Important home security costs to consider
Nothing’s worse than cracking open your first bill and finding unexpected charges attached. Suddenly, all the warm feelings you had at sign-up turn into fiery rage, ruining your home security experience from the start. You can avoid having a similar negative experience by understanding the different costs you may encounter. Get familiar with these four types of costs so you can avoid unnecessary charges.
The equipment costs make up the bulk of your upfront charges. Depending on the system and the equipment you choose, the price can vary drastically. Some companies will advertise “new-customer equipment pricing” where you can get up to $1,500 worth of “free” equipment upfront. It sounds like a great deal, but make sure to read the fine print on these types of offers, because “free” is almost never free. Let’s zoom in on the fine print:
*60 month monitoring agreement (48 months in AR, MI, WI, or CA total fees from $2,927.52) at minimum $60.99/month. Up to $199 activation fee may apply, home ownership, and satisfactory credit history required. ...Taxes and permit fees may apply. Additional equipment may be added for a fee and alternative packages are available.
Notice all the extra “fees” that may apply. Also, in order to qualify for this offer you have to sign up for one of the more expensive monthly service plans at $60.99/month. The $1,500 of “free” equipment gets paid for in your monthly payment. The savings upfront is definitely nice, but “free” is still not free.
An activation fee is one of those hidden fees that you don’t hear about until you’re already on the hook. Though this is a one-time charge, it can put some dents in your wallet. Activation fees range between $0 and $199, and it’s important to know that it is a separate charge from the installation fee.
Make sure to not only ask but READ the contract before you sign to see if there is an activation fee. Many customer complaints come from verbal agreements not being fulfilled because they are not found in the contract.
Some companies charge a separate installation fee to set up their equipment in your home. The truth is, professional installation isn’t unnecessary. Advances in security technology make it super easy to install your home security system yourself. We have assembled a list of providers who offer DIY security equipment so you can skip these fees:
Monitoring costs per month
This monthly charge is for the service of having your home monitored 24/7 by an external monitoring center. This cost is based on the monitoring plan and equipment you chose during signup.
Most companies are pretty straightforward with their monitoring package pricing. Some companies, however, set a base monitoring price and adjust it (add to it) depending on the specific equipment you have monitored.
For instance, let’s say your base monitoring price is $42.99/month; if you add monitored security cameras to your system it can tack on $15/month. Additional charges are added for each monitored smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector (generally around $2 per smoke and detector $6 per carbon monoxide detector). This brings your monthly monitoring cost to $65.99/month.
Make sure to READ the contract to see whether additional monthly costs apply to monitor the equipment you have selected before you sign up.
Is that deal really a deal?
Like most businesses, home security companies market their lowest possible prices. We want you to understand the pros and cons of certain deals. You might pay less up front, but you could end up paying more in the long run.
How exactly are companies lowering their costs on expensive security equipment and who is it actually benefiting, you or the company? Home security companies lower their system prices in a few different ways:
- Entry-level pricing. The advertised price generally represents the lowest service provided by the company. For example: Protect America advertises their lowest monthly package at $19.99/month. But the low cost comes with a significant catch. The Copper package is a LANDLINE based service. Not only are landline security systems easily compromised, more and more people are cutting their landline altogether. A cellular monitoring system provides a great deal more security than a landline; and isn’t that the point? You should price your system for cellular monitoring, which can cost more, but is worth the upgrade.
- Reducing the upfront costs for customers who sign a monthly monitoring contract. This is great for people who want an affordable home security option but can’t afford the heavy upfront costs of installation, activation, and equipment purchasing. The upfront costs are essentially spread out over the life of the contract, increasing your monthly payment slightly but saving you from paying these charges in a lump sum.
- Offering DIY home alarm systems. By setting up and installing the system yourself, not only are you bypassing these upfront charges, but you’ll also usually pay a smaller monitoring fee, keeping your monthly payment lower.
What do I get for my money?
Every home security service is a bit different, but what they all have in common is that they provide peace of mind. For a complete cost breakdown of equipment and services, check out our Home Security Cost Comparison Table.
Value over cost
So far we have focused on the cost of a home security system, which can be calculated in simple dollars and cents, but there are other factors that contribute to a system’s value. Often, spending a little bit more will get you a greater overall value. Here are some questions to keep in mind when considering the value of your home security system:
- Functionality of the equipment—Does it work properly or frequently break down? How well does it keep you safe? Look for features like geofencing, home automation, etc.
- Amount of equipment you receive—Are you paying a lot for only a few sensors and cameras?
- Customer service—How easy is the company to work with? Do they maintain your system?
- Bells and whistles—What cool, cutting-edge technology are you getting with it?
Is a security system worth the cost?
Let’s look at some statistics:
- A burglary occurs approximately once every 15 seconds.
- The average loss per burglary in the United States is $2,230.
- Homes without security systems are 300% more likely to be burglarized.
- It’s estimated that only 72.4% of burglaries are reported to the police.
If you already know which company you’d prefer to use, make sure to really dig through the different features each package provides. For some companies, the difference between having access to crucial home automation features can be as little as $5 per month.
Is professional monitoring worth it?
The value of your security system comes from the monitoring service. Although having a non-monitored system is better than nothing, we strongly recommend going with a monitored system.
With a professionally monitored security system you are paying for someone to respond in an emergency situation. You want your home to be protected 24/7 but unfortunately, humans are not 24/7 creatures. We go to meetings. We go to the movies. We sleep. In other words, we can’t constantly check for system notifications.
If you miss an alert, it could spell disaster for your home. A monitored system covers you around the clock and alerts the authorities on your behalf if an alarm is triggered. Let the security company monitor your system for you so you can live your life knowing your home is safe.
Other common features
- Duress signals: You have the ability to enter a code into your system when you are under duress. This alerts the monitoring center that you need immediate help but are unable to be contacted (armed burglary in progress, etc.).
- Medical alert monitoring: Pendants worn around the neck or wrist signal a monitoring agent to dispatch an ambulance.
- Guidance: Monitoring agents are trained to offer guidance in an emergency situation. Self-monitored systems can only notify you if a sensor is triggered.
- Emergency response plans: You can customize your own emergency response plan which allows you to choose to immediately notify authorities or contact a third party relative or individual.
A home security system is always worth the investment, whether it’s professionally monitored, self-monitored, or a local alarm system. Statistics prove that home security systems work.
Your budget and personal preferences will affect what you prioritize in your own security system. It's important to remember that it protects more than just your stuff, like your big screen TV, jewelry, or sports car. It also protects you and your family from home invasion, fire, flood, and other disasters.
We feel strongly that the benefits of having a home security system far outweigh the costs.