You may be satisfied with the way your house looks, but how about the way it’s protected? With all the options out there today, every homeowner can find a system that suits their needs, according to security experts.

    “Home security software and hardware have come a long way, there’s a whole new generation of systems out there,” says John Butler, president of Butler Durrell security. “GE, one of the leaders in security, uses both wired and wireless technology, the system can send its signal out without being plugged into a telephone,” Butler explains. “You can also use your laptop remotely to turn the alarm off to allow workmen to come into the home. The technology will also tell you the status of the alarm, like whether a visitor closed all the doors and windows.” Despite the new technology, security systems have become easier to use. Pushing one button is often all it takes, and people with keychain transmitters can disarm the system from their car.

    Another part of the GE product line, Smart Command, lets homeowners combine the systems that control lighting, heating and cooling in the house. “Now you can go to a flat screen to bring up staged lighting, or turn the lights on at a certain time,” says Butler. “Smart Command connects to all the stations in the house, so you can remotely unlock the back door, for instance. There’s a whole new generation of programming that can be installed in a new house, or retrofitted in an older house, to bring it up to tomorrow’s standards.”

    Security systems are installed for people who want to feel certain they’re not going to get an ‘unpleasant surprise’, says Butler. Homeowners want protection for when they will be out of town and want to find the house the way they left it: untouched. Families also buy security systems for the fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detection they provide. “The bigger the house, the more they usually want the system,” Butler says. “As houses have become better insulated, the less you can hear what’s going on inside. If a teenager opens a window at the other end of the house, the GE system will tell you it’s happening.”

    According to Butler, most of the time burglars will pick a door or basement window as a means of ingress, so those are the first places that have to be addressed. “All our systems come with at least one motion detector. In most houses, that’s $900,” he says. “Then the ground-level accessible windows are protected. That usually doubles or triples the cost and provides a much better level of security. People need to remember when they buy a system that they’re not buying it for tomorrow morning but for five, seven or 10 years. It’s a long-term expense.”

    Lighting also provides security, and new items are available in low-voltage lighting, which is more economical than flood lights. “Zone timers and new, sophisticated remote controls can be implemented in an outdoor lighting system, and with a panic button that allows you to instantly turn the lights on, whether you’re in the home, outside the home, or anywhere in the vicinity,” says Jeff Tullis of Accent Outdoor Lighting. Lighting is one of the best deterrents for invaders, says Tullis, because there’s no place for people to hide.

    “We start with up-lighting the architectural features, trying to keep lights directly out of windows and eyesight. Walking out of entryways, you don’t want the ‘train effect’ of a light shining directly in your eyes,” Tullis says. The lighting also increases outdoor living space and enhances the beauty of the property.

    “You can get as detailed as you’d like or make it basic and simple,” he notes. “Those who don’t want to operate the system themselves can even make it self-sufficient: We have astronomical timers now that change time with the rotation of the moon and reset themselves for daylight savings time. They have backup batteries so you don’t even have to mess with them when there’s a power outage. That feature makes it very user friendly and virtually maintenance-free.” Accent Outdoor Lighting also can install key pads inside a home to control lights.

  “The general user goes for the less complex system, so that’s what we try to sell,” Tullis says. “Homeowners have enough complexity in their lives, so we want them never to have to worry about their lights operating correctly. We take the hassle out of outdoor lighting, from maintenance plans to design to installation.”

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