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One of the most important things you can do to reduce your chances of burglary when you have gone out for the evening (or are away on holiday) is to make your home look occupied even though it isn’t. Evidence of occupancy is one of the main reasons why burglars don’t target certain houses. That said there are still some who will break into an occupied house, but this tends to be houses that have been left insecure after the occupiers have gone to bed, allowing them to get in and out very easily and quietly.
Internal lights clearly have a role to play and the section about light switching in External lighting for the home and garden shows you the many ways in which you can control internal lights to make the burglar think there’s someone at home.
It is important to use the lights in a way that reflects your normal domestic routine. For most of us this will mean bringing lights on in the lounge, dining room and kitchen when it gets dark, timed to go off one by one at the time you would normally go to bed. At the same time lights should be coming on in bedrooms, the lavatory and bathroom, which go off again at the time you would go to sleep. The next trick is to bring the light on in the bedroom and the lavatory a few times during the night and if it’s the winter you’ll need them to come on at the time you usually get up for the day and so on.
Fortunately you can use a variety of timers to produce this effect and of course, once set, the timers will keep on doing their thing until you turn them off.
I use a combination of replacement wall switches and plug in timers to perform the trick and I combine this with a PIR activated porch light and some lights that illuminate the forecourt throughout the night. Make sure that the timers you buy and the lamps they operate will actually operate together. This information should be shown on the various packaging and you can check with the retailer.
One slightly important matter to consider however is what to do about your curtains or blinds. Most of us tend to draw the curtains after dark, because we don’t want the wrong type of person to be able to see the things that could be stolen, such as the insecure flat screen TV hanging on the wall or the laptop on the coffee table! This is where your neighbours come in very useful, which is why you must return the favour and buy them nice gifts when you’re away on holiday.
If you have no immediate neighbours or you would rather not ask them to help out your alternative will be to install automatic electric curtain tracks or an electric blind. These can be controlled using photoelectric cell switches or timers, or a combination of both. Apart from giving the impression that you’re in, a closed blind or curtain will help to conserve heat in the home as well.
A fake TV light is a relatively cheap device which is designed to replicate an operating TV in the dark.
The device is small - 8cm x 7cm x 5cm - (much smaler than it appears on Amazon) plugs into the mains via an adaptor plug and uses very little energy.
I first set it up in the lounge, but found that the lamp I use on a timer when I’m out drowned out the fake TV's light. So I put it upstairs in the front bedroom instead and plugged it in on the dressing table and pointed it towards the blinds. I went outside with the family for a look and I must say we all thought it was pretty good. It really did look like someone was watching the TV in bed. The light emitted is completely unpredictable and you’ll see the thing fading, flickering and changing colour; everything you’d expect if the light was coming from a TV screen.
The device can be triggered using the in-built solar switch and timed to go on for 4 or 7 hours, but I decided instead to switch the unit on and then control it from a plug-in timer.
It is highly unlikely that experiments will ever be conducted to establish the device’s real value as a crime deterrent, but if you want to cast doubt in the burglar’s mind then it’s a useful addition to your 'I'm still in' security arsenal.
Here's the US website for Fake TV (because there's a film with it)
I got mine for £16 something, which included the postage, although I’ve seen it online for as much as £29.99, so don’t pay too much! I see that there's now a 'brighter' (and more expensive) version available, so do your homework before you buy.
There are lots of other things you and your neighbours can do to make your home more secure when you’re not there. (See Home security assessment, Holiday checklist)
Updated April 2015