You're thinking of getting a home alarm. You've done your research and are close to making a decision. Here are 10 questions to ask any home alarm company when choosing which home alarm to purchase. These questions will let you make the right decision in protecting your home and family.
1. Is there a contract?
Almost all home alarm companies will force you to sign a contract when getting a home alarm system. Big name companies like ADT and Vivint, along with cable companies like Xfinity and Rogers Smarthome all make customers sign contracts.
Why do they do this? First, this is done to lock the customer up. The home alarm industry is very competitive. Locking up the customer is ideal for the home alarm company. This means that the customer will be stuck paying for the system even if you're unhappy. If you want to cancel, too bad. You'll have to pay out the remainder of the term.
Contracts are great for alarm companies, not so great for customers. It's important to understand that contracts only benefit the company. Try to avoid having to sign a contract at all times. Look for an alarm company that won't require you to sign a long-term contract. Free yourself from a contract. This way if you're unhappy you can cancel at any time. This will also force the company to provide better service.
2. How much does it cost?
Home alarms used to be expensive. Customers would have to pay huge amounts of money upfront and ongoing for monitoring. Plus service calls would cost additionally. Having a home alarm was an expensive venture. And you would also have to sign a long-term contract.
With the improvements in technology and the ever-growing home security space, you can now get a great home alarm at a fraction of the price. You shouldn't have to pay more than $20/month to get a home alarm. If a company is charging more, be skeptical and find out for what. The vast majority of the time you'll be paying more for fewer services.
So why would companies charge more than $20/month? The reason is that they historically charged higher rates. Due to this, they have to keep the prices high, otherwise, if they lowered them they'd have to lower all of their older customers' rates as well. A rebound effect in lowering prices could bankrupt a company. It's always easier for a company to raise prices as opposed to lowering them.
Shop around and do your research. Know what you'll be paying and what you'll be getting in return.
3. What are the system's REAL costs?
You sign up for a home alarm system that costs $25/month. Good chance the alarm company will raise monitoring rates every year! In almost all contracts, there's a clause where the alarm company reserves the right to raise monitoring rates at any time. ADT and the cable companies are notorious for raising rates. If a company with a contract won't put in writing that they won't raise your monitoring rates, then avoid them at all costs. Know what you'll be paying ongoing, so you won't be stuck paying more for less.
4. Does the system come with a mobile app and how much is it?
You carry your phone with you everywhere you go. Make sure that you can connect to your alarm system through it. Most new alarm systems have a mobile app that will let you control the system through. If the system doesn't come with a mobile app, avoid it since it's older technology.
These apps should be standard, included at no additional cost. If the company is charging you more for the mobile app, it's nothing more than a cash grab. Avoid that company, since this should be a standard feature.
5. Is the system wireless?
30 year ago, you needed to have your home wired if you wanted a quality home alarm. That's not the case anymore. A wireless home alarm can do everything a wired home alarm can do (and more)! An alarm company wanting to hardwire an alarm into your home simply wants to log more hours of service that they can bill you for. Always choose a wireless alarm system. It's an easier, better solution that is far less intrusive to your home. And you'll save thousands of dollars.
6. How easy is it to add features/equipment?
With some home alarms, the system you're getting is the best it'll ever be. In order to add equipment or features you'll have to spend hundreds/thousands of dollars or the system just won't be able to handle the additional services. For example, if you have a Simplisafe alarm, you can't add home automation. Simplisafe doesn't have that service. Or if you have Ring.com and you want it professionally monitored, then too bad.
Find out what additional services and equipment the alarm company offers and what are the costs. Ask if you can add them at any time. Find out how easy they are to add. Do they require an installer to come over or can you do it yourself? Get all the info when making your decision.
7. Does the system require an installer to set up?
New alarm systems are so technologically advanced they don't require an installer to set it up. So then why do companies offer installers? It's because they have alarms out in the field that uses older equipment. This requires ongoing service, which only someone skilled can do.
Times have changed and technology's improved. New alarm systems don't need installers. The problem with installers is that you'll have to take a day off work for them to come in and do something you could do yourself. It's inconvenient and unnecessary. Plus, you'll have a stranger in your house that will leave a mess behind. And more often than not the installer will have to come back for one reason or another or will have to reschedule, making you miss additional time off work.
And remember that installers don't work for free. The cost of the installer will be passed on to you. You'll end up paying for something that you didn't need!
Get a new home alarm that you can do yourself. You'll be able to set it up anytime you want with minimal effort. A system with the newest technology will take between 30 to 45 minutes to install and will require no drilling. You'll save hundreds of dollars and will get a better system.
8. Does the alarm company serve all areas?
Not all home alarm companies service all areas. For example, AlarmForce has geographical boundaries where you have to live certain areas to get service. If you move out of them then you can't take the system with you. So with AlarmForce, if you live in Toronto and you're moving to Seattle, your AlarmForce system won't work there. You'll have to pay out the remainder of your contract or find someone to transfer to it.
Ideall, find a company that doesn't have geographical limitations. Find a national company that can serve you anywhere. Don't be handcuffed by limited service areas.
9. Is the system professionally monitored?
Thinking of buying a Nest Cam or a Ring.com. These aren't home alarms. They're self-monitored systems. This means that if they detect an intruder they simply notify you. Now the onus is on you to respond. You'll have to assess the situation and then contact authorities if needed. While Nest Cam and Ring.com are better than nothing, they aren't home alarms.
For real protection, you need a home alarm that is professionally monitored. This means that if your alarm goes off, a link will be established to a central station. There a professional can assess the situation and contact authorities along with an emergency contact list.
This real 24/7 protection works. Proof of this is that insurance companies give homeowners with monitored home alarms discounts in their insurance rates. You won't get the same discount if you have Nest Cam or Ring.com.
If your home alarm isn't professionally monitored by a company with a 5-diamond (the highest certification) central station, then find one that is. Get the best security available.
10. What kind of return policy does the company have?
You're thinking of getting an AlarmForce alarm. You get it installed. 11 days later you decide you want to return the system. The problem is you signed a 3-year contract. And AlarmForce has a government issued 10 day cooling off period. So now that you're past that, guess what? You're obligated to pay out the entire 3-years of the contract... even if you want to cancel!
A small number of companies have certain money back guarantees. For example, Think Protection has a 30-day risk free money back guarantee. If you're unhappy at anytime during this period, you can return your system and get all upfront equipment costs refunded.
Alarm companies that don't have long risk free guarantees lack confidence in products and services. They are trying to lock up customers because they know that better offers exist.
Avoid any company that won't give you back your money if you're unhappy. Plus if you sign a contract remember that you'll be forced to pay out the entire term of your contract. Proceed with caution and know what you're agreeing to.