- What are my options? There are many home security options out there. At the basic end you've got burglar alarms which consist of the skeleton sensors necessary to detect an intrusion (door, window, and motion) and a means of notifying the home-owner with an audible noise. An alarm system extends this to include fire and smoke detectors. Taking it a bit further, a home security system can also include monitoring by a central station, home security cameras, remote control via your smartphone, and home automation options such as automated lighting and door locks. With all the tech options available today, you probably want to choose a more comprehensive security system to best meet your needs.
- How much does it cost? The million dollar question. The answer is, fortunately, a lot lower. A simple burglar alarm can be purchased online for as little as $20. A self-monitored alarm system including multiple extra sensors can be purchased for around $260. With a fully loaded home security system, monitored by a central station, you are typically looking at a contract which can start from as little as $20 per month plus installation fees (but if you ask nicely, they might just waive it).
- What's involved in the installation/set? The burglar alarms you buy on Amazon are self-install or DIY. It's actually easier than it sounds since it's mostly attaching sensors to your doors and windows using adhesive tape. For all other options we recommend a professional install. With the rise of wireless technology it is becoming easier and easier to do yourself, but it's extremely important to get it done right.
- Are there contracts? There are only contracts with home security systems that include a monthly monitoring package. Contracts vary based on requirements - the longer the contract, the better the price (in general). Also be sure to read your contract carefully before you sign on the dotted line to make sure you are not caught off-guard with any hidden extras, loopholes, get-out clauses and the like.
- Do I need a phone line? Not anymore. Older alarm systems relied on phone lines, but these are also prone to cutting by thieves, especially on older homes where the lines are exposed. The more cutting edge systems, including those you can buy and install yourself, offer a broadband (via your home internet connection) or a cellular/mobile signal option which are much safer and reasonable options.
- What happens if I'm broken into? The answer to this depends on the type of alarm system you have installed. With a self-monitored security system, if someone breaks into your house, you are notified. With a system monitored by a central station, you are notified first, but if the alarm company can't reach you, they will quickly dispatch local law enforcement to your home. Be aware that most monitoring contracts employ a strike system, whereby after an agreed number of false alarms, they will no longer send the police to attend.
In short, do some research, figure out what your requirements are. Then speak to an expert. In fact, speak to several experts to get a feel for things. Don't let any sales people pressure you. Take your time. Choose your system. And get it installed by an accredited engineer.