Wednesday, May 29, 2019

BEHIND BARS: Window Security Grilles Needn't Be An Eyesore

Interesting, naturalistic window grille that does the job
just as well, but with a less threatening look.
Some years ago I visited a friend of mine, a Berkeley transplant, in the tiny town of Erie, Indiana. Erie—whose population as of the 2010 census was 554—consists of a crossroads with a scattering of houses and a church, all surrounded by cornfields as far as the eye can see. When I pulled into my friend’s driveway, I got out and reflexively locked my car doors, as I would at home in the Bay Area. She saw me and started laughing.

“You don’t have to do that here,” she said.

Alas, few places in the U.S. are as safe as Erie, Indiana. Most of us do have to worry about unwelcome guests, not just in our cars, but in our homes as well. As if that wasn’t bad enough, however, some of the things we do to make ourselves more secure have their own bad side effects.

Window grilles installed on the inside
face of windows. Remember that
grilles on bedroom windows,
whether inside or outisde, MUST be
openable to allow escape in case of fire.
In urban areas, it’s increasingly common to see neighborhoods in which every house has security grilles on the windows and doors. Ironically, to homeowners, visitors, and potential buyers alike, the perception of rampant crime suggested by obvious grilles can make a neighborhood of good people seem more dangerous than it really is. That in turn hurts property values and creates a downward spiral in neighborhood morale.

Contemporary window grille fabricated
to look like a traditional wrought iron detail.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to maintain security without making your house look like a prison, and without feeling like a prisoner yourself:

•  If you need security grilles on your windows, consider installing them on the interior rather than the exterior. They’ll be less visible from the street, and they can be partly screened by drapes or sheers on the inside. It’s also harder for a burglar to unscrew the grille mounting bolts when they’re inside the house.

An important caveat:  Remember that grilles on bedroom windows have to be openable so that occupants can escape in case of fire.

•  It's usually best to avoid grilles with a lot of decorative curlicues, since they just draw undue attention. For the same reason, consider painting grilles white or the same color as your window trim instead of the usual wrought-iron black. The grille fabricator can spray them with a rust-resistant primer, leaving you to put on the final color. If you already have grilles installed, consider repainting them the next time you paint your house. 

Your standard-issue motion-sensing
security lamp. . .
If you have the budget and inclination, a completely different approach is to make the grilles full-on artistic statements, as in the naturalistic window grille illustrated above.

•  If you want a little extra protection but hate the whole idea of using security grilles, one of simplest, cheapest, and least obtrusive ways to deter prowlers is to install exterior lighting activated by motion detectors. Since the lights only come on when there’s movement outside, they save electricity, and they won’t keep the neighbors awake by burning all night. They also turn off automatically during daylight hours. They’re available at very reasonable cost in any hardware store.  

More importantly, lights activated by motion detectors will usually surprise prowlers, most of whom won’t stick around to see why the lights have suddenly come on. Occasionally, cats, dogs, or cars may set off the lights too, but it’s a small price to pay for the extra peace of mind.

. . . and a much more appealing version
that cleverly integrates
the motion detector in the hood.
(Image courtesy Lamps Plus)
•  Finally, remember the best security measure of all: a neighborhood unified against crime. Know your neighbors and get involved. Contact your local police department for information on programs such as Home Alert, tips on home security, and other ways to take back your neighborhood from crime.

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