Choosing Your Home Safe – A Buyer’s Primer
Now that you’ve determined that you need a safe to protect your family’s most important papers and possessions, you need to choose the right safe for your needs. There are many types of home safes out there, and the best one for you will depend on what you plan to do with it. The team at Ernest Homes is ready to bring you up to speed – so jump on board!
Types of Safes
Safes come in five different types; burglary, fire-resistant, data and media, gun and jewelry. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Burglary – These safes are the ones most people think of when they hear the term “home safe”. Commonly made of steel, these safes are designed to provide maximum protection from thieves. They’re strong, tough and can be hidden to discourage criminals from taking the safe with them. You can amp up the security of this type of safe by using bolt kits that secure the safe to a wall stud or the floor. Most of these safes also feature some level of heat resistance, so they’re often bought when families want to protect a variety of different items. If this is your aim, look for a well-built composite or a safe with a rating of BF or greater.
Fire-Resistant – These safes are designed to protect paper documents from destruction by fire, and aren’t as physically secure as other types of safes. Although you may have heard the term “fireproof safe”, keep in mind that no safe is truly fireproof. Both UL and Intertek rate safes on how well they protect paper from fire. For home safes, a rating of 30 is most common, meaning that the safe will protect your paper from fire for about a half-hour. However, we recommend a minimum rating of one hour, as most home and office fires that are not extinguished within the first few minutes will last for more than a half hour. Fire-resistant safes should also have a secure door seal the maximize effectiveness.
Data and Media - If you need to protect data, DVD’s, film and other media, a fire-resistant safe designed to protect paper won’t be your answer. A fire-resistant safe can reach an internal temperature of 350 degrees before paper will be destroyed, but delicate high-technology records won’t tolerate this type of heat. Data and media safes will hold the temperature to 125 degrees or less. If you plan to store data and media in a home safe along with other items, you can buy a separate U.L. rated fire lock box that you can store inside a larger general use safe that will protect your fragile items. It’s also a great idea to purchase a dehumidifier for your safe, to keep excess moisture from ruining the contents.
Gun – It’s important to consider construction, the thickness of metal used for the safe, the type of locking mechanism, and the fire rating. For maximum safety, look for a minimum of an 11-gauge steel in the body of the safe, with 10 to 7-gauge steel being ideal. Avoid the showy wooden gun cabinet with glass doors; in many cases these housings will not protect your family from harm. Be sure to ask your salesperson about the rating of your gun safe. These ratings are critical, because they tell you how many minutes it will take a determined thief with basic tools to break into your gun safe. The higher the rating, the better the safe will be.
Jewelry – This specialized safe is often a small, heavy steel safe with an advanced locking system and a compartmented interior designed to hold several different items safely. The inside is often padded or lined with a soft material to prevent damage to the jewelry inside.
Another consideration when you’re purchasing a safe is the size. How large should your safe be? The easiest way to make this determination is to take everything you want to put in the safe, and arrange it in a tidy, mostly square pile on the floor. Then measure the dimensions of the pile, adding a bit of space on all sides for leeway. Another alternative is to use a mathematical formula that you can solve using the calculator on your cell phone. Multiply the height, width and depth of the interior of the safe and divide that total by 1728. (Example: 60” x 30” x 24” = 43,200 cubic inches / 1728 = 25 cubic feet) If you’re just getting started in your new home and think you’ll be adding items as you go along, go a little bigger, just in case.
If your head is spinning just a bit right now, don’t worry. We’ve had some of the experts give us guidance on some of the best safes available on the market. Check out these rankings and comparisons and see which safe is a match for your needs.
Keep in mind that home security has more than one component. Although a good, strong safe is an excellent way to protect your possessions, you may also want to consider a home alarm system and outdoor lighting to deter criminals. It’s also critical not to share safety information with friends and family. Choose only two people you trust deeply to know about the existence of your safe. These individuals should be able to help you get important information or items to safety if you’re not able to do it yourself. Other than these trusted helpers, no-one should know you even have a safe!