Modern security methods and insight make it much easier to protect your home than in the past. And while your home insurance offers coverage to replace your belongings and repair any damage done during a robbery, the best option is to avoid the stress altogether. If you’re wondering how to protect your home from intruders, the following home security tips and upgrades will do the trick.

1. Don’t Alert Strangers to an Empty House

Most often, burglars attempt to break into your house when it’s at its most vulnerable: when it’s empty.

Fortunately, it can be hard to predict when no one will be home, even when you have a fairly standard schedule. When you’re on vacation, though, there’s less risk of you coming home early.

Thieves know this, so it’s important to make your home appear lived in when you’re away.

One way to give the appearance of being home is to set up automatic lights that go on and off in alternating rooms. Many modern security systems have this option.

If you’re on an extended trip, you may need to do more to keep mail from piling up and weeds from overgrowing. For long trips, we suggest asking your local mail service to hold onto your mail until you return or to forward it to you if you are gone for months.

To keep your plants alive and your yard in good shape, you can hire someone to come by or ask a neighbor you trust to keep an eye on things while you’re gone.

If you’re willing to go the extra mile, wait to post about your trip on social media until you return. That way, the wrong ears don’t hear that your home will be unoccupied.

2. Use a Smart Lock

Deadbolts used to be your best bet against thieves, but now smart locks reign supreme.

While thieves can pick locks, smart locks use a number pad for which only you and other housemates know the code. This also means you don’t have to leave keys behind for house or pet sitters. Instead, you can give them their own code and cancel it at any time.

In addition to being safer, smart locks are more convenient. It means no more forgetting your keys or fumbling with them while you carry in groceries.

Smart locks can cost anywhere from $100-$400. If you invest in one, just remember to cover the lock with your hand and body when you type in your password.

If you decide to stick with a traditional key, make sure you change the lock if you have recently moved. You don’t want previous owners to have access to your home.

Bonus Tip: After moving, it’s standard practice to share a picture of your new key on social media in celebration. Don’t do this. Some robbers can copy a key from images alone. If you’ve already posted a picture, be sure to delete it.

3. Invest in a Video Doorbell

Among the best home security ideas is the video doorbell. Some come with more capabilities than others, but the general idea is that they record anyone who approaches your door and send the video to your phone.

By nature, video doorbells turn burglars away, but they also make it easier to seek justice if there is a break-in.

(It’s also a nifty tool for seeing who your visitors are without peeking out of the nearby window, so you can avoid opening the door to door-to-door salespeople and other unwelcome guests.)

We recommend getting a video doorbell with night vision, so it works just as well at all times of the day.

Feeling extra fancy? You might consider a model with two-way communication that allows you to speak through it even when you’re not home. On average, a video doorbell with installation costs between $100-$500.

4.Install Motion-Sensitive Lighting

Modern-day motion sensors are quite effective. Combine them with lighting around your house, and you’ve got another great way to protect your home.

Motion-sensitive lighting works by turning on when someone walks within the sensor’s range (in other words, close to your home). You can set up your lights to brighten dark areas around your home and where you may want security cameras to capture images of intruders.

Motion-sensitive lighting works on two fronts:

  1. It alerts potential thieves that you’re invested in security and have a more advanced system.
  2. It makes it harder for intruders to hide when sneaking on your property.

Don’t forget to protect outdoor structures like sheds and garages in your coverage area.

Motion-sensitive lights are also better than permanent lighting because they only illuminate when tripped and aren’t always on, thus lowering the electric bill. We recommend using energy-efficient or solar-powered bulbs to save even more. Just be sure to get bulbs with a high output (as measured in lumens), so they light up a wide enough area.

Depending on the type of light sensor you use, and whether you hire a professional for installation, prices range between $100-$500.

5. Secure Your Doors

So far, we’ve primarily gone over security upgrades that you can add to your home. These additions will help deter thieves and help you catch strangers on the prowl.

But what about someone more determined? Or someone too inexperienced to know better?

For these individuals, a burglar proof home should be difficult to enter as well. Let’s start with the primary entry point: your doors.

Using smart locks will help prevent lock pickers, but there are other ways they can try to force an entry.

Try to use doors that don’t have large windows or glass surface areas. While ornate doors are pretty, they’re easy to break through. If you want a door with a window, keep the vulnerable glass area small and far from the door handle.

Now, sometimes large areas of glass are inevitable, like with sliding glass doors. For these, you can add stoppers in the door’s tracks, so the locks can’t be broken and the door frame forced open. We also recommend adding a door or glass sensor to alert you if someone tries to enter.

On a similar front, if you have a mail slot in your door, make sure someone can’t reach through it to access the door handle.

A real determined thief may also try to break down your door. To prevent this, all doors leading to the outside should be made of solid wood or metal and have stronger door frames. You may have noticed that front doors are typically heavier than those used for a bedroom, for instance.

You can also reinforce your door’s hinges and strike plates to prevent someone from kicking it in.

While strengthening your door hinges and strike plates are relatively inexpensive, a new front door can cost up to $2,000.

6. Secure Your Windows

After your doors, a thief’s next best bet is—you guessed it—your windows.

Like your doors, you want to keep your windows locked at all times. Ensure that the locks on your windows are strong and in good condition. Some older homes have weaker locks that you may want to replace.

Optional security upgrades for home windows include window bars, shatterproof glass, window sensors or glass break sensors.

Window sensors alert you when the window is open or closed, while glass break sensors listen for the sound of broken glass and alert you when something breaks them. If you are on a budget, a good glass break sensor can monitor an entire room at a time, whereas you need a window sensor for each window.

If you use shatterproof glass or security bars, ensure that you can still quickly exit your windows if needed. Being unable to escape through your windows can be a fire safety hazard.

7. Fortify Your Garage

When it comes to security for a house, the garage is easy to forget. Still, it’s an extension of your home and often holds valuables, including cars, bikes, tools and miscellaneous items in storage.

Fortunately, you can get smart locks for your garage as well. And, like your home’s doors and windows, there are sensors available to alert you anytime your garage door opens or closes.

If you sometimes forget to close your garage door, you may also consider an automatic closure that closes the garage door after a set amount of time.

Beyond garage security upgrades, there are two tips we highly recommend following:

  1. If you have a garage door remote, don’t leave it in your car if you ever park in the driveway. A burglar could break into your vehicle and gain easy garage access.
  2. Always lock the door that enters your house from your garage. If someone does get into your garage, you don’t want an easy way into the rest of your home. Also consider a metal door here.

8. Install a Burglar Alarm or Upgrade the One You Have

Believe it or not, homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be broken into. That’s because thieves (typically) work “smarter, not harder,” and a security system makes their jobs a lot harder.

A burglar alarm is a security system that goes off when someone breaks into your home. Once set off, it makes a loud sound to alert anyone home of the intruder, and it signals the police to come right away.

Security systems are on the expensive side but one of the most effective security features you can have. Typical systems and installation range from $300-$1,600. If you subscribe to a monthly monitoring service, these can cost around $25-$50 a month.

The good news? For one, there are basic DIY solutions that are very cost-effective. Secondly, you have the option to upgrade an older security system. For example, you can replace an old panel board with a new one—many of which work with older systems. Security system upgrades offer greater capabilities, including home automation.

Some even let you control your system through your smartphone, giving you control when you’re away from home. Forgot to lock the door? Lock it from your phone.

Another smart upgrade is to switch to a wireless system. Many old systems rely on telephone lines to signal the police, but burglars can easily cut phone lines. Wireless systems are safer because they send signals to a cell tower instead.

9. Protect Your WiFi Access

Security systems and cameras are created with best security practices in mind, but it is possible to hack them. While chances are low, securing your WiFi network makes them even lower.

To secure your home WiFi, make sure you create a new name and password rather than using the ones that came with the system. Use a strong password with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

We also suggest using a firewall to protect against unauthorized access and installing antivirus and malware protection. Fortunately, these are relatively inexpensive to purchase for your devices, but they do tack onto the cost of your security system.

10. Think About Making a Safe Room

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 28% of burglaries occur while someone is home.

While it is unlikely that you will be home during a robbery, it’s best to be prepared. If someone does enter your home while you or a family member is present, having a safe room to escape to and call the police is a great option.

We know what you’re thinking, but a safe space doesn’t need to be a bunker in the basement or a room hidden behind a bookcase like in the movies.

Instead, it can simply be a single room where you have added extra safety precautions.

Once you choose a room to reinforce, consider upgrading it with the following:

  • A solid door, like your front door, and an enhanced door frame, door bars or floor reinforcements
  • Another smart lock
  • Shatterproof windows
  • A backup phone, like a burner phone, in case your cell isn’t on you when you run into the room

Adding these extra touches to one room can help buy you time to call the police and safely await their arrival during a robbery.

11. Get a Pet Dog

Of course, the most fun of all home security tips is getting a pet dog.

Several studies involving burglar interviews have proven that pet dogs help keep burglars away. Not only do dogs add an element of uncertainty to a thief’s plans, but they often bark anytime someone walks up to your house. Even a tiny dog can be helpful. Plus, dogs make great friends.

But as friends, and living creatures, it’s important to understand that pets are a huge commitment. Dogs, on average, can cost anywhere between $15,000-$45,000 over the span of their lifetime, depending on breed, size and services.

Please make sure you want a long-term commitment in terms of time, money and love before getting a dog. If you are up to it, pet owners do save on home insurance with OpenHouse!

If you’re not interested in providing for a pet, there are motion sensor alarms that bark like a dog when someone approaches, giving the impression that you own one.

Make Your Home a Safe One

Knowing how to secure your home will do more than protect your belongings. It will provide an unbeatable sense of safety, and that sense of safety is part of what makes a house a home.

Still, the ultimate sense of security comes from knowing that even if a burglar manages to get in, you can replace everything they steal through home insurance.

To add this final level of security, make sure that your home insurance policy covers all of your most treasured belongings, and purchase “Replacement Cost” to maximize your coverage. As long as your property is properly covered, you have nothing to worry about.

If you have made home security upgrades, be sure to select these in the rewards section when you purchase an OpenHouse home insurance policy. We appreciate that you make the effort to protect your home, and as a result, we reward you for owning things like video doorbells, smart locks, pets and security systems.