Usually we're all about upgrading the home with clean, renewable solar energy. And we delight in bringing you tips for saving money at home, both indoors and out. But every now and then even the most ardent homebody has to get away. Vacation time!

Off-the-shelf home security devices have made a big marketing push during the pandemic, everything from internet-enabled doorbell cameras for catching porch pirates to multipart sensor kits that a homeowner can attach around the home and monitor by sound, no service subscription necessary. The price for these kits, however, can be steep.

You know that we here at EBC are all about saving money. Here's how you can assemble your own DIY home security kit from readily available consumer electronics plus one totally free service, all for less than $200.

EBC'S SHOPPING LIST
PRODUCT PRICE
EZVIZ outdoor Wi-Fi camera $50
Outdoor LED light $25
Pin locks, 5 @ $4 $20
USPS Informed Delivery Free
Blink Mini indoor Wi-Fi cameras, 2-pack $65
Sabre window/door alarms, 3-pack $20
Master Lock antitheft padlock $14
TOTAL $194

That's right, a complete kit for under $200! Compare that to the Essentials kit, the most popular package from Simplisafe, which is regularly $259 and does not include cameras.

But Do I Need a Home Security System?

People are traveling again like crazy right now, tired of staying locked down for a year and a half. But before you pack your bags, think of this: Burglars are still in business.

Although dramatic decreases in such crimes as robbery, shoplifting, and battery were reported in Los Angeles, St. Louis, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia during lockdown orders, burglaries never slowed. In spring 2020, burglaries in Denver were actually up 50% from the same time the prior year. Residential and business burglaries were combined in that statistic.

It's good to remember that when you're packing your bags and getting ready to head out, someone else could be plotting to get in. Here are several inexpensive tools and tips for burglarproofing your space for less than $200.

Small wi-fi home security cameras for outdoors.

Outdoor Wi-Fi Camera

An outdoor Wi-Fi surveillance camera can run a hundred dollars by itself, not counting a subscription for online storage. That makes this EZVIZ camera, about $50 at Best Buy, a remarkable value.

One verified purchaser wrote, "I couldn't believe how good the picture was for the price. Mounted on our garage and the app connected right to it. Bought a 128gb SD card so I don't have to pay for cloud storage. Night vision is also pretty good." (Photo via Best Buy.)

Motion-activated yard lights scare away unwanted visitors at night.

Motion-Activated Outdoor Lights

Thanks to energy-efficient LED bulbs, outdoor lighting has never been easier to install or longer lasting. Inexpensive models run off batteries or solar power, so there's no wiring. Bonus: A prowler suddenly bathed in light will assume he's also on camera, even if you have no camera. Under $25 for a battery-powered light. (Photo: Keagan Henman, Unsplash.)

Inexpensive pin locks fasten your sliding doors and windows with steel strength.

Pin Locks for Your Ground-Floor Windows, Sliders

High-up apartment dwellers have less risk in this department, but securing windows is a good idea for those who live on the ground floor. Burglars can break the latches on most windows in two seconds flat with a prybar. They will have a much harder time breaking through a rod of steel. With only a drill and a screwdriver, you can install inexpensive pin locks ($4 each) on sliding glass doors and windows. (Photo via Lowes.)

USPS News Link

See Your Important Mail Remotely

Sign up for Informed Delivery from the U.S. Postal Service to receive photos of letter-sized pieces of mail heading to your home, hours before they arrive. You'll know if anything critical is coming, like bank statements or replacement credit cards, so you can ask a friend to swing by and fetch the mail that same day. Informed Delivery is free. (Photo via USPS News Link.)

Blink Mini Indoor Camera 2-Pack, Best Buy

Interior Wi-Fi Cameras

Even the most basic Wi-Fi security cameras available today outpace the closed-circuit TV security systems of old. For under $35 you can buy a high-definition miniature indoor camera that will stream via your home's Wi-Fi network so you can keep an eye on the interior of your home by looking at your phone no matter where you are in the world (so long as your phone is on a network). A two-pack goes for $65. (Photo via Best Buy.)

Sabre Home Series Door/Window Alarms, 2-Pack

Cheap Door and Window Alarms

Luckily, ear-piercing noises come cheap. A two-pack of simple yet effective door or window alarms can be yours for less than $15 (Noopel 2-Pack at Amazon, $14.49). Installation is as easy as sticking them to a window or door. A three-pack of alarms from Sabre, shown here, is only $20.

Bolt cutters are a formidable enemy, but new padlock designs can thwart them.

Defy Bolt Cutters

The standard padlock is such a well-known shape that it's the universal symbol for security. When you reach a secure website, for instance, you see a padlock in the address bar. But the standard padlock design leaves a lot of the lock's shackle exposed and vulnerable to any burglar with a bolt cutter. Consider replacing the ordinary padlock on a gate or shed with a Master Lock, $14, or a similar design, which shields a lot of the shackle.

Pet Doors Are Not Just for Pets

We have experience in our immediate family of burglars gaining entrance to a home through the pet door. To look at the dimensions of a typical swinging pet door, you wouldn't think a human could fit, but some burglars stoop to using child accomplices, the police told us. The kid scoots through the pet door and then unlocks the human door.

Two strategies for securing the pet door are to stick one of those inexpensive door/window alarms we mentioned on the pet door, or move a heavy piece of furniture against it. When you return from vacation, you can let your furry friend have use of the door again.

There you have it! Seven easy items with which you can assemble a reliable, affordable DIY home security kit.