Home security systems: choosing the right equipment
Most home security companies have special equipment deals when you sign up for the alarm monitoring service. Typically, a low-cost standard security system includes the control panel, 3 contacted doors, 1 motion sensor, 1 touch panel, and 1 interior siren. This is a great burglar alarm system to start with and you can always add more equipment at installation time or at a later date. Of course, this will be activated and you will communicate with a central monitoring center when the system is activated. A great person (other than the sales rep) who makes sure you have a solid alarm system can sometimes be the alarm installer. They usually have the most hands-on experience without the incentive to make extra money and try to sell you additional equipment.
If you can spend a little more upfront, I suggest some more important equipment:
Outdoor Siren – This is a great way to get rid of thieves as soon as the system is activated. There are many times that a thief will try to proceed and disrupt a weak inner siren. It will be very difficult for them to continue knowing that someone heard that loud outside sound. If you have very close neighbors, you can use an indoor siren that projects to the outside. You can install this less invasive indoor siren (10 decibels) in the attic or in the crawl space next to an air vent.
Cellular backup: it is very common for a security system to communicate alarm signals to central stations through traditional telephone lines. Criminals are catching on and can easily cut a phone line to disrupt communication and proceed to disarm the system. Any reputable company offers cellular backup. This is a permanent device that is installed to communicate via cell phone. If you have a very good cell signal, you probably don’t even need a phone line and can use the cell phone as a primary. Cell backup typically has a nominal additional fee, but it’s worth it.
Motion sensors – Usually you get a motion sensor with a basic alarm system, but you want to make sure of 2 things. 1- If you have certain types of pets, they can trigger the burglar alarm and cause false alarms. 2- that 1 motion sensor will be enough to cover the perimeters and stairs (if you have 2 two-story). Talk to the alarm installer to make sure you can use the motion sensor if you have a pet. If you are going to cause problems, you may need to spend more money to add window sensors and glass break sensors. Motion sensors are very cost effective, and yet they work best for protecting areas (as long as you can use them). Even if someone walks through a wall, it will eventually trigger a motion sensor. Standard moves generally provide 90 degree coverage (which is why corners are good locations) and range from 20 to 30 feet.
Keyboard in the master bedroom – always a good idea. The purpose of a second keyboard in the master bedroom is to provide important functionality. You will have the 3 panic buttons close by in case of emergency while you sleep. If you are ever sure that there is a burglar trying to break in while you are at home, it is best to press the police panic button (if possible, also call 911). This will let central station responders know that this may be a robbery situation and will alert the police. The police, in turn, can respond faster because it is considered a more critical / confirmed situation. This is another topic you want to discuss with the central monitoring station. Also with a second keyboard you can arm the entire system including motion sensors to protect you while you sleep.
Monitored Smoke Detectors – I think it is very important to have at least one monitored smoke detector in a hallway location. If it is two floors 1 up and 1 down. For larger houses, you may want to add 2 up and 2 down. This can save your life in the event of a fire. If the smoke knocks you out, this may be your only hope that the fire depot will get to you in time. Another good device is an attic heat detector. Many fires start on the roof from lightning.
The list of different teams goes on. Always ask for a list of devices and discuss them with a security professional. This becomes common sense when you know what equipment is on offer. I always say the more lines of protection the better, but in many situations homeowners find a lot of additional equipment too expensive. That’s why you can start with a basic and add more equipment later.