Choosing the Right Security Alarm System.

Choosing the Right Security Alarm System.
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Choosing the Right Security Alarm System.

Investing in a home alarm system is a good option for added home security because it provides proven theft deterrence options as well as peace of mind. Taking the time to understand the types of security alarm systems available and exactly how they will improve your home security is important so you can purchase a system tailored to your needs and budget.

Alarm systems can be wired or wireless. You must decide if you wish to install the system yourself or contract with a licensed installer.


Monitored or unmonitored?

Monitored systems are those where a private company watches your system 24 hours a day, every day, alerting the police if something goes wrong and you cannot be contacted. Unmonitored systems have on-site sirens and flashing lights that alert your neighbors of a break-in, meaning that you’ll be relying on them to contact police if you aren’t home. The best security comes from monitored systems, because their vigilance is constant. They typically function in the following way:

  1. The system’s sensors are triggered in some way, such as a door opening.
  2. The system waits 30-45 seconds to give the homeowner a chance to deactivate the system to prevent false alarms.
  3. If the alarm is not deactivated, the security system sends a message to the monitoring company over telephone lines or by a wireless device.
  4. The monitoring company receives the message and verifies the alarm, generally by placing a call to the home or homeowner’s mobile phone. If they do not receive the proper passcode or do not receive an answer, the company calls the police.
  5. The police respond.

Hardwired or wireless systems?

Traditional or hardwired security systems use some or all of the following components:

  • Control panel: All the operations of the alarm system are centered in this panel, including the connections to the central monitoring station, either through a phone line or via cellular/radio means.
  • Central monitoring station: If the system is monitored, and the alarm is set off, the control panel sends a message here.
  • Keypads: This is where the system is armed and disarmed. They should be placed near doors so they can be armed on your way out and disarmed after you return. Most work on a passcode system.
  • Key fobs: Similar to your car lock/unlock fob, this will allow you to arm and disarm your alarm system from outside the premises without using a passcode.
  • Sirens: A siren will sound an alert when an alarm is set off.
  • Door and window sensors: These set off the alarm when a door or window is opened. Glass break sensors are also available and recommended.
  • Motion detectors: Motion detectors are activated by movement within the protected room. There are various styles to meet the individual needs of the homeowner.
  • Video monitoring: Surveillance video is an option with most systems at an additional cost. The images can be sent to the monitoring station directly, captured and stored locally, and/or viewable online by computer or smart phone.
  • Alert the Panic buttons: e central station of an emergency situation that requires immediate response by the police. These buttons are also known as duress alarms.

The latest wireless home security systems may come as part of comprehensive ‘smart home’ suites that in addition to cameras, door and window alerts, and other crime fighting features, including smoke and heat sensors, carbon monoxide alarms, and water detectors.

Choosing an alarm company

If you’re looking to get a security alarm system, do your research. Before calling any alarm companies, speak to the local police first. Get an idea of how long it takes them to respond to a home security alarm after being contacted by an alarm company. Valuable time can be lost (as well as valuables themselves), which may influence your purchase decision. Next, ask them about fines for false alarms.

Get quotes from three different alarm companies in your area and compare detection coverage and features. When speaking to company representatives, make sure to ask them about the criminal screening process for their employees. Ask about extra costs to the monitoring fees billed by the companies, such as for copies of alarm reports. Beware of long-term contracts from these companies, because they may be difficult to break if you decide to cancel service or move from your home. Inquire about warranties and safety guarantees. Verify whether the equipment is to be purchased or leased.

Other considerations

Even with the advent of wireless technology, many systems still need a hard telephone line to dial out. Make sure to ask your alarm company exactly how the system will contact them in the event of a security breach. If you are using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for your phones and internet, be sure to tell the alarm monitoring company, as transmission of alarm signals over these lines is often unreliable and other steps should be taken to ensure proper reception. If the hard line is still utilized, realize that many burglars know how to cut a telephone line before infiltrating a home. However, if the phone line is inaccessible and run underground, the thieves can’t tamper with the telephone line until after they have broken in – which is too late for them. An alternative is to purchase a cellular alarm system, which will not allow thieves to tamper with the transmission of the alarm signal.


  1. Tiffany Locke says:

    Thanks for the advice to research the different alarm companies and get information from the local police. Getting advice from someone who knows what to do could help you choose a system that can provide you with the best protection. Once you’ve gotten recommendations from the police, you’d probably want to check online so you can see if they provide high-quality systems that will last, work properly, and are easy to use.

  2. Ernest London says:

    Thanks for the tips for choosing an alarm system. My wife and I want to update our security, so we are looking into alarms for our house. I like that you talked about choosing between monitored and unmonitored systems. I like that they alert the police without you even needing to do anything. I will be sure to look into these options.

  3. Violette Lebrac says:

    I like the idea of having a private company monitor my house and alert the police if anything is wrong. My sister’s house was broken into this last week, and I think I want to install some security alarms in case it happens to me. If I had a monitored system, I wouldn’t worry about my house being burgled even if I was out of town because I would know someone was watching it.

  4. Deb Pearl says:

    My husband and I have been looking into getting a security system for our home, but we have no idea how to start looking for one. That is a great idea to talk to the local police first and see how long it takes them to respond to a security system. That would be wonderful to know, and maybe they have a suggestion for a company we can go with. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Karol says:

    Informative article, totally what I wanted too find.

  6. Ashley Maxwell says:

    Thanks for your comment about how you should get an alarm system that is monitored so that you know when someone is coming into your house. I like how you said that this means that you can be contacted no matter where you are as well. My husband and I are considering alarm control systems for our home to make sure that our kids are always safe in our house.

  7. Joy Butler says:

    I believe that being prepared for all possible scenarios is a good start to prioritizing your security. In order to do so, you would need to explore all the security vulnerabilities that you might have in order to get the most out of the security system that you want to be installed. It is important to hire a company that is well-certified and has a commendable reputation in the security business to ensure that you’re getting a strong suit of security measures installed in your establishment.

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  9. Kyle Wayne says:

    I appreciate that you talked about getting quotes from three different alarm companies in your area and compare detection coverage and features. My younger sister just moved and is looking to get security alarms for their home to keep their kids safe. I’ll be sure to talk to her about comparing companies before making a decision.

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  12. Gerty Gift says:

    I like what you said about having panic buttons. I have never heard of those outside of work, but I think they are incredibly useful and could be even more so at home. I will be looking into this more and bringing it up with my husband.

  13. Elsa Anderson says:

    My family and I recently moved to a new area and are thinking of getting a security system to give us all peace of mind. I like that you say to talk to the local police before you call any alarm companies because you can ask the police how long it takes them to respond to a home security alarm after being contacted by the company. Also, I agree that you should ask about the fines for false alarms in a case of an accident. These are great tips that I will use when looking for a security system.

  14. James Anderson says:

    It is surprising to know that there is such a thing as an unmonitored system, wherein it has on-site sirens and flashing light that alert neighbors of a break-in. For a heavy sleeper like me, this is a good option to consider for the security system that I want for my house. I’ll ask around and see which companies offer this type of security system. Thanks for the information!

  15. Ria Amelia Lawrence says:

    I do like the door and window sensor kind of alarm system because like you said, it is the type that alarms when the windows and the doors are opened. Since I am not usually at home, I think this type of security system will work the best for me. I will discuss this with my brother so that we can start looking for a security system like this as soon as possible. Thank you.

  16. Hannah Neilson says:

    Thanks for the tip about considering a wireless alarm system. It would be good to consider this because it would show that they are qualified. My husband and I are looking for a security alarm, so we’ll have to consider a wireless one.

  17. Hazel Owens says:

    Thanks for the tip about asking the police how long it takes for the alarm company to contact them since it could take a bit more time than wanted. I just moved to a new area but my husband is deployed in the army, so I sometimes feel nervous at night by myself. I’ll have to ask the police and different alarm companies to see which is the best option for me.

  18. Bethany Birchridge says:

    I thought it was cool that hardwired security systems could allow you to have key fobs. That sounds like it would be especially handy when you are leaving your home. My friend has been considering getting a security system, so I think this article would help her see which type she likes. I’ll totally share it with her. Is there anything else she should keep in mind?

  19. Ashley Maxwell says:

    Thanks for mentioning how a security system should be able to be monitored. I also like how you said that they should have sirens too. My husband and I are considering getting a security and fire alarm for our house to keep our family safe.

  20. Hannah Neilson says:

    Thanks for the tip about finding an alarm system with a central monitoring component. Finding something that can be remotely monitored would be really helpful. My husband and I are looking for a new alarm system, so we’ll have to find one that is monitored.

  21. Dino Violante says:

    It sure was nice that you mentioned speaking to the police first about their response time to security system before deciding on the type of system to buy. I will be sure to do that because I am planning to install a security system in the shop and not my home. Of course, I want it to be secured and that threats will be dealt with immediately one way or another. Thanks!

  22. Elsa Anderson says:

    I like the idea of researching for several alarm companies to choose from and weigh in your options depending on their alarms’ features and coverage. This should help you filter your search and get the alarm system that matches your needs. In this case, I’ll make sure to identify what my needs first by talking to my husband before shopping online.

  23. Katie Wilson says:

    Thanks for the tip about considering what kind of monitoring you want for a security system. Finding something that will have video monitoring seems like it would be pretty secure. My husband and I want to install a security system after the home next door got broken into, so we’ll have to consider how we want it monitored.

  24. Kit Hannigan says:

    I really like your tip about getting quotes from three different alarm companies in my area to get a better idea of the detection coverage and features. We’ve had a few break-ins in the past year, and we’re looking to add a professional security system in our house. I’ll be sure to contact a reputable residential security system to help us out.

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  31. Rosie Beckett says:

    I recently bought a condo and I will be living there alone, so I want to have a security system to help me feel safe and comfortable. You make a great point that you should first think about if you want a monitored or unmonitored system. The fact that a monitored system will actually alert me to my phone will give me peace of mind that I will always be aware if there is a break in. Also, I appreciate that you say to get quotes from different alarm companies because this way I can compare their prices and services before choosing one.

  32. Larry Weaver says:

    Thanks for the idea to ask an alarm company about fines when it comes to false alarms. My dad is looking to install a security system because his neighborhood’s crime rates have been rising these past few months. My dad is very frugal with his money, so I’m sure that he would want to ask about fines associated with alarm systems that he might consider purchasing.

  33. Mark Murphy says:

    I really appreciate your tip to avoid getting any long-term contracts with companies that have hidden extra costs. My wife and I have been thinking of getting a new house, and we are concerned that we won’t be able to protect it since our neighbor’s house recently got broken into. I will be sure to tell my wife that we should try and find a company that doesn’t have any hidden fees!

  34. Ellie Davis says:

    Thank you for pointing out that if you get a monitored system a private company can watch your house around the clock. My husband and I are worried about a break in and want to get a security system. I’ll have to do some research and find the best security system in our area.

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  36. Daphne Gilpin says:

    I really like your idea to speak to the local police first to see if they have any recommendations about the speed of home security alarm systems. My husband and I will be moving to a new area soon, and I’d like to get a security system pretty much immediately so I can have that peace of mind. Reading your article gave me some great new ideas about how to decide which system to buy.

  37. Hazel Owens says:

    That’s good to know that wireless home security systems will take care of cameras, door and window alerts, and other features like smoke and heat sensors, carbon monoxide alarms, and water detectors to help turn your home into a smart home. This is nice since this would allow me to keep watch of my kids when they get home from school since I’m still at work for a few more hours. I’ll have to find a company that can install something like this so I can have remote access and keep my kids safe.