Questions to ask before you buy a home security system
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. 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 rundown of the questions you should ask the company before you buy.
- What Are My Options?
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Is There Installation/Setup Involved?
- Are There Contracts?
- Do I Need a Phone Line?
- I've Heard a Lot about ADT. What's All the Hype?
- What Happens if I'm Broken Into?
1. What are my options?
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 homeowner 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 self-monitored home alarm system includes an extensive set of sensors including carbon monoxide, freeze and water sensors. For example, SimpliSafe
offers a popular self-monitored home alarm for around $190. 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 requires 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. Some burglar alarms are “do it yourself”, or self-installed. 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). Most of the national security system companies have professional install options available if you prefer, but they can add to the cost and could involve drilling holes in your walls. So with wireless technology, more companies (including Frontpoint
, and Link Interactive
) are relying on a “Do It Yourself” model. DIY allows you to save money on installation and moving costs down the road. It’s also more convenient since you can do it on your own time instead of taking time off work to meet the installer.
4. Are there contracts?
Only home security systems that include monthly monitoring packages have contracts, and some newcomers to the security space even offer monthly monitoring packages without a contract. Contracts vary based on your needs, but longer contracts generally mean better prices, so be sure to ask about discounts on longer-term contracts. Make sure to read your contract carefully before you sign to double-check that you’re not getting hit with any extra costs or hidden fees.
5. Do I need a phone line?
Not anymore. Older alarm systems that relied on phone lines were vulnerable to cord cutting by thieves, especially on older homes where the phone lines are exposed. In fact, most companies don’t offer landline monitoring these days. Modern systems, including those you can buy and install yourself, offer broadband (internet) or cellular options which are much more secure.
6. I've heard a lot about ADT. What's all the hype?
ADT has been around for years, and is one of the largest home security system providers nationwide. They use an authorized dealer program to sell their product in local markets which means they’re available almost 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?
It depends on the type of home alarm system you have installed. With a self-monitored security system
, if someone breaks into your house, you’ll receive a notification through your smartphone, text message, or email. With a professionally monitored home security system, (like the ones we recommend above) a representative from the central monitoring station will contact you. If the alarm company can’t reach you, they will quickly dispatch local law enforcement to your home to prevent further damage.