can you recommend a home security / alarm company?
January 22, 2007 11:37 AM   Subscribe

can you recommend a good home security / alarm company?

we're in san diego. there are the usual suspects as far as security goes: brinks, ADT,.. but i'm not sure whether to go with a local company or a bigger company - who is happy with their service?

we have deadbolts and locks on all our windows, but that didn't prevent a break-in this week. we've since installed motion sensitive lights around the perimeter of our little house and secondary locks on all the windows, and are looking into an alarm system obviously, but any other suggestions would be recommended.

(besides getting a dog. love dogs, but you know - suggestions that don't involve living beings.)
posted by boygirlparty to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Provider asside.. make sure YOU know what is going on when the system gets installed. There have been quite a few articles on the internets about this topic:

Before you call the sales guys, make sure you do your research, and make sure you aren't making a huge mistake that the installer doesn't care to mention.

Be an informed consumer.
posted by SirStan at 11:55 AM on January 22, 2007

There have been lots of threads here about this. Might be worth repeating my comment from one of them:

Syndicated radio host Clark Howard, who does a wonderfully informative consumer rights show, has discussed home security systems a number of times; the field is ripe for abusive business practices:

Clark has been hearing complaints about the burglar industry since he started in radio back in the ‘80s. There are legitimate businesses, of course. But the majority of these people are very scummy. They take advantage of people who are emotionally vulnerable by creating burglar alarm contracts that are very one-sided...

The first thing you must ask when deciding on a company is, “Do you have a contract?” If the answer is yes, hang up. You want a company that is month-to-month – or one that charges no more than three months at a time. The second question is, “What is your monthly fee?” If it’s more than $20, hang up. The true cost of monitoring a home is probably $2 or $3 a month, but many jack up the fee by a huge amount. There is simply no need to pay that much, so don’t. You want protection against smoke and fire with the alarm, so make sure that is included in the price.

He restates the case here.

On the motion-detecting lights front, when we were broken into during daylight hours a few months ago, the fingerprint tech told us that most robberies she sees happen between noon and 3pm.

posted by mediareport at 12:06 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have Brinks. Haven't had an actual breakin (unless you count our dog unlatching the door between the garage and the house once). Brinks called our home then our cell and asked whether we wanted them to call police. We were on our way home, so we took our chances. We've had a couple other "false alarms" and their operators call very quickly if you don't put in the password fast enough.

We have three types of sensors: Door sensors on entry doors, motion sensors inside the house, and smoke/fire sensors. For an extra charge, they could have installed sensors on all the windows but we didn't feel it was necessary.

We're satisfied with their service but I can't say we've had a "live test" of the system yet.

And second what SirStan says: Make sure you know *what* they are installing. If you have questions, make sure you get answers, before installation if possible. (We had a mixup on our installation and Brinks did make it right for us.)
posted by Doohickie at 12:07 PM on January 22, 2007

Second on Brinks. Have it at home and the office. No real break in attempts, but I have set the damn thing off more than I care to admit.

We did have a defect with a sensor and they came right out and replaced it. I was very happy with the sales guy's explanations of all of the equipment and the company.
posted by mrbugsentry at 12:10 PM on January 22, 2007

Third Brinks, especially over ADT. I had ADT for the duration of their "trial" period and at the end I had them take it out because the install was sucky and they wouldn't make it better. They fought me to the death until I just told them that if I had to process a chargeback that they wern't getting their equipment back. They caved, I went with Brinks, and the install was perfect. I've been very happy except for the $28/mo monitoring fee.

I'm now considering taking it out and installing a DSC system myself. The wiring is all there which makes it hella-easy (I can't believe I just used that term). Plus you can get monitoring for your own equipment for like $9 / month.
posted by Thrillhouse at 12:30 PM on January 22, 2007

I have ADT. Have not had any problems. No break-ins, no false alarms. Take it for what it's worth.

But after reading this thread, I think I might start shopping around...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:09 PM on January 22, 2007

I also have ADT, and have had nothing but excellent service. However... I'm paying $42 a month!!
posted by matty at 4:03 PM on January 22, 2007

Be very careful. We had ADT and when we sold our house discovered that there was only a 20 day window or something equally lame to cancel their service. So we ended paying for the new owner's protection for a year. Company had zero interest in anything we had to say.

Howard's right. Don't sign a contract.
posted by maxwelton at 4:36 PM on January 22, 2007

I work for an alarm monitoring company. When doing research, be sure to ask a billion questions ahead of time.

[ ] How much is their service guy rate?
[ ] How much is their after-hours service guy rate?
[ ] Holiday service guy rate?
[ ] Mileage rate?
[ ] Total installation cost?
[ ] Monthly monitoring charge?
[ ] Charge to replace a CPU low battery (large system battery that typically can only be purchased from the company itself, not found at any store)
[ ] Charge to change batteries for detectors?
[ ] Charge to replace detectors?
[ ] Charge to change location of detectors?
[ ] Charge to reprogram the detectors because you didn't replace the batteries in the right order (sounds dumb, I agree)
[ ] Charge to reprogram the code you forgot?

You can usually set up how you want your system monitored however you want...

[ ] If you want the police dispatched immediately on every alarm, say so.
[ ] If you want the house to be called first before sending police, say so.
[ ] If you want the house to be called first, then your cell before dispatching, say so.
[ ] If you want the house line, your cell, and all of your call-list people (people you entrust with a key and/or disarm codes in case of emergency or out of town incidents) before dispatching say so.
[ ] Check with your local police department to see whether there is a maximum number of false-alarm dispatches before they start charging you.
[ ] Check with your city information department about whether you are required to have an alarm system permit before you get one installed.
[ ] Figure out where you want detectors to go, and give them names that when told to police, emergency crews will know what you mean almost immediately. Good idea: west double doors. Bad idea: Jimmy's smoke detector. We have someone with "dog's bedroom smoke detector" .. the fire department will have to search every room to luck up on that one. Make it absurdly obvious which part of the house it's in.


( ) no alarms ever go straight to the police, it goes to the alarm company first and they send the police. If you set it off, call the alarm company first, not the police)
( ) most standard motion detectors do not actually detect motion, they detect sudden variations in light. If someone drives by your house and pulls up in the driveway, the headlights make streak across one window, which will light up the room suddenly inside and set off a motion detector. The sun setting or clouds passing won't set it off because it's so slow. A person walking within the (modifiable) range of sensitivity of the motion, it will vary the light pattern that the sensor detects. But this is also true if the air condition causes a calendar to blow, or a ficus tree to rustle in the breeze.
( ) most glass break detectors don't actually detect whether or not glass was broken. They either pick up vibrations from a surface, such as even if a bird hits the window but doesn't break it, or they pick up sharp sounds (sensitivity can be adjusted) like glass breaking. A book plopping down to the floor having fallen off a shelf will also do it, as will slamming a door upstairs.
( ) most fire detectors don't actually detect fire, they detect particles in the air that would normally be caused by smoke. Unusual humidity, cigarettes, and strong room fresheners can set them off, depending on the sensitivity.

We monitor most of the businesses and residences in a city of about 110,000 pop, and I would honestly say that only 10% of our customers actually need an alarm system (like convenience stores).

We also don't keep the alarm disarm codes on record, you've got to keep up with those yourself. Have a special code word that you can use to alert the monitoring central station that you are who you say you are, especially when the police has already been sent, need to know something about the status of the house/biz, or can't get the alarm to shut off. Make it something even you think is random, but memorize it. Chances are if the police have been sent and you don't know the codeword, the central station will report to the police that you don't know the correct identifiers. The code word can generally be anything. I suggest a combination of numbers and words, like 38 epsilon, or billy 42 fishbowl. And don't tell anyone what it is that doesn't need to be there.

Maybe I should write a book on this =P
posted by Quarter Pincher at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2007 [4 favorites]

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