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What to Consider When Buying a Home Security System

Keeping your family and belongings safe is top priority. If you're not the type to keep weapons in the house, a security system would be your next best bet. While the technology of security systems has improved over the years, so too has the sheer number of companies competing for your money. We are going to discuss the factors you should consider when choosing a security system so you can shop with confidence and knowledge, helping you save time and hopefully some money as well.

There are 7 areas to consider when choosing the right security system for you household. They are: Monitoring, Installation, Technology, Customer Support, Products and Services, Cost and Brand.

Monitoring

At the very core of ANY security system is monitoring. This is how you, your family and your belongings are protected. There are three methods to monitoring and each have their pros and cons. They are:

  • Landline
  • Cellular
  • Broadband

Landline - this is the oldest method around and still used today, despite the many advancements in technology. Landline monitoring uses a phone line to communicate with the monitoring center when an alarm is triggered. This method of monitoring is mainly used for those who live in remote areas not within reach of a cell tower. This method is also very cost effective, but that's about where the pros end.

The major con for landline monitoring is surprisingly enough, security. With this method, someone meaning to do harm only has to cut the wires to your house and now you're vulnerable.

Cellular - this method of monitoring is quickly becoming the standard. Cellular monitoring uses a cellular uplink to communicate with the monitoring center. The speed with this method is superior to both landline and broadband. Being cellular also means no wires, which makes installation a breeze! Those looking to tamper with your connection will find it not too easy, as cellular monitoring is much harder to mess with.

The major drawback to this method is price. Fast, wireless, tamper proof connections are not cheap, and you will pay for that luxury.

Broadband - this method uses the internet to communicate with the monitoring center. This method is safer than landline and softer on your wallet than cellular. It's not as fast as cellular, but it's definitely faster than landline. Another great perk to broadband is home automation features. With broadband you'll be able to do things like:

  • Interoperability
  • Remote Access
  • Energy Management

You will truly feel like the Jetsons in your home of the future!

The biggest drawback to broadband is the internet connection. If you're unable to pay your bill, you'll be unable to properly secure your house. Some consumers have been known to "double up" and get a landline in addition to broadband. This can ensure that even when you hit hard times, you can rest assured that you're still protected.

Installation

Now that you've decided on what method of monitoring you'll be utilizing, it's time to decide on installation. Depending on the method you've chosen, installation might have already been chosen for you. Installation falls into two categories: DIY and Professional.

DIY - DIY stands for do-it-yourself. Quite simply the most cost effective way to install your security system...free. By doing it yourself, you are in control of where the sensors and any other equipment goes. Most DIY installations are for cellular systems as they are wireless and extremely easy to set up. Depending on the size of your house or apartment, it could take anywhere from 40 minutes to a couple hours. When or if you get stuck, customer support is just a phone call away to walk you through the process. Broadband can be DIY, but you are dealing with wires and making sure those connections are correct can add to the frustration, but still very doable.

Professional - this is exactly as it sounds. You've purchased your system and now they send someone out to install it for you. If DIY is the most cost effective, this would be the easiest method of installation. Professionals come out, they hook, connect, test everything out for you. You can ask questions and get answers right away. You sit back with your drink of choice and watch the game or your favorite TV show.

This level of ease WILL cost you though. Depending on which company you go with, there might be deals on installation. If not, be prepared to add that to your budget when shopping around. For those in rural areas that must have a landline, you're pretty much guaranteed to go with professional installation. Another downside to this method is its actually time consuming! Someone will have to be home to oversee the process, NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES.

Technology

In the last 10 - 12 years, technology has exploded. Cell phones and computers are no longer the only things that are "smart". Companies have been looking for more and more ways to increase the IQ of your everyday devices (fridge, washer machine, thermostat) so you can set it and forget it. Security systems are no different. As mentioned earlier, home automation is becoming a big thing. Your cellphone use to only make and receive phone calls. Now it can:

  • turn your lights on and off
  • lock and unlock your doors
  • adjust the temperature

There are also smart apps that your security system can work in tandem with that you may be already using throughout your house like:

  • Nest
  • Alexa
  • IFTTT applications

While all of this sounds exciting, your wallet and budget may be screaming in terror right now. These features will most definitely put you in the higher tier packages that security companies have to offer. Not to worry though, if you can't afford the "fancy" stuff right now, start small and slowly add on the tech features you like. If you go this route, make sure the company you choose has the tech features you want. Nothing worse than building up rapport with a company only to have to jump ship and start over with someone new.

Customer Support

When we spend our hard earned money, we want to feel appreciation from those that we spend our money with. With the security of your family and belongings at stake, you want to go with a company that is going to protect those things as hard as you are. When you've narrowed down your list of companies, set some time aside to read their reviews. Hone in on those from customers who have been with that particular company for awhile. After you've read some reviews, call that company up and get a "feel" for the employees that are currently working there. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How knowledgeable are they of their products?
  • How patient are they with me?
  • How far will they go to get me the answers I need?

A lot of times as customers, we don't want to make the job of the employee any harder than it already is. Please remember though, this is your safety and the safety of your family and belongings at stake. An excellent customer experience can lead customers to spending more, just because they know that that establishment "cares" about them personally. Even if just for THAT transaction.

Products and Services

Now that you've made the decision to get a home security system, what does that entail? What do you get? What do you want? What can you afford? These are things you need to ask yourself when shopping around. Do you want a plan with ALL the fixins' or is a bare bones kind of deal more your speed? Going back to technology, do you want some of the cool "next gen" tech? If so, prepare to come out of pocket.

The important lesson to take away from this section is to find out what you want. No matter the cost, make a list of the features you would like to have. As you shop around, look for the companies that offer those features. From there you'll be able to see what's what. As you come to find out how these features affect your monthly bill, start to narrow them down. Which ones can you NOT live without? Which ones can you come back to later? Which don't really do anything beneficial? Don't pay for what you don't need.

Cost

So you've looked around and you found a company that offers a package that you like. The price seems to be right in your range and you're feeling good about this decision. Before you take the plunge, ask yourself these five questions:

  • What is my monthly fee?
  • What is the activation fee?
  • What is the service fee?
  • What is the relocation fee?
  • What is the cancellation fee?

Monthly fee - most likely the price that sold you. This is what you will be paying per month. You'll want to find out if this price is temporary or for the life of your service. As you add or upgrade features to your plan, this price may increase or decrease.

Activation fee - usually this price (along with the other 4) are in the fine print. You won't learn about this fee until you're ready to sign on the dotted line and they tell you your upfront costs. These fees typically tend to be one time only due at signup. You might want to find out about reactivation fees, in case you hit hard times and your service gets suspended.

Service fee - these fees can be in addition to the monthly fee you were quoted. Sometimes this fee is attributed to technicians coming out to your house to troubleshoot technical difficulties. Other times this fee is part of your monthly plan. Whichever the case is for you and the company you've decided to go with, you'll want to find out.

Relocation fee - if you're in an apartment or leasing a home, this is a fee you should already be familiar with. When it's time to move, what is the cost to get everything set up at the new location. Will someone have to come out and install for you or will it be DIY?

Cancellation fee - a lot of times this fee is tied to a contract. Like the cellphone contracts of old, you'd be locked into a contract for 2 yrs. If for some reason you were unhappy with service or just found a better deal, you'd have to pay to terminate your contract. If you're the type of person that always has their ears and eyes open for a better deal, you'll definitely want to find out how much this fee is.

Brand

We've all heard catchy slogans and jingles on television and radio urging us to spend money with whomever. These brands not only want your business, but they need it to survive. That puts a lot of power in your hands as the consumer. These brands make a lot of claims of how they treat customers, their prices, their products and services, etc. It is your job to investigate these claims and see who is being straight up with you.

During your research into these companies, make sure that they stand up to their reputations that they tout in public. As stated earlier, just because they are the big name doesn't mean the service is superior.

Final Word and Purchase

Investing in your security is a big deal. This will most likely be a lifetime investment with one company. Do your research so you can go to these companies armed with information. Information like:

  • Will I need landline, cellular or broadband?
  • What are the fees?
  • Will I have to install it? Can I?
  • Is this brand reputable?
  • What do other customers say?
  • Does this brand have the features I'm looking for?

Not every one of these questions has to be answered before you call around, but you should at least have these questions in the chamber ready to whip out. Cut through the "fancy" talk and ads, get right to the core of a company and see how they treat potential customers.

Remember this is YOUR hard earned money that's about to be spent for the foreseeable future. Make sure that you're getting everything you want, for the price that is fair to you. Also remember that if you want the security of the future such as:

  • Home automation
  • Top Speed
  • Wireless

These services will cost extra. If you can't afford them now, during your research find out the process to upgrade later on. There are many websites nowadays that will do most of the heavy lifting for you during your research, but now you have some knowledge to understand whats being thrown at you. If you follow this guide, there is no doubt that you will arrive to the company that is right for you and your wallet. Good luck and be safe.