Monday, June 8, 2015

The essentials of keeping your home and family safe with an alarm system.

Do you feel safe in your home? According to the FBI’s crime report, there means there are about 2.5 million home intrusions per year in the United States, including burglaries and home invasions. That means that one in every thirty-six homes will be entered unlawfully any given year in the United States, at a rate of every fifteen seconds. And with the average loss for each home burglary reaching $2,230, totaling $4.7 billion every year, it’s more important that ever to protect your home along with your most priceless possessions – your family. Yet, it’s reported that only 17 % of homeowners have a security system or any automated deterrent.

The solution for many diligent homeowners is to install an alarm system to protect their house. Of course there are other effective ways to protect your residence - like having a dog, making sure you close and lock windows and doors, communicating with neighbors, posting plenty of outdoor lighting and always keeping the appearance that someone is home. But when it comes from stopping the bad guys from entering your castle, there is no replacement for a good security system.

So it’s no surprise that the home security sector is a thriving business in the U.S. In fact, NextMarket forecasts the do-it-yourself home security industry will be a $1.5 billion business by 2020, not to mention professional security and alarm services. And now, the home security market is catering to a clientele they never have tried to attract before: renters, who make up about one third of all households, and customers from lower or moderate income neighborhoods.

Will a home security system really keep you safe? It’s definitely best used in conjunction with the above-mentioned safety measures, not to replace them. But nearly 80% of homeowners who have alarms rated their systems as effective in protecting their homes, according to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

That’s why costs for systems have come down and there is more flexibility in piecing together à La carte or customizable security systems, as well as the precipitous rise in DIY home systems that you can easily buy at Home Depot, hardware stores, or order online. Many of these kits, like SimpliSafe, Korner and Canary sell for $200-$500 and are easy to install.

But buyers should beware, because the industry isn’t well regulated and many companies are charged with pressure and scare sales tactics and wild variances in pricing. The same alarm system that one company will install for free (to get a long term contract for monitoring) may cost $2-$3,000 with another provider.

It’s important to understand the components of any home security system so you can determine what’s necessary - and most effective – for your home.

First off, there is an actual physical alarm system. Wires attached to windows and doors trigger an alarm when they are opened (and the alarm is on), notifying you of a break in.

That may include cameras, which are often not hardwired but run on batteries and transmit footage through a Wi-Fi signal. Many of them have night vision features and can record data on a remote DVR for playback if a crime is committed. The nicer systems have audio capabilities (including the ability to broadcast your voice to whom ever is in your house!) and employ facial recognition capabilities.

The next part of that equation is monitoring. Once the alarm is triggered, it will automatically make a distress call to the police department or a security monitoring service. Alarm systems work without the monitoring service, but just because it makes a loud noise, doesn’t mean someone is coming to help. Most alarm installers will install the actual alarm for zero or a nominal cost so they can make money off signing you to a long term monitoring contract, often up to three years at $20 to $50 a month.

There are also higher-end systems that trigger the alarm when the glass on windows or doors is broken, and when motion sensors pick up a potential intruder. Advanced features integrate sensors to detect home fires and carbon monoxide alarms.

These days, home security is high tech, with many systems that allow you to set, disable, and monitor your alarm virtually through your computer or smart phone app. You can also get live feed of your surveillance footage from your phone when you have surveillance cameras, and control other home features like lighting and temperature.

Maybe the DIY option is for you, but for those who want to use a professional security service, we’ve compiled a list of the highest rated nationally recognized companies based on rankings from ConsumerAdvocates.org. Of course there are pros and cons to each, so do your own research and assess which alarm system is right for your home and circumstances. Local police forces often will come out to give a free security assessment to help guide you, and you can also check with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List.

#1 Frontpoint
Rated 10/10
    Top 5% Angie's list customer service award. Editor's Choice.
    GE wireless hardware - camera, & mobile app options
    Best reputation in Home Security
    30-day free trial then 3-year term
Top quality monitoring, from $34.99/mo

#2 ADT
Rated 10/10
    Most recognizable brand & most popular in US
    Get it installed by a pro for free - save time and don't risk doing it wrong
    High quality hardware with mobile app to stay connected
    3-year term. 2-year term (in California)
Website doesn't show pricing, easy online quotes

#3 Protect America
Rated 9/10
    Low starting prices
    Simple yet effective equipment
    3-year term
Expect to pay $19.99-$42.99/mo

#4 Vivint
Rated 8/10
    Highest quality home security and automation
    Up to $1500 in free equipment
    4-year term
No entry-level pricing, expect to pay at least $12 more per month on average.

#5 Link Interactive
Rated 7/10
    60 years of experience in Home Security
    Big savings in first year after discount
    Wireless System includes home automation!
Expect to pay $29.99/mo

#6 AlarmForce
Rated 7/10
     Popular in Canada, In US only available in NC, OH, GA, FL, MN
    2-way communication
    $25/mo
    3-year term
Estimated 1st year total: $300

#7 SimpliSafe
Rated 6/10
    Monitoring $19.99/mo
    Pay more up front to buy your own equipment
    No contract since you own the equipment
Estimated 1st year total: $409.84

#8 XFINITY
Rated 6/10
    $199 installation fee increases cost
    $29.95/mo
    3-year term
Estimated 1st year total: $558.40

#9 AT&T Digital Life
Rated 6/10
    Only available for single homes or townhouses
    Home automation features
    24 month contract
Estimated 1st year total: $629.87

#10 Alarm Relay
Rated 8/10
    Most Complicated: Hardware & monitoring sold separately
    Alarm Relay $8.95/mo
    1-year contract
    Estimated 1st year total: $342.40

Monitoring Only from Alarm Relay

7 comments:

  1. One in thirty-six homes is an awfully high number. Now I think about it though, I've known several people whose homes have been broken into, so it seems like a fairly accurate statistic. In this day, there's really no reason not to have a home alarm installed. As you say, it protects your valuables, but also your family. That seems worth it to me.

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