Q. I am on a limited budget, but I want to install a security (burglar) system in my home. I leave lights on now, but that pushes up electric bills. What type of easy-to-install systems are available? — J.L.
A. Although security systems use some electricity, they consume less than keeping lights on. You can install a basic do-it-yourself security system for about $100 to $200. As your budget allows, expand the system with more window and door sensors and automatic police, fire, and emergency telephone dialers.
To protect only one door, like a back door, you can get inexpensive self-contained alarms. One loud alarm (about $40) is designed to fit a sliding glass patio door. Another is a small “electronic dog.” If it senses vibration or noise at a door or window, its alarm sounds like a large barking dog.
Another unique system indicates, before you open the door to go in, if there was a break in while you were away from home. This eliminates the possibility of surprising an armed burglar inside.
The easiest-to-install security system, in an existing home, is a wireless remote design. You can install a complete system (window, door, motion sensors, and automatic dialer) in a couple of hours. If you ever move, you can remove the sensors and take them to your new home.
A wireless system uses small 9-volt battery-operated sensors that transmit signals to the main control unit. This unit is often located in a closet and has battery backup in case of a power outage. The batteries last about one year or you can use rechargeable ones and save.
An advantage of wireless systems is the small hand-held remote control. You can take it outdoors with you. If you get hurt, see smoke in your house, etc., you can hit either an “emergency,” “fire,” or “police” button to summon help immediately.
Sound or motion sensors in several rooms and a stairway are effective. If you have pets, select a motion sensor with a “pet alley.” The scanning path is limited to above the height of your pet, so it won’t set off the alarm.
One system senses a unique shock wave in the air when a door opens or a window is broken by a burglar. This allows you to arm the system and still move around your home without setting off motion sensors. If your small child opens a door and crawls out, the alarm signals you to get him.
A keyless combination door deadbolt is effective. There is no key to lose and you can change the combination anytime. With a combination on the inside too, a burglar cannot get the door open to carry things out.
Write for Utility Bills Update 671 showing a buyer’s guide of 21 manufacturers of home security systems and products, descriptions of each system, and prices. Please include $2 handling fee — cash or check. Send to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.
James Dulley studied energy management at the doctoral level at Harvard.