There's no arguing the desirability of a professionally installed, whole-home security system with around-the-clock monitoring. There's only one problem: You're probably not eager to pay the monthly service fee, let alone the upfront cost. A lot less expensive are solutions like the GE Personal Security System, a set of window and door sensors that, if triggered, emit an ear-piercing, 120-decibel alarm. No, the system isn't fancy, but to deter a would-be burglar, you may not need anything more than a burst of very loud noise at precisely the right time. Available at Amazon; $37.95.
Put the Belkin NetCam Wi-Fi Camera in any room, then monitor the space with your smartphone or tablet—any time, anywhere—using the free Netcam app. Check in periodically to see what's happening, or choose to receive instant email notification whenever there's movement. The camera boasts not only wide-angle video and digital audio, but a range of handy additional features. For one, you can save room recordings straight to your mobile device. Another: With night vision, you always get a clear picture, whether there are lights on or not. Available at Amazon; $58.
Behind Closed Doors
The GE Personal Security Door Stop Alarm alerts you to whenever an unannounced guest pushes open a door. Not only would its structure and rubber base prevent the door from swinging wide open, but its 120-decibel siren, if activated, will surely spook your intruders and warn you and neighbors of their presence all in one go. The best part: Installation is as simple as powering on and placing the battery-powered door stop at the base of whichever entryway you intend to secure. Available on Amazon; $13.74.
Let There Be Light
Sure, you know to leave a light on near a window so that the place never looks abandoned, but you don't want the electric costs to cut into your vacation fund. Connecting any lamp to a WeMo Switch at its outlet provides you with wireless control over precisely when you want it to power the fixture. Thanks to the switch's WiFi capabilities, you can even set it to a timed schedule from a phone app—a lifesaver if you realize that you didn't set a timer until after you've run out the door to the airport. Available on Amazon; $50.
In the Glow
When you’re on vacation, the hubbub of your day-to-day routine will be noticeably absent from an outsider’s perspective—making your home an easy target for burglars. Mimic the light of the television (a surefire sign that someone’s inside) without going overboard on your energy bill using the Fake TV Burglar Deterrent. This inexpensive buy stimulates the light of a real set, filling the room with a variety of colors to fool others into thinking you’re curled up on the couch. Simply switch this clever product on before you head out for added peace of mind while you’re away. Available on Amazon; $39.95.
Invaders are sure to make a run for it if an alarm or bright light suddenly fills the house. That’s where the Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor comes in: compatible with the SmartThings Hub (also under $100) you can program the practically unnoticeable sensor to detect and report unusual movement when you’re asleep or away. You can also set it to trigger different results as response, like turning on the lights or setting off other electronics. As soon as your house springs to life, you can rest assured that any uninvited guests will scram—and think twice about targeting your home again. Available on Amazon; $40.
A Little Fib
The threat of surveillance may be enough to scare off a would-be-intruder, even if there's no one actually watching. Any homeowner can place a home security sign in the front yard, whether they pay for the service or not. The key is to choose a fake sign from a legitimate company so that it's not obvious yours is a phony. This version, from BrickHouse Security comes with four vinyl security decals to stick on your door or windows for added peace of mind. Available on Amazon; $15.
Related: Bob Vila’s Guide to Home Security
When it comes to preventing break-ins, safeguarding your windows is just as important as locking your doors. Doberman Security's ultra-slim peel-and-stick alarms protect your home from intruders by detecting vibrations and alerting the household of any suspicious activity with a 100 decibel alarm. Plus the label on back of the alarm, visible through the window, tells uninvited guests that this house has a security system, and that may be enough scare off a burglar before they can set foot inside your home. Available on Amazon; $12.
Many top-of-the-line home security systems also come with top dollar monthly fees. Luckily, there are self-install systems that can safeguard your home without adding to your bills. One such security product is the SABRE Wireless Home Alarm System. It can monitor up to eight distinct zones in the house, which means that in the unlikely case of a break-in, the alarm system can point homeowners to the precise part of the house the intrusion occurred. Available on Amazon; $83.
Burglars who come out at night would rather hide their dastardly deeds in the dark. Shine a light on anyone—good or bad—with a motion sensor spotlight. The light is sensitive enough to pick up human activity, but not so hypervigilant that it switches on for stray leaves blowing in the wind. Place motion sensor above entrances, and up high out of reach of tampering, to protect your home. Available on Amazon; $20.74.
Money-saving, time-saving—and yes, sometimes even life-saving—the latest and greatest smart home technologies span from self-programming thermostats to voice-activated TV controls to video doorbells and beyond. Raise your home's IQ!