DIY home security system?
August 25, 2009 3:17 PM   Subscribe

I need an alarm system that will go off if windows in my ground-floor apartment are shattered. Can I install a wireless unmonitored alarm system like this myself? Should I?

I recently moved into a new apartment located on the ground floor, and have some concerns about personal security. In particular, I'm worried about someone breaking in by smashing (rather than just opening/unlocking) one of two windows. One of these is located in my bedroom and faces a sidewalk. The other is a large window in the living room, right beside the front door.

What I want is to have it set up so that if one of these windows is broken, a loud alarm goes off. I do NOT want any kind of monitoring in which I'd have to pay a monthly fee. Nor do I need motion detectors, door sensors, or anything else.

I've called a couple of security systems in the area and been quoted total prices (including installation) ranging from $550-$750 for a wireless system that would include intrusion detection for the two windows (of the sort that can detect the frequency of broken glass) and a basic keypad and alarm. I'm told that it must be of the wireless sort, since people live above me and thus it can't be hardwired.

1. Is that a reasonable price range?
2. Could I install this type of system myself? Since it's a wireless system and plugs into a standard AC outlet, it certainly seems doable. Am I mistaken?
3. Are there any other options I should consider?
posted by iamisaid to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The quotes seem reasonable to me although, for reliability, I would prefer a wired system. I don't see why having people upstairs prevents you from having a wired system. You don't have to conceal the wires.

The sensors you describe are called audio discriminators.
posted by bz at 4:00 PM on August 25, 2009

I had very low-tech glassbreak alarms like this on my windows at one point--they take batteries and easily adhere to the glass. It is only if the glass is disturbed (i.e. hit very hard or broken) that they will go off. On testing, they are truly deafening when they go off. They also came with window stickers that said something like "Warning: These Premises are Alarmed" or something like that. bought mine at a local chain hardware store.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:04 PM on August 25, 2009

To answer (3): a dog.
posted by fourmajor at 4:12 PM on August 25, 2009

It is my understanding the smashing windows to gain entry, especially windows that are visible from the street or sidewalk, is a pretty rare form of entry for burglars. It's too loud, too visible, and is visible from the outside while they are inside stealing things. Unlocked or easily unlockable doors and windows are a much bigger concern.
posted by proj at 4:16 PM on August 25, 2009

3. Are there any other options I should consider?

Well, there's bars. But they kinda ruin the ambiance.

Then there's this stuff by 3M, which will keep them out a lot longer, and reduce all the glass you'll have to invariably clean up. That plus a loud siren would be as good as you can do without requiring sentience of some sort (monitoring company / device tethered to internet that emails you alerts / dog).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:12 PM on August 25, 2009

Here's a cool before/after video (warning: QuickTime) of that Scotchshield stuff in action (that's 200 kg of TNT with a standoff distance of 97 feet, an impulse of 89 psi-msec, and a peak pressure of 17 psi).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:18 PM on August 25, 2009

Amazing video, C_D. I wonder what the bright flash in the left hand corner of the frame is, det cord?
posted by bz at 5:36 PM on August 25, 2009

I bought this system for my office. No monitoring fee, and it does work. It is loud as hell, and you can program it to call you if you want to. It is not attractive, but it works and is pretty cheap.
posted by spilon at 8:21 PM on August 25, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the responses.

This 3M window film seems like a great option. Does anyplace sell this stuff directly to consumers? I did a bit of digging this afternoon, and the only sources I found require that they install it for me, ranging from $5-$12/sq. ft. depending on the type of film. As one of the windows in question is pretty large and that would be a bit pricey, I don't see why I couldn't do the install myself. But I can't seem to locate anyone that sells it outright, either online or off.
posted by iamisaid at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2009

I don't trust wireless or battery-powered alarms. I also don't get why you can't have a wired system because of upstairs neighbors. WTF? How many other cords do you have in your apartment? Don't you have all sorts of phone and power lines in your walls? What is the difference? Alarm system wires are very thin (thinner than phone cables) and are often "surface-mounted", threaded around door-frames and mouldings with tiny staples. A good installer will make it pretty unobtrusive. $400 sounds about right to me; $700 pretty high.

Window bars can actually be rather cool, if you go for the wrought-iron look. You can also use them to grow nifty creeper vines. The overall effect can be very nice. Since they might be seen as a "building improvement", you may wish your landlord to pay for, say, half the cost. I've done that.

I have been looking at that 3M sheeting lately, too. Seems amazing, but for most windows someone with a hammer will just end up knocking the entire window (glass and all) out of the frame eventually.

The most cost-effective thing you can install would be alarm stickers. Truly.
posted by rokusan at 8:40 PM on August 25, 2009

Does anyplace sell this stuff directly to consumers?

Highly unlikely. It's probably part of the warranty because improperly installing it could potentially render it less effective. Ever see those cars driving around with self-installed window tint?

but for most windows someone with a hammer will just end up knocking the entire window (glass and all) out of the frame eventually

Eventually, yes. The idea isn't to keep people out for all time (in that case, I would suggest concrete). Just slow them long enough to make the risk not worthwhile. Plenty of other houses that don't have it. Remember, you don't have to swim faster than the sharks. Just swim faster than the other swimmers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:46 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Breaking glass to gain entry is rare, but breaking the entire frame of a cheap or poorly constructed window does happen. I have vinyl double pane windows that tilt in for cleaning. The latch is a thin piece of metal that is easily bent, and the tilting mechanism allows for a good shove from the outside to cause the window to be broken and tilted to gain access. In this instance an alarm that only detects shattering glass would be useless. A two piece contact alarm which triggers when separated should be considered.
posted by Gungho at 5:41 AM on August 26, 2009

« Older A Not Quite Fix for My Poor Hardwood Floors   |   Oh, for the love(hate?) of academia. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.