The smart home revolution is transforming home security. High-end alarm systems offer sophisticated new features. Inexpensive sensors, cameras, light bulbs, and smart speakers can be connected over Wi-Fi into powerful security systems you can install yourself. And you can now control and monitor your home anywhere through your phone. Yet each new device adds another potential vulnerability. As a seasoned claims adjustor, Wardell Johnson has seen the unfortunate consequences when smart home systems fail at critical moments, allowing fires, burglaries, and floods to proceed unchecked. He offers six tips to keep your smart security system from getting a brain freeze at the wrong time.
1. Keep an eye on things
Whatever you think about the widespread deployment of cameras in the world, in your home it pays to be Big Brother. We’ve seen lots of cases where clients were able to use their smartphones to learn if an intrusion was a burglar or just a neighboring kid chasing after a wayward ball.
2. Keep the power flowing
In the event of a blackout or downed power line, you’ll need your security system all the more. So it’s essential to have a source of backup power, either battery pack or auxiliary generator. Make sure that every critical sensor and component of your system has a backup power source.
3. Stay connected
Check for weak links along the path a message would take from sensor to you (and calls for help). Does every component, including the Wi-Fi or wired network, have backup power? Would the system be disrupted if your internet service went down? Consider a backup connection that uses the cellphone network.
4. Avoid the surge
A power surge can destroy sensitive electronics. Get a strong surge protector for your home’s central electrical system or individual protectors for each component. Better still, use both. But even the best surge protector is no match for a direct lightning strike, which are more common than you may think. If you do experience a surge, have your entire system checked for damage. Be wary, though, if you are told you need to replace the whole thing. A second opinion may reveal that only a few components need replacing.
5. Stay dry
Fear of fire and burglary may be top of mind when you set up your security system, but most claims we pay stem from water damage. Install a device where the water enters your home that will shut it off if there is an unusual flow. Put sensors next to air conditioning handlers, which are especially prone to leaks.
6. Remember your checkups
I can’t count how many times I’ve met with homeowners distraught that their security system failed to alert them to a disaster as it was happening. Today’s smart home systems have many different components, each with a potential to malfunction. In my experience, water sensors installed near air conditioning handlers have a particularly high failure rate; have your air conditioner company check these monthly. Ask your security company what sort of checks they can conduct remotely. And schedule thorough on-site inspections at least once a year.
Modern technology offers new power to keep track of our homes and get help when we need it. Yet like our other digital devices, smart home systems can be fragile, and they only work when given the right power and network connectivity. As long as you regularly check for potential problems, you will be able to enjoy the enhanced security and control that these systems promise.