House of guards: Keep your home secure at any budget

"Home Alone" taught us there’s no time like the holidays for a home invasion.

‘Tis the season for opportunistic thievery, but in reality, burglars don’t discriminate against other months. According to a September report by SafeWise, a burglary occurs in the U.S. about every 18 seconds. That’s nearly 5,000 a day. Your chance of being a target increases exponentially with your status.

Former power couple Brad and Angelina spent a reported $235 million to protect their properties. In addition to the highest tech cameras, they invested in hired help—Special Air Service veterans who guarded their grounds. The rest of us, however, pay between $200 and $1,000 annually according to retail data collected by

From repurposed iPhones to 22-caliber tripwires and fierce, four-legged European friends, here are a six ways Americans are achieving peace of mind when it comes to home security.

1. Smartphone Security



Repurpose that old smart phone collecting dust in your junk drawer. With the Manything App and $79 for a yearly contract of iCloud support, most iPhone or Android devices can quickly become a surveillance system. A Manything user’s current phone live streams footage captured from an old phone’s camera, which relies on the app’s motion sensor to activate and start recording.

In 2012, Manything CEO James West created the DIY camera to catch the burglar responsible for his neighbor’s stolen deliveries. West and his team believe the future of their industry lies in software, not hardware. Today, Manything users record more than 15 years of video every day. In October, footage from a Knoxville user’s phone helped sentence two thieves to 15 years

2. Neighborly Pacts

Irwin Hill doesn’t mind having nosy neighbors. He says he's a pretty nosy neighbor himself. Hill and his Northern California neighbors take the Neighborhood Watch program to the next level with their pact to closely watch over each other’s homes when one party is away.


(Katie Jackson)

“They take in our mail and park one of their cars in our driveway so it looks like someone is always home,” says Hill who has had this arrangement with his neighbors for about 15 years. “They know which service providers we use and keep an eye out for any strangers poking around.” Hill returns the favor when they’re away.

Of course this system only works if you trust the people next door.

3. Communicative Cameras

Before he was one of Canary’s co-founders, Chris Rill was a victim of a home invasion. Using his background developing software for the U.S. Military, Rill partnered with co-founder Adam Sager, a security specialist for Fortune 500 companies, to create this all-in-one home security system.



Canary is a sleek, motion-activated camera that works with an app to send alerts and live stream content to a user’s phone. Features include night vision, a 90-decibel siren, a 147-degree wide-angle lens and the ability to detect when the homeowner comes and goes so there’s never a need to punch in a code to activate or deactivate the system. In 2015, a New York City man used Canary to send the police screenshots of a burglary in progress in his home. Canary is available at Walmart and Best Buy and starts at $199.

4. Webs of Radio Waves

One of the most forward-thinking products on the market, XANDEM, is best described as an invisible web of motion-detecting sensors. The sources of the sensors, which move as radio waves through furniture and walls, are small nodes that plug into electrical outlets. XANDEM PRO comes with an option for battery-powered and DC-wired sensors that can be hidden within walls. Paired with its mobile app for $10/month and a homeowner’s WiFi router, XANDEM alerts users to detected substantial motion within the home. For example, it will not be set off by animals weighing less than 30 lbs. Kits start at $450, and each floor of the house requires its own kit.



5. Booby Trap Tripwires

“It’s quite startling,” says home security expert Robert Siciliano. He's also the CEO of “It” refers to a 22-caliber tripwire system that can be mounted anywhere around the perimeter of a residence or at vulnerable points of entry. Siciliano, a believer in multiple layers of lethal and non-lethal weaponry, can “neither confirm nor deny” personally knowing anyone with these devices. But he says they can easily be made at home or purchased online. When tied together in a series, they’ll “scare the hell out of a trespasser.”


(Robert Siciliano)

To be clear, the tripwire fires blank rounds as loud as live ammo. These low-tech devices are popular among apocalypse preppers because they’re so affordable. They start at around $20.

6. Traditional, Costly Canines

Since Ancient Rome, people have used dogs to protect their property. Very few guard dogs demand as much respect as European Dobermans, a breed available in the U.S. by importers and breeders like Oregon-based Unique Dobermans. Owner Jan Whistler-Clark says they’ve sold dogs to everyone from paraplegics to military contractors and Dubai royalty.


(Unique Dobermans)

“Last year we had a Doberman in California that stopped a mountain lion from coming into the owner’s yard,” says Whistler-Clark. Although generally considered effective, especially when paired with graphic Beware of Dog signs with blood dripping from bared teeth, these wireless security systems aren’t cheap. Unique’s puppies cost around $3,500 and training runs between $3,500-$5,000 per month. A good guard dog can have more than 12 months of training.