Thinking about getting a home security system? As you already know, these systems keep changing almost as rapidly as the apps for smartphones. But a dependable security system can give you peace of mind when you travel and better protection for your family all the time.
Here are some key issues to consider:
1 | Land-line vs. cellular monitoring
In the past, security systems used analog phone lines – sometimes called land-lines -- to summon the police or the fire department to your home. But traditional phone lines aren't used that often anymore, in part because lines can be cut and your system will then be disabled. Some phone lines also lack the right technology. Instead, security companies can install a separate cellular monitoring line to summon help at your home when sensors are tripped, according to Jared Wright of Tekna Security in Phoenix.
2 | Cellular vs. Wi-Fi monitoring
Although security systems use a cellular network, very few use Wi-Fi signals to contact monitoring stations. The reason is that the Wi-Fi system in your house can also be disabled by a crook or could be damaged in a fire or other disaster. On the other hand, a security company might use cellular or internet/Wi-Fi to send a message to your phone in event of a problem.
3 | Best of both worlds
Systems can be hardwired or wireless. Sometimes security companies can even combine these techniques when putting sensors on your doors and windows, depending on the construction and layout of the house, says Marc Spiess of Select Security Systems in Phoenix. Wireless sensors are small transmitters installed on windows or doors to send out signals to the main control panel which in turn sends signals to monitoring stations. Some homes have been hardwired for security when they are first built.
4 | Long-lasting backup batteries
Security systems may use batteries for backup, but no dependable system will run on battery power only. They generally use your home's electrical system. Any batteries used will be long-lasting and may need monitoring, but do not have to be changed regularly.
5 | Cost of security
The typical 2,500 square-foot home may cost from $700 to $3,000 for installation of a whole house security system. Wireless equipment can be a little more expensive but you can save on labor costs because installation takes less time than a hardwired system. If you equip just a few windows and doors in a partial protection system, the cost will be less. Monthly monitoring fees depend on how you are transmitting the signals to the monitoring company and if you have control of your system through an app on your smartphone and/or tablet. The cost could be $25 a month for a home with an analog phone line all the way up to $42 a month which could include wireless transmission and app interface.
Can You Install Your Own Security System?
Yes, you probably can. You may have heard about low cost DIY home security kits and systems. If you're handy with drills and screwdrivers, you can install the basic security components that fit your home very quickly.
Sometimes this equipment offers lower monthly fees for service from a monitoring system or even no fee at all.
If you want to go this route, do your research very carefully. Some devices may also be more susceptible to hacking, according to online reviews. These systems can also have limited or no local tech support.
However, manufacturers of the new DIY systems contend that traditional security systems are over-priced and can easily be disarmed by someone that gets into your house and smashes the keypad near the door where a homeowner arms his system. They say their communications systems eliminate the middle man.
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors Computer Services in Phoenix also suggests that there are lots of devices you can install at your home to enhance security without installing an entire full perimeter system. "You look at what you want to secure – like your door or your garage, for example – and perhaps you can install a single device system," he says. "Some people are not comfortable with that and they might want to look at a more traditional system."
Other Security Enhancements
A smart video doorbell system called Ring ($200 to $250) that uses a camera and Internet connection to let you see who's ringing the doorbell, even when you're not at home by sending a message to your smartphone. Ring also offers a floodlight cam.
A Canary system of wide-angle camera plus alarm system and air monitor ($150 to $170) to use inside or outside your home.
The August Home Smart Lock ($150-$200) that you can control with a smartphone app and that will automatically lock and unlock your door as you approach.
Blink, wireless home security camera systems, that are completely wireless and weather proof, so they can be set up anywhere there is a Wi-fi signal.
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