In recent years, home security has evolved from padlocks to connected homes with everything from high-tech cameras to remote locks to automatic emergency alerting and beyond. Today, home safety inventions have become commonplace, helping to reduce accidental deaths, crack down on crime, and in some cases, lower our insurance costs. Here are five home safety inventions to be thankful for, and how they’ve changed home security over the years.
1. Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke alarms can sound when you get a little too creative in the kitchen, leave a cigarette or candle burning, or if an appliance overheats or malfunctions. Per the National Fire Protection Association, the death rate per 100 reported home fires is more than twice as high in homes with no working smoke alarms than those with them.
Similarly, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors sense dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, which can displace your blood’s oxygen, causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate, and alerts you to escape to fresh air. Since 2003, firefighters have responded to nearly double the amount of calls where carbon monoxide was present, indicating how people are more aware of the presence of CO thanks to these detectors.
Safety tip: Make sure you’re giving your detectors the chance to do their thing. Nearly one in four smoke alarm failures is due to dead batteries. Both CO and smoke detectors have a test button that you should use at least once a month. After 10 years, replace the detector entirely.
Insurance tip: There are also a number of smart detectors which can save up to $35,000 on insurance claims payouts, so if your home is highly connected, make sure to ask your insurance company about discounts on your premium.
2. Fire Extinguishers
The OGs of home safety devices, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems are still critical safeguards for every home. In 2015, 365,000 home fires were reported in the United States, resulting in $7 billion in property damage. But that damage can be limited (or even prevented entirely) if you can contain the fire with an extinguisher or a sprinkler system. In fact, if you have a sprinkler system in your home, your chance of dying in a fire (!) decreases by 80 percent.
Insurance tip: Having a fire extinguisher, sprinkler system, and a smoke alarm in your home is typically required with most insurance companies, says Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent and expert at The Zebra. Most apartment complexes will do regular annual extinguisher checks, but you can also test on your own. Check the extinguisher to see how often to shake it; some require monthly pressure tests while others only need maintenance every few years.
3. Home Security Cameras
There are more than 5,400 burglaries every day in the U.S. While only 13 percent of burglaries get solved, that number is increasing thanks to security cameras installed in people’s homes. In London, the Metropolitan Police Service credits CCTV for solving 5,000 burglary cases, with the images proving “useful” in at least 10,000 others.
Sage Singleton, home maintenance and safety expert for SafeWise, says investing in a security camera for the home can help protect against unwanted guests, but it also provides less apparent benefits.
“An indoor security camera can help you monitor construction crews during a remodel,” Singleton says. “You can make sure your pets and kids are safe and don’t damage your newly updated kitchen, bathroom, or living room. You can even talk to them through some types of cameras.”
Cameras can be installed in all sorts of items, too, from doorbells to televisions. It’s nice to know you can keep tabs on your home even if you’re not around.
4. Smart Home Locks
A smart lock is designed to perform locking and unlocking operations on a door when it receives such instructions from an authorized device using a wireless protocol and a cryptographic key. As long as you have that device – say, a phone with a keycode – you’re in charge of when the doors are locked or unlocked.
These smart locks provide an extra sense of security, and can sync with other devices in your home. For example, you can unlock your front door and simultaneously turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, and open up the blinds.
Smart locks also limit fumbling for keys in the dark. How often have you spent a minute or two digging in a pocket or purse to find your keys before actually grabbing them? Distracted people are prime targets for intruders; with a smart lock, you can unlock your home using an app or biometric data on your phone, like a fingerprint, and step immediately into your home.
5. Full Home Security Systems
Burglars are 300 percent more likely to invade homes that don’t have apparent security systems – like motion sensors, alarms, or cameras – installed. This network of electronic devices works together to protect against burglars and other home invaders. Even 60 percent of robbers themselves admit they would seek another house to burglarize if they saw an alarm, yet only 17 percent of homes have some form of security in place.
Security alarm systems vary in scope. Some have a wall-mounted panel that serves as a control hub to set or disable an alarm. Some offer the ability to change settings on the sensitivity of people passing by in the neighborhood. Some can even prevent kid intruders from getting to a cookie jar before dinner, like this pocket-sized Stilla device.
Nearly every system will come with a mobile app on your phone where you can create rules and settings for your house. Get a push notification or a call every time your alarm goes off so you can stay one step ahead of a possible intruder.
Insurance tip: Having a security system may even help you save on your homeowners insurance costs.
“The majority of homeowners insurance companies will offer a discount for having a qualified security system,” Richardson says. “However, it has to be actively monitored by a security company. Simply having a security system in your home without a monthly monitoring service normally won’t result in savings.”