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posted: 1/1/2010 12:01 AM

Motion-sensored outdoor lights an affordable security option

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Q. I would feel more comfortable with better security at home, but I cannot afford a complete monitored system. I do not want the electric cost of using floodlights all night. Are there any other good options?

A. Having your yard well lighted is typically considered to be a good deterrent to break-ins, but the outdoor lighting is expensive to install and operate. Excessive outdoor lighting also contributes to our national energy shortage and air pollution problems.

If you do decide to use outdoor lighting, install the light fixtures only at locations where you feel security is a major concern. Installing motion-sensing lights is the most economical and environmentally sensible option. Since they are on for only a short period of time, solar-powered ones make the most sense and they are easiest to install yourself.

Don't write off a monitored security system as too expensive. I recently switched from using Protection One monitoring company at more than $30 per month. I had used them for 21 years. Upon doing some research, I found my local telephone company provided the same service for less than $15 per month.

Many of the companies install the equipment for a very low initial cost or even free. In addition to providing standard security, many monitored systems also include smoke detectors. When smoke is detected, they alert your local fire department. This is significant advantage if you are not home because a small fire can be extinguished before major house damage occurs.

If you still cannot afford monitoring, an X10 dialer can be attached to the system. When someone tries to break in and the alarm goes off, it automatically calls a friend or neighbor who can alert the police for you.

Good deadbolt locks on the doors and keeping the window locks tightly closed are two of the best deterrents to thieves. There are differences in the security level of deadbolt locks. In general, you usually get what you pay for, so do not just buy the cheapest deadbolt in the security aisle.

Select a deadbolt which is bump resistant. With a bumping key, a thief can open most pin tumbler locks in seconds. Master Lock offers "Night Watch" technology. From indoors, this deadbolt can be set so even a key cannot open it from outdoors. I use an electronic Schlage LiNK deadbolt at my home. It uses a changeable combination and can be controlled remotely from a laptop computer.

Some other security options are an outdoor wireless video camera. Prices on these have come down. Inexpensive individual battery sensors can be mounted on some windows and doors. Although they are not monitored, a thief would not know this when the loud alarm goes off. It would certainly wake you at night. Loud barking dog devices, which are sensitive to vibration, can be hung on doorknobs.

The following companies offer security systems: Digital Security Controls, (888) 888-7838,; Honeywell, (800) 573-0154,; Intermatic, (815) 675-7000,; Wireless Imaging, (800) 676-3402,; and X10, (800) 675-3044,

Q. I took the snap-on cover off my old wall thermostat to clean out the dust. There is a small dial inside with some numbers ranging from 0.1 to 1.2 on it. How should I adjust this for the best efficiency?

A. The dial you saw inside is called a heat anticipator. It is a small device that helps old-style thermostats hold room temperatures more constant by controlling when the furnace cycles on and off.

It is wise not to try to adjust the dial yourself. Your service technician uses a meter to set it properly for a specific thermostat. If you already moved it, adjust it to the center setting and have your serviceman check it at the next scheduled service.

• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit