Home Security Monitoring: How to Choose the Best Service
Whether it is an apartment in the city or a two-story house in the suburbs, all homes are susceptible to crime. Statistics show that a home intrusion occurs every 13 seconds in the U.S., with more than 2 million reported home burglaries each year. Since most homeowners can't afford a 24-hour security team to watch over their house, many use home security monitoring services.
What is a Home Security Monitoring Service?
Home security systems are designed to protect homeowners from break-ins, fires, floods and carbon monoxide. Home security systems consist of a combination of different devices, including a control panel, which coordinates all the devices together and transmits information to the home security monitoring station, and a keypad, which serves as the interface that controls the system. Connected to the control panel are entry sensors and motion sensors to protect homes from break-ins, smoke and heat detectors that protect against fire, as well as flood sensors, temperature sensors and carbon monoxide detectors.
When a sensor goes off, the system transmits emergency signals through a telephone landline, cellular phone connection or broadband internet connection to the security system's monitoring station, which is staffed with alarm specialists 24 hours a day who are ready to dispatch police or fire crews when necessary. In most cases, specialists at the monitoring station will call the home to confirm when an alarm goes off to ensure it wasn't set off accidentally. If no one answers, emergency services are immediately dispatched.
Rosie Romero, a home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years who writes a regular column for the Arizona Republic, believes home security systems prove strong deterrents for burglars.
"If a burglar suspects an alarm will go off when he kicks in your door, he is less likely to even try to break in," Romero wrote in a recent column. "And even if he does get in somehow, he will cut his visit very short."
Choosing the Best Home Security Monitoring Service
There are a number of factors homeowners should consider when selecting a home security monitoring service.
It is critical they find a service whose monitoring centers are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The best services protect their monitoring stations with backup generators and other safeguards to assure that a trouble signal is never lost, even in a power outage.
Instead of having to call a homeowner when an alarm is set off, some companies provide a two-way intercom system that connects them directly to the house, giving the owners the chance to call out for help or provide a password to let the company know the system was accidentally set off.
Other things to consider are what else the service offers besides break-in protection, such as smoke and fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and flood and temperature sensors. Some home security service also give homeowners a number of mobile options, include the ability to lock doors, turn lights on and off and view security camera footage from their smartphone.
Besides searching for a service that is licensed and has a clean record with the Better Business Bureau, Romero said homeowners should look for a company that is willing to tailor their service around each family.
"Before you sign up for a security monitoring service, discuss your family's lifestyle and your concerns about safety with a security professional," Romero wrote in the Arizona Republic. "You need to choose a company that will customize their product to meet your needs."
Since home security systems are so technical, homeowners should consider services that offer around-the-clock customer support that can help with a malfunctioning system.
Top Home Security Monitoring Services
One of the highest-rated home security monitoring services is FrontPoint Security, which offers homeowners several different plans to meet their needs. All options are monitored 24/7 and include burglar and intrusion monitoring devices such as cameras, door and window sensors, glass break sensors, motion sensors, garage door overheads, as well as ear-piercing sirens. FrontPoint also offers fire, environmental and life safety protection in all of its service packages. The step up from the basic service offers the ability to both remotely access the system from a mobile phone, and have the system text or email messages when the kids come home and disarm the system, or when a spouse leaves for work and arms it on their way out. Other features of the upgraded packages include video surveillance and remote control access to lights, small appliances, locks and thermostats.
Protect America is another well-regarded home security monitoring service. The service saves homeowners hundreds of dollars in upfront costs by giving them the basic equipment for free. Protect America offers a wide range of options for home security monitoring, including a standard landline telephone connection, broadband internet connection, cellular connection or two-way voice landline system that connects homeowners directly to the monitoring station, precluding the need for the monitoring station to call the home when an alarm is tripped. The service offers five GE security equipment packages. The most basic includes a control panel, three door or window sensors, one motion detector and an internal siren or door chime, while the most comprehensive features a control panel, 15 door or window sensors, one motion sensor and an internal siren or door chime. Every package comes with a battery backup, three window decals and a yard sign.
SafeMart is another highly ranked home security monitoring service. For burglary protection, SafeMart's typical system includes entry-point sensors, which are magnets that conduct an electrical current. When the two magnets are slid apart, the current is broken and the device is set off. In addition, they offer both smoke and heat detectors that connect to the home security monitoring control panel. SafeMart offers a few different environmental-related sensors, including carbon monoxide detectors and flood and freeze sensors, which are monitored regardless of whether the intrusion sensors are activated. Should an alarm be triggered, the service's monitoring station is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Other popular options include Pinnacle Security, which provides interactive mobile abilities, ADT, which offers a variety of professionally installed, state-of-the-art securitydevices, and Protection 1, which lets homeowners connect to the monitoring station without a landline.