Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc. | Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc.
|New Cars Increasingly Crammed With Distracting Technology
The infotainment technology that automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, an AAA study says.
The study released Thursday is the latest by University of Utah professor David Strayer, who has been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety for AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety since 2013. Past studies also identified problems, but Strayer said the "explosion of technology" has made things worse.
Automakers now include more infotainment options to allow drivers to use social media, email and text. The technology is also becoming more complicated to use. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs. Some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that are multi-functional. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays on windshields and mirrors and 3-D computer-generated images.
"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips," Strayer said. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.
The auto industry says the new systems are better alternatives for drivers than mobile phones and navigation devices that were not designed to be used while driving.
The vehicle-integrated systems "are designed to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
But Jake Nelson, AAA's director for traffic safety advocacy and research, said drivers testing all 30 of the 2017 model year cars and light trucks took their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel while using infotainment systems. The test drivers used voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make calls, send texts, tune the radio or program navigation all while driving.
Clearly automakers haven't worked hard enough to make the systems quick and easy to use, Nelson said. Researchers rated 23 of the 30 vehicles "very high" or "high" in terms of the attention they demanded from drivers. Seven were rated "moderate." None required a low amount of attention to use.
Programming a destination into in-vehicle GPS navigation systems was the most distracting activity, taking drivers an average of 40 seconds to complete the task. At 25 mph (40 kph), a car can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to enter a destination. Previous research has shown that drivers who remove their eyes from the road for just two seconds double their risk for a crash.
Under pressure from industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 issued voluntary safety guidelines to automakers for dashboard technology instead of enforceable safety standards. The guidelines recommend that automakers lock out the ability to program navigation systems while a car is moving. However, the ability to program navigation while driving was available in 12 vehicles in the study.
POSTED NOVEMBER 07, 2017 7:30 PM
|Those damn Ice Dams
I know we have sent you this topic before - but those damn ice dams cause MAJOR issues for my customers every year.
A common claim occurring in the winter months is ice damming and with a little loss control - the potential of this happening to you is minimized.
This might be a good weekend to clean those gutters, if you haven't done so already.
Ice Damming: These 'dams' are just that, they are blockages of ice that can form just about anywhere on your roof and they prevent water from flowing off your roof. This water then begins to back up beneath your shingles.
Ice damming causes damage to drywall, wall paper, trim and even flooring. I have had a claim where the water traveled down some electrical conduit to a dining room light fixture. The water proceeded to drip onto a $10,000 dining room table. The homeowner was out of town for a few days and needless to say - the table was destroyed.
Sometimes the entry of water into your home comes in behind the drywall and is not apparent - at least not until there's a major mold issue!
Call with questions.
POSTED NOVEMBER 07, 2017 7:26 PM
|Thanksgiving Closing Schedule
All of us at Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc. wish you a blessed Thanksgiving!
Our offices will be closed on Thursday, November 23rd and Friday, November 24th.
Should there be an emergency, please call my cellphone at 708.436.2973
- Dan Zeiler
POSTED NOVEMBER 07, 2017 5:22 PM
|Congratulations Zoe for winning our 2017 Halloween Costume Contest Benefiting Advocate ...
Congratulations Zoe for winning our 5th Annual Halloween Costume Contest Benefiting Advocate Children's Hospital - Oak Lawn.
Zoe will receive a $500 donation in her name to Advocate Children’s Hospital - Oak Lawn. She will receive two tickets to Hearts for Hope Breakfast with Santa, have her name in the Breakfast with Santa’s program book as a proud contributor, and allow for one family from Advocate Children's Hospital or the Ronald McDonald House® to also attend.
Proceeds support Hearts for Hope programs which include bedside magicians, patient parties, family comfort kits, support of reunions for patients and families and much more. Hearts for Hope makes positive impacts on the lives of patients and their families through hands-on volunteering and involvement.
Learn about some of our previous winners and contestants:
We would like to thank all of our contestants and voters for their support and good sportsmanship!
- The Zeiler Insurance Team
POSTED NOVEMBER 06, 2017 5:44 PM
|How to get a Business Vehicle Deduction as a Small Business: Take Advantage Now
Find out how to take advantage of a business vehicle deduction now so you can save money when your taxes are due.
Oh, business taxes. They keep accountants happy, but they can keep entrepreneurs up at night. As the owner of a business, you look for every opportunity to save money, and a business vehicle deduction could save you plenty.
The good news is that you don't have to have a company car or fleet vehicles to take a business vehicle deduction. In fact, the assumption in the information here is that your business is a sole proprietorship or LLC and you use your personal vehicle in the course of business.
Still, business taxes and deductions are complicated, which is why you may hire an accountant. However, the more you know - and the better records you keep - the better position you'll be in to save money when you hand off your paperwork.
What counts as a business vehicle?
Any car or truck you drive for your business is eligible for a deduction. Within that, there are multiple ways to account for deductions such as standard mileage, actual expenses, and depreciation.
The Standard Mileage Rate
The standard mileage rate is a set amount you can deduct per business miles driven. That rate varies (it was 57.5 cents in 2015 and 54 cents in 2016), but overall it is a straightforward way to use the deduction.
To use the standard mileage rate, keep a close record of the miles you drive for business. For instance, if you run a restaurant and you take a 10-mile round trip to the bank, the restaurant supply store, the office supply store, and a merchant's association meeting, you can deduct $5.40. That may not seem like much, but it can add up in a year.
The tricky part is separating personal use and business use. Leaving work to go to a doctor's appointment doesn't count as a business mileage deduction. There are some other exceptions in the standard mileage deduction that the IRS specifically mentions:
"You must not have claimed a depreciation deduction for the car using any method other than straight-line."
"You must not have claimed the special depreciation allowance on the car."
"You must not have claimed a Section 179 deduction on the car."
(The Section 179 deduction lets a business deduct the full price of equipment in the same year it is purchased.)
As the name implies, this deduction reflects the actual cost of operating your vehicle for business use. According to the IRS, actual expenses "include gas, oil, repairs, tires, insurance, registration fees, licenses, and depreciation (or lease payments) attributable to the portion of the total miles driven that are business miles." For instance, if you drive 15,000 miles in a year, and 10,000 are business miles, you can only use 66% of your total expenses toward a business deduction.
If you choose the actual expenses method for your business vehicle deduction, make it a point to keep exacting records.
If you choose to base your business vehicle deduction on actual expenses, you can also deduct depreciation (the loss of value of your vehicle due to wear and tear). Depreciation is based on mileage, so the deduction could vary significantly from year to year. Like other deductions, depreciation is only valid for the business use of your vehicle.
Standard Rate vs. Actual Expenses
So which deduction is better? The standard rate is certainly easier to manage since you only need to record your total miles and your business miles. However, if you spend a lot on maintenance, repairs, gas, and other upkeep, you might be better off deducting your actual expenses.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when you decide, though.
- From the IRS: "For a car you lease, you must use the standard mileage rate method for the entire lease period (including renewals) if you choose the standard mileage rate."
- You cannot claim depreciation on a leased vehicle; you can, however, claim lease payments.
- For a car you own, if you want to use the standard mileage rate, you have to use it "the first year the car is available for use in your business." You can switch to the actual expenses method later if you wish, but you can't go the other way around.
Of course, tax laws change regularly, and your business vehicle deduction is just one of many factors in your business tax preparation.
POSTED OCTOBER 10, 2017 5:00 AM
|EMC Insurance: 8 Steps to Simplify Your Risk Management Program
Figuring out how to manage the many risks your organization faces can be a difficult process. Issues range from natural disasters, such as tornados and hurricanes, to man-made issues, such as fraud, theft and cybercrime. Add in accidents, workplace violence and reputational risks, and it can all seem overwhelming. How do you protect your company from every possible risk you might face?
Can you pick and choose your risks?
The answer: You can’t, says EMC Loss Prevention Information Manager Jerry Loghry. It’s not cost effective or even desirable to protect your company from all potential dangers. The trick is to determine which risk could most negatively impact your business, calculate the odds of a particular event and pinpoint those severe enough to take action. To do this, Jerry recommends following these 8 steps:
- Start by brainstorming possible threats (review Financial Education Curriculum from the Small Business Administration to jumpstart your thought process). Don’t worry if the list is daunting. You’ll eventually narrow it down.
- Consider the probability of a particular event occurring. If you’re located in a flood plain or you store volatile chemicals in your warehouse, these are hazards you need to deal with. Your organizations's history is an important key to future risks, and your company culture may also give clues. In which arenas has the organization suffered setbacks? What is your loss history? Sources such as the National Weather Service and National Fire Protection Association can help you research the probability of a risk occurring in their areas of expertise.
- For each threat you identify, determine the financial, reputational, moral, production or other impact an occurrence would have on your company. Would it be minor or could it cripple your organization?
- Track details and sort the risks by building a matrix (an assessment tool) listing probability in one column and potential impact in the other. Add in risks and use your research to rank them. Color code the possible events to provide a clear visual.
- Fine-tune the matrix by adjusting for threats important to management. These may not be in your top 10 most likely risks but if the possibility of an occurrence keeps company owners awake at night, they are worth elevating.
- For each risk that lands on the matrix, examine how to address it. You can:
- Avoid It―This works well if there is a specific hazardous activity you can quit performing entirely.
- Accept It―You may acknowledge the problem as the cost of doing business or as an event not unreasonably costly in dollars, time or reputation.
- Reduce It―Sometimes a minor switch moves a process out of the danger range. This might involve switching from a flammable paint to a water-based paint. Recognize that the switch might create a new risk—maybe the new paint isn’t as durable and your products won’t hold up as well.
- Transfer It―Insurance is a common way to let someone else bear the burden. You can also hire subcontractors to handle tasks you don’t want to worry about.
- Implement your strategy. Whether it’s buying insurance or modifying a piece of equipment, move forward with risk reduction recommendations and decisions. Use your high-probability/high-exposure items as a guide and if there are some areas of lower risk you can address easily and inexpensively, check those off the list. For example, if the company has a history of vehicle accidents, combine employee education, stricter distracted driving rules and crash avoidance technology in new vehicles. There is little effort and cost to implement this program.
- Evaluate your progress and update the matrix annually. Make necessary updates if mitigation efforts didn’t pay off or had unintended consequences, you discover new vulnerabilities to add to the matrix or the company’s risk appetite changed.
Remember These Words of Wisdom
- Risk assessment is not a one-time project. You need to keep at it month after month and year after year. Once you have the plan in place, it’s easy to adjust.
- You won’t ever be 100% accurate in your predictions and implementation efforts. That’s why you’ll evaluate and fix things as you go.
- Take comfort knowing that working through the process in a logical way is better than guessing on what the future holds or doing nothing to prepare.
- No tool fits every organization. You must work through the process on your own and not rely on another organization’s matrix (even though it’s a good idea to review examples for inspiration).
- The pressure is on for organizations to manage risk due to a growing concern of threats. Large and publicly-traded businesses face more pressure to cover potential losses, but small businesses have to keep up with industry trends.
Call us, we are here to help!
POSTED OCTOBER 10, 2017 5:00 AM
|The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Workers Compensation Insurers Are Asking
Over the next serval months, we will be diving into the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) Marijuana Conversation series aimed at exploring the issues surrounding marijuana’s impact on workers compensation stakeholders. "The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Workers Compensation Insurers Are Asking" is the first installment.
Legalized marijuana, whether medical or recreational, is finding its roots nationwide. In those states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana, stakeholders across the workers compensation spectrum are keeping a close watch on how these new laws will impact their organizations and constituencies.
Not the least among those affected are workers compensation insurers. Questions abound at both the state and federal levels as to how the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana will translate into the workers compensation system.
Below are three key questions workers compensation insurers are asking regarding the growing adoption of permissible marijuana laws across the states.
How does the federal Schedule I drug status of marijuana impact workers compensation?
To date, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, as well as Washington, DC. It’s also legal for recreational use in eight states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington—and Washington, DC. As many as 15 additional states are expected to consider marijuana proposals in the coming year.
State legalization notwithstanding, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and is classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. In recent years, federal practice has been not to enforce existing federal law in states that have legalized marijuana.
In 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced that marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug and, while the current Administration’s Justice Department has spoken of enforcing existing federal laws, no actions have been taken to date. It remains to be seen whether the new Administration will make any changes to these policies.
While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, insurers are increasingly receiving requests to reimburse medical marijuana for workers compensation treatment. Given the friction between state and federal law, states and state courts are increasingly faced with the challenge of whether to approve medical marijuana as a permissible workers compensation treatment. Furthermore, as marijuana-related business continues to expand, the demand for insurance coverage is likewise growing. Insurers, in turn, are left wondering what issues they may face as a result of providing insurance for marijuana businesses or being required to reimburse for drug treatment that is illegal under federal law.
For example, Hawaii Employers' Mutual Insurance Co. (HEMIC) recently decided to cancel workers compensation policies for medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii based on, according to news reports, legal opinions about potential exposure under federal law. Moreover, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires CMS healthcare providers to operate in compliance with federal law. So, what are the implications for workers compensation insurers when providing reimbursement for medical marijuana? In addition, marijuana cannot be assigned a National Drug Code due to its Schedule I status; therefore, there is no standardized reimbursement rate for the drug.
Do states require workers compensation insurers to reimburse/pay for medical marijuana?
To date, at least five states—Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico—have found that medical marijuana is a permissible workers compensation treatment that requires insurer reimbursement. New Mexico was the first in 2014. In Vialpando v. Ben’s Automotive Services and Redwood Fire & Casualty, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that insurers must reimburse “qualified” workers compensation claimants for the cost of medical marijuana to treat work injuries. The decision was appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which denied review.
More recently, in Petrini v. Marcus Dairy, Inc. and Gallagher Bassett Service, the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission found that use of medical marijuana was reimbursable and constitutes reasonable and necessary medical treatment. And, in Noll v. Lepage Bakeries, Inc., the Maine Workers Compensation Board ordered a self-insured employer to reimburse an injured worker for costs associated with the “reasonable and proper” medical use of marijuana.
Both Connecticut and Maine have cases pending on appeal regarding medical marijuana use in workers compensation. (The Petrini case is currently pending before the Connecticut Court of Appeals and Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co. is currently pending before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.)
On the legislative side, numerous state laws explicitly preclude health insurance providers from reimbursing for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana. But only a handful of states have laws explicitly stating that an employer or workers compensation insurer is not required to pay for medical marijuana. In 2017, both Florida and North Dakota passed laws stating that medical marijuana is not reimbursable for workers compensation. (Florida and North Dakota were two of the three states that legalized medical marijuana in 2016.)
Will required reimbursement for marijuana as a workers compensation treatment be an ongoing trend for state legislatures and courts? Workers compensation insurers will remain keenly interested as these developments unfold.
Is medical marijuana a viable alternative to opioids for pain management, better claim outcomes, and getting employees back to work sooner?
Opioid addiction and overdose have reached epidemic levels over the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both the sales of opioid prescriptions in the United States and the number of deaths from opioid prescription drugs have quadrupled since 1999. And in 2015, more than 15,000 people died from overdoses of prescription painkillers. WorkCompWire cites a 2014 report in which three in four "injured workers are prescribed opioid medications for pain management," leaving case managers to witness patients "vulnerable to opioid abuse and addiction."
Anecdotal evidence (as reported by The Atlantic in February 2017) suggests that medical marijuana (which is arguably different from recreational marijuana because it generally does not include tetrahydrocannabinol or THC—the chemical component that causes a "high") can be a viable alternative to opioids. For example, in the Bourgoin case in Maine noted above, the claimant had experienced severe chronic pain since 1993 and tried numerous medications, including narcotics, on which he became dependent. However, the claimant testified that since he began using medical marijuana in 2012, "his quality of life has improved, he experiences significantly less pain, he sleeps better, and no longer takes opioid pain medications or other narcotic drugs."
While some anecdotal evidence may be supportive of the medical marijuana treatment argument, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and research is only allowed under strict controls. In the coming years, university sponsored studies in states such as Colorado will lead to peer-reviewed scientific assessments that will help determine marijuana’s viability as a pain-relief alternative. But, for now, the questions remain. Is marijuana a safer alternative to opioids for pain management? Can marijuana treatment have a positive impact on medical costs, claim outcomes, and return to work in workers compensation? It remains to be seen.
The legal use of medical and recreational marijuana is gaining traction at the state level across the country. The impact on workers compensation, however, remains fluid, and many questions remain as to how workers compensation insurers will adapt to this evolving landscape.
Until the federal government reclassifies marijuana from its current Schedule I status or the new Administration intervenes and begins enforcing existing federal laws, it appears that states and state courts will continue to provide a state-by-state patchwork of laws that workers compensation insurers will have to navigate.
Stay tuned for our next edition of The Marijuana Conversation, which will focus on questions employers are asking.
POSTED OCTOBER 10, 2017 5:00 AM
|How to Choose the Best Surveillance System for Your Business
On first glance, choosing a surveillance system is easy. Pick something in your price range, set up your cameras, and you're done. The problem is that the best surveillance system for one business may not be what's best for another.
Why are surveillance systems so different? Some systems are wireless and cloud-based, while others are hardwired into a monitor or recording unit. The number of cameras you need will vary depending on the size and layout of your business. And you'll need to consider whether you need infrared cameras, weather-proof casings, or even motion-sensitive recording.
So with all this to consider, how do you choose the best surveillance system for your business needs? Here are some tips to help you narrow down the choices.
1. Determine your need
There's a lot to consider in this simple statement. At the most basic level, however, your decision comes down to a few questions. Do you have multiple buildings? If so, you'll probably want a network video recorder. According to HS Tech Group, if you need a large array of cameras or significant video storage, a network video recorder is a better choice.
If you're looking for basic observation, theft deterrents, and security enhancements, digital video recorders fit the bill. For most small businesses, the DVR option is sufficient as they are less expensive, usually offer remote access, and can accommodate up to 16 cameras.
2. Determine coverage and placement
Security cameras have different capabilities, and your camera placement will help determine which camera is best for you. For instance, a camera with a wide dynamic range is ideal for viewing entrances as it can handle the change in light as the door opens and closes.
If you need coverage in a dimly lit area, look at cameras with infrared capabilities. As an example, the CleverLoop indoor camera system gives you a 115-degree angle and free cloud storage.
3. Decide which system you prefer
The Analog versus IP argument is kind of like asking if a flip phone is better than a smartphone. While it may be for some people, most of us would probably opt for the smartphone. Similarly, an IP system is often more user-friendly, gives you the ability to upgrade easily, may be entirely (or mostly) wireless, and can be installed easily.
If that's not enough, you can access an IP system remotely, they can have much better resolution, you have the option of cloud storage, and some even come with video analytics. An IP system will cost a little more, but if you're buying a brand new system, you may find that it's a worthy investment.
4. Which camera is best
There are a variety of surveillance cameras to choose from. Like the coverage decision, the camera you choose begins with your needs.
If you'll have cameras outdoors, be sure to get a weatherproof camera. The Uniden GC45S Wireless Outdoor camera has a 40-foot range for night vision and a built in microphone.
For indoor use, you have a few options. A bullet camera is a good option if you want to cover a specific area, like in front of a cash register. For a wider field of vision, a dome camera is your best bet.
If you want to go for a truly high-end experience, a dome camera with pan/tilt/zoom capability and motion tracking is an option. For most small business, however, the best surveillance system isn't going to have bells and whistles like that since that's an extra expense you may not need.
Somewhere in the middle lies a system like the SecurityMan iSecurity system that comes with its own monitor (which doubles as a digital video recorder if you add an SD card).
5. Recording device
Most surveillance systems will need either a recording device or a monthly subscription with a service provider if you choose to record directly to the cloud. More cameras and higher resolution require a network video recorder (NVR) with higher storage capacity.
If you purchase an all-inclusive system, the NVR is part of that, along with the Ethernet cables you need to connect the cameras to the device. Some, like the Lorex 1080p High Definition IP security camera system, are easy enough to install yourself and only cost a few hundred dollars.
Unfortunately, choosing the best surveillance system for your business isn't a simple matter of running to a department store and plopping down the least amount of money you can for a system. You truly do get what you pay for. And sometimes, that cheap system is just that - cheap.
The good news? High-end home surveillance systems can work well for most small businesses, and thanks to technology, it's not too difficult to set up a system yourself. It's really up to you to decide how much risk your business faces and what steps you want to take to help minimize that risk.
Let us know if you need help.
POSTED OCTOBER 10, 2017 5:00 AM
|Will your insurance policy on your primary home help protect your second home?
Does a Homeowners Insurance Policy Cover a Second Home?
As Irma approached, we all talked with friends and/or family who were affected by the storm. I was surprised to learn of 3 close friends that didn’t have coverage on their FL property. Whether it's to live out each winter as a snowbird or spend summer weekends at a lakeside retreat, a second home can have tremendous appeal. But, as with your main residence, it's something that you'll probably want to protect with insurance.
Will your insurance policy on your primary home help protect your second home?
You can extend the liability porton of your existing homeowners policy to your second home. But you'll still need to line up a separate policy if you want to protect the structure and contents of your second home. If you have a mortgage on your second home, insurance would be a condition of your loan.
Second Homes Deemed Riskier
You may find, though, that vacation home insurance looks a little different than what you have on your primary residence. That's because sometimes what makes a vacation home so appealing may be considered risky. A waterfront location or home that is in a remote area would have unique insurance implications, which can make the property more costly or difficult to insure.
Coverage is more limited
For that reason, second homes are typically covered by a more limited type of policy called "named perils,". With this insurance, your place would only be covered against events that are specifically called out in the policy, whether it's lightning damage, an explosion, theft or smoke damage. If your vacation home is damaged by something not listed in your policy, it likely won't be covered.
Named perils policies may also be more restrictive with other protections. For instance, other structures on your vacation home property, like detached garages, sheds or boathouses, may have more limited coverage than would be provided by a conventional homeowners policy.
Boosting your protection
There are things you can do, though, to help better protect your vacation home. You may be able to add personal property coverage as an endorsement on the insurance policy, to help protect the contents of your vacation home. You might also consider a personal umbrella policy, which provides greater liability protection. This protection generally extends to your second home and any other property you purchase or rent. You may also want to talk with us to find out if there are any insurance protections for your second home that you may have overlooked. For instance, you might want to purchase flood insurance, because flood damage isn't covered by typical homeowners policies.
By taking some precautions and having insurance in place to help protect your second home, you'll be well on your way to enjoying your time at your home away from home.
POSTED OCTOBER 05, 2017 10:06 AM
|Pekin Insurance: The 5 Best Home Security Apps for iOS and Android
We discussed last month the potential that exists for a variety of new home security vulnerabilities and concerns with the increase in Smart Home Automation. Thankfully, Pekin Insurance has found the 5 Best Home Security Apps for iOS and Android to put your mind at ease.
As we know, home security is a serious matter. You want your family to feel safe when they're sleeping at night. You want to know your home is secure when you're away on vacation. You want your teenager to feel comfortable when she's home alone after school.
What to Look for in Home Security Apps
While there are plenty of excellent home security systems on the market, synchronizing your system to an app takes your system into new territory. With compatibility between home security apps and systems, you can lock or unlock your doors, adjust your thermostat, get alerts in case of an alarm trigger, check on the kids or the pets, and even talk to people.
Sifting through home security apps gets overwhelming quickly. There are, however, a few ways to narrow down your choices.
Make sure the app is compatible with your security system and your smartphone. Some proprietary apps only work with specific systems, while others are only available for iOS or Android, but not both.
Some apps allow multiple users. Some don't. It's for you to decide if this is something you need or not. It's also worth considering if web access is available, in case you don't have your smartphone with you but need to connect with your security system.
Home security apps run the gamut. Some are completely free, while others are free with the purchase of a security system. Still others require a subscription. None of these categories makes one system better than another. Ultimately, it comes down to your needs and your budget.
Even the best home security system is useless if you don't use it. The same applies to the app. If it's too frustrating to figure out or has too many glitches, it won't be worth anything to you. Read the reviews on any app you get. See what other people have to say, and just as importantly, find out how the company responds.
5 Home Security Apps That Get Rave Reviews
Free to $19.99/month
Available for iOS and Android
Manything lets you turn your old smartphone or tablet into a live streaming camera so you don't need to buy an entire security system. You can set it up for continuous or motion-triggered recording, and you can also record a message to play if motion is detected.
If you only have one camera and live streaming, the Manything plan is free. Upgrades are as little as $2.99 for one camera and two-day cloud recording storage and goes up to $19.99 per month for five cameras with 30 days of cloud recording.
The app has four stars with 536 reviews on Google Play.
2. Vivint Smart Home Sky App
The app is free. Home security packages start at $39.99/month
Available for iOS and Android
On the full-service end of the spectrum, Vivint is a monitored home security system that includes motion detection, door and window sensors, flood and freeze sensors, and optional outdoor cameras.
Vivint integrates into a smart home, as well, with smart door locks, a doorbell camera, climate control, and custom notifications. The app itself offers multiple user accounts, too.
The Vivint app has 4.5 stars with more than 5,700 reviews on the iTunes store.
3. ADT Pulse
App is free, but requires ADT service: Free quote available through ADT
Available for iOS and Android
ADT may be one of the biggest names in home security systems. Pulse is their proprietary smartphone and tablet app which is designed to allow remote control of your security system.
Pulse connects with the Nest thermostat and the Ring doorbell camera. Pulse did have great reviews, too, but as of this writing, the latest version isn't making users happy. It appears that ADT is aware of the problems, and it's probably safe to assume they are working on a solution.
Pulse has 2.9 stars with more than 7,800 reviews on Google Play.
4. Protect America
The app is free. Home security plans start at $19.99/month
Available for iOS and Android
Protect America is another big name in home security apps and systems, and they seem to have some good things going for them. The professionally monitored package is available with a touchscreen panel, door and window sensors, a wireless motion detector, and an HD video camera with two-way audio.
Where they really shine, though, is the easy do-it-yourself installation. And because the installation doesn't require hard-wiring, you can take the system with you if you move. That's a huge bonus for renters, as many monitored systems require home ownership.
Be aware that user reviews are mixed. Protect America has 3.1 stars with 789 reviews on Google Play.
The app is free. Smart device is a one-time purchase for $219
Available for iOS and Android
Cocoon lies somewhere between the free apps and the monitored security systems. At $219, it isn't the least expensive home security app and system to set up, but that one-time cost comes with some unique features.
The Cocoon monitor is about the size of a tennis ball and protects your home through "subsound technology." Cocoon learns your patterns and alerts you via a Wi-Fi connection if anything unusual happens while you aren't home. You can then view the camera from your smart device and trigger a 90-decibel alarm.
Cocoon is easy to set up and allows for multiple users. They also appear responsive to user issues in their reviews. Cocoon has 4.1 stars with 42 reviews on Google Play.
Ultimately, your choice in home security apps and systems is about your comfort.
POSTED SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 4:53 PM