Is a DIY security system right for you?

Keeping your family and home safe with a security system can give you added comfort and confidence. The market for home security has expanded to include DIY systems that are often cheaper and can be customized to fit your needs. With all the options, it can be hard to know what to buy, but with some basic knowledge about different systems, the decision can be made easier.

Deciding if a DIY Security System is Right for You

The biggest decision to make when looking at a home security system is whether you will purchase a DIY system to install yourself or if you will purchase a system through a professional company. Each option has pros and cons that you should consider before deciding.


The Pros and Cons of a DIY System
Pros Cons
Save money on installation and equipment Incorrect installation is a possibility
Customize system to fit your needs Add-ons can be expensive
No strangers in your house You are responsible for repairs
Some systems are portable Limited technical and installation support
No contracts or monthly fees required Wireless hacking concerns
Integration with other smart home systems


Choosing a System

If a DIY system is for you, the next step is deciding what you want to include in your system. The three main devices for DIY home security systems are video doorbells, security cameras and complete security systems.

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells increase your home’s security by allowing you to see who is at the door before you answer and to keep an eye on your home when you are away. Some important features to look for in a video doorbell include:

  • Night vision camera –See who is at your door after the sun goes down and decide if it is safe to open your door.
  • High definition camera –Identify accurately who is at your door.
  • Two-way audio –Talk with someone without opening the door even when you are not at home.
  • On demand monitoring – Ability to log into a smartphone app that connects to your doorbell and pull up video feed at any time.
Security Cameras

Security cameras help you keep watch over your home, loved ones and valuables. There are hundreds on the market and it can be daunting to figure out which one is best for you.

The first thing to consider is whether you will be using the camera inside, outside or both. Inside cameras can be used as baby monitors, to keep an eye on pets and to help identify a burglar. You might choose outside cameras as well, to keep track of your car or make sure people aren’t damaging your home or landscaping. Above all else, outside cameras need to be weatherproof. Additional features to consider when looking for a security camera:

  • Video quality – The higher the video quality, the more expensive the camera. Consider what you will be using the camera for and whether you need a sharper image.
  • Audio – Many indoor cameras have two-way audio so you can speak to people or pets. Audio is less common on outdoor cameras, but there are a few with the capability.

Make sure that storage capacity is sufficient for the amount of time you need – systems vary from hours to days to weeks.

Complete Security Systems

Complete security systems allow you to protect your entire home from every angle. When comparing security systems, you might want to consider:

  • Door, window and motion sensors – All of these can alert you if a door or window is opened, or if an intruder is inside your home.
  • Audible Alarm – An alarm that sounds when a sensor is tripped can deter a burglar from entering your home.
  • Optional professional monitoring – Many systems have the option to be monitored by professionals. A few give you the option of month-by-month monitoring, for occasional use. You can pay for a month’s monitoring without having to sign a longer contract if you are on vacation.

Added security will put your mind at ease, knowing that your family and home are safe. Now that you know what to consider, you can confidently choose which system is right for you.



High anxiety — demystifying wine shopping

Even if we love wine, why is it that wine shopping can cause such anxiety? I guess it comes down to an overwhelming selection and a difficulty in distinguishing among the choices. Without devoting your life to learning about all of the wines of the world — which actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea to me — how do you navigate the embarrassment of riches in a quality wine store?

But let me back up here. The first step is to make sure you’re in a quality store, even if you have to travel a bit to get there. But how can you tell? There are a number of ways.

First, recommendations from friends are probably best. If you have wine-knowledgeable friends, ask them where they shop. If that is not an option, look for a store with an aesthetic you like. You’re looking for a store owner with taste, and I believe that carries over into the atmosphere of the store.

Next, consider what kind of vibe the store gives. Are there floor-stacks of bottles with cute labels, which often means mass-produced brands designed by marketing departments? Or do the wines look like they came from a real winery, where tradition and hands-on winemaking still carry sway? Are the shelves well stocked and maintained? In other words, does it look like someone knows about wine … and cares?

Finally, talk to the people. Do they offer suggestions based solely on price, critic’s scores or nothing but the most general statements (not good)? Or do they seem familiar with the bottles in the store, discussing what each wine is like and why you might select it (good)? And do they ask questions of you – your preferences, styles and price ranges, etc.? Are they engaging, friendly and respectful? In sum, do they make the shopping experience relaxed and enjoyable? If not, then I would suggest looking for a more congenial store.

Now that you’ve found a tasteful store run by cordial and cooperative people with a selection of what appear to be honest wines, what do you do? Accept the first bottle they put in your hands and run? No!!! You’ve gotten this far, so don’t panic!

The best hope for finding a wine you like is to buy one similar to what you have liked previously. That’s where our friend, the smartphone, can help. Few people can remember the names of all the wines they have drunk and enjoyed, so snap photos of your favorite bottles and show them to the store employees.

They will — or should — immediately gain an idea of your taste and be able to recommend accordingly. In the process they may even describe elements of what you have enjoyed previously and are now purchasing, so on top of everything else, you will begin to develop a vocabulary that might help make future purchases even easier.

So why are you still reading this? Let’s get shopping!


Top 12 Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

The holiday season is here! No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or all three, we’re excited to share in the holiday spirit. It’s easy to get caught up in the festivities, and while you’re busy decorating the house, safety may be one of the last things on your mind.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 15,000 injuries related to holiday decorations in 2012. Mishaps send about 250 people to the ER daily, with falls, cuts and back strains topping the list of injuries. To ensure you have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season with your friends and family, here are 12 tips to keep in mind as you deck out your home:

1. Keep live trees away from heat sources. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters, and keep a fire extinguisher near your tree. Live trees are highly flammable, due to needles and sap.

2. Hydrate your tree. A dried-out tree can catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered. Check the water level every other day to ensure proper hydration. Starting with a green tree is one way to keep it from drying out so quickly.

3. Fake it! If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “fire resistant.” Fire-resistant trees are less susceptible to catching fire.

4. Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. Paper can catch fire very quickly and can cause flash fires. Instead, recycle (or better yet, reuse!) your wrapping paper.

5. Work as a team. When stringing lights and decorations above your normal reach, make sure you use a proper ladder with someone supporting the base.

6. Double-check your lights for safety. Replace any lights with frayed wires, broken sockets, and loose connections. The CPSC issued new guidelines for seasonal light safety in 2015, setting a minimum wire size, and standards for strain relief and over-current protection.

7. Power down before you turn in. Turn off all lights when you go to bed and before leaving the house to avoid a short that could start an electrical fire.

8. Prevent electrical cord damage. Don’t mount lights in a way that might damage the cords, and avoid using nails or tacks. Use hooks or insulated staples instead.

9. Secure candles. Keep candles on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Never leave a lit candle unattended.

10. Use unbreakable ornaments. If you have fragile ornament, place them out of reach from pets and kids.

11. Skip the fake food. Avoid decorations that look like candy or food if you have young children — or pets — in the house.

12. Beware of poisonous plants. While festive, poinsettias are poisonous when eaten, so keep them out of reach of kids and pets.

Happy holidays!