As some of you may already know, we plan on traveling for 2 months each summer for the next few years, as our way of satisfying our travel bug while still keeping a home base in Texas.
There are many logistical considerations when you decide to travel for an extended period. Since most people will only travel for 1-2 weeks at a time during vacation, the majority of those considerations would not apply.
There is however one common consideration for every traveler, wether your trip is short term or long term, and that’s keeping your home secure while away. Thankfully we live in a wonderful age of readily available technology that can help us cope with our first world challenges.
In this post I’m going to share what concerns I was trying to address, and what solution I ended up purchasing to solve my problem, including a review of the Canary All-in-One Security System.
Seeking Peace of Mind
In general, I don’t like monthly subscriptions, and tend to avoid them whenever practical. That has kept me away from the standard monitored home alarm and security services provided by major home protection companies. At an average cost of $40 per month, plus any initial equipment purchases, most people shell out about $500 each year to “protect” their home. In reality, a monitored home alarm system does little good, since most thieves can be in and out of your home in less time than it takes the company to contact your local police department. What you’re really getting with these monitored systems is the peace of mind of knowing someone is “watching” the house in case of a break-in, and the service of being notified in case there’s an issue.
I was looking for the same peace of mind provided by a monitored system, at a lower cost, with no mandatory monthly subscriptions.
Here’s a list of some of the features and/or concerns I was trying to address:
One-time purchase: I was looking for a system that I could purchase one time, own completely, and not have to pay any kind of monthly subscription to maintain.
Portability: I wanted a system that could easily be moved from one room to another, or from one house to another if we decided to move.
Wi-fi: It needed to be Wi-fi enabled, so I wasn’t tethered to a particular room in the house where ethernet was the only option.
Camera: I wanted a great quality camera, with a decent wide-angle view, so I could have good room coverage. I also wanted it to work just as well during the night.
Alarm: Although this wasn’t high on my list, I did want the ability to activate a loud alarm/siren manually should the need arise to scare off intruders.
Home Health: I specifically wanted to track the temperature in the house. This is due to the Texas heat in the summers, where my concern was a potential breakdown of the A/C system while we were away.
Mobile: I wanted near real-time notifications of any activity in the house sent directly to my phone, since I would be in a different time zone, and fairly mobile during my time away.
Live Viewing: This was perhaps the most important peace of mind consideration. I wanted to be able to “check-in” on the house while away, at any time I wanted, live via my phone.
Is Canary the Solution
Lucky for me, I started researching how to address the concerns above around the time when a few companies began disrupting the traditional home security monitoring space using advanced technology.
Canary was one of those companies, and got its start through crowdfunding about 3 years ago, launching the Canary All-in-One System shortly thereafter.
This is the system I purchased to solve my problem, and I’ve been testing it for approximately one year now in preparation for our first long summer trip to Barcelona, Spain this year.
Canary has since created some additional cameras to complement the system, but I have found the main system to be sufficient for my needs. Let’s go over my list of features/concerns briefly and how this system is able to address them. I highlighted the areas in green where Canary perfectly addressed my needs, and the areas in orange where it could have been better:
One-time purchase: I bought the one system, and haven’t spent a single penny more since. I only needed one camera, but you can purchase as many as 4 per location to address your specific needs. I placed my canary in a room that had the most coverage of my home, and didn’t feel the need to add any more units.
Portability: The canary can be moved around to any room that has a power connection and is very portable. It could use a completely wireless set-up, but I was concerned about any battery replacement issues while away, so I actually preferred the wired set-up. Having the option though would have been nice.
Wi-fi: The canary is both wi-fi enabled and allows for an ethernet connection. You need a minimum 1 mbps connection for it to work, which almost everyone has available these days. I have had no issues with connectivity to my home wi-fi system.
Camera: The camera on the canary is an awesome HD camera that works just as well at night as it does in day time.
Alarm: The canary comes with a 90 dB siren that can be activated manually via the phone at any time. I would have liked the option to set the siren to an automated setting, so it activates automatically if there is a notification, but can live without that feature. I stayed away from another system which offered the automatic siren, but had no way to remotely turn it off. That was an issue for me since I didn’t want a false alarm annoying the neighbors with no ability to shut down remotely. Canary allows me full control.
Home Health: Canary can measure the temperature in the house, and was very accurate during my testing. What I love about this feature is that you can set min and max levels that automatically notify you if the temperature goes out of bounds. As a bonus, it even measures humidity and air quality. I found myself checking the app occasionally to see how certain habits affected the health of the house. If my A/C breaks down during my trip I will immediately find out, and can send someone to check on it.
Mobile: This is of course the most convenient aspect of the system. Canary has its own app that can be downloaded for free, and is actually used to set-up the whole system seamlessly. It also provides all the necessary notifications, and allows the user to customize settings as needed. It even uses your phone to track where you are, and automatically activates the system when you’re away from the house, which was a great bonus feature I had not accounted for.
Live Viewing: Since this was the most important peace of mind consideration, I was eager to test it out under a number of scenarios. The Canary app on my phone allows me to watch my house live through the HD camera, which has a great 147 degree wide angle lens. I can also zoom in up to 3x on the phone in case I want to look at something closer. It also has a built-in microphone so you can hear any activity as well.
For less than half of a one-year subscription to a traditional home monitoring system, I can have a simpler home monitoring solution to help me keep an eye out on my home while away.
The Canary will also store any footage of activity on your phone app for up to 24 hours for free, for later viewing in case you miss a notification or want to review any activity. You can store for longer by upgrading to their membership service, however I have found the free service perfectly adequate for my needs.
Like with any new technology, there were a few minor annoyances at the beginning, but once I learned the system and dialed in the settings to my satisfaction, it worked flawlessly.
I’ve had a couple of vacations since, and it’s great to be able to access the app from my phone poolside and peek in on the house occasionally. This solution will not prevent a break-in, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. I keep all my valuables in a safe deposit box at the bank, which I recommend everyone do while away for long. The Canary gives me the peace of mind I was looking for during my extended travels, and even while I’m away from the house during work hours.
Canary has come out with other products to help with more demanding set-ups, but you can get the original Canary system for even cheaper than what I paid at Amazon. See the link below.
Do any of you worry about home security while traveling? What was your solution?