Home Alarm Systems

security systemResidential burglar alarms are not the universal answer to home burglary. They are not substitutes for locked doors and windows or for other precautions.

The most serious home alarm problem is the false alarm. More than 95 percent of the alarms police respond to are false, not the result of an attempted forced entry. Because of this problem, Golden Valley assesses a fine to residents and businesses that have had more than three false alarms in one year.

Questions To Ask Yourself About Home Security

  • What is the layout of your home? Is any part of the exterior of your home secluded so neighbors cannot see an intruder breaking into your house? For example, do bushes or privacy fences obstruct your neighbor's view of your home?
  • What valuables are kept in your home? Does the amount of valuables in your home make it cost-effective to have an alarm?
  • What amount of time do you spend away from home? Are you at work/school all day, leaving the house vacant? Do you leave town for the winter/summer?
  • What is your fear level? If you have a hard time sleeping at night or enjoying a vacation because of fear of crime, then it's worthwhile to get an alarm.

Also, talk to friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have alarm systems. Ask which alarm company they work with, whether they're satisfied with the service that company provides, which features of their system they like best, and which features they dislike or seldom use.

Consider whether there are other purposes you would want an alarm system to serve, such as smoke detection, or low temperature detection if you leave town for the winter and are concerned about power outages and frozen pipes.

Considering An Alarm Company

If you're a do-it-yourselfer, consider purchasing a do-it-yourself alarm kit. Shop around; some of these systems are quite good, depending on the purpose you intend for your alarm. (Is it to give you warning of an intrusion while you're home? Is it to protect your valuables while you're away? Does the worth of your valuables make a more elaborate system a better choice?)

If you determine to have your alarm system professionally installed, arrange for at least three different bids and ask each sales rep why their company is better than the others giving you bids. Often the technology is the same, but the service policies, costs, length of time they plan to be in the Twin Cities, etc, may differ substantially.

Having an alarm system installed isn't like remodeling your kitchen, where you tell the contractors what you want. When installing an alarm, each sales representative is going to survey your home and recommend the components or plan they think will best serve your needs. After all bids are complete, review them. Choose the components of the system or the contract you would like in your final plan, then call each sales rep and ask whether their company could provide that plan and at what cost.

If a sales rep offers you frightening statistics information about local crime trends, call the Golden Valley Crime Prevention Unit to verify that information. Some companies use high-pressure sales techniques to convince people to buy their product immediately without shopping around for a better price or quality.

Find out from your insurance company whether they offer discounts in their premiums if you have an alarm system. If they only offer discounts for certain types of alarms or certain companies' systems, that may indicate those with which they've had favorable experiences.

Be aware that the City of Golden Valley assesses a fine to residents and businesses that have more than three false alarms in one year.

Leasing A System

You may want to consider leasing a security system. The companies that lease systems charge a one-time installation fee of $100 to several hundred dollars, depending on which components of the system you choose for your home. You are then required to contract with the company to monitor your alarm for an average monthly charge of $25. Keep in mind that you will most likely be asked to sign a contract for a few years.

Monitoring An Alarm

If neighbors would be able to hear your alarm system, perhaps you don't need to have it monitored, and it may be sufficient for the system to sound the alarm only at your home. Let the neighbors know you have an alarm and you're counting on them to call 911 if they hear it sound. This also holds true if you install a do-it-yourself system.

However, if you choose to use an alarm company, consider asking them these questions:

  • How long has your company been in the alarm business?
  • Is your equipment approved by Underwriters Laboratory (UL)?
  • Does your company operate its own UL-listed central monitoring station? Does it subcontract monitoring services from a UL-listed central station?
  • Is the central monitoring station computerized?
  • If the alarm system is activated, will it automatically shut off after a reasonable time (10 - 15 minutes)?
  • Is the system tamper-proof and weatherproof?
  • Do you provide service for alarm systems you have installed? 24-hour service? Can I reach someone after hours if I have an emergency with the alarm system?
  • What are your service rates during business hours? After business hours?
  • What is your warranty on new installations? Do you sell maintenance contracts?
  • Is your central monitoring station in the Twin Cities? (Some companies have their monitoring stations out of state.)

You may also want to consider requesting a visit to their central monitoring station or offices. Don't be put off by the comment that the central station, and its location, is confidential.