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Home Security Systems: 8 Important Questions to Ask Yourself




In the summertime, there are barbeques and burglaries. A lot of burglaries. July and August are the most common months for the crime to be committed, with one burglary happening every 14 seconds. That means that by the time you’ve finished reading this post, at least 10 burglaries would have happened. Scary, right?

And alarm systems aren’t just for strangers. We heard from BrightNest user Mia Rossen who shared a house key with her partner. After they broke up, he returned the key, but kept a copy for himself. While she was at work, her neighbors reported that he would spend a couple hours at her house each day. A low-fi security system rigged up to a webcam and a remote desktop revealed that her creepy ex had been stalking her Facebook messages and personal calendar, and moving her photo displays around her home.

"I took precautions when I went on vacations, but lights on timers didn't deter untrustworthy people that were already in my life." Mia says. Thankfully, Mia now rests easy with an automated alarm and camera system. 

But how do you know which alarm system is right for you? Peace of mind is priceless, but there are a lot of scams floating around out there. Before you decide to buy and install a security system, do your homework. There are several factors to consider, including the length of time you’re often away from home, cost and comfort.

Here’s a breakdown of the important questions to ask yourself before you buy:

1. Do You Rent or Own?

If you own your home, you have the flexibility to choose any security system that fits your needs. But if you rent, you should opt for a wireless system you install yourself and that can be removed easily. These systems run off of an internet connection and are not wired into your home. Basically, you want to own the equipment so you can easily take it with you when you head on to your next spot.

2. How Long Do You Plan on Living in Your House?

Security system contracts can be up to ten years. If you’re planning on selling your home in the next two to three years, you should pay attention to the fine print. Some companies offer a moving program, which allows you to bring the equipment and contract with you when you move.

If you’re planning on moving soon, you should think like a renter and opt for a system that allows you to own your own equipment. That way, you won’t even need to worry about a moving clause. You can just pick up and go.

3. Do You Want a Camera?

You know you want protection. But do you need a camera? Not all companies offer cameras, so you should decide before you sign on the dotted line. If you’re gone for long periods of time and like the idea of seeing what’s happening in your home, a camera may worth it. Cameras are typically accessible online or on your mobile device, so you can check in anytime. They’re also a great way to monitor childcare, elderly family members and pets when you’re out of the house. Plus, if something goes boom in the night, you can scan your house from the your bed.

If cameras are a “yes” for you, there are several options:

Fixed Security Camera: A basic attached camera that doesn’t zoom, change directions or move.

Pan-Tilt-Zoom Camera: Aptly named, these cameras are fixed on a wall and pan, tilt or zoom to follow a mobile object. Some companies even have the option of controlling the camera from your smartphone.

Wireless Camera: These cameras connect to your security system through an internet connection.

Outdoor Camera: Outdoor cameras typically have night vision, meaning you’ll be able to see sneaky burglars and raccoons at any hour of the day.

Hidden Camera: Ever heard of a nanny cam? It’s also called a “hidden camera.” These cameras can be concealed in just about anything, including a large teddy bear.

Fake Camera: Don’t laugh. Sometimes all you need to keep burglars away is the suggestion of a security system. Plus, these bad boys are a lot cheaper than their real counterparts.

4. Do You Need Burglar System or Alarm System?

Yes, these are different things. A burglar system is the most stripped down option, basically there to alert you if someone breaks into your house. An alarm system, on the other hand, includes fire safety devices like smoke alarms and carbon monoxide trouble. If you’re looking for a system that includes automated locks, cameras, and the works, you should choose a home security system. Choose the most comprehensive option that makes you comfortable and that you can afford.

5. What is Your Budget?

A small budget doesn’t mean an unsafe house. Basic burglar alarms can be purchased on Amazon for as little as $20. The more bells and whistles you want to secure your home, the more it’s going to cost you. Most monitored home security systems come with an annual fee of $100 or more, so read the fine print before signing any contracts.

6. Do I want to DIY?

If you buy a simple burglar alarm, go for it! It should be fairly simple to install. If you’re opting for a wireless option, you may be able to install it yourself, but it could get tricky. If you’re uncomfortable, we recommend opting for a professional installation. And if you’re choosing a wired-in, monitored option, you pretty much have to have it installed. Professional options are typically available through the provider of your choice.

7. Do You Want a Self-Monitored or Central-Monitored System?

If you opt for a self-monitored system, you are notified when something is amiss at your home directly from your alarm. This means you’re responsible for then notifying the authorities. With a central-monitored system, someone else does the legwork. That peace of mind will cost you, though, typically through annual fees.

8. When’s the Right Time to Buy?

Once you’ve chosen the type of system or alarm that’s best for you, we recommend doing your homework. There are often move-in rates available if you’re a new homeowner, and possibly deals offered throughout the year. Angie’s List is a great place to check for local service providers offering discounts

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