Home Security and Electronics

Ken Thomson in San Francisco, CA sent me an email this morning with a handful of helpful hints – especially if I’m trying to build the geekiest Fort Knox on the planet:

Being a retired real estate broker, I can tell you how to accomplish what you want. You are right; brand new is best of all because it lets you have all the other things on your wish list with ease. In addition, if you can find a builder who will work with you (i.e., let you know when the plumbing, electrical, and duct work will be roughed in and who will get out of the way while all the extra goodies are placed inside the walls).

I have never bought a house in my life. Every house I’ve owned, I’ve built myself under the theory that if you want it done right, you’d best do it yourself. Here are some of the things inside my walls…

  1. 1,000 feet of high-quality TV cable originating from a central point at the front of a house closest to a telephone pole. In the bedrooms, the TV outlet should always be on the side of the bed furthest away from the door. Telephone wires should be on the side of the bed nearest the door.
  2. An intercom system with transmitter / speakers in the bedroom, in a hallway, and in the garage / workshop area. That way, you won’t have to get out of bed to answer the door and it makes getting rid of a pest a lot easier if you can talk to them through the front door speaker.
  3. A blinker circuit with a LED in a shady jam of all doors and garage doors that blinks every 3/4ths of a second. It warns potential burglars that there are other surprises in store for them and they will go elsewhere.
  4. A relay that makes a loud clack when the pressure mat under the front door mat is stepped on. And it also turns on the overhead light. this is even more convincing to a potential burglar.
  5. Access to a hidden switch that, when activated, opens the garage door. This will take care of the times when you lock your self out.
  6. Concealed wiring running between the living room wall where you plan on putting the stereo equipment and where you want the speakers to be in the living room and a second set of wires going to the master bedroom.
  7. A small relay running off 24 volt AC that when tripped by the mailman putting your mail into the slot will tell you that your mail has arrived.
  8. In a multi story building, wiring from near the front door, in the garage and upstairs that will cause the garage door opener to function. Saves you running up and down the stairs.
  9. An off switch for the door chime if you don’t want to be disturbed.
  10. A warning light circuit that will inform you if the garage door is not fully closed.

Some of those features would be wonderful to have, though I may go the wireless route if I can. Not only would wireless units be more easily upgradable, but I wouldn’t necessarily have cords and cables flying all over the place (inside the walls or otherwise). Wireless intercoms, wireless monitors, etc. I think as long as we have Cat5e strewn about the house, most of our wired needs will have been met. Ken continues:

Getting your own home built can often be cheaper than buying an existing home if you play it smart and get the land cheaper than anywhere else. One way to do this is to decide on one or two towns where you’d like to live, and then gong to the town hall tax assessor’s office and asking how you go about bidding on the auction of city properties foreclosed for non-payment of taxes.

For example, in NYC you write to: The Department of Real estate, 2 Layfayette St, New York, NY 10007 and ask for a copy of the nest ‘IN REM’ sales booklet and they will send it to you. In San Francisco, you bring a SASE with extra postage on it (to cover future postage increases) and they will send it to you. Once you get one, you will have to go back and give them another SASE. That’s how I got my lot at a cost that’s way less than the runaway prices in San Francisco.

Good hunting! Remember: building a house is not a big job. It is a thousand little jobs. It’s a lot like eating an elephant – you keep at it until there is nothing but bones left on your plate.