If your home caught fire tomorrow and was completely burned to the ground without any chance of rescuing your property, what would be the three most valuable items that you lost?
If a burglar broke in while you were away on vacation, what are they likely to walk off with?
Frightening, isn’t it? Sometimes we don’t realize just how vulnerable our property is until tragedy strikes.
No one ever plans to have a home fire, but when they do strike, the homeowners who suffer most are the ones who were unprepared. In an instant they’ve lost valuable collectibles, their car title, jewelry, cash, digital data, and more. And the same can be said of burglary.
That’s where home safes come in. They protect your most valuable assets from the most dangerous threats. If you’re looking into how to buy the best home safe, you’ve basically got to answer two questions:
- What am I trying to protect?
- What am I trying to protect it from?
Safes are designed to keep your valuables defended against the two dangers we’ve already identified: fires and burglars. But not all safes are secure against both, and not all safes are created equal.
In this guide to buying the best home safe, we’ll look at the different types of safes on the market as well as the spectrum of security they provide.
Most safes are at least designed to resist fires. If you only need to secure property that wouldn’t be of much value to a thief, such as contracts, wills, and other important documents, then a fire-resistant safe will suit you just fine.
These safes are designed to resist high temperatures, but can be broken into pretty easily by a burglar with moderately decent tools. The walls are thick and hollow (to prevent heat transfer), and the safe is filled with fire resistant insulating material.
Fire Safe Standards
The protection provided by any model of safe from a fire is typically indicated in hours, an indication of how many hours the safe can withstand an external temperature of 1700 degrees Fahrenheit without the inside heating to the point that paper could burn (350 degrees).
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) is one trusted organization that sets such standards, and a home safe should have a minimum UL rating of at least one hour. Two and four hour rated safes are also available, but one hour is usually enough for most home safes.
Protecting Digital Media from Fire
While paper burns at 350 degrees, objects like tapes, DVDs, CDs, hard disks, and USB drives can be vulnerable as low as 125 degrees. If you need to protect items such as these, you may want to invest in a special media safe.
While they can run two or three times the price of your standard issue fire safe, they are rated for much higher temperatures and are also designed with special moisture-resistant insulation.
So if you’ve got precious home movies, an autographed copy, or years of backed up computer data to protect, a media safe might be the best home safe for you.
If you’ve got more to protect than documents and media, you’re gonna need a bigger safe (or at least a better one). While a fire safe is great for protecting your valuables from burning, they’re gonna crack open like a can of tuna to any burglar with the right tools.
If you’ve got real valuables, like jewelry or cash, you’re going to want to invest in a burglar-resistant safe. These are made of steel and feature thinner walls than fire safes, and they are designed to withstand assault from tools like power saws, sledge hammers, and high speed drills.
They are also intended to be heavy so that they can’t just be carried off, and ideally they should be tied into your existing security system.
Burglar Safe Standards
Burglar safes are rated based on how long they were tested to withstand assault with a wide array of burglar tools. The Underwriters Laboratories standard minimum rating of TL-15, for example, means that the safe was unable to be cracked after 15 minutes of concentrated tool work with drills, hammers, carbide disc cutters, and other sophisticated burglary equipment. TL-30 would indicate that a safe withstood attack for 30 minutes. And so on.
Another standard that some safes include is torch resistance (TR), or the ability to withstand a cutting torch for a given number of minutes. A safe rated TRTL-30, for example, has been tested to withstand attack from burglar tools and a cutting torch for 30 minutes.
A final standard for the heaviest of safes indicates its resistance to explosives, indicated by TX. While you probably won’t need anything this serious, you never know. It all comes down to what you’re protecting.
Choosing the Best Burglar Safe
When it comes to choosing the best home safe for protection from burglars, you want to keep in mind the situation in which most thieves are trying to bust into a safe. Typically, they’re under pressure, keeping one eye out for law enforcement, and working in the dark as fast as possible as their nerves run wild. Basically, they are trying to break into a steel safe in the absolute worst conditions.
When these safes are quality rated, the tests are performed in the complete opposite situation. The room is well lit, the testers are under no pressure, and they’re equipped with the most powerful burglar’s tools. So, buying a TL-15 safe is probably fine for most home safes because 15 minutes is a long time for a burglar to be whacking away at a safe. If you’re really looking for security, though, go for a model rated for 30 minutes or more.
No matter how burglar-resistant your safe is, however, it won’t matter a bit if a home invader can just lug it away and work on it all night elsewhere. For this reason, if your safe weighs less than 750 pounds, it must be anchored to the floor or wall for maximum effectiveness.
Frequently Asked Questions About Safes
So, your main choices come down to fire safe or burglar safe, and the choice relies on exactly what it is you’re protecting. If it’s anything that a thief could potentially find valuable, spring for a burglar-resistant model.
As you consider the best home safe for your needs, the following FAQs might further help you make the right choice for you.
Is a Floor Safe Right for Me?
Floor safes are about as safe as safes can be. They are installed to be level with the floor and surrounded with at least 200 pounds of concrete, so they are near impenetrable and completely impossible to be carried away by a common criminal. Settled below the ground, floor safes are also easily concealable with a rug or even by being placed beneath a couch or dresser.
Floor safes are also especially resistant to fires because they are below ground level. This means that the fire can never really engulf them. They don’t heat easily, and popular locksmith lore holds that there has never been a loss by fire from a properly installed floor safe.
The primary disadvantage with floor safes are convenience and permanence. They are kind of difficult to access because you have to stoop to the ground, so they might not be a good choice if you have joint pains or are approaching old age. They’re also permanently installed in the floor, so you can’t take them with you if you move.
Should I Buy a Keyed Safe or a Combination Safe?
Keyed safes seem more convenient, but keys are easily lost and easily stolen. If a burglar breaks in and finds a keyed safe, the next thing he’ll hunt for is your keys.
Combination locks, on the other hand are much harder to break into because a thie