Home security system advice

graceshanJanuary 7, 2012

We live in a really safe neighborhood, but I don't want to miss out on wiring up for a home security system while we are in the electrical wiring phase of construction (in case we decide we do want a system). Since our new house will be much nicer than our old one, it might be more prone to burglars I suppose. At the very least I wanted to have a camera at the front door since our main living space is upstairs and the front door is downstairs.

Any suggestions? We are already over budget and it's straining a bit. I've heard about wireless options for security or having systems linked to your cell phone instead of a company. I'm just not sure what our options are for this type of thing short of having a security company come in and do all the wiring and having to pay them for service. Have others done pre-wiring before or used wireless systems before?



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We had a local company come in a set up a wireless system in our old home, and we did the cellular connection as well. Everything worked fine and I can't imagine it working better if hardwired. We had a false alarm at one point, and the monitoring station called within 60 seconds. The cost, either way, was worth the peace of mind even though we were in a nice neighborhood. We didn't turn it on when gone, just while at home. Burglaries didn't bother us, it was home invasions that we wanted to prevent.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Everybody thinks they live in a "really safe neighbourhood" until the burglars come kicking in their front door--the usual entry place. Or bodies show up in cars or a neighbour is shot dead or there's a home invasion. All things that have happened near me at various times living in "good" neighbourhoods.

A camera at the front door is convenient. But it does nothing if you're not home. For security purposes, it's better to mount cameras up high in protected enclosures and which are able to record and/or transmit images.

A local system will just annoy the neighbours. To be of any use, it must be monitored remotely. But not by a telephone line. Every burglar knows that cutting the phone line usually puts an end to that. (The exception is systems that send out a signal every minute or less and respond if there's no reply.)

I've been using a cell phone monitored system. The instant an alarm is sounded--whether by motion detector, contact or glass breakage--a guard service or the police are notified and call the contact number. If there's no response with the correct ID # the police/private guards are dispatched. When our system has been set off, they've arrived in 8-10 minutes. That doesn't keep the bad guys out, but it sure cuts their stay.

Where we moved from, both next-door neighbours and my purchaser were burglarized. Busybody that I am, I had suggested to all of them to install cell monitored systems. But even though they had just paid $1.2 to $2.2 million for their homes, they didn't want to spring for the $600 installation cost and $27 a month monitoring!

The burglars--two kicked in the front doors, one broke a glass patio door--had free rein while the homeowners were away for days. Still, they got off easy compared to another homeowner with an unmonitored system around the corner: the burglars didn't get anything, but they left a backdoor open and raccoons invaded. Talk about party animals!

The security company I have been using for 30 years for my own homes and those I build tells me that wiring a home is more effective than wireless. So I would at least run the wiring. Then, after someone breaks in, you'll be all set to connect it.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 6:22PM
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Oh criminey, I guess we should bite the bullet and get one wired up from a company. Thanks for the responses. Any recommendations on particular companies? We are in the Pacific Northwest if that helps.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 8:55PM
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A bit paranoid? Crime has been gradually trending downward for years and this continues despite a bad economy.

Lots of anecdotal reports but does anyone have data that a monitored system reduces theft? And what do you have to steal that is so worth it? I think the home invasion argument is more sound as your bodily safety is priceless.

That being said, I have a wired system but I don't think monitoring is worth it and I have cell phone notification.

But don't think that $600 would pay the cost of a properly wired system - that is a joke. My builder budgets $3000 or so.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 5:35AM
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Indeed, the reported rate of crime has been decreasing in the US since peaking in the early 1990s. In the latest reported year, 2009, there were a mere 716,000 burglaries.
# However, for us old baby-boomers it's still three times and more the rate of the blessed '50s and early '60s.

Of course, these are national statistics and your neighbourhood may fall shy or exceed that average. Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo lead the nation by a long shot in property crimes. ("Go Buckeyes!")

And the rates don't factor in unreported property crimes, which are by some measures pretty common. See here, for instance.

Monitored alarms alone may not reduce the break-in rate. But depending on the speed of a response, they severely limit the time the burglar has for doing dirty work in your home.

Monitored alarms can also be coupled with fire alarms to ensure firefighter response. Finally, panic buttons worn by the homeowner or at strategic places in the residence can bring help quickly.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 6:29PM
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And what do you have to steal that is so worth it?

One of my burglarized neighbours lost $30,000 worth of jewellery and a Rolex from a deceased relative with lots of sentimental value. Contractors have loads of tools. In any case, I don't want some low-life junkie punk stranger tramping through my home and rifling my possessions and those of my family.

I guess I lack your generosity of spirit.

But don't think that $600 would pay the cost of a properly wired system - that is a joke. My builder budgets $3000 or so.

The $600 I mentioned was the cost of adding the cell monitoring to an existing system. Without cell monitoring--snip snip--and your alarm is nothing more than a neighbourhood nuisance.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 9:44PM
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I goofed!

The US Census table I linked to above shows a burglary rate of 716 per 100,000 population. And a reported, partially reported and estimated 2,199,000 burglaries for the year 2009.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 9:54PM
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Your best bet would be frontpoint security.They're not as expensive as other companies like ADT and they use ge wireless devices and mobile apps for the iphone on all their standard packages. They don't charge for installation either and they got some really good reviews. Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 1:07AM
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Don't listen to those. You can get alarm monitoring for as little as $9/month. Buy DSC, Visonic, Caddx, HAI, Napco and get it installed. Install metal conduit on outside cables. No way someone will be digging in full few.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 8:12PM
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LilFlowers MJLN

We had a wireless system put into our house after we bought it even though our neighborhood was safe. If we would have built this house, I would have DEFINITELY went with a hardwired system. They couldn't do it because of the second floor location. We live in a very humid climate. The backing of these devices kept falling off the side of the window frame and pulling the paint with it. I don't have wood on the sides of the frame so it was attached to the drywall part that had texture to it so it failed to stay secure. After the cops were called 3 times in one day because of issues with the window devices, we decided it was NOT for us and ultimately cancelled. The thing that sold us though was that if the phone got disconnected or someone damaged the phone line, the monitoring service would call us on our cellphone to check it out. The bad thing is that we should have looked for other sources of protection, as my truck was broken into a week before Christmas this past year, 3 weeks after my baby was born, and my purse was stolen. The battery was dead in my truck, so it failed to lock which I didn't know about until the following morning. I sure wish I had cameras at the time so I could have caught them in the act. I live in a GREAT neighborhood and thought this would NEVER happen. It just goes to show that you NEVER truly are safe from thievery.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:28AM
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I think that this is one of those things that some people are over-thinking. You can call ADT and they will install a wireless system for you. ADT isn't a lot of people's favorite, but you can contact any service really, and they will all do essentially the same thing.

We live in an old house and had it wired. It was a little difficult, but the person doing it knew what they were doing. Wiring a new house would be much easier for an experienced installer. We didn't have to pay anything to have everything set up, just a monthly service charge. I can't see why you'd pay 3000 just for wiring? We had 3 doors done, one motion sensor downstairs, and two pads. Obviously the cost increases if you get remotes, glass-shatter detectors, etc. In any event, if you don't have pets, a motion sensor should suffice instead of glass shatter detectors.

It's not complicated, it's not expensive, and it's not a big deal. No worries.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 6:32PM
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If you are concerned at all have your house wired for security. It should help with you homeowners insurance cost. If you travel or not home a lot then pre-wire for cameras to be installed at a later date. If all the neccessary wiring is installed now you can add devices later as your budget allows. If utilities are underground then there is little concern for cutting telephone wires. If budget allows integrate the smoke and heat detectors in with your security system. That way your house is always monitored for co and fire. If you have a basement you can wire for a future water alarm and if you live in a cold climate have a low temp. alarm installed in case of heat failure. If all the wires are installed before sheetrock then you can decide what you need now and wait to install the rest in the future.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:13PM
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An electronic home security system can be the source of great peace of mind or great financial headache. That's because buying a system, and the alarm monitoring that often goes along with it, can be a thorny purchase, fraught with such perils as wildly differing prices, high-pressure sales tactics and unfriendly contracts.

Basic home security systems, or burglar alarms, are typically wired to a central control panel in the home that will activate when windows or doors are opened while the system is armed. More advanced systems add fire and carbon monoxide alarms, motion sensors, glass-break detectors and, increasingly, home automation options such as controlling home lighting and temperature.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 11:06AM
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We did not want a security system, but our, insurer, Chubb, requires them. I believe ours is wireless.

A number of years ago, I was involved in the financing for a very large well known home security company. What I learned from them is that the biggest deterrent is the stickers on the windows. A would-be burglar will choose a home that does not have security over one that does.

HOWEVER they also admitted that these systems are not terribly effective, because they depend on the response time of the local police (in most situations). The local police know from experience that 95% of these calls are false alarms, so they don't exactly race to your home. Moreover, a professional thief knows that if they will break in they will have some period of time before police arrive. So they are very disciplined and targeted and just get in and out.

So there you have it, from experts as told to their finance team, not from nervous nellies or from salesmen. The stickers are what you really need, LOL. But even those will not deter a professional.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 11:27AM
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$3,000 ??????(yes that is very expensive)! We had our house pre-wired for alarm which consisted of all doors, two motion detectors, siren and a couple of keypads. Our price was $475 to pre-wire so the price was trivial to me to get it done hardwired. I guess that price would have went up drastically if we had all the windows hardwired but our low voltage company the builder uses did not offer this as an option as they stated it voided the warranty if they drilled into the windows (I will add wireless window sensors in the near futrue). We use an Elk M1 Gold for our system and monitoring, with cell svc as well, is around $20 month or so. Alarms aren't going to stop anyone if they really want to get it but I think its another layer of protection you add in addition to well lit areas, motion detectors lights, security signs and stickers and of course my good old 2nd amendment right.

I guess this all depends on personal preference if you feel alarms are needed or not. My thoughts are if someone is in a neighborhood to break in and they have the choice of a house with an alarm or one without, which one would they choose? Of course nothing is every foolproof but I do like to know that I did my part to at least try to make them think twice or at least slow them down. Also at night when we are there and if someone chooses to break in, I would at least like to have a little notice with the alarm going off so I can reach for my nightstand than not having an alarm and awaking to someone standing over me!

Just my .02 cents, you have to do what will make you feel safe!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 3:02AM
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We built a house and installed an alarm system. Looking in hind-sight it is actually easier to work backwards. This assumes you want a monitored system.

Step 1: is figure out which company provides monitoring services in your area. ADT is a big one, and it has gone around buying up all the other companies. Why do this first? A monitoring company will typically required it's own installation and electronics.

Step 2:

Contact your local fire code person. Could be the building inspector or local fire chief. Ask of the alarm company alarms are up to code in your area. This may seem a weired question but it turned out the ADT alarms were *NOT* up to code because they were not loud enough for our local codes. So we ended up installing two sets. One set of fire alarms for code and one ADT set which is monitored. Like wise Carbon monoxide alarms.

Step 3:

Before drywall get the alarm guys to come in an wire up your house.

Step 4:

After painting etc. stage. Get the Alarm guys to come back and do the final electronics install and turn on.

Step 5:

Recommend if they offer it a maintenance plan. Wait for a bit until the price offer comes down. If you ask for one they will charge you alot. If they offer "on sale" then it is less. I recommend this for the first two years of your house. Why? During those first two years your house will settle. Wired windows and door sensors will move a bit, and will need adjusting and will cause false alarms. At $US 200+ a visit by an engineer. It it worth getting this for the first two years. After that then it is sort of optional. Once the house has settled the alarm system becomes stable.

Good luck with your build.

Best, Mike.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 9:11AM
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I've had one at my last three houses and while we have never had a breakin, it gives me peace of mind. We have it monitored and pay $15/mo which is reasonable in my opinion (I wouldn't pay for ADT). We are building a new house and will be installing one again - hardwired. Also, I put conduits through garage foundation to run telephone lines into house so they aren't exposed ... although the phone company got really upset that they weren't on the outside.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 1:47PM
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RE cut phone lines... Simply DIY project to unhook your phone terminal box and slide a piece of metal conduit over the plastic one and re-mount. Then, put an alarm switch on the phone box door and screw it back shut. If someone goes to open the box when the system is armed they get a surprise. you might want to put a warning sign on the box.. That will probably discourage most burglars. Unlikely they are going to run a battery-powered Sawzall in a quiet neighborhood to saw through the conduit.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 9:55AM
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Admittedly, I'm more interested in a solid house than in bells and whistles that can break down and become outdated, but a security system isn't something upon which I'd spend money. Consider:

A security system won't stop burglars from breaking into your house. It'll just alert the police that it has happened. Most burglaries happen FAST, and by the time the police arrive, the crooks are already gone. You MIGHT have pictures of the thieves, but more likely they'll have been smart enough to cover their faces.

The biggest thing a security system is likely to give you is a discount on your insurance. Do the math and see how long it'll take you to "make back" the upfront cost of installation, and make an informed decision.

And I would NEVER go for the type of system that has visual monitoring inside my house. Do I want the people at ADT (or whatever) knowing when I'm home? If I were a thief, I'd get myself a job at ADT and call my thief-friends, saying, "Hey, the Johnsons are gone. Here's their address."

The poster who commented that everyone lives in a "safe neighborhood" . . . until something happens is right. Anyone can ride through your safe neighborhood -- even if it's gated. My oldest child was good buddies with a kid who lived in a gated community, and I never had any trouble driving her over to the friend's house . . . and getting in without help from her friend's grandparents. If I can do it, certainly a dishonest person can figure it out.

Instead of spending on a security system, I'd look into the low-tech methods of home security, which are more likely to PREVENT the burglary:

- Focus on a good, solid front door: Not too much glass and a deadbolt lock. Though they're lovely, avoid sidelights; they open you to danger in two ways: 1) a thief can break them, reach in and open your deadbolt. 2) if you have only a 2x4 between the door and the sidelight, a strong thief with a ram of some sort can break it and enter your house. Also choose a door that's visible to the road -- avoid plans that place your front door "deep" in a cave-like entry, and avoid landscaping that hides your door from the street. Though you want a strong front door, it's not the place the thieves are most likely to break in: They don't want a nosy neighbor to see them busting down a door, and they don't want the damaged door to sit there all day declaring, "A crime has been committed here!"

- Don't neglect the back door. Thieves like to ring the front bell to see if you're home, but they're then likely to go around the back (where it's more private) to break in. Plus your back door is more likely to be a sliding glass door or a French door. Sliding glass doors are pretty thick, and it takes a strong thief to put a piece of firewood through them -- though it is possible. French doors tend to offer less security. Lots of people have good, solid deadbolts on the front door . . . but less security on the back door. And if you have a privacy fence (or a deep covered porch) in your back yard, the thief can probably go about his business in comfort, knowing that the neighbors aren't going to see him breaking your windows or back door.

No matter what you do, your back door is probably your weakest point -- and we have to balance comfort and light with security concerns.

- If you have an attached garage, put effort into that entrance. An experienced thief LOVES to get into a garage (probably through a man-door that has only a piddly little lock) because then he can take his time breaking in through your kitchen door. No neighbor will see him in the privacy of your garage! No lie: My in-laws bought a house that had ONLY an interior door -- yeah, just like your bedroom door! -- separating their kitchen from the garage. They changed that before they moved in. The point: Be sure your garage is just as secure as your house, and you have a deadbolt on your kitchen entrance door.

- If your doors are secure, the thieves are likely to go on down the road to someone else's house, but don't neglect your first-floor windows -- especially if they're the tall type that a person could potentially step through easily. Be sure they're locked. Plant sticky-bushes like Holly or roses under them to make thieves reconsider entering that way. Or consider decorative bars, though that could constitute a fire hazard.

- Do you own a ladder? Be sure it's locked up in your shed or garage. Don't offer thieves a way to get to your (often less protected) upstairs windows.

- Try to plan your house so that your big-screen TV isn't visible from the front door (i.e., through sidelites or to a person who might be delivering packages). Don't give thieves a reason to choose you.

- A safe inside the house will deter even experienced robbers. They want to get in and out of your house quickly. They're wise to ideas like hiding your money in the freezer, and they know that if you have a safe, it's probably in your master closet . . . but they're going to grab your electronics, guns, medicines . . . and GET OUT rather than wasting their time with a safe they probably can't enter anyway. A safe set into the floor or built into the wall can't easily be carried away to be opened later at their leisure. A safe is relatively inexpensive, and it's a one-time cost.

- Automatic lights are inexpensive to install (the one in my pantry cost about $15, though exterior quality would cost more) and don't require monthly fees. No thief wants lights, and a light coming on suddenly inside the house and outside the house might convince the would-be-thief that someone is in the house (even if they aren't opening the door). Most thieves want in and out of the house FAST, and they don't want to meet any homeowners.

- Plenty of studies have shown that a dog is the best deterrent to a break-in. Not everyone is interested in owning a dog and not every dog is a real deterrent, but just the presence of a dog will make many thieves go on down the road to another house.

- If you have lots of nice steal-able stuff, increase your insurance. It's all replaceable. Most of the time people who rob individual homes are small-time crooks who are looking for things that're easy to sell: Electronics and guns. And drugs. LOTS of home burglaries are committed by people who are on drugs, and they'll clear out your medicine cabinet. But few home robberies are personal: That is, few robbers specifically know that you have ______, and they're going to come steal it.

- Consider putting up fake cameras or fake security system stickers. You can buy some fairly good fake things that'll deter the thieves, and that's the real goal.

Remember: Most robberies are crimes of opportunity. Most of us will never be targeted specifically; rather, the thieves will look at a row of houses and pick the one that looks easiest. If you offer some solid resistance, they'll move on to easier pickings. And most robberies are FAST -- less than 10-15 minutes.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 8:39AM
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Read through the comments and I have a question about drilling into the windows. So if that voids the window warranty, what should I get for the windows then? So no hardwiring on the windows and no glass break? I want to make sure I understand this correctly. Thanks for any advice.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:30AM
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For those having trouble with the adhesive on door window contacts falling off. Try cleaning the surface with an alcohol prep pad first this will take any oils and dirt off the surface. Then after applying the contact or the magnet apply a small bead of clear silicone around the edges of the contact, this will help if the double sided tape decides to come off.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 8:15AM
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My house was robbed a 3 years ago. In a great nieborhood. Why would a crook rob in a bad area were peoples have pitbulls, guns and bat at the ready.nice areas are the targets for bad guys. I have wireless cameras inside and outside now. They are movement activated and video is stored to computer hard drive.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:05PM
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We always turned ours on when we went out. We had alot of burglaries in our development. We always seemed to have false alarms at 2 am. Once the contact was broken in the shower window. Another time a spider stood in front of the motion detector light. We were told to put a moth ball on top of the motion detector. It worked like a charm. One of us usually forgot to unset the alarm when we got home. The phone was ringing or some other distraction. The company always called us right away.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:13PM
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