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How Tech Can Protect Your Home While You’re Away

Smart devices detect and notify you in real time

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You’re on vacation. Should you worry about what’s happening at home?

Maybe your neighborhood has had a spike in crime or you’re concerned about fire or water damage while you’re away. Advances in technology and home-monitoring systems can provide protection and peace of mind, whether you’re home or not.

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Beyond smart speakers and smart devices, today’s smart homes come equipped with doorbell security cameras, utility sensors and other Wi-Fi-enabled systems to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. You can purchase devices that send push notifications to you over your phone or computer, or you can pay as you go with monthly subscriptions.

Cameras can become your eyes, ears

For outside your home, you can invest in something as basic as a single video doorbell, which rings on your phone via a companion app whenever someone presses the button or, if motion is detected, even before that.

With products like Google’s Nest Doorbell, Ring’s Video Doorbell Pro and inexpensive Blink doorbells, you’re able to chat with someone on your doorstep without them knowing if you’re inside. You can see them through your smartphone, but they can’t see you. All activity is time-stamped, and you can archive and share the video.

Blink, $29.99; Google Nest Doorbell, $179.99 and up; Ring Video Doorbell Pro, $169.99

On top of their price tags, these door video cameras come with a subscription option if you want to go back in time to see who was at your door previously. The footage is stored in the cloud.

So while you can chat live with someone on your doorstep for the price of the device, reviewing what you missed will cost you.

Blink allows you to store the video locally with the upfront purchase of a Sync Module 2 ($34.99). The Nest Aware subscription for the Google Nest doorbell can go back up to 30 days and offers other features, like video clip sharing. Ring’s Protect plan for Amazon devices goes back up to 60 days and shares videos and photos.

Blink Basic plan, $3 a month or $30 a year; Google Nest Aware plan, $8 a month or $80 a year; Ring Protect plan, $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year

Instead of paying to access previously recorded video, you can opt for the Lorex 2K Wi-Fi Video Doorbell, which records on a 32-gigabyte (GB) MicroSD memory card, much like the one you have in your smartphone. And its smartphone app lets you chat in real time with visitors and review older videos. The wired doorbell also comes with color night vision, a nightlight and an option to play prerecorded audio messages when someone rings the bell.

Lorex 2K Wi-Fi Video Doorbell, $179

To light up the outside, monitor and greet visitors, and record at the same time, Lorex’s weatherproof 1080p Wi-Fi Floodlight Security Camera — the “p” stands for progressive scan — houses two ultrabright LED lights for a total of 4,000 lumens, full high-definition (HD) recording, 32GB of expandable storage, a remotely triggered siren, two-way audio and infrared night vision. A popular spot for this device is over a driveway, which it will automatically illuminate when someone pulls in.

Lorex 1080p Wi-Fi Floodlight Security Camera, $179

Less expensive options include wired or wireless outdoor cameras connected to a digital video recorder (DVR) or network video recorder (NVR), often sold in a pack with multiple cameras. 

For more robust surveillance, the Swann 4K UHD 16-Channel 2TB NVR Wired Security System uses 16 Wi-Fi cameras inside the home to join and push notifications if sound or motion is detected.

Swann 4K UHD 16-Channel 2TB NVR Wired Security System, $799

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Sensors, alarms add another layer of protection

Even though they’ve been protecting us for generations, smoke and fire alarms have also become “smart” and push notifications to your phone through a companion app.  

As the name suggests, Kidde’s Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Indoor Air Quality Monitor is the first all-in-one smart home safety device that combines smoke and carbon monoxide detection with indoor air quality monitoring.

Once it’s on your wireless network and you’re signed into the Kidde app, you’ll receive notifications if smoke, carbon monoxide or indoor air quality issues are detected in your home; you can also test your alarm from the app. Even though it’s a hardwired solution, it includes a sealed-in lithium backup battery that lasts up to 10 years.

Kidde’s Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Indoor Air Quality Monitor, $128.99

Glass-break sensors installed on windows and doors are often included in home alarm systems. Today’s models will send you a push notification if a troubling sound is detected. If monitoring is included, it could dispatch authorities.

Damage to your home from a flood or a leak can be minimized if you’re aware of the problem quickly. You can place small, inexpensive sensors, such as the mydlink Water Sensor, the Kidde Water Leak + Freeze Detector or small Moen leak detectors, around your home to detect moisture. Like other gadgets we’ve mentioned here, these will notify you via an app or through a smart speaker.

mydlink Water Sensor, $79.99; Kidde Water Leak + Freeze Detector, $44.99; Moen leak detectors, $59.99 for one or $150 for three

But if you want to stop a leak at the source, Moen’s Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff valve connects to your home’s water supply and can detect flow rate, temperature and pressure throughout the house. It can sense a cracked, frozen or burst pipe and turn off the water supply if an issue is detected, then notify you via the app.

There is no monthly fee, and Moen claims home insurance providers may give you a discount if you have the system professionally installed. Confirm this with your insurer.

Moen’s Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff, $499.99

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Thwart porch pirates with monitored deliveries

The latest convenience to hit our doorsteps or our garages is the Amazon Key In-Garage delivery service, which allows vetted couriers access to your garage for package deliveries. Amazon halted its Key In-Home delivery system in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The In-Garage system, which works with Chamberlain’s myQ connected smart garage system, has taken its place.

The caveat: Key In-Garage is available only to Amazon Prime members.

When purchasing items on Amazon, select Key Delivery at checkout. You’ll receive a notification when your package arrives, along with an option to watch the delivery live. A camera is not required. You’ll need to type in your zip code to see if In-Garage delivery services are available in your area.

After the driver requests to unlock the garage door using their Amazon Key handheld scanner, Amazon verifies the driver’s location and package address. Once confirmed, the driver receives temporary access to unlock the garage door with a one-time code. The driver places the package inside and then requests to lock the door, so there’s no need to share your garage code.

Amazon Key In-Garage Delivery, $14.99 a month or $139 a year

Another option is to place a locking mailbox on your porch that couriers and mail carriers can use to protect your deliveries from thieves and inclement weather. This could be a freestanding parcel mailbox, such as the Danby Parcel Guard Basic Mailbox, or a bench, like the Bench Sentry Connect by Genie.

The Bench Sentry Connect (23-by-25-by-35 inches) works with Aladdin Connect garage door systems to allow larger items to be delivered to your garage and provides audio prompts, instructions and signs for delivery drivers of any service, even neighbors.

It needs an electric outlet to do its job. It also serves as a bench on your front porch, so you can sit for a minute or keep your own packages off the ground while unlocking your door.

The Danby Parcel Guard, a lockbox, can fit packages up to 17-by-20-by-40 inches and features an anti-theft drop slot and key lock that you open when you get home. The mailbox can be bolted to the ground with the included hardware, or you can add weight to the base of the unit with sand or gravel.

For an extra $50, you can go high tech with the Danby Parcel Guard Smart Mailbox, a Wi-Fi-connected unit with a motion sensor, camera, two-way voice communication, and Alexa and Google smart home device integration and alarm. You can get real-time notifications on your smartphone when a courier arrives. To open the electronic lock and access parcels inside (up to 15-by-10-by-8 inches), use the keypad or the app.

Bench Sentry Connect, $399; Danby Parcel Guard Basic Mailbox, $349; Danby Parcel Guard Smart Mailbox, $399

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