Although I’ve never personally suffered a break-in, I know others who have and I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to “hardening” my home against theft and doing everything I can to create a deterrent. I’ve done all the commonsense stuff: installed deadbolts, added more motion-sensitive exterior lighting to the back of my home, and made arrangements with a neighbor to have the mail and newspaper picked up daily when I go on vacation.
Most of us have a pretty big collection of expensive radio toys. We also have the FCC callsign database pointing every criminal to the exact street address where they can find our expensive toys. And then there’s the antenna farm in the backyard broadcasting RF to the world and and the message to passerbys that “there’s something interesting and valuable here!”
Two weeks ago I began doing research on timers and other devices that fool burglars into believing someone is home. I figure that the best way to protect my home is to discourage a burglary to begin with. To me, this is the best plan. By making the house appear “lived in,” I hope to counteract the other factors that may make my home especially interesting to thieves. I certainly want to avoid my home being pegged as an easy target.
I stumbled onto a cool little device called FakeTV. I contacted the manufacturer with a few questions and they kindly provided me a demo unit to evaluate. It arrived quickly and I was pretty interested to see if the device lived up to some of the comments and reviews that I had read online. The FakeTV device is about the size of a fist — smaller than I had imagined. It’s very solidly built and is unobtrusive. My wife thought that it made a nice nightlight as well and the kids were mesmerized by it.
Now, I’m a pretty skeptical guy and am not easily impressed. FakeTV is pretty cool. It works a lot better than I expected it would. Looking at a window at night, I cannot tell the difference between a television and this device. The way it randomly switches colors and brightness creates a very, very convincing effect.
The Fake TV has some limitations. First, I think it would be most effective in a second floor window. You really don’t want the would-be burglar to be able to peek into the window and see the device. It would kind of defeat the purpose. When I tested it, I put it on the first floor and it was very realistic with the blinds closed. However, at very close range with my face near the window I would probably have been able to hear the sound from the TV and it was conspicuously absent. Putting it in a room on the second floor (maybe a spare bedroom or den?) facing the road or driveway would probably be most effective.
I tested a few different configurations and it seemed to be most effective in a completely dark room. Other lights on in the room seem to diminish the quality of the FakeTV “effect.” I don’t think that you would want to use a light on a timer in the same room that you’re using the FakeTV device as I think the light would completely overpower it.
According to the manufacturer, it uses about 3W of power. The cost to operate the FakeTV is about $5 per year on average. Compared to about $150 per year for the same effect from leaving on a medium-sized LCD TV, you can see how FakeTV would pay for itself rather quickly.
The retail price of FakeTV is about $30. I haven’t seen them at Wal-Mart, Target, or any of the other big box stores but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them soon. Considering the investment I’ve made in radio equipment, I think $30 for this kind of deterrent is fair.