Preventing holiday break-ins by increasing your home security during the holidays should be part of your plan during a busy and wonderfully hectic season of shopping and gift-giving, decorating and celebrating with friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s an equally busy time of year for home burglars.
Nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the U.S. from November through December each year, according to the FBI. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that homeowners improve home security to protect their homes from break-ins during the holidays. To ensure that an intruder doesn’t dampen your holiday season, follow these recommended home security precautions.#1 Don’t tempt fate
Holidays may be festive with home decorations and visiting friends and family, but don’t let all of that activity compromise your home’s security. Take a reserved approach when displaying expensive decorations and gifts. Give your fine china and elaborately wrapped presents a low profile, and resist the temptation to show them off to the entire neighborhood. If you can see these valuables from the street, there’s a good chance they could end up on a burglar’s wish list this year.#2 No bragging, please
Don’t advertise expensive gifts to burglars by leaving empty gift boxes from your new computer, flat-screen TV or DVD player on the curb. Instead, break down the boxes and place them in large garbage bags to conceal the items that Santa has delivered. Better yet, take boxes directly to a recycling center after gifts have been opened.#3 Keeping up appearances
It’s no secret that piles of unchecked holiday mail and newspapers can tip off burglars to an empty house and lead to holiday break-ins, but did you ever think about hiring someone to shovel snow from your driveway while you’re away? If you’re traveling throughout the holidays, it’s a good idea to ask a neighbor to help keep up your home’s appearances so it doesn’t have that vacant look about it. Even a small favor such as asking your neighbor to occasionally park their car in your driveway can improve your home security.#4 Durable doors and deadbolts
Ensure that your holiday guests are the only ones welcomed through the front door this season by making the following entryway improvements.Invest in a good-quality deadbolt. Doors with handle locks can be broken into with only a plastic credit card. Deadbolts, on the other hand, offer double the locking security and require hammer force to break in. Equip each of your entry doors with a deadbolt, not just the high-traffic ones. Your home is only as secure as its most vulnerable entry point. Make sure you buy a deadbolt with keyed access on the outside and a thumb-latch on the inside. Locks that require keys to be used from the inside of the home can be dangerous if residents need to make a quick exit in the event of an emergency, like a fire. For even more security, along with convenience, consider adding a new smart deadbolt lock. Remember that no matter which lock you choose, it’s only as strong as the door in which it’s installed. The weakest part of a door is usually the area around the lock, and wooden doors are especially vulnerable to break-ins. Decorative door reinforcement plates are available for about $10, and can make this area more secure. Better yet, consider replacing your front entryway with a fiberglass door, which mimics the look of wood but is far stronger and more energy efficient. Look for a fiberglass door with multi-point locks that use bank-vault-style pins to prevent the door from being kicked in. By virtue of their less-sophisticated locks and typical location at the rear of a house, a sliding patio door can be the most vulnerable entryway in a home if it’s not properly reinforced. Consider equipping you doors with a specially made patio bar (about $25) that keeps the door from sliding back in its tracks even if the lock is broken into. A patio bar can even secure older patio doors, which are susceptible to being lifted right out of their tracks and off of your house! Newer sliding doors cannot be lifted out of their tracks, and homeowners may consider the quick-fix alternative of snugly fitting a two-by-four piece of wood in the tracks between the back of the door and the wall. Lastly, keep an eye out for unexpected visitors by installing a peephole in your front door. A wide-angle (200-degree) peephole offers a better view of your entire entryway when guests come knocking at your front door. #5 Window warnings
Nowhere else is your home more fragile or susceptible to a forced holiday break-in than at your windows. How you secure your windows is up to you, but it’s important to keep in mind that occupants must be able to open them easily in the event of a fire. Therefore, the security device you choose should not lock you in the building, but only keep burglars out.Various sash locks are common on most windows, but you can reinforce them on wooden windows by drilling a hole from the front to back where the top and bottom windows overlap, and installing a long nail into the hole. Do this on both sides of the window and take care not to drill too closely to the glass, or too far through the rear window. The nails will stop the windows from sliding open, but you can easily remove them if you need to open the window quickly in an emergency. Avoid investing in sash locks that require a key to operate. Like a double-keyed deadbolt, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find these seldom-used keys in an emergency. Security bars installed over windows can prevent intruder access even if the window is unlocked or the glass is broken open. These bars are recommended for small, ground-level house windows situated in low-traffic areas that make a convenient and inconspicuous entrance for intruders. However, security bars must be fitted with quick-release mechanisms to allow them to open if someone in the building needs to get out quickly. In 1995, several members of a Florida family were burned alive when they became trapped inside their home because of window security bars. Fire officials later described the home as a burning cage and cautioned area homeowners to use these bars only when necessary and only if they are fitted with quick-release mechanisms. #6 Show them the light
The most secure house isn’t just the one with the strongest locks. You can protect your home for the holidays just by making it a more discouraging target for holiday break-ins.Illuminate the exterior of your home on all sides to eliminate any safe hiding places for potential intruders. One of the most effective ways to do this is to install motion-detector spotlights, which have built-in sensors that automatically turn the lights on when movement is detected in the area. Nothing is more surprising to a thief than to have spotlights fire up in his face before he gets within 50 feet of the house! Create the illusion of activity inside your home by installing timer switches on lights in main living areas. Use at least one timer per floor, usually in the living room and bedroom. Set the timer to keep the light on from about 9 pm until 1 or 2 in the morning. Not only will illuminated indoor lights imply that occupants are actually inside the home, they will increase the chance that a potential intruder is spotted if they try to break into the home. #7 Trim trees and bushes
Keep your home landscaping from providing useful cover for intruders attempting holiday break-ins. Tall trees or high brush give burglars dark, shadowy hiding spots to conduct their business without interruption. Keep your front yard’s bushes and hedges cut low, especially around windows and entryways where burglars may perch before breaking and entering.#8 Smart home security systems
Affordable, customized home alarm systems are more widely available and arguably more effective today than they’ve ever been thanks to increased competition and advancements in technology. Besides home security, newer systems can also protect your home from fire and carbon monoxide, and some even include sensors that trip when the heat goes off to prevent freeze damage that could burst pipes. Most home security systems connect your telephone to the company’s central monitoring station. If the alarm goes off, the station can alert police or fire officials of a potential holiday break-in or other issue.
From Source Article: moneypit.com
LESLIE: Jan in Texas wants to know if she can swap toilet, shower locations. How can we help you today?
JAN: We have a – it’s a very small bathroom and they had built a tile shower in this – like the middle of the room. And I want to know if you can change the places where the shower and the toilet are: if you can just reverse them and use the existing drains.
TOM: No, because the shower drain is about half of the size of the toilet’s drain waste/vent pipe.
LESLIE: And it’s a gray-water line, too.
TOM: Yeah. It’s not – well, they’re going to drain to the same place but you would have to reconfigure the plumbing. So it’s not quite that easy to swap toilet, shower locations but not impossible. What is this bathroom built on? Is it over a crawlspace or a basement, by any chance, or is it over a slab?
JAN: It’s on a slab.
TOM: Very expensive project to swap toilet, shower locations. I would think of something – other way to redecorate that bathroom and make it pleasant for you. Because switching those is a big job; you’re going to have to tear up the floor to do the plumbing.
JAN: Oh, wow. OK. Well, I guess we’ll just leave it the way it is.
TOM: Looking better all the time, isn’t it, Jan?
JAN: Well, no. But I mean it is what it is.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
From Source Article: moneypit.com
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And hey, what are you working on today, on this beautiful spring weekend? If that involves your house, are you fixing up the outside? Are you trying to get the lawn mower cranking? Are you working on your deck? Working on your patio? Maybe taking on an inside project in your apartment, your condo, your co-op? Whatever is on the to-do list, give us a call because we are here to help. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
And we will start the show with bad news, Leslie.
LESLIE: Oh, no. What is it?
TOM: It’s that time of year when pollen levels reach their peaks. So, achoo, achoo. All you allergy sufferers out there, it is time once again to …
LESLIE: To close your windows.
TOM: Close your windows, you know, pick up an extra box or two of tissues and just be ready to be a little bit miserable for this part of the season. But we will give you some good news and that is we’re going to have some advice this hour on specific ways that you can improve the indoor-air quality in your home. And some of these tips are really easy to do. Some of them are low-cost; many are no-cost. We’re going to try to help you breathe easier, just ahead.
LESLIE: I mean I always find it amazing. Just when you’re finally finished being cooped up from the winter and you want to open the windows, that’s when both of my kids’ allergist is like, “Oh, yeah, don’t open the windows again, ever.” And you’re like, “I just want fresh air.” It’s a rough time of the year, you guys, plus taxes. So, let’s get onto better home improvement-y things.
Are you thinking about making your home smarter but you’re avoiding all those new smart-home products out there because they’re just too darn complicated to hook up? Well, we’ve got a great solution to ease that pain. We’ll have some tips on smart-home products that install in seconds, just ahead.
TOM: And would you like a very green way to grow your garden pesticide-free? We’re going to have some tips on how you can use Mother Nature’s all-natural pesticide to achieve a healthy garden.
LESLIE: And with that weather finally getting nicer, are you thinking of family-friendly outdoor activities to keep your kids involved and off of those electronics? Creating a kid-friendly garden is a great way to do just that and maybe teach a bit of self-sufficiency in the process. We’re going to have those tips, in just a bit.
TOM: But first, we’re here to take your calls, your questions. So, call us right now. Let us know what’s going on in your money pit. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Dorothy in California is on the line and she needs some help with a wall texture. Tell us what you’re working on.
DOROTHY: Well, what we had – we have a wall and it was a heater there. We took the heater out; it would sit in the hallway. And then we finished everything and now we’re trying to find a way to kind of match the texture that was there originally.
TOM: And what kind of texture would you – how would you describe this texture, Dorothy?
DOROTHY: Well, it would have – like some of them will be a round shape and the other ones like an oval shape. And then they would have little, tiny circles. And then, in some cases, you would have – like they went over with a brush or something. So they’re kind of a different type of shape and sizes of circles or oval shape.
TOM: OK. So, one of the things that you can do is you could – once that’s all patched and repaired – is you can apply some spackle to the surface of the drywall, like we used to do when it was Plaster of Paris?
TOM: And then you can take a wallpaper brush – which is a big, heavy, bristled brush – and twist that brush with your hand. Twist it and it makes circles in that wet spackle. And if it’s a big circle, use a bigger brush. If it’s a smaller circle, use a smaller brush. And you can twist it and try to sort of match the pattern as closely as you can to what was there before. And then just paint the whole thing the same color and it’ll probably blend in pretty nicely.
DOROTHY: Alright. Thank you so much for your help. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
ROLAND: I have some exposed I-beams in my basement that support a poured-floor garage above. And during construction, obviously they experienced some rust. And they’re 20 feet long, 12 inches high, so I’ve got about 400 square feet, if you will, of rusted steel. And I’m looking to paint them or finish them off a little bit.
And I was looking at the Rust-Oleum products and figuring I would go through 15 or 20 cans just to cover that amount of space. So I was wondering if you guys had a better idea and how much prep I should do. Should I just – they haven’t rusted since the house has been finished but it does have a coating of rust on there. Is there a better way? And how should I be concerned about prepping them before painting?
TOM: Well, a light sanding would be important to remove any of that loose rust – that loose surface rust. And it’s not deep; it’s just on the surface.
ROLAND: That’s right.
TOM: And then using a Rust-Oleum primer would be the next step. Not the surface paint but the primer. Now, instead of using individual spray cans, why don’t you buy the gallons of Rust-Oleum and rent a sprayer if you have to – a paint sprayer from a rental yard? It would make it super easy.
ROLAND: Right. That’s the best way to go?
LESLIE: Yeah. Plus, you’re inside. And using a can of spray paint is not going to make you feel very well and it’s certainly going to make the house stink up a storm. While certainly easy for application, it’s not really the best approach for an interior project. If you’re using regular paint through a sprayer – as long as you protect everything and cover up your ceiling from overspray and the floor, et cetera – you’re going to be in great shape.
TOM: What I like to do is to try to depressurize a room when I’m spraying in it. So how would you do that? Very simply. You’d open up a window, stick a window fan in it, make sure it points out and then open up another window or door on the other side of the room and get some cross-ventilation. This way, you’re always moving the air outside the house, replacing it with fresh air.
ROLAND: Sounds good. Is there any concern with the rust coming back through?
TOM: Not if you prime it. If you don’t prime it, it can definitely come right through. But if you prime it, especially with a rust-inhibiting primer like Rust-Oleum, it’s going to kind of lock that in place. And as long as you don’t have any kind of serious leakage or something like that, I don’t expect it to come back through.
ROLAND: Super. Thanks so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit. Hey, post your home improvement question to us at MoneyPit.com or call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.
TOM: Just ahead, with allergy season upon us, if you want to breathe easy at home, indoor-air quality is just as important as the air you breathe outside. We’re going to have some tips on how you can improve that inside air and avoid the sneezes, just ahead.
Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. Call in your home improvement or décor question, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros. Plus, it’s 100-percent free to use.
Rich, how can we help you?
RICH: Went in the crawlspace, you know, last year to run some wire and I got all this water. And it’s on the heating and air ducts. And it’s nice, fresh, clean water dripping on the vapor barrier. When I bought the house, the two vents that are down there are blocked. Or they might have done that when they put in the radon vapor-barrier system.
So, basically, I was mopping it up with a towel and putting it in the bucket to get it out of there and it’s just the same thing is going to happen this summer when I run the air condition, I guess.
TOM: This is a crawlspace that’s unfinished and you have a radon ventilation system in the crawlspace or it’s a basement?
RICH: The radon’s in the basement but I thought there was a tube going into the …
TOM: OK. Because typically – here’s what you’re going to do. With a radon system, the basement, if it’s finishable, it’s going to be sealed and have a ventilation system installed into it. The crawlspace is usually – you never put a radon system in a crawlspace because a crawlspace is always vented.
And if the crawlspace is open to the basement then, if anything, you might seal off the space between the crawlspace and the basement to create two separate and distinct areas that have their respective levels of ventilation. Does that make sense?
RICH: Yeah, I think it’s pretty much blocked off. I guess the radon doesn’t go in there then.
TOM: So now, let’s talk about your moisture problem. Now, what you’re seeing in the ductwork is condensation, because the ducts get cold when you run air conditioning. And you have warm, moist air in the crawlspace area and that condenses on the outside surfaces of the ducts and they drain. Basically, they drip.
So, what can you do about that? Couple of things. First of all, we can take some steps to reduce the amount of humidity that you have in the crawlspace. So how do we do that? Well, number one, I want you to look at your gutters outside. Make sure that the gutters are clean, free-flowing and discharging away from the house. We want no water collecting anywhere near the first 4 to 6 feet away from that foundation.
LESLIE: Because that’s just going to find its way right back into your crawlspace.
TOM: Exactly. Big U-turn.
TOM: Then, look at the slope of the soil and make sure that the soil slopes away. And make sure the gutters are finally clean. So, if all that water from the rain is moving away from the house, that’s good.
The next thing that you can do is you can make – that those ventilate – that those vents are open in the crawlspace. And then thirdly, you can add a dehumidifier. Take a look at the Santa Fe dehumidifiers. They’re best in the business. They are ENERGY STAR-rated, so they’re not going to cost you an arm and a leg to operate and they’re going to totally dry out that crawlspace. And then the fourth thing that you can do is insulate the ducts.
So, drainage on the outside, open up the vents, get a Santa Fe dehumidifier and then insulate the ducts. And that will stop the problem.
LESLIE: Well, if you are an allergy sufferer and want to breathe easy at home, it’s important to improve the indoor-air quality and reduce those allergy inducers inside your house.
TOM: So here’s a few things that you can do. First, you want to change your air filters on a regular basis and before each new season to make sure you’re removing pollen, dust and mold.
Now, a whole-house air-purification system, which is connected to your HVAC system, is also a good option to get rid of those airborne particles. And some of these systems are so efficient, they can also take out germs and bacteria, as well as remove chemical odors and vapors.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you’ve got to remember to dust and vacuum really regularly. You want to keep your windows closed at night to prevent the pollen from drifting into your home. And instead, use your air conditioning, which’ll help clean and dry the air, as well.
Now, if you’ve been outside all day, the doctors always recommend showering, washing your hair. Get all that pollen off of you before you get into your nighttime clothes and hang out around the house. You want to wash your laundry in very hot water. That’ll keep the dust mites off, especially on your sheets. Stay inside, if you can, when the pollen count is at its highest, as well on those windy days even if the pollen count is low. That wind is just going to blow the pollen all around and make things terribly uncomfortable for you.
Try, if you can, to keep the windows of your house, as well as your car, closed on those days, as well. I know our allergist says to keep them closed all the darn time. So just think about keeping those windows closed.
And remember, laundry hung out to dry also attracts pollen. So just use the dryer in the house. It’ll keep all of those allergens outside, where you want them to be. And don’t let your pets sleep in your bed, because they’re outside, they’re rolling around in the pollen. And I don’t think you’re washing them down every time they come in and out. Because they can carry that pollen in their fur and then put it right into the bed and then everybody’s sneezing.
I know I sound like a broken record on this because it’s just what I deal with with my two boys, who have the worst seasonal allergies. And it’s really – it’s no fun.
TOM: Yeah. Now, changing the air filter in your HVAC system is also going to make sure the air that you’re breathing is easier. But it also extends the life of the system. So what you want to look for is a pleated air filter with a MERV rating – and MERV stands for Minimum and Efficiency Reporting Value. It basically shows you how good a job the filter is going to do at filtering all that dust and mess. You’re looking for a rating of 13 or higher. That’s going to help you capture all the small particles, as well. It’s also going to protect and improve the performance of your heating-and-cooling system. And it’s just going to make the air in your home cleaner overall.
I’ve got to tell you, sometimes just spending a few bucks on a filter like that can help preserve your air-conditioning system and avoid you having to spend thousands of dollars on a new system in the middle of the summer which – because you know it always breaks down on the hottest day of the year, right?
LESLIE: Of course.
TOM: So, make sure you’re changing out those filters on a very regular basis.
ANNA: Well, I have a problem with a painted banister. We have a white staircase – white banister – painted. And after a while, we’ve been cleaning it and it gets a lot of dirt into the paint and the paint has become sticky. I need to know what to maybe seal it with or some suggestion.
TOM: Well, at this point, if you’ve gotten kind of a sticky mess on your hands, there is no sealing. You’re going to have to go back to the …
LESLIE: Yeah, you’ve worn through the finish.
TOM: Right. You’re going to have to go back to the raw wood and get as much of that old paint off as possible. So I would use a paint stripper first. There’s a pretty good product called Rock Miracle that we like, that does a good job. Get as much of that paint off as you possibly can, then use a good-quality primer – oil-based is best – and go up from there. There’s nothing at this point – if you’ve got a goopy, sticky, yucky surface – that you should put on top of that. It’s only going to make the matters worse, Anna.
ANNA: It’s not (audio gap), it’s more just sticky and it gets grime into it. It’s the only thing I can tell you.
TOM: Yeah. Right. And …
ANNA: I was hoping I could maybe save it but it’s an awful lot of stripping.
TOM: Yeah, I understand that. But the problem is that anything you put on top of that is just going to make it worse right now. When the paint gets to be that – in that kind of condition, you’ve got to really start taking off some layers. I mean you may not have to go down to raw wood but you’ve certainly got to get off the upper couple of layers and go from there.
ANNA: Oh, OK. Alright. Well, was hoping you had a magic but …
TOM: Sometimes we do but not always. Sometimes, the only magic is the hard elbow grease that has to go into a project.
ANNA: OK. And what kind of paint would you suggest? An oil-base, I know that.
TOM: Well, for priming, yeah. Just an oil-based primer. At least you get better adhesion with it.
LESLIE: And then it’s better to use a glossy finish, because anything with a glossy finish has more layers of that finish in it to achieve that high gloss or a semi-gloss. And then it’s more cleanable or easily wipeable.
ANNA: OK. Alright. Thanks so much.
]LESLIE: Keith in Illinois is on the line. How can we help you today?
KEITH: I have a one-and-a-half-story house that has a – on the second floor is the – well, the rooms are basically half height. They’ve got the – in the middle, they’re full height but on the edges, they’re not. That’s where the closets are at.
During certain times of the year, the trusses tend to expand and it lifts the drywall in the edges and causes it to curl along the seams. And the builder wanted to put crown molding up there to prevent that. And what I had wanted to do, obviously, was prevent the action completely. It had been recommended before to add ventilation above the attic to get good airflow through there. The builder has said that by adding additional venting, which would be – I would consider the side vents. He said that would actually ruin the venting system that’s already in place, which is in the eaves.
Do you have any additional recommendations for that?
TOM: Well, a couple of things. First of all, truss lifts happen when the trusses shrink and they pull up in the middle of the room and that’s why you get the ceiling cracks, correct?
TOM: And the ventilation you have right now, do you have continuous soffit venting?
TOM: And do you have ridge venting down the peak of the roof?
TOM: Well, you’ve already got the best ventilation system out there. So as long as it’s working properly, it’s not blocked, there’s no point in putting additional ventilation in there.
TOM: Now, is it possible for you to get above the trusses, down like right above the ceiling?
KEITH: Well, I can’t get above that area. It’s boxed off and of course, they have it insulated but they do have the Styrofoam blocks that prevent the insulation from blocking the truss vent. No, unless I cut through the top of the roof, I cannot get above the ceiling there.
TOM: Well, if the trusses were installed correctly – which, of course, isn’t going to help you – there are some L-shaped truss clips that they would have installed that could have prevented this problem, that help as the roof expands and contracts. The reason I asked you if you could get to them is because they may be able – you may be able to install them after the fact.
But if you can’t get to them, then I’m afraid there’s really not an easy solution to this. If you were to add a second layer of drywall over what you have and you were very careful to make sure that the seams didn’t line up with the seams you have now, you may create a roof that’s strong enough – or a ceiling that’s strong enough – to not show cracks like it is. I would also glue the new layer to the old layer. But again, I would overlap those seams, so to speak. Does that make sense to you?
KEITH: Yes. So they don’t line up.
TOM: And that might make it strong enough. Because right now, there’s no strength in the seams. It’s just the paper.
TOM: So that’s going to be the weakest part of the ceiling structure. If you were to put a second layer of drywall and glue across that, then I think you would have a really, really sturdy ceiling and it would be unlikely that it would continue to crack.
KEITH: If I could sand on the – because I can get in the attic and get up to where the 2x4s come together in the truss. Would I be able to screw in a bracket there? That’s what you’re suggesting to basically strengthen that joint?
TOM: Keith, if you can get on top of the drywall, so to speak, those trusses are going to be attached to interior walls in some places, correct?
TOM: So what you would do is you would have to detach them from the interior walls and you would put an L-clip in place of the nails. The clip is attached to one side; there’s a slot on the other. And that allows the truss to move up and down and it will relieve some of that uplift and cracking.
Now, when you do that, you might see – over the next year, if the truss starts to try to move again, you may see some nail pops that occur. And if that’s the case, you want to punch them up and through to kind of relieve the pressure and then patch the drywall.
But I do think by the time you go through all that work, that it might be an easier solution just to put a second layer of drywall on. Because your problem is primarily with the seams and that’s going to be the easiest way to fix that.
KEITH: Yeah, it does sound like it. Alright. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Just ahead, would you like to make your home smarter but you’re avoiding all those new smart-home products because they just seem too darn complicated to hook up? Well, we’ve got a great solution to help ease that pain. We’re going to share some tips on smart-home products that install in seconds – I mean it, guys, seconds – just ahead.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, if you’ve thought about adding a smart-home product to your home but you’ve hesitated because maybe you’re just a little bit afraid that you’re not quite smart enough to hook it up or maybe just not savvy enough, listen, I feel your pain. Some of it is confusing.
Well, some of these products really are a hassle. They’re confusing. And as a result, some folks just choose to skip the smart-home revolution altogether.
TOM: Well, one company has made it their mission to bring smart-home products to the market that offer safety, security, energy efficiency and convenience. But they can do that with an installation that gets done in minutes, not hours, by virtually anyone. Dean Finnegan is the CEO of Switchmate and he joins us now.
DEAN: Thank you, guys. Good to be here, Tom and Leslie.
TOM: So, we’ve been reporting on the smart-home market for a lot of years now. And the complexity of the installation is definitely something that holds back a lot of folks, especially those that are older than, say, about maybe 25. You guys have really set out to change all that.
DEAN: We have. We have, Tom.
What we did is – and what we’ve always done – is we look at product categories and we identify the primary barriers that are keeping the mass-market consumer from adopting technology, specifically females but obviously males, as well.
Everyone likes simplicity. And what we often find is the biggest barrier is complexity. They’re just too complicated to install and configure and to operate. And then, usually, there’s some other technology hurdle. And in the case of smart-home products, it’s the ability for WiFi modules to get cloud access and how much those WiFi modules drain batteries.
So what we did, as a company, is created the first long-range Bluetooth/WiFi on-demand ecosystem. So we can make products that are completely wire-free, that are Bluetooth and WiFi-based. But the Bluetooth modules only use one percent the power of a WiFi module. And the WiFi module only turns on when you need that cloud access. That means we have products that last over a year on AA batteries. And the consumer can install them without any wires, any complexity and not have to worry about changing out the batteries constantly.
TOM: We’re talking about no wires, no complexity. You have products now that can be installed in literally one to two minutes. Let’s talk about an example of that. And that is this first no-installation smart light switch. Saw your video on that. Brilliant. Attaches right over the existing switch. And it attaches magnetically and can be controlling the room, literally, in just a couple of seconds, with timers and motion and voice and all of those smart-home elements that heretofore were just very difficult and time-consuming to take advantage of.
DEAN: True. And before we entered the market, if you wanted a smart light switch in your home, you had to bring an electrician in to replace all those hard-wired switches in your home that were powered, again, because they had WiFi modules in them.
We created a switch that literally comes out of the box and attaches right over top of your existing switch. And less than a second is the installation. And then you download the app, tap it four times and you’re up and running. And now you have a light switch that you can control with timers, motion, voice. You can walk into a room and say, “Kitchen lights on,” and they come on instantly, with or without Google Home and Alexa. We have voice control within our own app. And then, of course, you can still control the switch manually or from your phone. And you can control them remotely from anywhere, anytime.
LESLIE: Now, what about – I know for me, I don’t have a lot of hard-wired light fixtures in the house. I have a lot of, you know, tabletop lamps that plug into an outlet in the wall. Is there an option there for me to be able to control my lighting, as well?
DEAN: There sure is. We actually introduced the first dual smart outlet in the United States. So it’s actually – it looks just like the outlet you have now with two plugs. Each one independently controlled. And again, you just take it out of the box. This one has no batteries. You just plug it in and within a minute, you’re up and running and you can now control not only lamps that you’ve plugged in but any device in the home that you plug in.
TOM: We’re talking to Dean Finnegan. He is the CEO of Switchmate, a company that has pretty much made it their mission to simplify smart-home products and the installation that goes with that.
Dean, one of the great benefits of smart home-product technology is what we can do with cameras today. I know that’s something you guys have focused a lot on. And you talk about the battery life and things of this nature. That’s particularly important with a camera that’s mounted up high. You don’t want to have to keep going up and changing the batteries. You want a good, reliable signal. Has that been a challenge for your engineers?
DEAN: The biggest challenge. We actually started on this almost two years ago. And we did have a major hurdle to overcome.
The security cameras that have been out there for years require you to run wires all the way through your house, through your walls, outdoors. Because, again – once again, they have WiFi modules that needed to have power. So we created the first long-range Bluetooth/WiFi combination camera that actually will run for over a year, again, on AA batteries. And the installation – literally, from out of box to on the wall, up and running – is one to two minutes.
DEAN: And it’s got 5 to 12 times more battery life than any other IP camera out in the market today.
TOM: That’s pretty impressive. And now, the next thing you guys are doing is you’re kind of bringing all this together – all of these elements together – into a home security system. That seems to be where the rubber meets the road, because I’ve seen a lot of smart-home security systems. And they look attractive but by the time you get into the box and you find out all the parts you’ve got and figuring out where everything goes, yeah, you’re into this thing for hours unless you get hung up. And then sometimes you never get it installed. So I think I’d love to see a way that I could add security to my home or to my apartment without all of those technical hassles.
DEAN: Yeah, Tom. Actually, you’re right. It’s actually the product I’m proudest of. It’s the first completely wireless, whole-home security system. And when I say whole home, that means it’s not just a security system with a motion sensor that’s going to send an alarm if someone walks in front of it. It actually has perimeter alarms. So the window and door sensors that go on your perimeter – so if anyone opens a window or opens a door, you get notified.
So we created the first completely wire-free, whole-home security system. It’s got an embedded 1080p camera. It’s got two window and door sensors but most consumers will buy four to six additional sensors to alarm their whole perimeter. It’s got a 100-decibel siren, two-way audio, night vision and 24/7 professional monitoring if you want it. You don’t have to buy that; you don’t have to use it. You can self-monitor this system. But we offer that service from one of the largest monitoring companies in the United States, for 14.95 a month versus the existing alarm companies that charge $30 to $40 per month.
LESLIE: Hundreds of dollars for the year.
DEAN: Yeah. And the beauty of a monitored alarm system is you get about a 20-percent credit on your homeowners policy when you have one. So the product basically pays for itself in nine months. You’ve made up that savings just on your homeowners policy.
The beauty of this is that for the first time – the market in the U.S. has been stuck at about 18 to 19 percent of homes with monitored alarm systems for about 5 years. This opens this up to everybody. You can install this system, from beginning to end, in three minutes. If you’re a renter and you leave, you can take it down and install it in your new place in three minutes. So, it opens up the market to virtually anyone.
And the market is forecasting 62 million new homes in North America with monitored security or whole-home security in the next five years. Pretty amazing number.
TOM: Yeah. And plus, not only the new homes but the homes that are out there now. And you mentioned apartments. I was thinking about that. You know, pretty much all the other security systems that require some level of installation, you just can’t do that if you’re a renter. But this is a system that you can install, enjoy the benefits of complete with the home monitoring. And as you say, take it down, take it with you and move it to your next place.
DEAN: Correct. And 42 percent of the homes in the United – people in the United States live in rentals and not in their own property. So it’s a huge market. And it only has a – it’s got a retail of 199.99. So, again, it’s an amazing value.
LESLIE: And that’s really affordable.
DEAN: Most of the systems out there right now – this category, the DIY home security category, just emerged two years ago. But all the other systems take 45 minutes to, as you said, two hours to set up compared to our three minutes.
TOM: The company is called Switchmate. Their website is MySwitchmate.com.
Dean, you have absolutely cracked the code of smart-home security, convenience, energy efficiency. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of your products and give them a try. But very, very impressive the way you have solved the technology battle and the installation battle at once.
Dean Finnegan, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
DEAN: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Leslie.
LESLIE: Dean Finnegan of Switchmate, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and making everybody’s smarter home much easier to achieve.
Up next, a free and all-natural pesticide recipe for your garden.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s Listener Line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
LESLIE: You can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area and compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.
CAROL: We have a single-car, asphalt driveway that goes out of the farm market road, past the front of the house to the back of the house. And it goes between the house deck – I mean the deck on the house – and the storage with a carport. And it’s a single-car, asphalt drive. Goes around a tree and then comes back out. Makes a circle and comes back out and it’s very important to this property. And it’s on a slope. And we want to redo it but we don’t exactly want to dig up the whole thing and start over.
TOM: OK. What’s the condition of the driveway right now, Carol?
CAROL: Well, I wouldn’t call it very good; I wouldn’t call it the worst I’ve ever seen.
TOM: Well, here are your options when it comes to restoring an asphalt driveway. If the driveway is in structurally good shape, it is proper maintenance to repair the cracks, patch any holes and then reseal the entire surface. However, if the driveway structurally is in poor condition – if it’s got really broken-out sections, washed-out sections, if it’s sunken – then all of the sealing and patching in the world is not going to change that.
So it might be that there’s a combination of things that you’re going to do here but you can do the sealing and the patching yourself. If you want to replace it then, of course, that’s a job for a pro.
And there’s sort of an in-between step, too, and we’d have to have a pro look at this to determine if this is possible. But sometimes, you can add an additional layer of asphalt to it and leave what you have in place but put another layer on top of it that’s maybe an inch to 2 inches thick, that could be less expensive than tearing the whole thing out. Does that make sense?
CAROL: Right. Well, more than anything, we just want it to look better than what it does because we plan on putting our house on the market this summer. Because we’re 69 and 71 and so what we’re going to do is downsize, because the farm is a lot of work.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Are your outdoor plants plagued by bugs and pretty much other seasonal problems? Well, before you turn to pesticides, try your first and best defense: water.
You know, a good, strong spray of water often takes care of bugs and any of those other outdoor-plant problems. And it’s much safer for you and the environment. However, if you do want to make your own pesticide, soap spray is another option. You just mix 3 tablespoons of liquid detergent into a gallon of water and use that weekly. Most bugs just can’t tolerate the taste of soapy water and they’ll move on.
TOM: Yeah. Now, you can also use a mixture of about a ½-cup of alcohol and 2 to 3 tablespoons of dry laundry soap and then a quart of warm water. You have to make this solution fresh for every use. And the alcohol spray is really excellent for houseplants, which can be prone to all sorts of bugs, like mealybugs.
So, some pretty simple steps that you can take there to try to keep those bugs away from your plants.
LESLIE: Well, with the weather finally getting nicer, are you thinking of family-friendly outdoor activities to keep your kids involved and off of their electronics, which I know is a daily battle? Creating a kid-friendly garden is a great way to do just that and maybe teach a bit of self-sufficiency in the process, so stick around.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your how-to or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post it to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at MoneyPit.com presented by HomeAdvisor.
LESLIE: Alright. Don’t forget to post your questions in the Community section, as well. And I’ve got one here from Bill who writes: “I own a 1955 home. I pulled up a corner of the carpet padding and found wood floors. But there seems to be some padding sticking to the floor and then nail holes from the nail strips around the outside edges. I’ve read that many people have gone back to their underlying hardwood. Is this a big or expensive project?”
TOM: Not as expensive as replacing the floor or putting a hardwood floor in from scratch, that’s for sure.
TOM: It’s actually, I think, kind of a fun home improvement project. It doesn’t require a lot of skills, just a couple tricks of the trade. So, first of all, about the padding sticking to the floor, yeah, that happens. I mean if it’s not too terribly bad, you can basically just scrape it up with a putty knife or a spackle blade or something of that nature. And as for the holes that are caused by what’s called the “tackless,” which is that wood strip with all the little spikes coming out of it that holds the carpet in …
LESLIE: But that’s around the perimeter of the room.
TOM: Yeah, it’s not really that obvious. And if you use an appropriately colored wood filler, you can blend that right in.
The key is to know how to sand it. And if it’s very – if it needs almost nothing, like it’s just pretty much a little bit of wear and tear because it’d been protected by that big drop cloth that we call a “carpet” for all those years, what you could use is a buffing machine, like you see at the mall or commercial buildings. But instead of a polishing pad, you use a sanding screen that lays in the bottom of that. Takes just off the finish that – the fine, sort of surface finish and freshens it up for a new coat of polyurethane.
Or you can use a machine called a U-Sand machine, which is a little more aggressive but easy to use because it doesn’t damage the floor. That you can rent at a home center; it’s kind of four spinning discs inside of a square head, vacuum-drawn so that dust doesn’t get everywhere. It’ll help you really clean that up. You’ll probably end up having to do some handwork around the edges but it’s not a hard project to do.
LESLIE: Alright. And hopefully, when you get to the middle of the floor you don’t find some mystery stain that’s gone through and maybe requires a little bit more sanding. But you’re going to love those wood floors.
TOM: Well, with the weather finally getting nicer, are you thinking of some family-friendly outdoor activities that you can take on to keep the kids involved and off of those iPhones and other electronics? One option is to create a kid-friendly garden. It’s a great way to teach a bit of self-sufficiency and have some fun in the process. Leslie has got some tips that you can use to get started in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I’ve got two ideas to help you all get started out there.
First of all, give your kids their own space. Now, they’re not going to learn much if Mom or Dad are doing the work for them. But between you and me, you also don’t want to risk them damaging your garden, so give them their own space. Everybody is going to be a lot happier.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of space. It could be a 3×3-foot plot or even a raised bed. That’s a good starting point for them. And then you can even use string to grid that plot into 1-foot squares, just to help them organize different types of plants, placing the tallest plants on the back and the shortest in the front.
Next, get them their own tools. It’s never too early to get the kids going with a tool collection sized perfectly for their little hands. Whether it’s shovels and buckets that do double-duty in the sandbox or real garden tools that are designed for kids, tools make them feel like they’re part of the process, just like Mom and Dad.
Now, most stores – like Home Depot, Walmart, even Target – have those kid-friendly gardening tools. Even your local plant-and-garden center is going to have them. And they can help you figure out which veggies, which plants, which flowers are going to be the easiest and most kid-friendly so you don’t go through a lot of unnecessary killing of plants. Which sometimes happens but let’s try to avoid it.
TOM: Try not to kill the plants. Let’s grow them, right?
TOM: Hey, for more tips on how to plant a kid-friendly garden, you’ll find a post by that same title – “How to Plant a Kid-Friendly Garden” – right now on MoneyPit.com.
And coming up next time on the program, since we are in the mood of talking about getting kids involved in gardening, one kind of garden they might like to play in is a butterfly garden. We’re going to have the step-by-step tips for helping you create a butterfly garden, plus we’ll give you a checklist of the best plants to include, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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