Tips And/or Recommendations for a Home Security System

Updated on December 13, 2008
J.P. asks from Baltimore, MD
6 answers

I am looking for a home security system and contractor that I will not regret doing business with. I know, probably a very tall order, but any tips you have for what to look for (positives and negatives) would be appreciated. My extended family has suffered greatly from violence over the past couple years and I am looking for some peace of mind. Thank you.

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answers from Dover on

Hi J.,
I don't have a recommendation for a system or contractor, but whoever you choose, DON'T put their sign in your yard as a "deterrent".

I wish I could remember my source, but it was reliable, not an e-mail "pass this on or your computer will explode" type of thing.

The reason this is not a good idea is because companies generally install their systems the same way in each house to save themselves manhours of redesigning (which translates to money) and it also helps ensure their installers get it right by doing it as close to the same way every time.

So, if a thief has successfully breached a house with ABC security systems, they'll know what they're in for at the next ABC house. Some systems use infrared, some use contact sensors/switches, laser break beams, some are wireless, some are connected directly to the phone line (so if they cut the phone line, no alarm goes to the company and you don't know you're vulnerable). Knowing what to expect before breaking in will give the criminal an advantage in planning.

All systems have vulnerabilities (someone must confirm your need for assistance, police still have to get to you, which takes time) but I agree with their usefulness. I just caution you to keep your specific system private. If you'd like to announce you have additional security, you can buy generic "this home has a security system" signs at hardware stores or maybe Walmart.




answers from Charlottesville on

We have a Brinks system . As far as cost goes I really do not know if they are the least expensive or the most expensive. Our system was about $700 and we pay $35.99 a month. It came with a 2 year contract and they will move the equipment for free if you move to a new house. I can tell you that we had our alarm go off in the middle of the night once. My husband and I both were asleep. Within seconds Brinks had called our home to verify we did not set of the alarm by accident and within 5 mins the police were at our home searching it. Also, be sure to get a certificate from whatever company you choose and give it to your home owners insurance company and they will most likely give you a discount for having a system.

Best Wishes!



answers from Norfolk on

I do NOT recommend VECTOR security. i had a 2 yr contract with them and we constantly had false alarms because of faulty installation. It would just go off on is own. The only way we were able to back out the 2 yr contract was because we complained so much about their faulty system and service. It would take weeks just to have it serviced, since they are based out of richmond. Their customer service is terrible.

My mother has been with ADT for years and has had a great experience. We only went with Vector because of some special offering to sign up but we regret it.

I've heard of a system called First Alert (i think that's the name) and it somehow allows you to set alarms and check what's going on online. So if you forget to arm the house, you can go online. I guess it's hooked up to your cable versus phone line...not sure.

also, does your neighborhood have a neighborhood watch system? Luckily my neighborhood has a good system set up where we all look out for eachother and let block captains know when we're on vacation and such. Also, look into that cuz security systems aren't always 100% secure.

Consider taking a gun safety course at Bob's Gun Shop if you're ever in the situation to use one. Make sure you know how one works. You just never know. I lived in a shady part of norfolk at once. it's no fun always being on your guard so i finally moved to a great part of chesapeake.



answers from Washington DC on

I'd recommend a dog with a GIANT bark. I have a friend in law enforcement who said I should not waste my money on a home security system because there are so many false alarms that they get ignored a lot. It can take a while before someone actually shows up to check it out. If you REALLY believe in them then I'd listen to the lady that has been happy with Brinks - but for my security and my tight budget - I'd rather just have a dog. Until recently we had a Welsh Corgi which is a pretty small breed but has a bark like a German Shepherd. No one wanted to come in my house! You should feel safe in your own home - I hope you find the right solution for your family. Blessings - S.



answers from Norfolk on

Hi J.,

I do not recommend ADT. We had them for about two years and not once did they call when we had a false alarm or send the police. When I switched our phone services from a landline to vonage which goes through the internet I did not think about it effecting our security system, well when I did that ADT would no longer know if my alarm was going off. They never once called me and told me that they were not monitoring my house. I since then changed company and am with APEX and I love them. They installed a celluar panel so my house does not have to be monitor through my phone line. They have called me when my alarm has gone off to make sure everything is alright. They have called to let me know if the alarm did not set right and I have only had one false alarm and that is because it was extremely windy outside we are talking like 60mph winds and it was strong enough to shake my door enough to set the alarm off. APEX called me and when they did not reach me they sent out the police and then called my uncle who was my back person to call and he got in touch with me. I only pay 45.00 a month for their services. Ok I'll stop talking now. I hope this helps, good luck.



answers from Washington DC on

We have ADT and our installation was free as long as we stayed within the max amount of sensors. If we wanted extra sensors we would have to pay for each extra, but they gave us three door sensors and one motion sensor for the main level of the house for free which was perfect beacuse we had three doors that needed them and there is no access to the stairs (and our bedrooms) without going right past the motion sensor. The sensors aren't all that expensive either unless you get the really fancy ones etc. We also got the system keypad and remote operating key fob for free. We didn't need window sensors because all of our windows are too high off the ground for easy access. Our lot is very hilly. I think we had to sign on for direct depoist and a two year contract to get the sensors for free, but it's worth it for sure.

My DH says we pay "forty something" per month for the monitoring service, and they're very good. One morning I woke up to a policeman knocking on our door. The sensor on the basement door had gone off (only because the door was uneven where it was installed and half of it fell off, we've fixed that issue), but the alarm hadn't woken me from downstairs. We turned the volume up and now I can hear it even from outside the house. Another time, my parents were visiting and my dad stepped outside in the morning to read the newspaper on our deck and set it off because he hadn't known that it was armed. Before I could run down the stairs to turn it off, the monitoring center had called and they were asking for our password. My son has also set off the motion sensor several times by walking into the living room from the kitchen (attached to the garage where we come in) before I could disarm the system. The sensors are nice and sensitive which I really appreciate.

We can set it for "stay" where only the door sensors are armed and we can move around without tripping the motion sensor, or set it for "away" where everything is armed. If my DH isn't home during the night (he may have to work shifts again) I plan on taking my key fob upstairs with me and arming it for "away" so I know the motion sensor will go off if anyone tries to come up the stairs.

Anyways, I recommend ADT since they are economical, professional, dependable and the system is of a good quality. I also would recommend that whatever you choose you stick to one of the name brands, you don't want to deal with a small company here. It may sounds paranoid, but a small security company is really the perfect cover for something less legal. With the big companies, you know they are straight and you know they do background checks on their techs etc.

Best of luck!

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