Choosing a Home Security System
The Arizona Republic
So there are definite benefits to hiring a security company that will provide a monitored alarm service, including getting big discounts on premiums for your home insurance. But how do you choose the right firm for your home from the many companies in the business? And how much protection do you need?
Narrow down your choices by getting recommendations from friends or neighbors, an insurance agent, or a trusted referral service. Your security company should also be licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (www.azroc.gov) and have a clean record with the Better Business Bureau. You want someone who has been in business for several years.
What will an alarm system cost?
Buying your equipment rather than leasing could save you money in the long run. Under lease programs offered by some security companies, you pay a minimal installation fee – probably $100 to $200. But then you could have a three to five year lease that will cost $50 to $60 per month for monitoring services. If you buy the equipment instead, it will probably cost $400 to $500 for the average-size home. The equipment will belong to you then, making it easier to change service companies later if you have to do so, and you will usually pay far less for the monthly fee if you choose to have your system monitored.
To a certain extent, price depends on the size of the home. A house with a lot of glass in it will need more protection than homes with fewer windows.
How much equipment do you need to install?
Generally, you need alarms on doors and windows around the entire perimeter of your home. Some homeowners also have motion detectors installed as well as devices that can pick up the sound of glass breaking. And some homeowners go a step further than that by installing video surveillance cameras in entryways and in the backyard.
Security experts generally advise customers to arm their systems when they are away from home, of course, but also at night when they are in their homes. Some options allow you to open windows slightly even when the system has been armed at bedtime. You can open the window three or four inches for ventilation while you sleep. You do not want motion detectors armed at night when you are at home.
A security company can also work with your lighting contractor so that outside lights will come on when someone walks up to your house.
Most security companies offer several options of brands in equipment although they may specialize in one particular brand.
Should you have a hardwire system or go wireless?
We generally prefer hardwire systems, but the new generation of wireless systems are considerably better than those initially introduced.
In a wireless system, low power contacts on doors and windows communicate about break-ins to a receiver in your home which then relays a signal to a central monitoring station.
Among the advantages of wireless: No wiring is on display and cost of installation may be lower. A burglar also cannot disable your system by cutting your landline phone cable.
With wireless applications, there are also smart phone applications that allow you to control the alarm system when you are not at home.
The biggest problem, however, is that a wireless system for the average-sized home typically has 12 sets of batteries, one for each door and window contact. There can be more if you install motion detectors as well. Changing those batteries every year can be expensive and time-consuming, but you can’t set the alarm if those batteries go out. A hardwire system, powered by electricity, has one battery, but it will last three to five years or more. Sometimes failing batteries can cause false alarms.
So what happens when there is a false alarm?
Customers themselves can cause false alarms by opening a door in the morning to let a dog out before they disarm their security system, for example. Animals, children or neighbors can accidentally set off alarms.
In most cases the monitoring service will call you before phoning police, but if they can’t reach you, they will alert authorities. If you do that often enough, your city may fine you.
If you are at home, you can also cancel an alarm by entering a pass code into your keypad in some cases. But you still have to talk to your security company about the problem or police may still be called in.
Before you sign up for a security monitoring service, discuss your family’s lifestyle and your concerns about safety with a security professional. You need to choose a company that will customize their product to meet your needs.
Next week we will be giving you our recommendations for summertime pest control.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix, KQNA-AM (1130) in Prescott and KAZM-AM (780) in Sedona, KAFF-AM (930) in Flagstaff and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson. Call 888-767-4348.