked to Elli Bishop, home security expert and head of outreach for home security and safety resource site Safewise.com, to get easy tips, tricks, and upgrade ideas to make sure your house is as unwelcoming to intruders as possible.

1. Stop leaving that porch light on the entire time you’re gone

“It’s really easy to see that the light is on during the day and the light’s on at night. It’s a common misconception that it helps,” says Bishop. The same goes for those light timers that go on at the exact same time every day. “Real people at home don’t turn on a living room lamp at 7 p.m. on the dot every single evening, and doing that actually can send a message that you’re not home.” Bishop recommends buying the Belkin WeMo light switch, which, priced right around $40, allows you to turn a particular light on and off via your phone from wherever you are. “It’s a really great option and a really cheap way to turn on your porch light at 5 and then turn it off the next day. It kind of gives your home a lived-in look.”

2. Go keyless

“One in eight burglars gain access by picking a lock or using a key, so you want to get rid of the hidden house key first thing, that’s obvious, but if you add a keyless lock, you get rid of a lot of security breaches,” explains Bishop, who notes that you want to make sure your lock – keyless or otherwise – is also a deadbolt. “Keyless locks are awesome because you can reprogram them. They’re also good if you own a vacation home or a rental home because you can constantly change the code.” That means you never have to worry about someone you don’t want having a key. And they’re not all that expensive, either. A deadbolt versoin by Kwikset starts at around $100. You can find one at your local home improvement retailer and usually install them yourself.

3. Get a dog … any dog

“Dogs can actually be a very reliant deterrent for burglars,” says Bishop, citing a University of North Carolina at Charlotte study that found that the majority of burglars will not go through with a burglary when confronted with a canine. And while you might imagine that only large, imposing dogs with a mean bark are the ones to ward off intruders, it turns out bigger isn’t always better. “Even small little yappy dogs. They make enough noise to scare them away.”

4. Put out that alarm protection sign … just make sure it isn’t from the Reagan years

According to that same study, 90 percent of convicted burglars surveyed said that they would avoid a home they think has an alarm system. So if you do have one but haven’t posted any signs or stickers around your property announcing that you do, you’re doing yourself a disservice. “The signs are essential. You should definitely put them out and make them very visible,” according to Bishop. As for those who put up signs touting an alarm system they don’t actually have, Bishop notes that you’re definitely more secure if you actually have the system, but if you’re going to put fake signs up anyway: make sure the company on the sign is still in business. Sounds obvious, but it happens. “People make the mistake of putting up an old sign for a security company that isn’t even around anymore. If you’re going to put them up, make sure the security company exists and make sure the signs look like those at other homes in the neighborhood.” And for those who do have a real alarm system, swap out the old signs you’ve had for years for new ones your security service will be happy to send you.

5. “Cut” back on crime

Making sure your bushes are trimmed and pruned makes your yard nicer for you … and worse for criminals. “Trimming hedges, especially around the perimeter of your house is important since a lot of times burglars conceal themselves in those bushes or around them,“ explains Bishop, who adds that thick shrubbery can also prevent a potential intruder’s movement from triggering outdoor motion detector lights (another no-brainer security feature she recommends investing in). “If you keep the exterior clean-cut, you get rid of a lot of hiding places.”

6. Keep quiet on social media.

“Be really careful with apps like Foursquare and Twitter so you’re not just alerting people of your whereabouts. One of the big mistakes people make when they’re going on vacation is they’re rambling on Facebook about their trip that they’re going on and how long they’ll be gone and when they’ll be back,” she explains. “You might as well send out a mass email to all the burglars and just let them know you’ll be out of town and what date.” And that just doesn’t seem like a good idea …