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What You Should Know Before Buying a Home Security System

Woman monitoring her house with a home security system
Hispanolistic / Getty

You’ve bought the perfect home for your family. You’ve filled it with your treasures and decorated it to match your style perfectly.

Then, the unthinkable happens. Someone burglarizes your home.

Well, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the FBI, a burglary happens every 25.7 seconds, so approximately 3,300 per day. One in 36 residents can expect their property to be burglarized and less than 30% of homes have working security systems.

There are ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your property against break-ins.

A home security system will often deter a would-be burglar from your home. They are looking for an accessible home without causing any notice.

A survey of convicted thieves by KTVB found that, “Most intruders said they would leave immediately if a security alarm went off” and “Generally, burglars agreed security cameras were a deterrent.”

There are basic tips to go along with a home security system:

  • Keep your home well lit from the outside, with trimmed bushes and foliage.
  • Don’t advertise your hobbies. Think gun-ownership bumper stickers. Those can signal to a thief you may have valuables on the property. And if they think you aren’t home, they will risk gaining access for those high-value items.
  • Keep a spare car in the driveway if you can.
  • Keep lights and a radio or TV on inside while you are away.
  • Burglars say hearing barking dogs is a deterrent.

According to security company ADT, these are the most common points of entry for home break-ins:

  • Front door: 34% of burglars turn the doorknob and walk right in.
  • First-floor windows: 23% use a first-floor open window to break in.
  • Back door: 22% use the back door.
  • Garage doors: 9% come in through the garage.
  • Basement: 4% choose the basement as a point of entry.
  • Unlocked areas, sheds, and storage: Another 6% will try for any opening that isn’t locked.
  • Second-floor window: 2% will try a second-story window.

All about home security systems

We spent dozens of hours researching reviews and crime statistics, and speaking with customers and law-enforcement officials; be sure to read our findings on the best home security system to protect you and your home.

In addition to that extensive review, here’s a list of 10 things you should know before you buy a home security system. You’ll learn not only the basics but also what to look for in a system to protect your valuables and your family.

1. Asset protection devices protect valuables.

You can install devices that will alert you if your valuables have been tampered with. Asset protection devices let you know when, for example, a jewelry box has been opened, a painting has been moved, or a safe has been tampered with, even if there is no physical evidence.

Asset protection devices are not only beneficial when it comes to theft, but they can also give you peace of mind. For example, if a repair person or house cleaner comes into your home while you are away, you will know whether they disturbed your valuable items. When thinking about asset protection devices, consider how many you will need.

2. Burglar alarms are not home security systems.

There are major differences between a burglar alarm and a home security system; the latter provides additional benefits to help protect you and your family, and it may be a better investment. Before signing up with a company, it is important that you know what you are getting, what is protected, and how the system works.

A burglar alarm is the traditional type of alarm system that has sensors on doors and windows. It will alert you or law enforcement (depending on your settings) that an intruder has entered your home. This is extremely beneficial — but a home security system can also warn you about environmental dangers, such as fire, carbon monoxide, and even flooding. When considering your options for a home security system review the following companies to find exactly what you are looking for: SimpliSafe, ADT, Vivint and FrontPoint.

3. Security systems operate even during power outages.

Many homeowners are concerned about how the home security system is powered. Suppose you are on vacation and get word that there was a storm in your neighborhood that knocked out the electricity. Is your home security system still on? Is your home protected? Should you return home?

Don’t be alarmed: No matter what type of system you have, it will continue to operate even when there is no power at your home. A traditional system that is powered by electricity is typically low voltage, which means it doesn’t actually take a lot of power to run the system. And these types of systems contain a large battery that will back up the system when the main power is out.

Another option is a solar-powered security system. You can set this up to be only one component, such as an outdoor security camera, or your entire system can be run on solar power. A solar-powered system is more costly, but if you are looking for a “green” solution that will provide security even when there is no electricity, this is the best option.

4. Size does matter.

Although some security companies may tell you there is only one kind of security system for everyone, this is not true. In fact, several types and sizes are available, each of which can be customized to fit your needs. Sure, doing so will cost more; but it also will provide you with a higher level of security, as it will be designed specifically to fit your home and your way of life.

A small system might be fine for an apartment or small home. If you have a larger home, you’ll need a system that can handle a larger amount of information and monitoring. A large home requires a system that covers all the doors and windows, as well as the grounds.

5. Home security systems are affordable.

Even if you are on a limited budget, you can have a home security system. You might want to consider a traditional burglar alarm system; this will give you sensors on your doors and windows, and alert you to any intruders. While not as advanced as a home security system, it will provide adequate protection for your valuables and your family.

If your budget allows, you can opt for a system that is larger, is more advanced, and has extra features. This can include fire alarms, carbon monoxide alerts, and intruder alerts, and can provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel. A more advanced system can also include the use of asset protection devices.

6. The installation process varies.

The installation process of your home security system depends on what type you purchase. A traditional wired system will need to be installed by a professional, and often requires some drilling (and holes in your walls) to connect the sensors to the main alarm system.

On the other hand, a wireless system is much easier to install, as no drilling is required. In most cases, wireless systems are powered by batteries, although some are powered by solar panels.

The installation will also depend on the company you purchase it through; special equipment may be needed to connect you directly to the security company or emergency personnel. Ask what is required for the installation so that you are prepared for the process (and the potential mess).

7. Many systems offer personal security.

Suppose you slipped while walking down the stairs and couldn’t get to a phone. How long would it take before someone came looking for you? Many home security systems are equipped with technology that can be beneficial in a medical emergency.

In most instances, you can get a pendant or bracelet that allows you to push a button to immediately be put in contact with emergency personnel. When you purchase this type of service, help will be available to you 24 hours a day. This option is great for the elderly, as well as those who live alone or don’t have neighbors close by.

8. Choose your provider carefully.

Now that you have determined the importance of a home security system, and know what services are available, you will need to choose a service provider. First, consider how long the company has been in business. We recommend you choose a company that has at least 10 years of service, but that has updated modern equipment. This track record will give you not only customer feedback but also peace of mind.

Second, consider the distance between you and the monitoring location. We recommend that you be no more than 250 miles away. The farther away you are from a monitoring location, the longer it can take for the alarm to relay, which could delay the amount of time it takes for someone to get to your home.

9. Additional services may not be worth it.

As you begin calling home security companies, you will be offered additional devices and services that can be added to increase your security. However, not all of the devices are worth the price you will have to pay.

For instance, if you have no valuable paintings or jewelry, or other items that you want specifically protected, then you would not want to pay for asset protection devices. On the other hand, if you do have high-priced items in your home, then asset protection devices are definitely worth investing in.

Other high-tech devices you might find worth the cost are personal alarm systems, which provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel, as well as security cameras that can be linked to your smartphone. This allows you to monitor your home even while you are away; it is the way of the future.

10. There are other less-obvious benefits.

Aside from the security of knowing that your personal possessions are protected, there are other benefits to having a home security system that just might help you make the decision to purchase one.

For instance, many homeowners have insurance policies that offer a reduction in premiums for those who have a home security system installed. Speak with your insurance carrier to see whether it offers this discount, and what is required of the system to receive the discount.

In addition, more advanced home security systems can provide you with an alert if one of your appliances is not working properly and could cause damage to your home. Furthermore, home security systems give guests, babysitters, and nannies peace of mind, knowing that they are safe and secure in your home.

Before you purchase a home security system, do a little research. Look at the differences in the types of systems, as well as some of the additional features, to determine what you need. Don’t spend money on unnecessary extras. Find a provider that is within 250 miles for the best possible protection.

Finally, remember that everyone deserves to have their home, personal property, and family protected. Now all you need to do is get a home security system.

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