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Security Alternatives for Almost Any Budget


QUESTION: I'm concerned about security at home. I leave lights on, but it pushes up my electric bills. What effective types of do-it-yourself home security systems and gadgets will fit a limited budget?

ANSWER: Keeping indoor and outdoor lights on all night costs more in electricity in one year than installing a simple security system. Some new systems are modular, so more security features can be added as your budget allows.

An electronic door alarm that sounds like a dog is effective. When someone touches the door knob, the unit plays a lifelike bark. There are also timer-controlled motorized kits that open and close curtains for an at-home look.

A combination lock deadbolt is inexpensive and effective. There are no keys for children to lose. The combination can be changed at any time. If a burglar does get in a window, he cannot open the door to carry things out.

Even if a budget allows for only two sensors, an emergency dialer is a plus. Push an emergency button to automatically call the police. If the smoke alarm goes off while you are away, the fire department is called.

If just one door needs protection, install a simple self-contained door sensor and alarm. For just one room, install a battery-operated motion sensor with alarm. It offers several levels of security. You can also use these in a hotel when you are traveling.

There have been many recent improvements in the features of complete security systems. A complete system includes window / door and interior motion sensors, a control panel and hand-held and wall-mounted remote controls. If you have pets, select one with pet alley motion sensors.

Sophisticated security multi-sensor systems, like Total Home, can also control the heating and cooling system.

Instead of having to put sensors on each door or window, some systems, like Unity's, use pressure sensors. When a door or window is opened, the unique pressure wave pattern sets off the alarm. These are easy to install.

Multilevel controls are a convenient security feature. The system can be programmed to secure various parts of the house. For example, children may have one code with only partial control, a cleaning person's code allows access to only certain areas and the parents' code has complete control.

The easiest-to-install security system in an existing home is a wireless remote design. You can install a complete system (window, door, motion sensors and automatic dialer) in a couple of hours.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 442 showing a buyer's guide of 20 home security systems and products, descriptions and features of each system and prices. Please include $2 and a self-addressed stamped business-size envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Self-Cleaning Oven Not an Energy Loser

Q: I have a self-cleaning oven. It is convenient to use this feature, but I wonder if it uses a lot of extra energy? Are there any hints to make it more efficient?

A: The self-cleaning feature does use a substantial amount of energy to superheat the oven surfaces. Self-cleaning ovens have more wall insulation than standard ovens, so more-than-enough energy is saved over the many hours of baking to offset the few self-cleaning cycles.

One efficiency tip: Use the self-cleaning cycle right after you bake. Since the oven is already hot, less energy is needed to superheat it.

For Storm Doors, Being Square Is Good

Q: I have an aluminum storm door on the side entrance to my house. It helps block chilly breezes, but the one corner sags and it does not seal as well as it used to. How can I fix it myself?

A: First check to make sure the door was installed properly and that it is in square. Remove the upper glass panel from the door and try to replace it. If it does not go back in easily, the frame is probably out of square.

Many aluminum storm doors have corner keys that hold the door edges square. These corner keys can get bent or can break. Install a replacement corner key support if needed.

Also check the squareness of the door frame opening.


Letters and questions to Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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