The first day of the fall semester is coming. And for all the non-commuters out there, it’s time to start outfitting the dorm for a year of studying, sleeping and more studying (that’s all college students do, right?).
Beyond the futons, linens and wall art, one of the essential parts of a happy and comfortable dorm space is peace-of-mind security for you and your roommates. This includes handy products like door and window sensors, smart bulbs and cameras, and plenty of brands and models to choose from.
And to make your shopping easier, SPY compiled a roundup of the best dorm room security gadgets that will add layers of protection to your academic experience.
Keep in mind that if you share your doorm with a roommate, you’ll want to have a discussion before employing any of these extra security measures. If your roommate comes back from class to find a new smart display, security camera or extra door lock in place, they’re not going to be happy, and undestandably so. When in doubt, over-communicate with your roommate about these types of decisions.
Choosing Dorm Room Security Gadgets
It’s a unique challenge to build an exhaustive guide to safe and efficient dorm room living, which is why we came up with these three key criteria to help us vet, test and recommend all of the products on our list.
Fast, reliable safeguarding: From instantaneous notifications to crystal-clear live feeds, DIY security needs to act fast and look sharp. We made sure that all our roundup entries were products designed with security and protection as a top priority. And if a sensor is triggered or a sound is detected, we want you to be alerted in as many ways as possible.
Savvy buys for limited budgets: We know the shoestring lifestyle of the typical four-year student. When part-time jobs and unpaid internships leave barely enough cash for a slice of pizza, coughing up the big bones for an all-hands-on-deck security platform isn’t cost-effective. This is why we recommended relatively affordable gadgets, and even if they’re a bit on the expensive side, we did our best to make sure “expensive” was capped at around $350.
Simple yet expansive usage: Ease of use goes a long way with any web-connected hardware, especially when you consider the heavy workload of the average college student who probably doesn’t have time to fiddle with the ins and outs of a feature-laden device. This is why we did our very best to find high-quality products that can be installed and activated in less than half an hour (in most cases), are simple to control and customize, and can be toggled on/off and relocated quickly.
Remember that certain security devices may not be allowed by the college you’re attending. If you’re unsure of what privacy practices and/or equipment allowances the university has in place, you can probably find some info online or by calling the school directly. You can also check in with your resident advisor. Finally, while we created this security guide with dorm rooms in mind, many of these tips can also be useful in shared apartments.
We’ve written about Addalock on SPY before, and this popular security lock can instantly enhance the security of any space. This simple lock weighs just 4.2 ounces, but it uses simple physics to fortify your door from unwated intruders. Addalock was originally designed to be used when traveling, such as when staying at a hotel or Airbnb. However, it can also be used on any type of door to help you maintain privacy.
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One of the best ways to keep your data and privacy safe is by starting at the source. Sure, it’s one thing to buy a bunch of smart security products for live monitoring and motion-triggered notifications, but at the root of every Internet-of-Things device, there’s a hard-working router feeding it Wi-Fi.
If you’re using a lousy router that does nothing but gets your network live, you’re leaving yourself open to easy hacks. But you also don’t have to spend over $500 for a Fort Knox unit — opt for the middle ground!
We’re big fans of the TP-Link AX3000, a smart router with plenty of security features for only $100. Housed under the TP-Link HomeShield umbrella, free benefits include network scans, parental restrictions, quality of service reports, and more. And with dual-band broadcasting and WiFi 6 future proofing, the TP-Link is great for everything from basic web browsing to late-night Xbox Live multiplayer gaming.
While the TP-Link is an excellent choice, sometimes there’s not enough room in the college budget. We get it, which is why we’ve provided an alternative — the Amazon Eero Mesh Wi-Fi system. For only $170, this kit broadcasts both 2.4 and 5GHz bands, can be controlled with Alexa, comes with three nodes for effectively spreading the signal, and can be customized using the Eero app.
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We would gladly place all of our trust in the YoLink Smart Home Starter Kit when it comes to keeping your dorm protected.
You’re getting four window and door sensors and a web-connected YoLink hub out of the box. Setup is as simple as downloading the YoLink app, powering and connecting the hub to your Wi-Fi, and then scanning the four sensors. Once in place, the YoLink system will monitor for any door or window activity, pinging you with a notification whenever something is amiss. We also like that the sensors only require AAA batteries, and the whole suite can be integrated with both Alexa and IFTTT for expanded controls.
And at the end of the day, if all you care about is keeping intruders away while you’re catching a nap before your next class, this Defender Security reinforcement lock will ensure that no one can barge in while you’re in dreamland.
For those who can’t afford the all-out splurge of a complete motion tracking kit, this Noopel sensor two-pack is highly affordable, installs in minutes, and signals one hell of a siren if anyone tries to mess with your dorm room’s windows. We also like the Noopel sensors for their simplistic setup and controls. You’ll have them installed in no time, and the only controls you’ll have to worry about are on/off. Just be sure to check the battery every once in a while.
For a little less, the Instapark four-pack of door and window sensors comes with two additional sensors, is powered by AAA batteries, and is just as quick and easy to install and manage.
Far more than just a way to showcase your illuminated sense of panache, smart lights are an excellent way to add security to any dorm, whether you’re actively living in one or visiting home for the weekend.
One of our favorite smart lighting suites is made by Philips Hue. With this starter pack of three A19 bulbs, you’ll be able to change colors, adjust brightness, and toggle lighting on/off for up to 10 bulbs with the free Hue Bluetooth app. But if you want to unlock the full potential of a Hue system, we highly recommend investing in a Philips Hue Bridge.
Once connected to your router, the Hue Bridge adds controls for up to 50 bulbs and allows you to create lighting schedules and routines (perfect for when you need to head home for a holiday break), set timers, and link up devices like Philips’ line of motion sensors.
If the Hue system is stretching your budget too far, you could always invest in cheaper smart lighting, too. Bulbs from Sengled and Wyze are just as easy to install, require no hub (in most cases), and cost far less than a complete Hue system.
Security Cameras With a Privacy Shutter
When we think of smart security, one of the first items that probably comes to mind is a smart camera. Produced by hundreds of companies, these DIY devices can usually be set up and activated in less than 10 minutes and offer a range of customizations to best fit your living space.
Unfortunately, web-connected cameras are prone to hacking, and if someone on campus has access to your Wi-Fi information, there’s a chance they’ll be able to tap into your live camera feed and cloud storage. Fortunately, cameras like the cost-effective GE Cync solve the ongoing problem of potential hacks in two simple ways: incorporating a privacy shutter and allowing you to store recordings locally with a microSD card.
About as simple as it gets when you don’t want the GE Cync to monitor your living space, toggle on the privacy shutter, and both the lens and microphone will be disabled.
And if you need a smart display and don’t mind spending a little extra, Amazon’s Echo Show 10 has a rotating base and camera, which allows you to view a live camera feed and pan the display left and right using the Alexa app. Best of all? The Echo Show 10 also features a manually-sliding privacy shutter and a microphone on/off button.
Smart Home Hubs
Alexa and Google Assistant are great digital companions that keep our worlds spinning in numerous ways, from helping us manage our daily schedules to control all the smart home devices in our dorms. And when it comes to basic DIY smart security, both Amazon and Google have you covered there, too.
Alexa Guard (for Amazon Echo products) and Nest Aware (for Google Nest products) are active-listening security features that turn your smart speakers and displays into intrusion monitors. Programmed to listen for the sounds of glass breaking and sirens, along with a host of other dings, footfalls, and smashes, both Alexa Guard and Nest Aware will alert you with instant notifications when something shady starts happening in your dorm.