Is a Monitored Alarm System the Right Choice for Your Home?

Is a Monitored Alarm System the Right Choice for Your Home?

Residential alarm systems get a lot of attention when talking about home security, but what choices do you have and what benefits are there?  Can you get a discount on your homeowner’s insurance if you have a system installed?  It is possible that just a sign from a security company on your window or in your yard may deter potential burglars, but educating yourself about what security companies have to offer can help you determine if an alarm system is right for your home.

Security companies offer a host of options, including protection against burglary, fire, and carbon monoxide, as well as medical monitoring and mobile monitoring.  In security systems, you have two basic choices:  monitored and unmonitored systems. 

Monitored systems will contact your monitoring company by telephone when activated.  The monitoring company will then dispatch the police, fire department, or other emergency personnel to your home.  The drawbacks, however, could be quite serious, depending on the situation.  The monitored system uses your telephone line to notify emergency personnel.  That means that your phone line will be in use and you would need a secondary phone line or a cellular phone to call for additional help.  If an intruder is bold enough to cut your telephone line before entering your home, the advantages of a monitored system are cut short.  Also, in the case of a false alarm, the police department may charge you for a trip out to your home.

Some monitoring companies will sell you the security system, but will not act as your monitoring company.  They may sub-contract with a monitoring firm who will be handling your monitoring.  You can find a secure monitoring company on your own, but if your company has an Underwriters Laboratory rating, you can trust they will be secure.

Unmonitored systems have advantages and disadvantages as well.  An unmonitored system usually has an audible alarm and possibly flashing lights, which notify neighbors that the security of your home has been breached.  This, however, poses a specific problem:  you must rely on your neighbors to take action if they see or hear your alarm system activated.  Your neighbors may not be at home, or, unfortunately, some neighbors will not want to get involved.  Consider organizing your community by initiating a neighborhood watch program and having get-togethers, so that you become vested in protecting each others safety.

For many, the advantages of a home security system are also financial.  Informing your homeowner’s insurance company that you have certain security measures in place can save you 5% to 20% on your homeowner’s policy.  Insurers will routinely give a 15% to 20% discount for homes equipped with a burglary and fire alarm system that is monitored by a third-party monitoring company.1

Considering an alarm system for your home may provide you with peace of mind, whether you are home or away.  Developing close ties to your neighbors can also provide you that same comfort.  If you are considering a monitored security system, contact your homeowner’s insurance company for details about discounts that may be available to you.  While the financial benefit from your insurance company may be an advantage to a security system, it may be greatly outweighed by the peace of mind you will feel in knowing your home is properly defended against burglary, fire, or other threats.

 

1 See http://homes.wsj.com/buysell/taxesandinsurance/20031202-smartmoney.html.