How to Choose an Alarm System


Buying an electronic home security system can, sometimes, be a daunting thing to do. There is a lot at stake, meaning money spent, time invested, and, of course, the safety of your family and your most prized possessions. This is why it’s important to not only choose the perfect system for you, but also the right company that can install it. They are your allies in the home defence game, and they need to advise you properly on what you need. Choosing a safe home alarm system is not a matter to be overlooked, but one in which the quality of all the parts involved is paramount. Cheaper alarm systems might fail you as much as choosing the wrong company might mean you ending up with a system or a contract you don’t actually want or need. So, here is your ultimate guide to choosing and, ultimately, buying the best home alarm system.

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  1. How a Quality Alarm System Works. 1
  2. What Sets Reliable Home Alarm Systems apart from Shady Ones. 2
  3. What to Watch Out For When Shopping for Security Systems. 3
  4. Common Home Security System Mistakes. 3
  5. How to Choose the Best Option for Your Home. 4
  6. Top 6 Home Alarm System Features to Consider. 4
  7. Adapting the Local Offers to Your Building. 4
  8. Extra Security Tips and Tricks. 5


A.    How a Quality Alarm System Works

A home alarm system works in a very simple way. It is linked via wires to a control panel inside or outside the house. This will activate if and when doors or windows are opened as long as the entire system is armed. This is how basic alarms work, but there are also more complicated ones on the market, which come equipped with special add-ons for fire and carbon monoxide, can have motion sensors and alarms for glass-braking situations. The third category of home alarm systems is represented by the modern and high-tech ones that increasingly come with automation and the so-called ‘smart’ options, such as controlling the lighting, the pet’s door or feeding system, or the house’s thermostat.

1.      What Sets Reliable Home Alarm Systems apart from Shady Ones

The first thing to look for in a home alarm system is its reliability. You want to be able to count on it no matter what, even when you are half a world away, on a vacation. This is why, when buying an alarm system for your house, there are several questions you need to ask your seller.

  • How will I know if someone has broken into my house? Depending on the manufacturer, the installer, or your basic preferences, you can be notified via email, phone call, or instant message when something out of the ordinary is going on at your house.
  • How quickly will a team get to my house if something happens? Normally, their response time is very short, of just a few minutes, but, seeing as this is a safety issue, it’s best to check with them before you sign any contracts.
  • Will there be a warranty system in place between you and the company? Most companies do offer this service, which consists of warranty packages of 6 or 12 months. Other companies will also offer free repairs as well as free maintenance alongside the warranty itself, but it is best that you discuss this upfront.
  • What happens if the power goes out? To feel safe and be sure you can rely on your home alarm system, this is a crucial question to ask. Power shortages are opportunities that burglars take advantage of to invade your house. If the lights are out, the perpetrators might assume your alarm system is off as well. This often happened when house alarms were still rudimentary, however you won’t see it so much now that there are better models on the market. Also, you can get a back-up generator, but it is best to discuss this with your security provider.

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There have been countless stories coming from people who have installed shady home alarm systems or signed bogus contracts and got tricked, or, worse, had their house broken into afterward, because the system in itself failed to comply with the requirements or because it was of poor quality. This is why it’s good for a buyer to know what he or she wants and needs and not let himself/ herself be tricked into signing anything he/ she doesn’t want to. Here are the main differences between a serious and reliable company, offering quality alarm systems and services, and a shady one.

  • Shady companies will often present themselves at your doorstep, for different reasons such as the fact that they’ve noticed you have a sign or a sticker that says your house is protected and they think it’s outdated. They may also come and present you facts like the crime rates in your neighbourhood have gone up at an alarming rate and you need to sign with their company immediately. This is a sign that you have been monitored and considered a possible buyer. This is not entirely wrong, only that this is a tactic mostly applied by shady companies, rather than reliable ones.
  • Shady companies will always create a false sense of urgency when it comes to you buying their products and services. They will often use words like ‘now’, ‘immediately’ and ‘today’, to make you believe you are in real danger and you need to close the deal as soon as possible. A self-respecting, high-quality company will always discuss their offers with you in a timely manner and help you choose the one suited for your needs. Never sign a contract on the spot and take your time to do some research about that particular company. Also, you should always read the fine print before signing the contract.
  • Shady companies make offers that are simply too good to be true. If that is the case, they probably really are too good to be true, and you are about to purchase a shady device. You need to know that home alarm systems are not the cheapest things in the world, nor should they be. They are there to protect you, your family, and your house, and this isn’t an area which you will want to skimp on.
  • Shady companies could also be offering you free installations. Take some time to consider that. Usually, when they charge zero fees for installation, they try to make up for it in other departments, like overpriced maintenance or charging you a lot should you choose to terminate the contract with them.
  • Shady companies, unlike reliable ones, have bad online reviews or, worse, no online presence at all. In this day and age, not having a website is a bit on the quirky side and you might want to ask yourself why that is.
  • Representatives of shady companies will always be reluctant in giving you their names and their licensing number, especially when you tell them you need some time to check with the authorities if they are in order, which is something you should always do. A reliable company’s employees will have absolutely no problem in allowing you as much time you need to check everything about themselves and the company they work for.

2.      What to Watch Out For When Shopping for Security Systems

We have already mentioned most of the things you need to be careful about when you shop for a home security system in the shady vs. reliable company comparison above. Here are some other things you have to keep an eye out for.

  • Watch out for companies that send you strange emails asking for your security or credit card numbers.
  • If the sales representative starts talking about your current alarm system and saying it’s out of date or that the company you’re currently working with no longer exists and they will be taking over, this might be a trick to get you to sign a new contract.
  • Automation – indeed, this would be a fantastic addition to your home security system, but for this you really do need to find a good and reliable company.

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3.      Common Home Security System Mistakes

Even the best alarm systems in the world will fail if the people living in the house make mistakes, but as long as they are avoided, your house should be protected.

  • Hiding a key outside, where strangers might find it;
  • Using cheap door and window locks that can be easily broken into;
  • Forgetting to lock your garage, cellar, and attic as well – your system won’t work anymore;
  • Giving your security code away to an untrusted person and this includes emails you get from “companies” that ask you to upgrade your system or answer a few questions;
  • Failing to maintain your home alarm system. You need to check it periodically to make sure it’s still working. Always call in a professional.
  • Mounting your keypad very close to a door or a window, as a burglar could always peer through to see if your system is armed or not;
  • Ignoring other means of physical protection. A home alarm system is indeed vital, but never give up on the classics like secure locks, a fence, and a guard dog. Also, make sure everybody in your family actually commits to the alarm system, meaning that no one will forget to arm it when they leave the house.

B.    How to Choose the Best Option for Your Home

Given the fact that there are quite a lot of companies out there that offer home alarm systems and adjacent services, it’s not always easy to choose the one that best suits you.

1.      Top 6 Home Alarm System Features to Consider

As far as alarm system features go, here are the top 6 characteristics you need to consider before committing to a certain system.

  • Security alarms – this is the essential feature of the system, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook it. Think in terms of which type of alarm you would like to have. There are automated ones that go off when a door or a window is opened. There is also the type of alarm that comes with the panic button, that can be installed anywhere in your house and which you need to press to trigger the alarm.
  • Door chime – think about whether you need this or not. A door chime is a small noise your system makes in order to let you know someone has entered the building and is usually used by businesses where all the staff is otherwise engaged and cannot watch the front door.
  • Security lights are an excellent addition to your security system which you should consider. They are necessary for areas where the cameras that are installed cannot shoot in the dark.
  • Security cameras are one of the top assets you can install when it comes to a security system. They can allow you to see inside your house while you are away in real time, and they record everything that’s going on both inside and outside your house at all times. You can also install cameras that are motion activated, and which will only start to record when they sense movement in their allotted area. These recordings can be kept for further reference if you so desire.
  • Add-on security sensors refer to glass break detectors, motion, smoke, and carbon dioxide detectors. These are a great plus because they are focused solely on their purpose and, installed on top of your basic alarm system, will guarantee that, as long as they are in place, nothing can get into your house with you knowing about it.
  • Remote access features are add-ons mostly used by business owners which need to keep an eye on things while they are away. They have been a great success in this marketing niche, because they allow business owners to control everything, from security needs to the temperature in the office, merchandise inventory, and even employee attendance.

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2.      Adapting the Local Offers to Your Building

Any home alarm system you might install should be applied to your very own needs. You need to consider carefully the size of your house, your family’s needs, the valuable possessions you have and that might attract unwanted attention, as well as the area you live in.

Unfortunately, South Africa is a country well-known for its crime rate, which is a prominent issue the authorities are trying to handle right now. Most of the people that choose to leave South Africa and immigrate to another country admit the main reason they left was the level of violence. 49 people are murdered every single day in South Africa, according to statistics, but the numbers are believed to be much higher, because the population has grown. As far as rape goes, the country has one of the highest ratings in the world as well. Every year sees some 65 000 rapes happening in South Africa. Other types of crimes that happen very often in the country are car hijackings, farmer murders, and kidnapping. Knowing all these statistics and many more details about them will help you decide exactly what you are facing regarding home security in the area where you are living and how you can protect your house.

3. Extra Security Tips and Tricks

Security measures can sometimes be overlooked either because of lack of attention or simply because you didn’t imagine how ingenious criminals can be when it comes to breaking into houses. So, here are some extra security tips and tricks to make sure you and your family remain safe.

  • Never arrange your garden in such a way so that thieves can have a place to hide. Always trim your bushes and hedges and install lights here and there, in strategic places.
  • Stop posting online when you are on vacation. It makes you an incredibly easy target. Instead, wait until you get home to post pictures and impressions.
  • Don’t rely solely on your guard dog for protection or for letting you know when someone is trying to break in. Yes, they will do their best in protecting you, but they can be easily deceived or even hurt.
  • Try to avoid installing sliding doors in your house, as they are extremely easy to break in through, much easier than a normal door.
  • If you have a safe inside your house, you might want to get a decoy one as well, that will deter any robbers.

When talking about security, there is no such thing as going overboard. Any measures you can think of or want to apply to your own home are very much welcome, and you should do them. Having to deal with a robber or worse, a murderer is a severe situation, one that, even if no one gets physically hurt, can still leave psychological damages, so make sure you leave no loose ends.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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