Should I buy a do-it-yourself alarm?

January 19, 2014

Budget-minded consumers consider cheaper alternatives

Do-it-yourself alarms systems

If you are handy, a do-it-yourself alarm system could be an option. But there are important considerations.

There are numerous options when you are considering a home or business security alarm system. If you are on a tight budget, the lower cost of a do-it-yourself alarm system could be appealing. Here are some important points to consider before you dig your tools out of the kitchen drawer.

Large nationwide alarm dealers advertise system packages with very tempting low installation costs. When the salesman arrives, you learn that the advertised package may be adequate to cover the doors and windows in a small cabin. How about your 3 bedroom home? Add a few windows and doors to that $49 or $99 basic package and your alarm system can become a $1000-2000 investment. To make things worse, the monthly monitoring fees and basic service call rates can be high.

Some local companies may have reasonably priced packages with low monthly monitoring fees. But you’re on a tight budget. Could you snare a decent alarm system for even less? Maybe without the monthly monitoring fees?

What about the do-it-yourself system alarm systems offered by hardware and technology stores? Some of these systems avoid monitoring charges by only sounding a local alarm. Some over-the-counter alarm systems offer bargain “no-frills” monitoring by nationwide central stations. Many of the newer systems push a notification to your smartphone. Is the do-it-yourself alarm system a good option? There are some important things to think about.

Are you handy with a screwdriver? Or are you “all thumbs”? You should not give some do-it-yourself options a second thought if you are not handy with tools. Switch devices on windows and doors must be installed securely. These devices are magnetically actuated. The gap between the switch and the magnet must be close enough to eliminate the possibility of false alarms. Too close and the switch could be damaged when doors or windows are opened and closed. If the switch devices are not secured properly, the switch could be knocked off, potentially causing a police dispatch. Switch installation mistakes are common causes of false alarms.

New technology has given birth to a number of new do-it-yourself security systems with intriguing features. Some systems are promoted as having sensors that differentiate between the homeowner, Fido and an intruder. These systems can be fraught with false alerts that can drive the homeowner batty. You may spend your day checking your smartphone every time Fido triggers a notification.

What will you do if you receive a notification on your smartphone and you see a possible intruder? Are you planning to respond to own alarms? Are you planning to call the police? A response that is not quick and professional could result in property loss or loss of life. In the event of a home invasion or assault, your alarm system is totally useless without professional monitoring. You don’t want to take chances with your family’s safety.

Does the company providing your homeowner insurance offer a premium discount for a security system? Many insurance companies offer a premium discount of up to 20% for homes protected by an alarm. That discount may not be available for a do-it-yourself alarm system. Another problem – insurance providers may require a certificate of installation by a licensed alarm dealer. Some insurers require that you have an alarm and an alarm certificate issued by a licensed alarm dealer as a condition for buying homeowner’s insurance.

Many cities require that you register your alarm. Your city may require that a state-licensed alarm dealer stand behind your alarm system. You could be out of luck if you have a do-it-yourself alarm. Police who respond to your do-it-yourself alarm could charge you with violation of codes.

What happens if your do-it-yourself alarm goes on the fritz? Will you fix it? Will you have to ship your alarm and wait a few days for repair? What if this happens when you and your family are piling into the car for your summer vacation?

A professional company’s warning sign posted in your yard can be a powerful deterrent to a would-be burglar. Some burglars are smart when it comes to plying their trade. They may size up your do-it-yourself yard sign and know that your alarm was not professionally installed.

Bottom line? A do-it-yourself security system may be an option for you if you love cutting-edge technology and you have time to interact with smartphone notifications. If you are like most people, you should trust your security to professionals. The cost of protecting your home and family may be less than cable TV or cellular phone service.

Read our article about “How to prevent false alarms”.

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