A few years ago, I wrote a news item about the FakeTV, which was a little box with LEDs that flicker, flash, and wane to simulate the look of a TV playing to make it look like someone is home. That little box simulated the light output of a 27″ TV, and that was just too small to simulate my big HDTV. I was looking on Amazon recently, and I found there was a new version of the FakeTV, and the FTV-11 Extra Bright Burglar Deterrent is designed to simulate the output of a 40″ TV. That’s closer to the size of my TV, so I placed my order from Amazon.
All images can be clicked for an enlarged view.
The Extra Bright FakeTV measures about 3″ X 2.5″ X 2.25″. It’s made of plastic, and it has a matrix 12 of “extra bright” LEDs seated in silvery reflectors. I couldn’t find any documentation saying what type of LEDs are used nor their light output. There’s a little computer inside that controls the LEDs to produce a constantly changing light show.
There’s a switch on the back of the FakeTV that can turn the device on or off, and it has two timer options, too. The light sensor on the back will turn the TV on at dusk, and the “tv” will play for four or seven hours before turning off. The instruction sheet recommended that in summer, when it gets dark later, you should choose the +4 hours option. In the winter when it gets dark early, you should choose the +7 option. You don’t have to worry about wasting a lot of energy even if you leave the FakeTV on constantly, because it is said to consume the same amount of power as a nightlight.
The instructions also warn that bright ambient light in the room can interfere with the light sensor. I was a bit worried about that, because I have a lamp on in the living room at dusk. It’s located across the room from the location near the front windows where I plan to position the FakeTV, so I hoped I’d be okay.
I tried plugging it up just to see what it looked like from the front. It’s sitting on my fireplace mantle here, and I think that’s probably too far away from my windows to be clearly visible from the street.
Once I had confirmed that it worked, I was ready to move it to its permanent location.
When you select a timer mode, some of the LEDs on the front light up to let you know which mode. The +4 lights up one red LED; the +7 lights up two blue LEDs.
The instructions say to aim the light from the FakeTV at “translucent shades, curtains, or blinds”. I don’t have any of those, but I do have those woven-reed Roman blinds. You can see through them a bit into the house at night, but it’s not a clear view in. The FakeTV is set below the level of the windowsill, so I don’t think anyone would be able to see the little box and know for sure what they are seeing.
We went out to dinner, and it was dark (and stormy) when we got home. I could see the light flickering away; it got dark around 8:30 or so, and it was about 9:00 then. The display through the windows wasn’t blindingly bright, but my HDTV doesn’t look a whole lot brighter than that through the window blinds. I couldn’t see the FakeTV box through the windows, only the light display.
The above video (taken with my iPhone 5) shows what the light display looks like inside my living room. It looks very much like the lights from a TV, with the lights changing colors or getting very bright or dim to simulate scene changes, or suddenly going off for a few seconds like a commercial break starting.
But what’s important is what it looks like from the outside. Our house is elevated in the front; it sits higher above the ground than a normal single-story house, and the bottom of the windows are about 5.5-ft above ground level. You couldn’t see the FakeTV box through the windows, even when standing pretty close to the house – like a burglar might if he were checking things out to decide if this was the house to rob. (And yes, it was raining out there. Such is my dedication to a good review – I’ll send my husband out in any kind of weather to get the video! )
The only problem I had with the FakeTV is that the +7 timer only gave me about 3 hours before turning off. It seemed to come back on by itself after all the lights were turned off in the living room, and it was still going when I got up this morning. That’s not good, but I never have planned to rely on the built-in timer. I intend to plug the FakeTV into a Belkin WeMo smart home automation switch, so that I can program on/off times for the FakeTV and so that I can connect remotely over WiFi or cellular and control it whenever I want.
Bottom line: I like the FakeTV FTV-11 Extra Bright Burglar Deterrent, but I won’t rely on its built-in timer. I think it really does give my house a “somebody’s home” look.