The concept of home security, more often than not, elicits images of false alarms and confusing control panels with wires running every direction. Going the way of most technology types, modern security is more suited to the task of protecting Home Sweet Home.
"In the last 30 or so years, home security has really evolved from hardwire-based systems, where everything had to be home run back to a master control panel," says SOS Alarm consultant Henry Knepp. "Most companies, nowadays, utilize wireless equipment, frequency technologies, alarm and status signals "¦ it's come a long way."
Today's home security industry offers as many options for home security as there are reasons to have some in place. Most companies offer a free evaluation to discuss a customized system.
Plan to answer questions pertaining to lifestyle and security needs.
What type of "foot traffic" does the house have? A home with lots of activity (teenagers, service personnel, etc.) or with plenty of sound all day long might not want as restrictive a system, whereas an older couple with few activities could opt for a more sensitive and elaborate setup.
Size of home
Include room size, number and size of windows and quality of door locks. Some homeowners may want every room secured to the hilt while others may simply want obvious entry points for an invader, such as lower level windows and doors.
Some security systems include motion sensors. Households with a number of pets, large dogs or a bird with "free reign" might not do as well with motion sensors as a pet-free home.
Are you considering a security system for when the house is empty during summer vacation, or for day and night when occupants are home?
With no lack of individuals willing to relieve unsuspecting homeowners of hard-earned possessions, home security has become a necessity. A basic setup, including a set of door and window sensors, alarm sirens and control panel, starts around $200 for installation, says Hue & Cry Security Systems sales representative Bonnie Duncan. Monthly monitoring costs just under $30.
A second level of defense, add infrared motion sensors for a few more dollars in installation and monitoring. Sensors can detect heat and body movement in up to a 40-square foot area.
For fire safety, inline smoke detectors, which report back to a monitoring center, are superior to units that merely alert those inside the home.
"If they're plugged into a whole house system, they'll phone us on early smoke detection," says Duncan. "If no one is home, or smoke has caused someone to go into a deep sleep and become unresponsive, the battery-operated kinds will sound off until their little hearts content but no one would know."
For homeowners wanting "the works," systems can range as high as $25,000, says Knepp, and be wired to communicate with home automation systems or to grant access via Internet or cell phone from anywhere in the world.
Specific sensors can be installed to maintain temperatures in special rooms, such as wine cellars or art displays, or to allow homeowners to check in on service personnel. Pool areas can be outfitted to alert homeowners to disturbances — or the hot tub can be heated before the family arrives home for the night!
Other types of monitors stand watch for carbon monoxide, water flooding and broken windows.
Security cameras, more often than not, are not part of monitored systems, but can be installed for homeowner use. A set of four cameras and a monitor, for example, were available recently on the Internet for just $700 while one local company quoted $1,500 to install a pair.
A more extreme theft deterrent is finding a place in a select number of homes. Banditsolutions.com recently unveiled a fog deployment system that emits a thick, white fog, filling an entire room within three seconds. A basic unit costs $3,500.
Regardless of loud sirens, fine-tuned sensors and burglar-spooking fogs, perhaps the most important component in any security system is off-site monitoring.
"The electronics that are in your house are just half the battle," Knepp says. "The other component, and the one that's most important, is the actual office where monitoring takes place. It's really important to have someone local who's keeping an eye on things."
He adds, "Not only are you shopping for the bits and pieces that make up your security system, but also for the service and maintenance of the system. That's really what home security is all about. What's behind that siren."