Let's get right to the point! If you are here to get a "FREE" system, like you hear advertised all the time from other companies, then you came to the wrong place. Remember these three things:
There's no free lunch
You don't get something for nothing
If it's too good to be true, it probably is
"Don't buy the cheapest you can find, get the best you can afford"
Let's look at the facts about how alarm companies work. To start off with, most companies don't make much on the equipment and labor at all. Their income is generated mostly by making money on the monitoring of the alarm system.
Example: we charge $25 a month for monitoring an alarm system. Now being a small company, we have a monitoring company do it for us, as most all small companies do. We don't get to keep the monitoring money you are charged for, we pay them, then get a portion that is left over. Should I pay for monitoring? Find out the answer here.
What's the real price? Realize that there is no way to offer a free system and make a profit. The big nationals make theirs on the monitoring, and since they "are" the monitoring company, they keep all the money they charge. If we were to put in a system for $700 and charge $25 a month, then basically you are making small payments after the initial charge. Easier on your wallet and a little something coming in each month for us. If you don't get monitoring, then you pay the full price of around $1,400.00 since there is no way we can make a profit on the $700 after equipment and labor.
Now lets look at the fine print, if the big national companies offer you a "free" alarm system, that offer also includes a 3-5 year monitoring contract. Currently one of those companies charge $45 a month. 45 x 12 months = $540 a year. Now, if your monitoring contract is, say, an average of 4 years, then you are looking at $2,160.00 for the system.
Now, what do you get for that price? A free security system usually means that you will probably get a small basic system, which can hardly be called a system at all. Two doors, a motion detector, and a keypad is the norm. (A total rip off for the $2,160 that you will pay in monitoring fees over the 4 years) But, after they talk you into all the extras, you could have bought a full blown system from a small local company with better service and paid a lot less for the monitoring contract.
Before you buy your alarm system, don't be fooled by slick marketing material and quick sales gimmicks. Go over these items when talking with any alarm company. If they can't give a straight up front answer or say that it really doesn't matter if they don't have this or that, then they don't know much about what they are selling.
Good Guarantee - We guarantee our equipment for 3 years and so should any other company. In the 23 years that we have been in business, I have never, even once, had to replace an alarm panel because it "just went bad". Sure I have had a motion detector go bad, and one time a siren died, but those are easy to replace parts and at very low cost. Any company worth it's reputation should be willing to absorb those small problems to make a customer happy.
Phone Tamper - If using your land line, always make sure that you will have a tamper on your phone line, so if it is cut, your alarm will still sound the siren. Most companies don't bother running a separate wire to your phone junction box outside. That is where your alarm should be hooked up anyway when it is installed. Some alarms are so cheap, and they just plug them into your phone jack, which is absolutely the most worthless thing to do.
Line Seizer - Also, be sure that your alarm panel will seize the phone line when it dials the monitoring company. If wired properly, your alarm panel will disconnect all the phones in the house and "keep" the phone line for itself, so that it can make sure the call will go through. A bad installation or even an "El Cheapo" alarm system that does not have line seizer is a big problem. For example, a few years ago, someone that had a system that just plugged into the phone jack, was broke into. They kicked in his door, ran to the phone, took the phone off the hook,and hit a couple of numbers. That kept the phone from dialing the correct number, but if it was able to have the line to itself, it would have be able to make the call to the monitoring company and had the police on their way.
Loud Siren - If you are living back off the main road a bit, always make sure you get a siren that you can hear outside. Most big national companies just give you an inside siren. That is pretty useless if you are in the boonies, and worth even less if your phone line has no tamper on it. If your alarm goes off because your phone line is cut, an outside siren is your only protection at that point. One reason they usually only install an inside siren, is because if you cancel your monitoring after your contract is up, your system is pretty much useless if your not monitored.
Monitoring Extras - The big companies on TV have a great way to pick your pocket with their own special monitoring features. They will monitor your alarm for, lets say, $32 a month (they might be more than us, but that's just their price), but if you want your alarm monitored for fire (their smoke detector added to their system) then it's $8 a month extra. That's the biggest scam in the industry! An alarm system that has a smoke detector, dials into the monitoring company regardless of the device attached. If it is a burglar alarm, fire alarm, panic button, heat detector, CO2 detector, or whatever would set off an alarm, it calls the monitoring company to let them know. Don't be fooled into paying more for what the security system will do anyway for free.
Hook Up Fees - Some companies charge you a hook up fee, sometimes around $75 - $100. they say that it's a fee to hook you up to the monitoring company. The big companies own, and usually are the monitoring company, so a fee is just a way to get some extra money out of you for that "free" system you are getting. When we get you activated with our monitoring company, we fax them in the information, and that's it, no fee, no charge, no nothing. Don't fall for paying any extra fees.
Most Important! - If you are thinking of getting any type of security at all, alarm system, cameras, or whatever it might be, always get a total price, a full description of equipment, warranty information, and monitoring fees from more than one company. Get some references, ask each sales person some of these questions you read here as well. As a consumer, you can't just pick up a book on alarm systems to know what is the right way to go, at least I have never seen one, besides, every home, or office is different and there is no way to just have a one size fits all system. When it comes to a security system of any kind, You Get What You Pay For! That doesn't mean that you should go with the most expensive, but what you get for your money when you add everything up is what counts. Compare apples to apples when reviewing the quotes. If one is cheaper than another, it is probably because you are getting less equipment or a lower monitoring cost.
Own It - Always make sure that when get your alarm system, you know who owns the system. In our case, when your monitoring contract of 2 years is up, you own the alarm system! Most of the national companies won't tell you, but it is in your contract, that when your contract is up, it is their system, and you have to send it back in perfect condition or you will be charged what they say it is worth. The sales person can say you will own it, but your contract will say otherwise. When you get those "free" or "$99" specials, you can expect that the equipment won't be yours, not at that price.
One Final Note!
Lately, I have been putting in a lot of alarm systems, and some, have replaced the system that was installed before, such as the "Big National Companies" older systems. One thing I have noticed is that they install their alarm systems in a way that is convenient for them and not so convenient for the home owner. For example, the Big Guys, (ADT & Brinks), in the last few homes, had the keypad to turn the system on and off, clear over in the living room, instead of by the door that goes in the garage that the people come in and out of when they use their alarm. It was completely out of their way and they hated it being so far from the laundry room.
When I looked to see why, it turned out that they installed the keypad in the living room because the duct work had it's air return right below it, and it was easy for them to run the wire to the basement. Since the rest of the system was wireless, I guess it was too much like work to fish the wall and put the keypad where it would be much easier for the customer to use.
Most homeowners just go along with what the installers say, and not think about it. If you want your keypad by the door you leave from, it should go their or get another company that will do it right!! Yes, the alarm system should have everything placed where it will work, motion detectors, glass breakers, sirens and door contacts, but the keypad is for the user to arm it and turn it off. If it's too out of the way, they might not use it. It's your alarm system, and it should be convenient for you, not them!
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