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"Simple devices and wireless/wired home security systems"

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Dear Jim: I am considering using a monitored security system instead of many outdoor floodlights. Wireless systems seem good. What are the best home security systems and are there any less expensive options? - Pete S.

A: Your thoughts about floodlights are correct. There are better and more efficient security methods than switching on outdoor floodlights at night. In addition to just providing protection from burglars, new high-tech security systems can help monitor your entire home, children, fire, heating, flooding, appliances, etc.

Newer wireless systems rival hardwired ones for reliability and they are much easier to install. You can install a wireless kit yourself, but it is often better to have it professionally installed. The experts know exactly where to place the various types of sensors and you may end up needing fewer than you assumed for an overall savings.

The new wireless sensors are much smaller and can barely be noticed. My old wireless system required battery changes every year and my cats would set off the motion sensors. My new system uses three-year batteries and my cats (or anything less than 40 pounds) will not trigger the motion sensors.

Many systems, like mine, have hardwired control panels, but all the window door, motion, smoke, and fire sensors are wireless (batteries). Select a model with a lighted keypad and LCD display for convenience. All systems have a continuously recharging back-up battery that powers the control panels and siren if your electric power goes off so protection continues.

For a large family, select a security system that incorporates a message center and personal paging. This allows you to control the system remotely from any telephone with your security code. There is also a secondary code for your children that gives them control over only restricted functions.

Several security systems are integrated into an entire whole-house control system. These can also control the heating and cooling and start appliance and lights in your home. They can be controlled from a PC or by the telephone. They can even alert your pager when you children arrive home from school.

Mini-indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras improve security and safety. One camera mounts at your front door with a monitor by the door to view visitors before you open the door. Another wireless camera can be placed anywhere in your home. Its remote-control base will change the camera's angle to pan an entire room and view it on a television. It can also be viewed or controlled from a PC.

Other lower-cost security devices include a barking dog. When you hear an unusual noise at night, push a button and a recording of a startled vicious barking dog starts. Simple motion-sensing lamp adapters can switch on an interior light and scare off an intruder.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 499 - buyer's guide of 16 security products/systems (hardwire, wireless, audio/video systems, barking dog alarm, mechanical deadbolt pushbutton combination lock), brief descriptions, illustrations of several products, features and tips for safeguarding your home against burglars.

Dear Jim: You recently wrote about gas water heaters. I have looked at various models and some have a feature called a heat trap fitting. What is a heat trap and is it good to have on a water heater? - Jenny R.

A: A heat trap is a small plumbing fitting that mounts in the water lines immediately above the water heater. Most of the high-efficiency model already have them, but they can be installed on almost any model.

Heat trap fittings save energy. The hot water in the top of the tank tends to naturally flow up into the pipes where it cools off. Heat trap fittings are one-way valves that block this water movement and thus save energy.

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