What are my options for installing a home security system?
October 31, 2005 7:43 AM   Subscribe

What are my options for installing a home security system?

Hi there,

After being a avid watcher of 'It Takes a Thief', I've been moving forward on researching my options for having a home security system installed.

I currently do best practices by locking doors and windows before leaving the house, and also have installed charley bars on the sliding doors on both the upper and lower floors.

What I'm interested in doing is either:

a) Taking the time to buy and install my own system, and finding a service in my area (Woodinville, WA) that can enable fire and police protection should the alarm be triggered... or

b) Go with a ADT or similiar system where I pay an installation and monthly fee charge for home security and fire prevention.

What I'd like to know is:

1. Are there websites online that review different security products, such as motion detectors, safes, or even reviews on ADT-like services and how well they fare?
2. If there are any forums online that are devoted to issues regarding home security and best practices?

Please post if you have any advice or suggestions, or even your own experiences. :)

Thanks in advance.
posted by DCTapeworm to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
When I was younger, there were a lot of break-ins in my neighborhood, so we got ADT. We put two motion detectors on the first floor, door and window sensors in the basement and first floor, and a couple of signs that advertised that we used ADT. Thankfully, nothing has happened to date, and hopefully our luck will continue.

I think the most important parts of our system are the signs outside (which act as a natural deterrent to kids and amateurs) and our motion detectors, which 10 years later still work perfectly. The monthly fee now (I think) is $35, but for the peace of mind it gives my family (like AppleCare on an Apple), it's well worth the price.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:03 AM on October 31, 2005

I've twice overseen installation of home security systems. The first time, I was advised to avoid ADT -- I don't recall the reasons why although I know one big item was having more flexiblity with my system choice and monitoring system. (Going with ADT locks you into their hardware and their monitoring.)

1. One hardware set is Ademco (bought by Honeywell, I think) and the other Honeywell. No problems with any equipment.

2. Installation was by well-regarded (recommended by trusted individuals) independent alarm installers in the area for each project. I would not install a system myself when considering benefits from having fresh eyes on the project and the relatively low cost of the work.

3. Monitoring contract with company recommended by each installer, although I could have gone anywhere I like. I have had no issues with either -- the only thing I would look for if I had to check would be felixbilty with call lists. (You will want call lists should be able to be different depending on what sensor triggered the alarm as well as multiple calls to be made.)

4. While a separate phone line is not required, you might need it if you have other call-in items on the line (e.g. remote operation of home mecahnical systems).

5. The last security consultant I spoke with talked at length with me about what works where and why. In the end, we are only talking about levels of deterrence. "Locks are for honest people" and all that.

I have a home security system to know if something happens when I am away from my home: flood? fire? temperature plunge? open window? I am not concerned so much with our "stuff" or our safety* as I am the condition of the home itself. At the start, be clear about what your expectations are for a system. (On preview: I've never had signs on the house or yard stating we have a system. Again, it's about levels of deterrence.)

*Local codes still require individual smoke detectors to be installed even with a central detection system installed. Also, we never set our alarm when we are in the house; we're just not that paranoid cautious? concerned?.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:05 AM on October 31, 2005

I work for a security company, I program alarms for banks, schools, jewelry stores, and everything imbetween. We have our own central station as well. I'll give you my 2 cents right quick:

Perimeter protection is your best bet, in terms of spending the least amount of money. I don't know the condition of your house, but a hard wired system is 10x better than wireless solutions. Having your house monitored will give you a break on your home owner's insurance. There is a news group that would have more info to peruse: alt.security.alarms: I don't recommend DIY, but YMMV.

I recommend avoiding ADT, you will get charged out the arse for an inferior product. Adds ons are very expensive and the monthly monitoring costs are very high. You never actually "own" the system unless you pay crazy loot. This means switching monitoring companies is a crap shoot, as far as the next alarm company being able to access your panel to change where the alarm reports to.

Feel free to email me if you have very specific questions, I'm too lazy to give you the grand tour here.
posted by AllesKlar at 8:20 AM on October 31, 2005

What Dick Paris said.

We decided to get a security system when we moved into our home because the house was broken into twice while it was being built before we moved in.

We went with a local security company. They did an excellent job of installing the system. Though they contract out to another company for monitoring, their local customer service is excellent.

I would suggest you steer clear of ADT. They'll sell you on a "free" system, but charge you $40/month for monitoring with a lengthy contract, or up-sell you equipment you do not need. In addition, once and ADT system is installed you are locked into having them monitor it. I pay around $20 a month for monitoring.

That said, from what I've heard yard signs and window stickers are about as effective as a live security system. And a big dog is the most effective deterrent.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:33 AM on October 31, 2005

The most effective home defense systems are by ASPCA. The systems can actually sense motion and sound with great accuracy and can tell wen the motions are made by bad guys or by home owners. The alarm sound is also often an effective deterrent to burglary unlike other systems.

The downside is that the systems tend to demand walks and can drool on the furniture.

In all seriousness, my wife and I had an ADT system that came with the house we purchased. It made a lot of noise, often at inappropriate times and only monitored two doors and motion i one room. We decided that no system was a better alternative than the ADT system and we have happily lived without ever since.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2005

From a very reliable source (a manager in a city who interacts frequently with alarm companies), Brinks is NOT a very responsible/responsive company.

More to the point: if you do get an alarm system, you definitely want to get motion detectors and/or other components that will provide a second indicator that you have a problem. It's too easy for a door to blow open or one piece of equipment to malfunction, generating a false alarm. (More than 95% of alarms that police respond to are FALSE.) Many, if not, most localities will charge you for multiple false alarms (the number of free alarms varies by locality).

If do go with a monitored system, having it be able to detect a fire is probably good justification for having the system, although fires in modern homes are quite rare.

Also consider what you stand to lose if you are burglarized - jewelry, computers, guns, expensive (and not heavy) electronics, CDs are the preferred targets.

Finally, if you decide not to go with an alarm system, you should think about the DOORS to your house. Ideally, these should be steel (there are some really nice ones on the market) with a good deadbolt (Consumers Report magazine, in the last issue, or the one prior to that, had a small article on this). One of the preferred ways to break into a house is to use a crowbar on a door. (Going in via a window is much more noticeable.)

(And always lock the outside door to your garage, if the garage is attached to the house, when you're not home.)
posted by WestCoaster at 10:50 AM on October 31, 2005

I'm not saying that any of you are wrong, per se, but I'm quite curious to know why being "locked into something" is necessarily a bad thing. Are you all just as opposed to subscription-based services, like Yahoo Music, Napster, etc. Do you all own your homes, instead of renting? Do you all own your cars, instead of leasing?

Is ADT inferior because their response time is bad? Are they known for faulty products or poor installation? When my parents first installed the system, the price was pretty low for install and monthly maintainance at the time was 20/month. Has their business model drastically changed since then?

I ask all these questions because we've had the system so long that perhaps my mom is ready for a change...we just took it for granted that ADT was a quality system, since we've never had any problems. Are we wrong?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 10:55 AM on October 31, 2005

When my parents first installed the system, the price was pretty low for install and monthly maintainance at the time was 20/month. Has their business model drastically changed since then?

After installation, all an alarm monitoring service does is take a call by your alarm system when a zone is violated, call you to make sure it wasn't you, then call the police. That's it.

We have a system that was installed by ADT in our home by a previous owner.

To activate it, ADT wants a minimum of $33 a month and a 2-year contract. Noone else can activate it because it is locked to ADT. That's a nearly $800 commitment, for a barebones 10-year-old alarm system.

Basically, ADT is not good value for money, particularly for new installs, when just-as-reliable monitoring services can be had for $9/month with no contract, and a system only costs a few hundred to install.

The problem with being "locked in" to one alarm provider is that they know it will be a big hassle to switch, so they can charge above-market rates. Competition is good.
posted by trevyn at 8:56 PM on October 31, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the great responses. This has helped tremendously.

I'll contact a couple of you via E-Mail once I do my homework, and I'll post back here once I make a decision one way or another (and post the best answer).

Again, thank you so much for posting. You don't know how much it means to have all of you give your opinions on the matter. :)
posted by DCTapeworm at 8:02 AM on November 1, 2005

Response by poster: Update:

Through more searching, I found a great forum over at homesecuritystore.com. There are industry professionals that contribute to the forum, and there are different items for sale there that correlate with most security products that are available.

I haven't decided on anything yet, but I'm working on it, thanks to this new resource. :)
posted by DCTapeworm at 7:50 AM on November 7, 2005

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