What to Look for in a Home Security System
Home security systems are an essential part of almost every home. According to federal statistics, the USA saw an estimated 2.2 million burglaries in the year 2010. That is a huge number of violated households and an even larger number of victims left without their possessions and the emotional and mental turmoil of knowing that a stranger has entered your house and taken goods that may not just have monetary value, but also sentimental and personal value.
Offices, as well as residential homes are burgled every day of the year; however it is residential burglaries that account for the vast majority of burglaries here in the US, taking up more than 70% of all burglaries reported.
By taking the step to look for a home security system, you have already made inroads in making sure that you do not become one of the next statistics, but it is important that you know what to look for when purchasing a home security system.
There are a huge number of different home security systems out there that all cater for different needs and different budgets. There are all kinds of different kits, types and brands available and it can be hard to know quite where to start.
Maximizing your Home Security Budget
The first thing to take into account is of course your budget. You want to be looking for a home security system that you can comfortably afford but it is also worth taking note of exactly what you are protecting. It is not worth saving a few dollars to get an inferior home security system if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars of possessions in your home that need protecting. The rule of thumb here is to get the very best home security system that you can possibly afford.
Home Security Monitoring Systems
You then need to decide whether you are going to opt for a monitored system or a stand-alone system. The benefit of a monitored system is that the authorities will be automatically contacted for you at the time of a break-in, which means that if you are out of your home the incident will still be reported, or maybe even more importantly, if you are still in the home somebody is already on their way even if you don’t get the opportunity to contact the police yourself.
It is important that you take into account the actual monitoring system. Many homeowners overlook this as they focus more on the actual technology and quality of the security system itself. However, if you are opting for a monitored system then it is important to check out the response times, associated cost and the reliability of that system. When it comes to it, this is one of the most essential parts of your whole security system and can be what prevents a burglary in process or allows the criminals to get away with your goods.
Home Security Installation
Another important factor when purchasing a home security system is whether you will install it yourself or whether it will be professionally installed.
Very often, unless you are a professional, installing your own home security system can mean extra time and hassle and the chance of not installing it correctly, potentially rendering it useless. The other problem with installing it yourself is that often these systems are less complex to allow for easy fitting. This can mean that although you will still get a level of protection, it may not be as technologically advanced in keeping out intruders as some of the higher-end professionally fitted security systems are.
The pro’s of fitting a security system yourself though is of course a financial saving as well as being able to fit it at your own convenience rather than having to book appointments with fitters and so on.
If you can afford it, then it is often better to have a system professionally fitted. This will ensure that the security system is fitted correctly and covers all areas of your home. Professionally fitted systems will often have more complexity which provides further protection against burglary.
Wireless Home Security Systems
You will also want to take into account the level of sophistication that your home security system offers. This often increases with budget but you can also differentiate between products in the same price band which offer different levels of sophistication.
Some home security systems simply work on motion. They use motion detectors that can be set off to alert the system that someone, or something, is moving in the protected area. However, these sorts of systems are famous for their false alarms as often a small animal such as a cat can be responsible for triggering the motion detector. The danger of this is that a sequence of false alarms can lead to “The boy who cried wolf” syndrome, meaning that possibly when a real alarm is set off it is ignored as another false alarm, effectively defeating the whole point of the system.
If your budget allows for it, try to look for a system that offers more complexity. The home security system technology has advanced rapidly over the last few years and now offers systems that can differentiate between a real human intruder and a small animal. These types of sensors are particularly important for outdoors monitoring.
You will also need to make the choice of wired or wireless systems. More and more systems are now wireless and they are certainly the preferential choice for the best results.
It is ideally best to get as many other types of sensor and detector that your budget will allow. This should firstly include fire detection but should then lead on to glass breakage sensors. Combined with outdoor motion detectors, this will provide a double layer of security as even if an intruder was to somehow get past the outdoor motion detectors, the alarm would then be set off when they tried to gain entry.
Put simply, the choice of home security systems available to you are many in number. As a general rule of thumb, you should look to get a system with as many of the above functions as possible, and that fits within your budget. You can then be assured that you have done the very best you can to proactively protect your family, your belongings and your home.
Best DIY Home Security Alarm System
Depending on whether you’re looking for a technician to install your home security system or are opting to do the installation yourself your opinion of who the best rated home security company is will vary. If you’re looking for a maximum security solution with less chance of the alarm system being installed incorrectly then it is probably a better idea to allow a professional technician to forego this task rather than taking the do it yourself approach. In fact, if you’re on a tight budget and are looking for the cost savings of a do it yourself home alarm system while still receiving a good level of security for your home, then you could consider hiring an alarm technician to do the DIY installation for you. This way you can still make significant savings because DIY home security systems are often much easier to install and require less of the technician’s time to be properly fitted.
If you find that the quotes you’re receiving are too high from your local alarm fitters, a good tip is to ring around until you get around ten to fifteen quotes. Each time you receive a lower quote from a contractor, call another reputable home security installer and tell them of the previous quote you received. Keep doing this until you reach the price level that you’re most comfortable with – you’ll be surprised how much you could save using this method!
Nonetheless, DIY alarm systems are becoming increasingly easier to install even for beginners with very little technical know-how because of their growing popularity with homeowners looking for more flexible home security solutions from the best home security companies. The possible downside of hiring a professional alarm fitter to install a do it yourself home security system is that while some reputable contractors are likely to make genuinely good suggestions about how you could further enhance the protection of your home for less money, other security providers with unknown reputations could possibly up sell safety measures you may not necessarily need.
Top Rated Home Security Companies
There is plenty of information available on the internet about home alarm systems which can often be overwhelming, misleading and quite plainly a whole lot of noise. This is why we’ve decided to make the process of finding the best home security systems easier without all the usual fluff you may have stumbled upon on your search. The following list compiles some of the highest rated home security system providers through consolidation of independent and unbiased consumer home security systems reviews.
It is separated into two segments: the first section lists the top DIY security system providers while the second part reveals the best home security companies providing security systems requiring professional installation. In this home security system review, companies are ranked in no particular order as we believe all are worthy of the recognition they are been given. It should be noted that most of the companies listed provide home automation using the popular Z-Wave platform as well as warranties for the home security equipment purchased.
Top DIY Alarm System Providers
FrontPoint Security Review
FrontPoint Security is a GE Security dealer and provider of wireless and cellular home security systems. They offer a 30-Day money back guarantee on all do it yourself alarm systems purchased and have an A-rating accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. Although their upfront costs are higher than competitors, FrontPoint’s pricing is very clear with no hidden fees and their customer service is excellent overall.
One of the clear advantages of FrontPoint is that their home alarm systems are equipped with some of the latest home security technology. For example, all Frontpoint’s alarm systems have complete cellular monitoring and most do not require a phone line or internet connection to function. FrontPoint Security also provides 24/7 home security monitoring starting at $34.99 per month which is quite competitive. Frontpoint customers can also configure their security systems to their needs at a FrontPoint store, select from a set of pre-formed packages or discuss with a security consultant about their requirements.
SafeMart Security Review
SafeMart offers GE alarm equipment and has a highly rated customer service. Their security systems are delivered swiftly and can be installed easily, contributing to their A+ rating and accreditation by the Better Business Bureau. They also provide award-winning home security systems with interactive smart phone functionalities which allow homeowners to access real-time security information about their homes anywhere via iPhone, iPad and Android apps and perform tasks such as locking and unlocking doors and streaming live footage from cameras installed in and around the home. SafeMart also offers remote alarm monitoring with three monitoring centers as well as 24/7 support from experienced technical consultants. Although SafeMart’s DIY alarm systems demand higher upfront costs, it is balanced by comparably lower and more affordable monthly monitoring fees and shorter contracts.
Protect America Security Review
Protect America is another top home security company providing GE wireless alarm systems with the latest technology. Their do it yourself home security systems are very easy to install and come with minimal upfront costs. With Protect America you can receive monitoring services through cellular, phone line, and broadband connections. The phone line monitoring is the cheapest of them all at $29.99 per month and cellular monitoring is the most expensive of the monitoring packages provided by Protect America at $41.99 per month.
These monitoring plans are well explained on the Protect America website along with the upfront costs associated with your home security purchase. The customer service of Protect America has received poor ratings in recent years but they have made great strides to improve this significantly by showing commitment to customer satisfaction and bettering the way customer service is managed.
Top Professional Installation Home Alarm System Providers
ADT Security Review
ADT is the largest alarm company in North America and offers home security alarm systems through authorized local dealers. ADT dealers offer wireless and hard-wired alarm systems from numerous manufacturers and provide many choices for monthly monitoring. Monitoring options include phone line, broadband and cellular monitoring and starts at $36.99 for 24/7 monitoring via the phone line. ADT also enables homeowners to access their home alarm systems remotely via smart phone and tablet devices through a service known as ADT Pulse.
Prices for ADT Pulse range from around $50-$70 depending on the type of package selected. Upfront costs for home security equipment will vary depending on the authorized dealer, which leaves room for negotiation and possible savings on a new home security system. Professional installations are carried out through ADT’s Dealer Program where a technician comes to your home and installs your new security system for you. For most new customers, installation is often free of charge depending on the contracted ADT dealer.
Vivint Security Review
Vivint offers the latest wireless technology in the home alarm industry, boasting an intuitive touch screen control panel and plenty of home automation devices and sensors. Their wireless “Go!Control” technology incorporates home security, home automation and energy management into one single solution. Although Vivint’s home security solutions are at the higher end, their pricing has been changed to a more affordable structure. Their monitored services include monitoring for burglary, medical emergencies and fire and starts at $49.99 per month.
The relatively higher monthly pricing is balanced by the small upfront commitment home security consumers have to forego and the direct offering of award-winning home automation products as standard. Security alarm systems from Vivint are professionally installed with cameras requiring a connection to the internet. Although its customer service has been poorly rated in the past, Vivint is making many strides forward to provide customers the type of service they require to compliment the excellent value of the wide array of quality and quite advanced home security systems they provide.
Guardian Protection Services Security Review
Guardian Protection Services offers the newest GE home alarm equipment and have a respectable A+ rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. Guardian Protection also provides 24/7 home security monitoring and protection against burglaries, medical emergencies and fires. They also give you the option to monitor your home and control the security equipment installed remotely from almost anywhere. Their pricing is not as straightforward as it could be as it is very much dependent on several factors such as whether you have an existing alarm system, and whether it is wireless, hard-wired or connected through a phone line.
Choosing a Home Security System
One of the most important aspects to give attention to when selecting a home security system is the form in which it comes in. Home alarm systems come in three main forms: landline, broadband and cellular.
Landline Home Alarm Systems
Landline home alarm systems are the conventional method of installation for many home security monitoring systems. The home alarm systems are connected to a landline telephone in the home, and as such all signals are sent over the landline in the event that the home security alarm gets tripped. This older technology is vulnerable to burglars cutting the landline from the outside before breaking in. The home security components in these systems are hardwired to the main control panel so scalability is also an issue.
Broadband Home Alarm Systems
Broadband home alarm systems operate through an internet connection such as DSL, Cable or fibre optic broadband. The extent to which your internet cables outside of your home are exposed and your internet connection is reliable will determine whether a broadband home security system is a possible option for you.
Cellular Home Alarm Systems
Cellular home alarm systems are the latest technology used for home security monitoring. They communicate through a wireless cellular signal so present no line for an intruder to cut. Cellular home alarm systems are also more stable as they operate through a GSM digital network and are not reliant on your home phone or internet service provider. The cellular home security system is the most flexible option in the case that you are moving to a new home and want to take your existing home alarm equipment with you. A good home security company should not charge you any fees for moving your alarm equipment to a new property.
Home Security Monitoring Contract
Home security monitoring contracts are normally around 3-years in length. However, some companies offer shorter and longer terms. In essence, they are similar to cellular phone contracts in that equipment costs are spread out to provide you with a much less demanding upfront commitment. For example, you may be given a month-to-month contract or a contract lasting for 1-year, but the upfront costs associated with these shorter contracts are substantially higher at around $500. A home security monitoring contract spanning 3-years is suitably the term with the best value and reasonable length. Longer contracts can reach up to 5-years. Although they provide less monthly costs these longer contracts are not ideal for those who might want to switch providers if a more current home security technology is only offered by another home security company.
Most home security companies offer 3-year contracts but have different cancellation policies. Some may require a period of written notice and others may pass on the responsibility of the unused contract to the customer. As with any contract, be aware of what the terms are, especially your rights to cancel.
Home Security Equipment Warranty
Your home security equipment should have a minimum 2-year warranty and should be replaced it free of charge by your home security provider if the equipment becomes damaged or defected. The best ranked home security companies all have first-rate warranty programs that range from 2-years to a lifetime warranty. Check with your home security company to ensure that their definition of lifetime warranty is as long as the monthly monitoring services are active. The top home security companies rated all have an excellent customer service program which should enable you to exercise your warranty with relative ease.