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Choosing a Home Alarm System

Originally posted on 13 December 2016

Choosing Home Alarm System

First, you need to figure out how many points of entry you want to protect.  This will depend on the layout of your home—some people only need to protect their front door, while others will have a number of windows and other potential entry points they want to alarm, such as side doors and garage doors.  You’ll also want to figure out a good location for your keypads; near the front door, door to your garage, or in your master bedroom are the most common locations.

You’ll also need to decide if you want a hard-wired or wireless alarm.  Hard-wired systems can be a pain to set up—they require drilling holes into the window or doorframe, with wires run through the walls to the control panel.  Wireless alarms are much easier to set up, using pads that send a signal to the control panel.  The trade-off, of course, is in reliability—a hard-wired system is very difficult for your average burglar to tamper with, and requires very little maintenance.  A wireless alarm system in Toronto runs on batteries, so you must ensure that they’re always charged up, and the radio frequencies they use can be jammed or otherwise tampered with by more technologically savvy burglars.

If you’re building a new home, or doing extensive renovations, then you can take advantage of the work to improve your home’s security.  Contacting your security company ahead of time will allow them to proceed with a rough-in of your alarm system, allowing for full wired access.  Wired alarm systems are preferable, because they are the most reliable, and there are no issues of dealing with battery replacements or things of that nature.

If your home hasn’t been pre-wired, then a wireless system can still provide a high level of security.  Nowadays, there are some very high-quality wireless alarm systems available, where the issue of distance between the units and the central control panel has been minimized, and the battery life lasts for five to seven years.  You’ll still need to place the control panel in a central location, to allow safe communication with all sensors.  Having a wireless alarm system in place does you no good if it’s out of range of your sensors!

You also need to decide if you want a monitored alarm system.  For a small monthly fee – less than a dollar per day –many security systems can be connected to a central monitoring station that will watch the house for you, contacting you and/or the police whenever an alarm is tripped.  A non-monitored alarm system will be cheaper, and some can dial your phone number if an alarm is tripped, allowing you to self-monitor your home, so that’s another possible direction to go in.  It depends, of course, on your exact needs.  However, the price of monitoring services are highly affordable.  A ULC Certified Monitoring station is always available to watch your property when you are not available, whether you’re in a meeting, on vacation, or just stuck with a cell phone running out of battery.

Different alarm systems have different features, and which ones you need depends on your lifestyle habits and what you’re protecting.  There are different types of motion detectors for different lifestyles.  For example, when the alarm system is armed on “stay mode”, the motion detectors are automatically bypassed to allow people to walk inside the house without triggering the alarm.  There is also “pet immune” motion detectors for pet lovers – when the alarm is armed on “away mode”, it will ignore motion under a certain weight to avoid false positives from the family dog walking around.

It’s also a good idea to add monitored smoke detectors – one per floor.  Many people think their pre-installed smoke detectors are sufficient protection, but these are only local smoke detectors.  If no one’s home, no one will respond to the alarm!  Monitored detectors report to the monitoring station, which will then dispatch the fire department immediately.  There are also similar sensors for flooding, carbon monoxide and freezing temperatures, all of which can be installed as part of a home security system.

Consulting with a home security expert can help make these decisions simpler and more straightforward.  Ultimately, the sort of alarm system you will choose depends on your specific situation and requirements.

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