Home security is not strictly for homeowners. Us renters have valuables and families we want to keep safe as well. Being that we are renters, our smart home technology (especially home security) has a few limitations. There are a few things we just do not have the ability to do that homeowners do.
As such, our choices with home security are slightly less than the person who owns a home and can go drill and wire as the please.
I know in my apartment, most drilling is a no-no, as well as hard wiring anything like doorbells. I recently asked if we could switch our door locks out and was basically laughed out of the office.
There are over 2,000,000 burglaries reported each year in the U.S. 65% of those are residential and apartments are just as likely to be hit as homes. Home security that works well within the confines of our leases is of the upmost importance.
Police solve around 13% of burglary cases. Why so little? The lack of physical evidence. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some smart devices in place that could help provide that evidence, or better yet, keep the bad guys out to begin with?
I think so.
So how can we add some ” smart” security technology to our apartments or condos? We have found 6 great devices that can be added right now to your existing smart home ecosystems. If you are just getting started in the smart technology world, here are some things to keep in mind when buying your first smart devices.
Monitored Vs. Unmonitored
Before we jump into the different devices and ways to secure your apartment, I wanted to briefly touch on what monitored and unmonitored security systems are.
Monitored Security systems are those security systems where a professional monitoring company is tasked with keeping on eye on all of your security needs around the clock. If an alarm is tripped, they assess the situation and react accordingly. These may or may not work in an apartment setting.
An unmonitored system, or standalone system, is one you install yourself and are in charge of monitoring. If an alarm or sensor is tripped, you get a notification and are tasked with assessing the situation and acting accordingly. These are usually integrated into your smart home and can be controlled remotely.
Unmonitored systems do require you to do most of the work but are much more econmically friendly. If the security device has a monthly fee, its small and usually worth it. Having a professional monitor your home is going to get expensive really quick.
We will be talking about unmonitored systems in this post. They are almost always less expensive and, most importantly, are perfect for us renters.
1. Indoor Cameras
When most of us think of home security, most of us go straight to cameras. Rightfully so, they are everywhere. Rightfully so! It is proven that cameras just being there reduce crime and burglaries.
Cameras won’t do much to stop a burglar in the process (hopefully your other smart security devices in place stopped the burglar before they even have a chance) but will help with identifying them after the fact.
Hers some fun facts: 34% of burglars enter through the front door. If you plan on only getting one camera, make sure it has a decent view of that front door!
Burglars will also routinely hit the master bedroom first. It’s a know fact the majority of us keep our valuables in our room so it only makes sense for them to head straight for the good stuff. Now, excuse me while I go and relocate all my gold bullion to my new safety deposit box at the bank.
Things to consider With Smart Security Cameras
There are so many smart cameras on the market now and that competition is really pushing each company to put out some great products. Here are a few things to look for when considering a new camera system for your apartment.
- Does it fit in your current smart home system (Alexa, Google, Homekit)
- Is there an extra fee for storage? What happens to the video your camera stores and how long can you keep it?
- Field of view. How much can the camera see?
- Night Vision. Can it still see when in a dark room?
- Zoom. Pretty self-explanatory, does it zoom?
- Notifications. Does it have push notifications? If the bad guys are in your home, you are probably going to want to know.
- Video and photo resolution. How clear is the picture?
- Two-way audio. can you talk through the camera?
- Is there an app that is dependable?
- Will it work with sensors if you plan on getting them as well
- Is it wired or battery powered?
- Geofencing. Will the camera know when you are home and turn off?
I have heard a lot of great things about
The Nest is another great option. Loads of features, the option to upgrade to Nest Aware Subscription (a premium service) and all around good quality. One of the main drawbacks with Nest is it does require a monthly fee from $5 to $30 a month. It is a standalone unit so you won’t get the tilting and panning functionality. This is more of a set it up in a convenient and slightly hidden place and makes sure it can see everything.
My favorite feature would have to be the ability to talk through your camera so you can let burglars know that they see what is happening, tell them police is on the way, and scare them off.
Nest Aware for their cameras also allows 24/7 recording up to 10 or 30 days. This could come in handy when filing a police report and trying to track down the thieves.
2. Smart Locks
Smart locks add the home automation to your front door. They allow you to lock and unlock your door from where ever you may be. On vacation, easily check to see if you remembered to lock the front door. Just got into bed, no problem, check the app.
With these smart locks, you have two choices:
1. Replace the deadbolt or
2. Keep your deadbolt and get a lock that clamps over your existing deadbolt hardware.
Number 1, in most cases, is off the table. Number two is our most viable option here. There are some restrictions with the type of deadbolt that works with these products. The only one that will work is the single-cylinder deadbolt. That means the deadbolt is independent of the door handle, no hardware that connects the two.
Make sure you check into the install process. These are all going to be on the inside of the door and may require unscrewing the interior deadbolt. Totally worth it, and your landlord will never even know!
These will more than likely be battery powered too so keep that in mind, you will need to have some on hand at all times. Good thing is, if it does die, you can still use the key to get in!
Check out the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect. Control it from anywhere, auto lock and unlock your doors and integrate it with your voice assistant. These come highly reviewed!
My favorite feature is the auto lock you can set on your smart lock so it knows when you are outside your radius, it knows to lock your door. No more fumbling for your keys to lock your door on the way out. If your hands are full and you’re in a rush, smart locks have you covered.
3. Video Doorbells
The big thing here, the caveat that really limits us apartment dwellers is most video doorbells require some combination of drilling and rewiring. Luckily, there are a few video doorbells that don’t require either drilling or wiring but can run on batteries!
A video doorbell allows you many benefits even to a renter:
- See who stopped by your apartment door while you’re at work
- See who is really at the door before you answer (security brownie points)
- You can talk to the person without answering the door or from another location
It provides that extra level of protection as you will always know who is on the other side of the door before you answer.
Video doorbells are also great at warding off potential porch pirates, those terrible people who steal packages from front doorsteps. If it doesn’t work in preventing stolen packages, its still great evidence and could potentially lead you to the culprit who decided to snatch your latest Amazon purchase.
Since wiring a smart doorbell in an apartment is rarely an option, you will be relying on batteries for power. It is not the end of the world, but batteries do die so you will have to change them occasionally.
The Ring Door View Cam is a great solution for renters. It is battery powered and fits in the peephole of your front door. You will have to remove the ring inside of the peephole to install it but that will take you no more than 5 minutes. It should be releasing soon!
It comes with all the great functionality you would expect from its hard wired counterparts, allowing for live video notifications when anyone comes to your door. It even has sensors to detect when someone doesn’t ring the bell and decides to knock instead. You are sent a notification and are able to talk directly to whoever is there, whether you are home or not.
If the camera detects movement, you will get a notification as well. Kind of important as a self monitoring system.
One downside with Ring products is the fact that they are only compatible with Amazon right now. No Google. Maybe one day these two giants will learn to get along.
4. Away Mode light bulbs/switches/plugs
If you have any of the smaller smart home items in your home already like bulbs,switches or plugs you may already have some built in security functions. Ok, so calling is security might be a stretch when it is more like a deterrent.
Away mode or randomize or vacation mode, however your device decided to brand it is a great way to make it look like someone is home even if you are not. Having the lights on usually means someone is home. Most people know that, including those would-be burglars.
If you have smart bulbs with away mode, you can have them turn on and off on a schedule or at random intervals to give the allusion someone is home. This alone might be enough to keep the bad guys out and away from your valuables. And this random on/off pattern i just that, random. I have seen it in action and there is no rhyme or reason to it so the would be bad guys won’t be able to pick up on any robotic patterns.
The same functionality exists in many smart plugs and smart switches as well. The only difference being the smart plug will randomly turn on whatever is connected to it. A lot of the time that will be a lamp of some sort, but who knows how creative you can get with your smart devices.
If your smart home tech doesn’t have the away mode function, you can always turn the lights off and on yourself remotely. It is a bit more work on your part but could make all the difference.
5. Motion Sensors
Sometimes, you will have motion sensors built into your existing smart home technology. Those sensors serve a purpose for sure but don’t exactly help when it comes to security.
The motion sensors we are looking for are the ones that might thwart a would-be burglars attempt to make off with your stuff. Even better if they come with some flashing lights and sirens.
These sensors will usually mount in the corner of a room and sometimes on flat walls. Most will be battery powered, exactly what we need as wiring these in is just not a real option for most of us renters.
One downfall with motion sensors is they really are not that attractive. Most of the sensors on the market have the same design white box like design. Having them all over the place is not going to add anything to your home decor, but function over form, right?
When a motion sensor is tripped, you will want it to send a notification at the very least. Actually, it needs to send a notification, or it is kind of pointless. What happens after that is really up to how you have your system set up.
With IFTTT, you can really have it do whatever the system allows. Turn on all the lights in the house, sound an alarm or flash them with some bright lights. All of this is really up to your imagination and how far you may have gone with your smart home security set up.
With any smart home device, you are going to want to make sure the motions sensors you choose fit into your smart home ecosystem. Some will require a hub as a lot of the motion sensors I have researched use the Z-Wave protocol, so keep an eye on that as well.
If you have a hub already, look into what is compatible with that hub and go from there.
6. Window and door sensors
These are the small devices you might see on the window and window seals of homes. For the longest time, I would see them occasionally and have no clue what they were or what purpose they served. Turns out, they are actually pretty useful when it comes to smart home security.
These sensors can be placed on windows and/or doors. They usually use some adhesive and are pretty slim so they blend in well.
These sensors are pretty basic in how they operate. They are on part magnet and one part sensor. When the magnet is pulled away, a circuit is opened and your smart home system is notified.
What happens next is up to you. A notification can be sent out or you can have a series of events set up. Turn on all your smart lights in red and get a notification. Anything to scare and hopefully deter your uninvited guests.
Most of these sensors will require a hub. Make sure to do your due diligence and get sensors that fit into your smart home set up. Also, make sure you look at how big they are and make sure you are happy with that. It is hard to get a gauge on size in pictures sometimes so be sure the dimensions are something you can live with.
These are great for security but also can set up some pretty cool scenes too. Set them up in a pantry and have the light turn on when the door is open. Set them to your front door and have the lights in your house turn on when you get home. There really are a bunch of options here. It all depends on how creative you can get.
Nest has a whole security starter set you can check out that includes these sensors or you can get them a la carte here. Smartthings has some pretty cool multipurpose sensors too.
For the longest time, I figured smart home security technology wasn’t a possibility because I rent at the moment. I was wrong!
Mos of the same smart tech that is available to homeowners is actually available to renters as well. Our options are just slightly more limited. I see that changing as smart tech move out of its infancy phase.
With over one-third of the US population renting their home, there is a huge untapped segment of people ready for more and better smart tech options.
Until then, we will work with what is available and have a lot of great security gadgets ready for whenever we decide to take the next step into home ownership.
Then it gets real.