When considering a security system installation, customers have several potential areas of focus. Choosing the right alarm system, and the right company to install it, can prove a tall task to tackle. Adding to this difficulty is the fact that most individuals purchasing their first alarm know very little about what’s available. Unlike cars or electronics, customers enter this market with little knowledge of their options for equipment or monitoring. Furthermore, the varying business models alarm companies use even make discovering the total alarm cost difficult! In this post, we share some smart security questions for alarm “shoppers” to ask. These questions will help you find your way navigating this difficult market.

We will begin with some questions you can ask to determie how much your alarm will “really” cost. Alarms generally include both upfront and long-term investments. Additionally, some companies attempt to “hide” some of the cost as well. We will help you navigate how you can discover this information. From there, we will discuss some of the questions you should ask about alarm monitoring options. These options can add or decrease overall security, so pay close attention! Finally, we will also look at questions that you can ask about adding alarm sensors down the road. Now, let’s get started with a primer on the various costs involved in installing an alarm.

A sign reading "COSTS" on top of a pile of money

Asking smart security questions can help customers determine the “true” cost of installing an alarm system.

Finding the True Cost of Your Alarm System

When shopping for most products, you simply need to find the price tag to determine your total investment. However, alarm systems create a rather significant exception to this rule. The upfront cost of an alarm varies greatly based on your choice of equipment. Additionally, monitoring costs also vary from company company, and can also change based on which type of monitoring you sign up for. Finally, the popularity of long-term contracts in the industry can create additional costs in various ways. Let’s get started with a look at questions you can ask about alarm equipment.

Alarm Equipment “Packages” and Extra Equipment

When customers start shopping for an alarm, they often begin by finding information related to the upfront cost. Security companies often create ads showing a low price for a “base package.” In fact, some companies even simply adverise a free alarm system! Of course, things get a little more complicated when you read the fine print. These prices come with a caveat that equipment above and beyond the “base package” will cost extra. Additionally, the base package often comes with an extremely limited amount of equipment. In turn, this equipment provides a minimal amount of security.

In order to determine the equipment cost of your entire alarm system, you need to create a complete system design. To help you do so, we recommend you call alarm companies around you to ask about the cost of their “basic” package (if applicable) as well as the cost of additional security. Additionally, consider asking security providers to visit your home and help design a system. At that point, the price they provide after their visit will encompass a level of security you find comfortable. Now, let’s look at how you can ask additional smart security questions related to an alarm’s cost.

The Dangers of Long-Term Monitoring Contracts

We generally find that companies with the least expensive installation prices often use high monitoring rates and multi-year monitoring contracts to make their money. In essence, these companies “roll” some of their equipment cost into inflated monthly monitoring rates. Even companies that give equipment away can quickly recoup the cost of their product using this method. In this manner, some security companies “hide” the true cost of an alarm. Of course, not all alarm companies follow these business practices. At Northeast Security Solutions, we provide customers with a month-to-month monitoring agreement with no minimum term. This allows for cancellation of monitoring at any time, for any reason.

Any service company will need to occasionally raise service prices as operation costs increase. However, some alarm companies utilize regular, pre-planned monitoring rate increases. In fact, we’ve seen some companies increase their customers’ monitoring rates by $15-20 per month during the monitoring contract term. This allows them to make more money off of customers that they have already locked into a contract. Therefore, we recommend that new alarm customers ask about both monitoring commitments as well as monitoring rate changes. Moreover, we recommend that customers ask alarm companies how they monitor their alarms. Let’s examine some of these options now!

An orange phone with a cord

If you rely on your property’s old-fashioned phone lines for monitoring, you will not experience the most consistent monitoring available.

Inquiring About Available Monitoring Options

Just as no two alarms are created alike, no two types of alarm monitoring are exactly the same either. Simply put, alarm monitoring involves creating a connection between a security system and a central station. This connection allows a call center operator to respond to alarm events at your property. If necessary, this will also create an emergency dispatch. Our central station notifies our customers about burglary and fire-related emergencies. Additionally, alarm events such as low sensor batteries and malfunctioning equipment can also create a central station response.

We can create this monitoring through many different means. Traditional alarm monitoring involves creating a physical connection between an alarm and a property’s existing phone lines. This type of monitoring represents the least expensive — and often least secure — monitoring option. After all, traditionally monitored alarms go “offline” during a phone outage. Unfortunately, alarm companies often include pricing for only this type of monitoring in their ads. This means that you must dig a bit further to see what you’ll pay if you choose a better monitoring option.

So what do these “better options” entail? Specifically, we recommend monitoring your alarm through either internet or cellular communication. This allows your security system to stay monitored even when your phones go down. Make sure to ask any proespective alarm companies if their alarms include this ability, as well as what these options add to the total monitoring rate. Our preffered alarm, the QOLSYS IQ Panel 2 Plus, includes cellular and internet monitoring equipment right out of the box. Always ask alarm companies about the monitoring options — and prices — that they can offer you.

Security Expansion Through Additional Equipment

Last but not least, you should also ask some smart security questions about installing additional equipment in the future. For example, some security companies install alarms that can connect to smart home cameras and other smart home appliances. Obviously, these alarms carry a higher price tag than those that do not contain this feature. This means that cost-conscious customers who purchase an alarm without a smart home hub may find they pay more to add these features in the long run than if they had paid more for a better security system out of the gate. Therefore, asking about these options up front can help you make a better decision.

An Alarm.com camera watching over a homes front deck.

Installing smart cameras to monitor your property, such as this Alarm.com camera keeping an eye on a property’s front door, can help deter theft.

Other examples of equipment you may want to add in the future include life safety devices. The ability to easily add smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detection in the future makes a difference to a lot of customers. Additionally, we have many people ask us about installing environmental sensors such as water and low temperature sensors. Knowing what you may wish to add to your alarm in the future will help you ask the right questions now. Feel free to check out our post on Creative Home Security System Options to check up on alarm equipment that you may wish to consider adding now or in the future!

Asking Smart Security Questions and Finding a Solution That Works for You

We hope that this post has provided you some smart security questions that you can use during your search for the right alarm. Furthermore, we encourage you to contact us with any questions this post raises for you. We will happily answer any security-related inquiries. Additionally, we offer free site surveys to both new and existing customers alike. As we mentioned earlier, creating a security system design before beginning the buying process can go a long way towards making an informed buying decision. While onsite we can adress any security concerns you may have. Moreover, we will make our own recommendations based on what we see during out visit. Together, we can create a complete security plan to keep you, your loved ones, and your most valuable possessions as safe and secure as possible!