What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Few Tips Home Security Systems

Back in 1995 as a result of a violent crime that threatened our then younger family, we made the executive decision to go with a home security system.  It was installed and aside of a brief four year span at our last house we have used home security systems ever since that time.  Our security provider came out yesterday to install our new system.  My gosh have they ever changed!  The security provider no longer has a key to your house in the event of a problem.  The new security system has some really nice, high tech features like instant buttons for police, fire and medical.  You can no longer push one button to arm and another to disarm.  Instead, the security code must be entered to either arm or disarm.

Home security systems can be a DIY project, professionally installed, not monitored or monitored.   If there has been any previous history like being a victim of a violent crime as I was, or any concerns of break and enters, I would advise going with a professionally installed, monitored home security system.  It is more expensive but help is there when you need it AND most insurance companies will give a discount on your homeowner's insurance policy.  Used properly, home security systems give the homeowner peace of mind knowing that help will arrive quickly whether home or away.

It is mandatory that alarm systems whether or not they are monitored be registered with our local police department.  The fee is $36 for three years.  The reason they started this was to reduce the number of false alarms.   If you have two or more false alarms (police dispatched)  in a twelve month period, you can be fined and if you have four false alarms there can be a suspension of police response for a period of one year.  Our business security system is set for the police to respond immediately if the alarm goes off but our home security system is set for the monitoring company to call the house first and if they don't get an answer from someone with the password to then call the police.   A false alarm can be caused by alarm system mechanical failure, unauthorized testing, weather, excessive vibrations, power failure and user error.  False alarms are bad on three levels.  First they waste valuable police resources if an officer is dispatched for a false alarm.  Second, false alarms have a tendency to tick off your neighbours, the very ones you really want on your side, looking out for your home when you aren't there.  Third, if a homeower experiences a number of false alarms there is the tendency to not set the alarm putting them at risk for break-ins and/or personal harm.  Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your home security system:

  • general household security - A security system is at best a deterrent.  It will not stop a break in especially if something valuable is near a window where a thief can do a quick smash and grab.  Keep all valuables including keys out of sight.  Use a safe if necessary.  Shut your blinds and curtains and don't advertise when you are away.  Don't put your away plans on Twitter or Facebook.  Use motion activated lighting and timers.  Don't advertise you just bought the latest, greatest television or other electronic equipment by putting the box out for the garbage.  Remove any labels from the box, open it then turn inside out and crush it so no one knows what you actually bought.  Keep your doors and windows locked or secured even when home.  If you are away have your mail held and arrange to have any newspapers or flyers picked up while you are gone.
  • the system -  Read and understand the features of your home security system.  Be sure you know how to arm and disarm the security system.  It is of little use if not armed!  Surprisingly, some home break-ins are happening even with the homeowner home so use it even at home especially when sleeping.  All key holders should be educated in how to use the security system. All doors and windows should be secured before arming the alarm.  Ensure there are no animals or things like curtains blowing in an open window, in the house that could accidently trigger the alarm.  Be sure to routinely inspect and maintain the monitored home security system.  Some wireless components may need battery replacement.  If any electronic device like a garage door opener, cordless phone or cell phone affects your home security system in any way, call your security provider to remedy the problem immediately.
  • security code - A monitored home security system has a security code  that must be used to activate or deactivate the system.  This is the security code set by the homeowner.  It should not be given to anyone even other key holders.  Rather a temporary security code for the key holder should be set up for the time period you will be away then removed upon your return.
  • post your property - At one time there were two schools of thought on posting your property that you have an alarm system.  Some recommended posting as a deterrent but others said posting let the thief know what they were dealing with.  The reality now is a homeowner can easily have a DIY home security system set up in addition to their monitored home security system and the monitored security systems are so much more sophisticated that even posting doesn't give a thief the upper edge.  Besides, the average thief is not all that smart to begin with and I doubt they even bother looking for signs of any type of home security system or video surveillance.  Now technically here is if you use video surveillance of any kind it has to be posted on the premises but if using only a home security system you can choose whether or not to post your property.  We have stickers in every window saying our home is protected via a home security system which acts as a deterrent.  We have no indication of our second DIY security system but once the cameras are installed we will have to post it near the most common point of entry for our property.  The regulations are for video it must be posted at least once on your property, but there is no stipulation as to size of sign and you certainly do not have to post on each side of your house or on out buildings. 
Garden Gnome

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Genie SilentMax 1000 Garage Door Opener

We had a garage door opener on the detached garages at our last three homes.  There was a garage door opener at our new house when we bought it last September.  A garage door is more than a simple convenience especially for homes with attached garages where it becomes a security feature.  Garages are a common target for thieves looking for power tools or other quick, grab and run items.  An attached garage allows a thief to gain entry into your house under the cover of the garage itself.  The thief can actually take their time breaking into your home because they can't be seen by others in your neighbourhood.  A garage door opener prevents the garage door from being manually opened from the exterior of the garage, adding that extra bit of security in addition to ensuring the garage door is always locked when closed. 

old Chamberlain 1/2 HP garage door opener
Our new home has an attached garage with the main garage door for vehicle entry, an exterior door to the backyard and an entrance door into the house.  Both doors have locking handsets and dead bolts that were replaced when we removed in.  The only ones with keys to either door and the rest of the house for that matter are the ones we have given keys to.

The existing garage door opener was a Chamberlain 1/2 HP The Protractor System (chain driven).  It worked fairly well when we first moved in but then started acting up once the weather turned cold.  When the garage door failed to work we thought a piece of ice had frozen to the chain drive.  We unplugged the unit and let it sit until a warmer day but the garage door opener refused to work.  Our solution was to replace the garage door.

new Genie 3/4 HP garage door opener
This house has really been about being at the right place at the right time.  In this case it was a sale at Canadian Tire that came right when we needed it.  We bought the Genie SilentMax 1000 (Model 3042) belt driven garage door opener that was on sale for $189.99 plus GST/HST.  The regular price was $369.99.  This garage door opener has a lot of nice features like Intellicode®2  which encrypts the access code and continuously changes it each time the remote is used with the garage door opener responding to each new code only once.  It has Sure-Lock™ and is HomeLink®/Car2U® compatible as well as Watch Dog™ Monitoring System that monitors the Safe-T-Beam system to ensure proper functionality that will automatically stop and reverse a closing door if a problem is detected.

Installing a garage door opener is a DIY project and it is a bit easier if there was a garage door already installed.  The old opener is removed, the new one installed in its place using the same wiring.  We did not install the garage door opener as my husband was extremely busy at the office so our friend and crew who is doing our custom work, installed it for us.

Genie garage door opener installed
The Genie is belt driven.  Unlike the Chamberlain garage door opener that was loud enough to wake me, the Genie cannot be heard in the master bedroom.  In fact, it can barely be heard in the upper living room just off the entrance landing leading to the garage.  The garage door can be opened using the new keypad outside, the on wall console in the garage or via the remote controls.  We have HomeLink® in one of our vehicles but haven't programmed it yet.

Over all the install was problem-free and straight forward.  We are quite pleased with the results.  As you can see, the garage ceiling needs a bit of work but that will be a summer or fall  project once we get the indoor work finished.

Garden Gnome