What to Look For in a Home Security System

Do your homework before you choose a Home Security System

Home security is serious business; you'll want to feel comfortable that ‘after the sale' service will also exceed your expectations.

Your best defense against becoming a crime statistic is to protect your home and your family with the right home security system, but with all the television ads, and special offers, how is one to choose?

It's easy to get distracted by offers of free equipment, or a few months of free monitoring, but with free offers, you generally get what you pay for, so use this simple guide to help you find the right security system for you & your family.

Referrals

Ask your friends and relatives who they use for their home security. Inquire about their experience with technicians during the installation and any service visits, and ask about the level of service they received when the alarm was used. It's also a good idea to inquire if there were any hidden fees or billing issues, and how they were resolved. Home security is serious business; you'll want to feel comfortable that ‘after the sale' service will also exceed your expectations.

 

Look for stickers and signs around the neighbourhood. If you see a lot of homes and businesses are protected by the same security company, it's a pretty good indication that this alarm company has a reliable reputation.

 

Reputation

Once you have selected 2 or 3 home security companies to interview, check their history with your local Better Business Bureau. Find out how long each company has been in business, and eliminate fly-by-night companies that have not yet established a strong track record for service excellence and ethical operational practices. Reputable companies will also be members of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA), and Electronic Security Association (ESA). Only home alarm companies who are properly licensed and insured should remain on your short list.

 

Evaluation

The best home security companies will not try to sell you over the telephone. It's important that they send a representative to your home to properly assess all access points, and prepare a quote for a custom security system for your home. They should employ their own highly skilled installers and service technicians, rather than sub-contracting, to give you 100% accountability. Ask if sales reps and technicians are fully bonded and how to recognize their uniform and picture ID when they arrive.

 

During the home visit, determine if the main focus is on full perimeter protection, in other words, detecting and deterring would-be thieves BEFORE they gain access to your home. Motion sensors inside your home will tell you where someone is moving about inside your living area, but wouldn't you rather stop intruders OUTSIDE of your home, before they gain entry?

 

Central Monitoring Station

Intrusion alarms should sound an alarm, and also send a signal to a remote ULC approved central monitoring station, staffed 24/7 by professional Emergency Response Operators (EROs) who have had a complete background check. Upon receiving an alarm signal, a qualified ERO should attempt to contact the designated key-holder. If there is no answer, or the correct pass code is not given, they should alert a mobile guard or local authorities to arrive at your home.

 

Look for security companies who have their own dedicated central monitoring station and are members of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). Avoid companies that sell their customer accounts to a third party for monitoring. This should keep your costs down and provide you with 100% accountability.

It's also important that the monitoring station is local. When time is of the essence, you want to know that EROs will instantly recognize street names, and will not confuse or mispronounce them when contacting emergency services. It's also good to confirm the average time to respond to an alarm signal.

 

Backup Systems

Finally, ask if a wireless radio signal will continue transmitting the alarm signal to the central monitoring station should your telephone line be cut. This is also a good time to inquire about disaster preparedness at the monitoring station. Inquire about redundant systems and a generator to supply back-up power in the event of a disaster.

  • Is the evaluation done at no charge?
  • Is there at least a 1-year warranty on equipment and labour?
  • Does the company provide additional safety services such as fire and carbon monoxide monitoring?
  • Do they offer video surveillance?
  • How long is the contract? (1-3 year contracts are normal to get the best rates
  • Does the contract automatically renew for the full term or can you arrange month to month renewal? 

Now that you have done your homework, it should be easy to select the right company to provide you with a home security system to provide you and your family with peace of mind for years to come.