Buying a Home Security System

If you are in the market for a home security system, here are some starter questions:

What is included in a basic security system?

Most basic security systems include exterior door sensors, window sensors and an alarm control panel with a touchpad. If you’re worried about break-ins, this might be sufficient for your needs. At the minimum, the alarm will sound if one of the sensors is “tripped” such as by a window or door being broken or opened. Depending on the system, the alarm may also activate flashing exterior lights that will alert neighbors.

What else can be added?

Most systems can be expanded with additional options.

  • A “glass break” sensor responds when a picture window (or other glass not designed to be opened) is broken.
  • Motion detectors will trip the alarm when movement is detected in monitored areas.
  • Other components include fire and smoke alarms.
  • Temperature sensors respond to changes that exceed the preset temperature settings, such as higher temps during a fire or a/c failure or low temps due to heating system failures.
  • Video surveillance can also be part of an overall security system, both inside and outside the home. And by integrating a security system with the whole-house networking can be accessed via a computer, cell phone or PDA.

How much will a basic security system cost?

Quality home security systems can cost anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars. Cost depends on extra features, equipment, the company, location, size of your home, monitoring, maintenance and service fees.

Do I really need to pay for a monitored system?

A monitored system provides an extra level of protection, especially important if your home is left unoccupied for extended periods or if you are in a relatively remote area. When the alarm is activated on a monitored system, a signal is also sent to the monitoring company via the phone line. The company then calls the home to determine if the alarm is legitimate, usually by requesting a password. If the person answering is unable to respond or if there is no response, the company will then alert the police.

Monitoring costs range from company to company. Generally you should expect to pay around $20-30 a month.

What about wireless systems?

The advantage to a wireless system is the ease of installation. You can place the components virtually anywhere on the premises, with no need to drill holes or run wires. However, the system can be subject to interference, either because of the building’s construction or other components in the home. Wireless manufacturers also suggest that qualified professionals install the units, to ensure proper performance of the system and avoid false alarms.

Will having an alarm reduce my home insurance cost?

Check with your insurance company. Many companies offer discounts for homes equipped with monitored alarm system.

WHN TIP: Window Decals and Signs

Ask your security system company for signs and window decals. Place them near the main entrance of your property or where a thief will most likely see them. Even if you don't have a security system, these decals may still act as deferrents.

After The System Is Installed

  • Be sure to teach all your family members who operate the system about correct activation and deactivation.
  • Keep the code panel and all detecting devices clean. This will help keep the system in good working condition. Also, be sure to remove objects from the path of motion detectors, if you have them.

Updated: 5/2009