Home Security Systems: Everything You Need to Know

You lock your doors, close your windows, and rely on the family dog. But is that enough to keep your family safe? Home security systems are crucial when protecting your household (including your dog) from burglary, fire, and even flooding. But let’s face it, choosing a home security system can feel complicated. To help answer all of your questions (and then some) we’ve compiled a list of the most important things to keep in mind when searching for the best security system for your home.

What exactly is a home security system?

A home security system is a network of devices that all work together to secure your home. A typical system comes with a control panel, door and window sensors, motion detectors, a high decibel alarm, and signs for your yard and windows. Each of these components plays a part in keeping your home secure, with the control panel acting as the system’s primary control center.

How home security systems work

When someone breaks into your home while your alarm is enabled, they will trigger one of the sensors, be it at an entry point such as a window or door or within a room. When they do, the sensors communicate a breach to the control center, which sounds the alarm. If you have a professionally monitored system, the authorities will also be alerted to the break-in.

How home monitoring works

If you want the most protection out of your system, invest in professional home monitoring. Depending on the security system, a trained security professional will attempt to communicate with the homeowner through their system or by telephone if the alarm is triggered. Accidentally set off your own alarm? Professional monitoring gives you an opportunity to explain the situation before emergency personnel are notified.

If an actual intrusion occurs, the security professional will inform the police, ambulance, or fire department of the emergency. Different companies have different regulations surrounding how long they wait to contact the authorities, so be sure to ask your provider what theirs are.

What are the benefits of having a home security system?

Increased protection for your household

Preparing for the worst is often the best thing you can do to protect your family, and home security is no different. The high-frequency alarm alerts you to any security breaches, so if someone does break in you and your family have time to act.

Having your system monitored provides a direct connection to authorities which often leads to quicker response times. The sooner they know of your emergency, the sooner they can help. Alarm systems also protect the low-traffic areas of your home. Rarely use the basement or back door? Make sure they’re covered by installing home security sensors in those areas.

Controlling your home from afar

Thanks to technology, many home security systems can be controlled and monitored from your phone. This allows you to travel without worrying about the security of your home. Check your cameras for any activity and keep an eye on any packages or deliveries while you’re out. For added safety, many home security systems are also capable of detecting carbon monoxide, smoke, and flooding. With a monitored system, your provider can also notify emergency services if needed.

Peace of mind

One of the greatest advantages of having a home security system is the peace of mind it gives you and your household. No matter where you are, you know that someone is keeping an eye on your home and has your best interests in mind. You can take that trip you’ve been dreaming of and can enjoy more restful sleep at home. Just moving into a new home and getting to know the unfamiliar sounds? With a home security system, you won’t have to budge when the heat comes on or the floor creaks.

Home security systems also give peace of mind to babysitters, house cleaners, and caretakers that are in your home while you’re out. They can feel safe concentrating on the task at hand without worrying about a potential break-in.

Financial savings

Home security is a selling point, so when prospective buyers notice that your home is already secure, they’re more likely to make an offer close to the asking price. Aren’t selling any time soon? You can still save an average of 10% on your monthly home insurance premiums. Call your provider to find out just how much their discount is.

Additionally, automated systems can help conserve energy. Want the lights on just before you get home? Adjust your thermostat or control your lights while you’re away to save money on your utility bills.

Protects your family when you’re gone

Does your mother tend to wander off? Is your toddler fascinated by the hot tub? Keep an eye on your family members and keep them out of dangerous areas by installing sensors on the entry points you want them to avoid.

If a member of your household has medical issues, it’s worth investing in medical alert systems. These additional features may be added to your home security system, depending on your provider. ADT, for example, offers medical alert bracelets and necklaces that ensure the help you need is alerted with a click.

How much does a home security system cost?

It might be scary to think about, but preparing for a home invasion is always worth the cost. Most home security providers offer different plans or packages ranging from the most basic to highly advanced. When choosing your plan, you’ll want to consider the size of your home, the size of your household, your pets, and small children.

Upfront costs of home security systems

When you buy a home security system, there are often both upfront and monthly costs. The price you pay upfront covers the equipment (sensors, control panel, etc.) and the monthly fee covers maintenance and professional monitoring. Keep in mind that each provider is different. Some companies offer set packages that fluctuate with the price, and some allow you to build your own system. Here are examples of a few of the most common home security plans and their average upfront costs:

  • Basic – This plan offers the most limited selection of features, generally including a control panel, wireless key remote, one or two motion sensors, two or three entryway sensors, a high decibel alarm, and yard signs. Given its limitations, this plan is best for smaller homes with fewer access points. It will usually run you close to $300 upfront.

  • Intermediate – This plan usually offers more hardware to cover a larger home with more entry points. Often it includes smoke, carbon monoxide, and flood detectors. Some intermediate plans offer smart systems that allow you to monitor your home from your smartphone, something that is incredibly useful for frequent travelers, parents, and pet owners. These plans generally cost around $500-$700 upfront depending on the provider and the hardware included in the plan.

  • Advanced – The plan with the most features, including plenty of sensors and smart home features, can also be accompanied by live video streaming from your home security cameras. Needless to say, this is the most expensive plan and is the most useful for larger homes with many entry points. A plan of this caliber can cost upwards of $800 depending on the features you choose.

Monthly costs of home security systems

You’ll be happy to hear that the package you choose has little impact on the monthly fees of your system. Professionally monitored systems generally cost $20-$60 a month, depending on the provider. While unmonitored systems cost closer to $10-$15 per month, having your home monitored by a trained security professional is highly recommended. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you don’t want to be left on your own.

Additional charges for home security systems

If you aren’t opting for a DIY home security system, most providers charge an installation fee of around $100. Other fees? Well, they depend on how many bells and whistles you add onto your plan. Medical alert systems, for example, are an additional charge.

Is a home security system worth it?

Given the cost, you might be wondering if a home security system is worth the investment. Let’s look at the numbers. According to a recent study, 60% of convicted burglars said that they would avoid a home if it had a security system, yet only 17% of households in the U.S. are protected by one. But just how many homes are burglarized each year?

A total of 841,283 residential burglaries were reported in the U.S. in 2017 and the average value of the goods taken from these homes was $2,368 per household. Keep in mind that this price does not include damages such as repairing windows, doors, or flooring.

The potential cost benefits are high, but keeping your family and household safe is of top priority.  Remember the burglars above? Reducing your risk of burglary by 60% is as easy as installing a home security system.

How do I buy a home security system?

Decide on the best system for your household

How large is your home?

When choosing the right home security system for you, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors starting with the size of your home. A home with more square footage will need motion detectors with a larger radius than a smaller home will. It’s also crucial to consider how many entry points you need to cover. Given that 34% of burglars use the front door, and 23% break in through first-floor windows, you’ll want to be certain each of these entry points is protected.

Do you have any children or pets?

You don’t want your beagle tripping the alarm every night, so if you have a pet be sure to invest in an alarm system that’s designed with your pet in mind. Additionally, ask whether your potential provider offers protection for pet doors. It might sound strange, but an entry point is an entry point.

If you have children, consider any additional features such as cameras or extra door sensors you might need. Want to keep them out of the den? Make sure your system offers protection for internal doorways too.

Where is your home situated?

The location of your home is very important when determining the type of security system you need. For example, protecting your home on a cul-de-sac requires different security features than the main street. In a similar vein, if your house is near a wooded area or lake, it could increase your risk of fire or flood so you’ll want additional protection and appropriate features to match the placement of your home.

Do you receive many deliveries?

Frequent visitors and deliveries call for additional household protection. You may want security cameras, doorbell cameras, or keypad locks depending on your lifestyle. This way, you can keep an eye on your packages and let people into your home while you’re out.

Choosing a home security company

When it comes time to purchase your home security system, make sure you find a company that has everything you need. Before signing anything or spending a penny, double check the following requirements to ensure you choose the right home security company for your household:

  • Research the company’s reputation via friends, family, and online reviews.

  • Make sure their accreditation and licenses are in good standing.

  • To be safe, hire a company that’s a member of a recognized security organization such as the Security Industry Association.

  • Know their packages and make sure they offer what you need.

  • Calculate both the monthly and upfront costs to ensure they fit your budget.

  • Confirm the quality of the system and the technology itself. Does it work and is it reliable?

  • Understand the duration of any contract and what it includes.

  • Don’t settle for mediocre customer service. These are the people you’ll be dealing with in an emergency, so you want to feel comfortable communicating with them.

What if my new home already has a home security system?

If you’re moving into a new home that’s already equipped with a home security system, you have three options:

  1. Activate the system by calling the current security provider. While you’re on the phone with them, you’ll also want to update and change any codes, passwords, and personal information associated with the system.

  2. Replace the system once you decide on the best home security provider for you. Shop around and give your new security company a call. They may have restrictions or requirements when changing service or removing the old system, so make sure you’re informed.

  3. Update the system or plan of the already-installed system by calling the security provider and discussing your options. Be sure to ask about pricing. You don’t want to be stuck with an unexpected bill.

What else do I need to know about home security systems?

Smash resistant systems

Some newer home security systems are “crash and smash” proof. This means that even if the intruders break the control panel, your alarm system will still work to protect your home. This is a smart feature to have when shopping for your next home security system or upgrading an existing one.

You don’t always need a phone line.

Home security systems are connected either through the internet, landlines, or cellular signal. Depending on the provider you choose, you can protect your home with a professionally monitored home security system even without a landline. There may be limitations, however, so be sure to discuss your preferred connection method and the needs of your household with your security company.

What happens when the power goes out?

The reliability of your home security system during a power outage relies heavily on the connection you choose (landline, cellular, or internet). Traditional phone lines, or landlines, are the most secure and will continue to function normally so long as the phone wires themselves remain intact.

Cellular connections will also continue to connect your home security system to its monitoring center if the power goes out, but systems relying solely on the internet might not. Power outages often lead to a loss of internet and without that connection, your home security system will not be able to communicate with the company’s monitoring center.

Keep in mind that these are guidelines. Systems and providers vary, so be sure you understand your particular service and the way your system operates before purchasing it.

How does my home size impact my home’s security?

More entry points

As we mentioned earlier, a larger home will often have more entry points. More windows and doors require additional sensors and cameras, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping for a system.

Harder to monitor

You can’t be two places at once, so having a larger home can make it more difficult to monitor your home in its entirety. To stay on top of any unwanted activity, you may want to purchase security cameras and additional motion detectors for your home.

How are smart and traditional home security systems different?

Smart home security systems have their advantages and disadvantages. They can be less expensive than traditional systems and are easy to install yourself. This makes smart systems a user-friendly alternative for renters and small homeowners.

That said, not all smart home security systems are professionally monitored. While notifying you of an intruder is important, connecting you to emergency services is crucial in providing the most complete protection for your home.

Now that you have the lowdown on home security, you can start hunting for your ideal system. Take the time to determine your household’s needs and priorities, and rest assured that you’ve made the best decision for you and your home.

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