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Deadbolts lock in savings on your home insurance

Many of the steps you can take to save on your homeowners insurance premiums are fairly simple, such as installing smoke detectors. Having the right locks on your doors. All locks are not created equal.

If you're putting in a deadbolt, you might as well put in a good lock, but what makes one lock better than another?

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David Cavedon, a police officer in West Hartford, Conn., who advises residents on home security, recommends a "single-cylinder deadbolt with a throw of at least one inch." Huh?

Single-cylinder means that you need a key to open the lock from the outside and on the inside you can open it with a thumb latch. "This allows you to open the lock quickly in case of an emergency," says Cavedon. "It is nearly impossible to find the key, put it in the lock, and open it when you're trying to get out of the house as quickly as possible because of a fire."

The bar that extends from the lock into your doorframe is called a throw. Everyone has seen a thief jimmy a door open with a credit card on TV. Having a one-inch throw makes that almost impossible.

Cavedon is not alone in making this recommendation. Dan Kennard, a senior project manager with Yale Residential Security Products in Atlanta, also advises homeowners to install a single-cylinder deadbolt with a one-inch throw.

When selecting your locks, Kennard suggests that you buy one that is designated as a Grade 2 deadbolt lock by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). (Grade 1 is generally used for commercial buildings.) A Grade 2 lock will offer greater strength, longevity, and pick-resistance than a Grade 3 lock. "A Grade 2 lock may cost a little more, but it will give you a greater measure of security," says Kennard.

Below Grade 3? Forget it. "ANSI doesn't go below Grade 3," says Kennard. "ANSI established Grade 3 as the bottom hurdle for quality as far as deadbolt locks are concerned."

Some of the leading brand-names in deadbolt locks include Kwikset, Schlage, Weiser, and Yale.

For the lock to do its job, you must install it correctly. "When installing the deadbolt's strike plate on the door frame, make sure you use three-inch screws," says Cavedon. "With a three-inch screw, you will go through the door's molding, the door jam, through an empty space, and into the frame of the house. You know it will be secure and stay in place once it is screwed into the house's frame."

"You can put an additional brass strengthening plate on the door when putting in a deadbolt," says Kennard. "This makes prying open the door even more difficult than it already is."

Doorway to home security

Both Cavedon and Kennard provide other suggestions for securing your doors. You shouldn't replace the lock on the front door and leave your back door protected by a push-button lock. "You need to put deadbolts on each entrance to the exterior," says Cavedon.

Kennard mentioned other home-safety measures, such as a peephole. "[It] is a great benefit when you go to see who is at the door," he says. "And it isn't difficult to install."

While other styles of locks, such as a chain or a latch, might keep burglars out, they aren't going to take a bite out of your insurance premiums. According to Kitty Miller, a spokesperson for Farmers Insurance, you can earn a 5 percent discount off of your insurance bill from her company by putting in deadbolt locks. Joe Johnson, a State Farm spokesperson, says that deadbolt locks are a key ingredient to earning a discount under his company's HO-W homeowners policy. Other insurance companies offer similar lock discounts.

After installing the lock, make sure you contact your agent to start getting that discount.

Other steps to securing your home

Malcolm X was a thief before becoming a civil rights leader, breaking into homes in Boston. In his autobiography, he says that he would move on to the next house if he saw the bathroom light on, because he didn't want to go into a house where people were up.

This still holds true today. Cavedon points to the Department of Justice statistic that says the No. 1 deterrent to break-ins is lighting — both interior and exterior. "For exterior lighting, it is best to get lights set to a motion sensor, rather than leaving the light on all night," he says.

Cavedon also suggests:

 

  • Not leaving any first-floor windows open.
  • Not leaving any ladders outside, on which a burglar could climb to a second-floor window.
  • Putting your lights and a TV or radio on a timer if you're going on vacation. "With a television or radio on a timer, it can simulate the sounds of someone at home,"says Cavedon.

 

For more information on how to make your home more secure, consult your local police department. Many municipal police departments offer free home-security inspections.

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