Equipping your home with a comprehensive security system can offer peace of mind. Choosing a home security system is not simple, however, as there are a surprising amount of options available to you when deciding on which features and service to use, including how the system is monitored. The amount and placement of various sensors and triggers makes or breaks the effectiveness of your security system's coverage.
Decide how you want the system to be monitored. Most alarm systems contact the security service through conventional phone lines; however, experienced thieves know to cut these to avoid detection. Adding a cellular-reporting feature supplies wireless contact to authorities and/or the security service, making it harder to defeat the system prior to entry.
Find out how many window triggers, smoke detectors and motion sensors the system supports. You want window and door triggers at least on the main level, along with motion sensors in key areas. Smoke detectors notify your monitoring service or local fire department when they go off, so find out if certain rooms can be deactivated when the system is armed to prevent pets and ceiling fans from creating false alarms.
Choose whether you want a monitored or an unmonitored system. If you have vigilant neighbors, or if others around you are frequently home, the loud sirens and lights associated with unmonitored systems may be a sufficient deterrent. Monitored systems are constantly surveilled by a monitoring company to notify authorities if you cannot be reached. Monitored systems come with a monthly or quarterly service charge, whereas unmonitored systems are typically one-time purchases.
Find out if the monitoring service offers more than one monitoring location. This is useful if the primary location loses power or cannot otherwise be reached. This is important when your security system's smoke detectors go off in the event of an emergency, such as an earthquake that affects your home as well as the monitoring facility.
Evaluate the reputation of the monitoring company. Consult local government as well as consumer research websites to see which companies are part of relevant associations and garner positive reviews from users (link in Resources). The most comprehensive security package is useless if it is installed incorrectly or offers an unreliable monitoring service.
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