Keeping your home/office safe while you are away

Do you have pets at home? Do you ever worry about your pets, home, or office while you are on vacation or away for work? Wish there was a way to feel a little more secure about your home or office while you are not there? You can!

Even though I have a bevy of cameras as well as an alarm I still worry. The cameras and burglar alarm won’t help if there is a fire, flood, or carbon monoxide (called CO from now on) leak in my home. While things can be replaced (which is why you should always have insurance) my wife and I have pets and want them to be safe as well.

With technology today it is fast and easy to monitor your home for fire, flood (or leaks), and CO without spending a fortune to do it.

Start by checking your fire alarms to make sure they have batteries in them, that they work (that is what that little test button is for) and that you have enough to cover your entire home. You can even buy some incense and use the smoke from that to test them and make sure they still function. If in doubt, or if you know you need more, I recommend the First Alert SA320CN available from Amazon for around $25 each. I have several of them and they are fast and easy to install, as well as seem to work well. They say they have two sensors in them to protect from false alarms as well as detect fast flames and slow smoldering fires. Fortunately I have not had to see how well that works.

Another nice thing about the SA320CN detector is that it uses standard AA batteries which I have a ton of (seems most my remotes use them, a bunch of flashlights and some toys) unlike the 9V battery a lot of them use which is used for almost nothing these days. I also prefer the replaceable battery idea over the sealed ten year battery models where you throw away the entire detector after ten years. That is, of course, personal preference.

For the batteries I just set a reminder in my calendar for the first of every month to do some chores around the home like charge my battery packs and headphones, test the smoke alarms, check/replace the air filters, etc. Adding this little thing to my list of monthly chores may add a minute or two but no more.

The next thing to worry about is carbon monoxide. This colorless and odorless gas can come from a variety of sources such as gas heaters, water heaters, stoves, and more. It can literally kill you in your sleep with no warning. To protect against this I use the Code One 9CO5-LP2 Carbon Monoxide Alarm which runs about $22 each from Amazon. I have one just around the corner from my hot water heater and another just outside the room where my central heater lives. This device too runs on a pair of AA batteries making life simpler by only having one type of battery to worry about.

The last danger I want to know about is if there is a water leak. To solve this problem I use the First Alert Wa100 Battery Operated Water Alarm which also comes in a three-pack and detects the presence of water, sounding an alarm when present. Unfortunately I have not found a water alarm that runs off anything other than a 9v battery. These are awesome to put in your water heater closet, under a sink or in your laundry room. Water leaks can do thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home so these little $12 alarms (just under $10 each in the three pack from Amazon) can pay for themselves hundreds of times over if they go off just once.

So now I have my home all rigged to scream if something bad happens, how to I get that alarm to me when I am not there? I use a simple little device called the Leeo Smart Alert Smoke/CO Remote Alarm Monitor for iOS and Android which is available on Amazon for $49.

This little device plugs into an electrical outlet, connects to your wifi, listens for an alarm from any of my devices and if it hears one, sends me a notification on my smartphone. If I should fail to respond to the notification, it then contacts the people on my emergency contact list that I put in the app.

When setting up the device I noticed it can tell the difference in alarm types. For example, when I told it to listen for an alarm test and then pressed the test button on my fire alarm, it added that alarm to the list of fire alarms. When I did the same thing and pressed the test button on my CO alarm, it added that to the list of CO alarms. At no point did I tell it what type of alarms to listen for, it knew by sound. This allows it to notify you not just that an alarm went off, but what kind of alarm it was.

Other companies make other devices that do much the same thing but I have installed several brands and this was by far the most painless of them all. In fact, I tried to install a different model from another major manufacturer and never got it to connect to any of the two Android and one iPhone I installed the software on.

Once you receive an alarm on your phone you can then take the appropriate action such as calling the fire department, your neighbor, or even the plumber to fix the water leak. Of course you can use your cameras to verify the problem (except for CO of course). You do have cameras in your home or office, right? If not, check out my articles on cameras in Part 1 and Part 2.