home heartbeat monitoring system
Eaton Home Heartbeat

Base station, keychain alert device and remote activator, open/close sensor for approx. $185. $30 per 500 alerts; no monthly fee
On a Friday night not long after my wife and I moved into our new townhouse, we finished the dishes and headed to the basement to watch TV. As Jenn passed the bathroom, she noticed the carpet outside felt sort of...squishy. With that familiar, cold homeowner's fear rising, she peeked inside and saw that all of the water—and all of the shrimp bisque—we'd washed down the kitchen sink had come back up through the basement drain, soaking the floor and all the carpeting around it.

Turns out the previous owner had dumped bacon grease down the pipes, causing arteriosclerosis of the sewage line. Perhaps nothing could have prevented the eventual call to Roto Rooter. But if we'd had a wireless home-monitoring system in place, we would have known the instant the sink began to overflow instead of after it was too late.

By communicating with remote sensors that you place around the house, these systems can tell you whether your basement is flooding, if the furnace cuts out in the dead of winter while you're at work, or if you've skipped town and forgotten to close the garage door. They can be set up to send alerts via e-mail, a cell-phone text message, or on a portable key fob you can carry in your pocket. If you want to see a more complete picture of your home from far away, some systems let you install video cameras as well as sensors and show you what's happening via a secure Web page.

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