Home security systems deter burglars, offer peace of mind and can even reduce insurance premiums.
But what system is right for you? The choices, not to mention the prices, can be mind-boggling. Home
security systems should never be purchased on a whim. Take the
time to do some homework on all the options that are available.
One thing is for sure: You do not want to buy a system, then find
out it is ineffective after a burglar as broken into your home and
walked off with your most valued possessions.
Here are some tips to consider before you shop for a home security system:
- Understand the Risk
Take an inventory of your risk. Have there been break-ins in your neighborhood?
Perhaps you were recently victimized. Or are you reacting to a recent increase in
crime throughout your town – or something that happened to a friend in another
city across the country?Don’t assume you’re safe if your neighborhood has never
had a break-in. There’s
always a first time. That said, the history can help you make a decision and narrow
your choices. If you live in a safe neighborhood, for example, you might consider
placing stickers in your windows warning potential burglars of your security system
– even if you don’t have one. Or you can opt for an inexpensive system that only rings
an alarm if a break-in is detected.
- Consult with Your Insurance Company
Some insurance companies offer substantial discounts to homeowners with security
systems. Most companies will reduce your premium by anywhere from 5% to 15% for
a basic security system. Something more elaborate – such as a system that also has a
fire alarm and connects to an emergency monitoring center – can shave as much as 20%
off your home insurance bill. Call your insurance agent to find out whether it offers any
discount and, if it does, the size for the system you are considering. You also should shop
around. You might find a better deal with another insurance carrier.
- Monitored or Unmonitored Security?
There are primarily two types of home security systems: unmonitored and monitored.
An unmonitored system will sound an alarm at your house and may turn on emergency
lights. It would be up to you and your neighbors to alert authorities to investigate the
alarm. Of course, all the commotion and racket would likely frighten away an intruder.
A more secure solution is a security system that connects directly to a call centre that
specializes in alarms. Once the system is triggered, an operator at the call centre will
contact police, firefighters or paramedics, depending on the type of alarm. A monitored
system also can sound alarms and turn on emergency lights when triggered. The downside
to this extra protection is the cost: The call centre charges a monthly or annual fee for the
service. In addition, you could face bills from police or other emergency personnel if
they’re sent to your home repeatedly to investigate false alarms.
- Research the Company
Companies that make home security system will likely send a subcontractor to your home
to install it. If it’s a monitored system, it will direct you to another subcontractor that handles
the emergency call centre. You will want to make sure that all the companies you work with on
installing and maintaining your home security system are legitimate and reliable. Check ratings
and customer comments for each on the Web, in consumer magazines, and with the Office of
Fair Trading. Also, make sure the system you buy and the service providers carry the
Underwriters Laboratories seal of approval. That means they meet global standards for
safety and reliability.
- Understand Vulnerabilities
No security system is foolproof. The alarms of an unmonitored system could be set off during the
day when no one is around to hear them. A smart burglar could know this and be undeterred.
This wouldn’t be a problem with a monitored system, but it has its own shortcomings. Most, for
instance, are wired to the monitoring centre by telephone. If a burglar knows this, he might first
cut your home’s phone connection before breaking a window. Technology can reduce the risk.
Systems are available that have both a battery backup and can contact the monitoring centre
over a cellular wireless connection. Of course, these extra features cost extra for the equipment
and in the monthly service fees.
Regardless of what home security system you purchase, you’ll sleep better at night and feel more at ease
during the day knowing that your home and loved ones are more protected.
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