Improved technology leads to better home security

Improved technology leads to better home security

by Angie Hicks

Dear Angie: It seems like almost every time we leave our home, it gets broken in to. What suggestions can you offer for good, reliable protection? – Rita W., Echo Park, Calif.

Dear Rita: I recommend you check Angie's List for highly rated home alarm professionals in your area. Be prepared to do some research; you have a lot of options these days. Ask at least three company representatives to visit your home, assess its vulnerability and offer options to protect it. Don’t rush into an agreement with any of them and don’t consider working with any company that tries to scare you into a quick decision. But be prepared to do some research; you have a lot of options these days.

Improved technology and competitive pricing have made alarm systems more accessible to almost everyone. A system can typically be installed for $50 to $350, depending on the features you seek. Monthly monitoring fees usually start at around $25. Some insurers offer discounts on homeowner’s premiums for properly installed and remotely monitored systems. Educate yourself on the features of remote monitoring; some systems sound an alarm that can either alert you, the authorities, or both via telephone.

Most security systems sound a loud alarm and will notify a remote monitoring center of a breach during a home invasion. Some also offer to monitor for fire, carbon monoxide, water penetration and sump pump failure.

Home video systems, which enable you to remotely monitor your home, are increasing in popularity. You don’t need a landline telephone to have an alarm system these days. There are a number of options for people without home phone service, including Internet monitoring, cellular backups or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) units. Those technologies are usually proprietary to the alarm company, so the signal is unique and can't be intercepted or jammed.

Remote control key fobs have also grown in popularity. Most include a panic button that you can press if a dangerous situation arises.

With so many alarm companies selling their services, it’s important to do your research before you hire. A good company should be upfront about contract terms – most contracts are for multiple years – and be clear about any fees not included in the installation and monthly monitoring costs. Get written, detailed quotes and always carefully read any contract before signing.

Alarms are great for deterring thieves, but you can make your home less attractive to thieves by trimming shrubs near your windows and doors that might offer them protection from being seen as they break and enter. The front door is the usual entry point, though, so make sure you have a good deadbolt lock, install motion detector lighting and alert friendly neighbors if you’re going to be away from home for an extended period. Stop your mail and newspaper delivery so it doesn't pile up to announce your departure. You may even hire a professional house sitter or have a trusted friend stay in your home while you’re gone to keep it looking lived in.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a provider of reviews you can trust on contractors, doctors, dentists and other service professionals. More than 1 million consumers across the U.S. use Angie’s List to help make tough hiring decisions easier.

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Home video systems are also increasing in popularity, with the homeowner able to monitor their home from a remote location, including mobile devices. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member John S. of Avon, Ind.)

Security systems no longer require a landline to operate. Home security pros say advances in security systems now allow homeowners to monitor many threats.

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