If you are in the market for a security system, you may find yourself overwhelmed. As with many products, the options for security system types and providers appear nearly endless. However, you may find that you know less about security systems than many other items or services you shop for. For example, when car shopping, you likely have certain questions you know to ask. How many miles are on the car? Does the make and model appeal to you? In what year was the car built? Perhaps you dislike a car’s price based on its age, mileage, or any other factor. The Kelley Blue Book provides an easy way to test your judgment. Furthermore, you can easily find more cars through online database shopping. You can use similar resources when shopping for a smartphone or many other popular items.
Shopping security system providers, on the other hand, provides a much different experience. Many homeowners in the market for a security system are unfamiliar with the product and service options available. This presents a potentially frustrating experience. We have addressed some of this frustration in our post on Smart Security System Design. Reading through some of those suggestions should give you an idea about the type of system and equipment you need. However, the other half of this battle involves choosing the right security company. Knowing what questions to ask in order to find the best value and the best service will help you make an informed decision. This post aims to help you do just that. Here are 6 important questions that you should ask security system providers before hiring one to install your system.
Who Owns The Hardware?
Plenty of consumers lease expensive products rather than buying them outright. However, many security system customers do not even realize that they do not own the security equipment in their homes. Many larger security companies simply lease their equipment to customers. You may see a flyer with an offer for a professionally installed security system at a suspiciously low price. Some companies even offer a free security system. In many cases, these companies simply charge you for installation and then lease the equipment to you.
When you buy a security system from Northeast Security Systems, you own the hardware. If you move, you can often move most, if not all, of your equipment with you. You can also include the value of your system in the price of your home if you sell the house. Many companies lease their hardware to customers without making this business practice clear. Therefore, you should always ask this important question.
What is the Overall System Cost?
Most of our customers have their security systems monitored. In fact, we always recommend this service to our customers. Calculating the cost of a security system involves more than just looking at the up-front system cost. Different security system providers have different business models that affect how much you pay for your system in the long run. Companies that lease you equipment for very little money up front often charge extremely high monthly rates for your monitoring. In many cases, their monthly monitoring cost increases by several dollars every single year. After all, you paid very little, if anything, up front. This business model helps the security system providers make their money back quickly.
At Northeast Security Solutions, we often find our monitoring rates range from $18-25 cheaper per month than the rates of many larger companies. Therefore, if you plan on living in a house with a monitored security system for ten years, you could save up to $3,000 in monitoring fees by having our security system installed. Some security system providers try to entice customers with a low installation price. After installing the system, the monthly monitoring fees make them plenty of money in the long run. You should always factor these types of tactics into your decision making process before installing a security system.
How Long Am I Under Contract?
Locking customers into monitoring contracts is a standard practice in the security industry. Remember, some security companies use high monthly monitoring rates to offset the cost of equipment. Without locking you into a contract, those companies could not ensure that they will receive the money they expected to receive. Standard contracts often last three to five years. Therefore, if you sign a five-year monitoring contract, you will need to pay for three and a half years of unused monitoring if you move in a year and a half. This type of scenario happens quite frequently in the industry, making this question a very important one to ask.
Unlike most security companies, we do not tie customers down to a long-term monitoring contract. You can cancel your alarm monitoring at any time without penalty. Contracts make it difficult for people to install a security system if they are considering moving in the near future. Our term-free policy makes this a non-issue. Regardless of your living situation, you should always ask potential security system providers how long they plan on locking you into a monitoring contract. In addition, ask whether or not your monitoring rate will change during the contract term.
Who Installs and Services My Security System?
When choosing a security company, you should inquire whether or not the company you purchase the system from will also install and service the system. The fact that some companies sell a system only to hire a different company to take care of installation and service surprises many customers. However, many companies do not have the proper licenses to install security systems. Rather, they sell the systems and then hire properly licensed electricians to do the work. If your system needs service, this practice can cost you money. After all, the company that you bought the system from has to charge you enough money to pay the contracted workers acting as the “middlemen” in this arrangement and still make some money.
We sell, install, and service all of our customers’ systems. This means that we don’t start a relationship with our customers only to turn them over to a new company. It also means that both our company and our in-house technicians have the proper licenses and credentials to install security systems. Even some of the major providers of home security lack these qualifications. Why would you want to consult with an unlicensed security company about your security system design? Make sure that the security system providers you talk to will also install and service your system before choosing your own security company.
What Are My Monitoring Options?
We discussed a few basic security system monitoring options in our post addressing why VOIP is a Bad Choice for Alarm Systems. However, monitoring options go even deeper than basic types of phone and cellular communication. For example, if you monitor your system through a cell dialer, you should ensure that the company you choose provides a dialer that uses a modern network. As we explained in our post How the 2G Sunset Will Affect Your Alarm System, phone providers upgrade networks and disable older networks as technology evolves. Security systems using older cellular monitoring technology could require an upgrade within a few short years of installation.
We also recommend monitoring your system through an interactive cell dialer. Our cell dialer, powered by Alarm.com, offers these features. Interactive services allow you to turn your security system on and off with your cell phone. They also allow you to receive notifications directly from your alarm. Last but not least, interactive cellular monitoring lets you add smart home features to your security system. You can learn more about some of our more popular smart home products in our 7 Important Security System Add-ons for Your Smart Home.
In addition to offering interactive cellular monitoring, we can provide many specialty monitoring options that other security companies cannot provide. For example, our two-way voice monitoring puts you in direct contact with our central station through your security system’s speaker. If your alarm activates, a central station operator will talk to you to see what type of response you need. We also offer open/close reports, which allow you to track who arms and disarms your security system, and at what times. Many companies do not offer these services, so make sure to ask about them while shopping security system providers.
Will My Security System Self-Test its Contacts and Communication?
Older security systems often have no way to ensure that its contacts and monitoring will work if needed. Unfortunately, this often leads to a security system failing when you most need it to work. For example, you may change phone service providers after installing your security system. Your new phone service company could fail to properly re-install the phone line’s connection to your system. If this issue goes unnoticed, it puts you at a great risk. Now, a burglary, fire, or other emergency will not alert the central station to the alarm event.
It may surprise you to learn that some companies still install security systems that rely on older technology. Our security system tests its communication with the central station every week. It also sends a signal to all of its contacts every 64 minutes. If the system’s communication with the central station or a system component fails, you will know right away. Make sure that this is the case with the systems provided by any security company you talk to while shopping around. If you end up with a system that does not include these features, your system could fail to send for help when you need it most.
Putting it All Together
After reading this post, you should have a much better grasp of the business models and options offered by different security system providers. Hopefully, you also have some ideas about what you will demand from the company that you hire to install your own system. If you have any questions about the information provided here, or about security system design and operation in general, please do not hesitate to contact us. We provide a free site survey to see what hardware and monitoring options will work best for you. Together, we will create a security system that provides you with the safety, security, and peace of mind that you need.