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Don’t Buy a Home Alarm System Until You Read This

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A sucker is born every day: don’t be one! There’s so much phony Internet marketing around security systems going on that it’s easy to get suckered into paying too much for something you don’t really need, or ending up with an alarm company that spends all its dollars on marketing instead of customer service. ASecureLife.com has been reviewing security companies since 2007. Our market research is rigorous and includes installing and testing systems and conducting anonymous consumer research calls to gauge customer experience.

For more info, visit our home security systems reviews page, which contains side-by-side pricing and comparison charts.

Questions to Ask Before You Buy

Before we get in too deep, you’ll want to have these questions in-hand to make the most informed buying decision for your home. I mean, what security system components do you really need? How much should you expect to pay for an alarm system? What does installation involve and how complicated is it? I’m sure these are some of the questions running through your head – they were for me.

Here’s a run down of the questions you should ask the company before you buy. I have also put together the answers to help you choose the best home alarm system for you.

  1. What Are My Options?
  2. How Much Does It Cost?
  3. Is There Installation/Setup Involved?
  4. Are There Contracts?
  5. Do I Need a Phone Line?
  6. I’ve Heard a Lot About ADT. What’s All the Hype?
  7. What Happens if I’m Broken Into?
  8. So Which is the Best Home Alarm System?

1. What are my options?

There are many (in my opinion, just enough to make it super confusing!) home security options, and lingo, out there. One thing you might be wondering is what’s the difference between home alarm and home security? As far as the industry’s concerned, not much. Technically speaking, a burglar alarm consists of just the skeleton sensors necessary to detect an intrusion (door, window, and motion) and notify the home owner with an audible noise. An alarm system extends this to also include fire and smoke detectors. Taking it a bit further, a home security system also can include monitoring by a central station, home security cameras, remote control via your smartphone, and home automation options such as automated lighting and door locks. With all the tech options today, you probably want to choose this more comprehensive security system to best meet your needs.

2. How much does it cost?

A simple burglar alarm can be purchased on Amazon for as little as $20. A self-monitored alarm system includes an extensive set of sensors including carbon monoxide, freeze and water sensors. A popular version is offered by SimpliSafe and it can be purchased for around $260. A full-fledged home security system is monitored by a central station and can be upgraded with all the bells and whistles, including home security cameras. It typically locks you into a 3-year contract and starts at $20 per month plus installation fees of $100 and up (but if you ask nicely, they might just offer free equipment and installation).

3. Is there an installation/set up involved?

For most home alarm options, yes. The burglar alarms you buy on Amazon are self-install or DIY. It sounds scarier than it is. In fact, it can be very easy since this usually involves simply attaching sensors to your doors and windows using sticky peel-and-stick adhesive tape (which is also provided). For most of the national security system companies there are usually professional install options available if you prefer. But they can be an added cost and could involve drilling holes in your walls. So with wireless technology, more companies, including Frontpoint and Protect America are relying on a DIY (Do It Yourself) model. DIY allows customers like you to save on installation today and moving costs down the road. This also means you can do it when it’s convenient for you vs. taking time off work to meet the installer.

Get a Free Quote from Frontpoint – Our #1 Pick for Best Home Alarm System in 2014

4. Are there contracts?

There are only contracts with the home security systems that include a monthly monitoring package. And contracts vary based on your needs but the longer the contract, the better price you will likely receive so be sure to ask. Also be sure to read your contract carefully before you sign on the dotted line to make sure you are not caught off-guard with any extra costs or loopholes.

5. Do I need a phone line?

Not anymore. Older alarm systems relied on phone lines, but these are also prone to cutting by thieves, especially on older homes where the phone lines are exposed. The more cutting edge systems, including those you can buy and install yourself, offer a broadband (via your home Internet connection) or cellular (via cell towers) signal option which are much safer and reasonable options for most… unless you are a dinosaur ;)

6. I’ve heard a lot about ADT. What’s all the hype?

ADT is huge, and they are old. They’ve been around for years, and they use an authorized dealer program to sell their product in local markets. The upside of this is that they’re available nearly everywhere in the United States. The downside is that their customer service record varies greatly depending on location. This makes it difficult for us to review them as a national provider so be sure to check with your neighbors and also your reviews on your local Better Business Bureau, Yelp! and Angie’s List.

7. What happens if I’m broken into?

The answer to this depends on the type of alarm system you have installed. With a self-monitored security system, if someone breaks into your house, you are notified. With a system monitored by a central station, you are notified first but if the alarm company can’t reach you, they act fast. They will quickly dispatch local law enforcement to your home to prevent further damage.

8. So Which is the Best Home Alarm System?

We’ve done extensive research on this subject since 2007. If you can afford it, we recommend Frontpoint Security as the best home alarm option. They offer a 100% dedicated cellular connection (nearly impervious to tampering), the best customer service record from the companies we reviewed, and patented crash and smash protection (when a break-in is detected, a signal is sent to the monitoring station; if a burglar smashes your alarm system control panel before a “disarm” command is received by the station, they will still deploy law enforcement).

INFOGRAPHIC: Reasons to Get A Home Security System

INFOGRAPHIC: Reasons to Get A Home Security System

Let Us Know Your Thoughts!

I’d love to hear your feedback on this article, and give me a shout if there’s any questions I didn’t answer. We at A Secure Life can only serve you better if we know how. So do not hesitate to leave questions, thoughts, ideas, recommendations or anything else you want to share. But, please leave the sales pitches to yourself as we are here to serve our readers first and foremost. Thanks!

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About Michelle Schenker

Michelle has had a home security system for five years, antivirus protection for 15+ years and uses LastPass like nobody's business! She also believes that the privacy tradeoffs associated with social media, especially Facebook, may lead to the downfall of common man. But on a lighter note, she still enjoys the latest technology, playing with her dogs and getting away from it all on a hiking adventure.
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  • Jesse Jesse

    Hey everyone, I am in need of some help. I will be remodeling my home soon and I will be including a new security system. I need to know what the best system is though and where can I buy it? I want door and window sensors, perimeter sensors and my garage and guest house on the system. What do you guys think i should do here? I want a system that is better then the stores, perhaps something used for business’s.

  • Jenn

    I had Front Point in my old home and was VERY dissatisfied. I went with ADT in my new home and LOVE my home automation. Front Point lied to me about a number of things. I bet they’ll remove this comment from this company run webpage, which will further solidify my distrust of them.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Michelle Schenker

      Hi Jenn,
      Sorry you had a bad experience with FrontPoint. I personally have used it for 6+ years and we have tried out many of the other systems too. If you are having good luck with ADT, then they must be a good dealer in your area. As we have said many times throughout this site, ADT is as good as the local dealer so I am glad to hear that you have a good, solid provider in your area. Thanks for your feedback and stay safe!

  • annielori

    We are having a horrible time with AlarmForce! We sold our house in Calgary at the end of November and made the mistake of including the Alarm Force equipment as part of the sale, not realizing after 7 years of service with them, that we did not own the equipment outright. This was never made clear to us and I can find no paperwork that we signed saying we didn’t own the equipment.

    I talked to customer service about this issue in November 2014. They told me the new owners of the house would just need to call them to arrange to have monitoring setup on the equipment in the house. Our understanding was that the new owners would follow through with arranging the monitoring. Turns out they did not, and now Alarmforce expects us to pay over $500 because we have not returned the equipment (which we can’t do now).

    We send notice back in September 2013 that we needed to cancel the monitoring effective November 30th, but they still expect us to pay the monthly fee even though we no longer own the house. I am completely frustrated with this whole affair. The equipment left in the house on sale was 7 years old and had NEVER been upgraded. It’s depreciated value should be nothing after 7 years of having our monitoring contract. To expect us to pay an inflated cost for OLD equipment is robbery.

    We are seniors now living on a fixed income, which is why we moved away from expensive Calgary and moved to a smaller home in the first place. I am at my wit’s end trying to deal with this matter. I would never be able to recommend the company to anyone given this situation.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi Annie, thanks for sharing this with us and our readers. I’m so sorry you have to go through this, sounds like an excruciating experience! Please post back here once this is over and let us know how it ended.

  • fred

    May 2014 – Installed the Response SL1 (SL2 has keypad and I did not want fussy keypad) SL1 has a fob controller wit just 4 buttons so no messing with remembering numbers. Do not believe all the doom and gloom from companies selling mains powered fitted and monitored alarms saying wireless are not reliable or hard to fit. This one is easy and reliable. After looking at the guide and dvd – takes about a half day to fit – but easy. Comes with siren, key fob, one room PIR sensor and 2 door sensors so suitable for a small/med sized home. All batteries included. Works off solar but is robust. Rechargeable Battery (for siren) last 5 years for (solar panel on siren recharges it). Smaller ord. batteries for the sensors min 1 year. Additional PIR or door sensors are available and cheap. Easy set up. Just put battery in siren whilst off the wall, link sensors by pressing key fob once, and the button in each sensor three times and it is all done. Put siren on wall – which is easy – good instructions on DVD. Cost £79 and with 1 extra key fob (controller), 1 extra PIR room sensor and 1 extra door sensor – a very reasonable total of £150 including VAT and del. It’s nearest decent rival – Powermax cost circa £300 or £500 fitted – so the response SL1 is a bargain but still good. I was told by the supplier that Age UK have fitted many of these units – so looks like they are tried and tested. The SL2 and 3 have extras like keypads but obviously you will need a mains source to power that. You do not need to be a DIY genius or super technical to fit. Great for first timer. Recommended.

  • DIYerNow

    Good points in this article. Also, I’ve had ADT and I’m not a fan. Customer service was not anything to write home about, but it was the slow response to false alarms that really concerned me. I chose to go the do it yourself route in my new home and picked a security system that was integrated with the automation features I wanted (2GIG).

    From my experience with them and their super fast central station (not all UL listed and rated CS’s are the same, which I learned from experience!). Saved a ton by not having to pay an installer. I can add to the system as I am ready to make the investment and it was easier than I thought it would be. Their forum is great for technical help, regardless of if you’re a client of theirs. They monitor all Alarm.com compatible systems, but I think their techs answer questions about other stuff too.

  • chuck

    How about Power Home Technologies? They have everything Frontpoint has but lowered monthly monitoring fees and no activation or installation costs.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      Thanks for bringing this company to our attention. They do not cover all of the United States yet, so we won’t feature them in our national alarm coverage, but we will research them for a future article.

  • 20306517

    Michelle, thanks for taking the time to write this article. You make many valid points about the security industry. I believe the article is lacking the fact that there are several honest and affordable family owned local alarm companies. Although Front Point might be the best option when considering the national names, I encourage everyone to give their local company a shot.

    My family’s company, American Total Protection, prides itself on being honest and transparent. If a customer has an issue, we encourage them to call our office, speak to a person (instead of going through multiple prompts to get to a human), and get it resolved.

    If anyone ever has any questions about security or wants information, feel free to submit a web form at our website and I will get back to you.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Thanks for writing in ATP, always nice to hear from local companies. Where are you guys located?

      • 20306517

        We have two major offices–one in Hamden, Connecticut & one in Melbourne, Florida. We also have a satellite office in Salem, New Hampshire.

        We have two separate entities under the American Total Protection umbrella. ATP Alarms handles our security, home automation, CCTV, access control,and gates while ATP Fire handles anything fire related or fire suppression related.

        Anytime A Secure Life is looking for input or conversation regarding any of the above services, ATP would be honored to participate.

  • Buzz saw

    ADT is an overpriced pile of dogdoo. I would recommend using a small local dealer that is UL listed for central station. Get referrals from friends, and make sure the company you choose has a good reputation for installing, timely monitoring and for servicing the system afterward.

  • ThebullJ

    Informative….but it is clearly a sales pitch by FrontPoint security…and a little vendetta on ADT….it is a shame for you to masquerade as an independent writer on this issue…the content and some 2nd person references therein give it away…poor lady.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      What’s a shame is that we get a response like this from someone that will take the time to write an accusatory comment with uninformed, absolute statements, but doesn’t take the time to click through our site a bit to find out what we’re all about. We are one of the few home security review sites that actually does their homework and provides unbiased reviews. You can read about our review process.

      And what words on this page indicate a negative impression of ADT? It’s true that it has one of the poorest reputations amongst our readers, and we receive complaints regularly, but that’s largely due to their size and because their quality varies based on regional markets (as a result of their authorized dealer program).

      Should I end this comment by calling you a “poor guy”, even though I know very little about you?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Michelle Schenker

      I wrote this article and am not a sales person. I am one of the mangers of this website, a writer, a security enthusiast, and a dog lover. I am not a poor lady but thanks for taking the time to consider my situation.