The Internet is changing yet another industry; home security. Traditional alarm companies are notorious for locking people into three year (and longer) monitoring contracts. Many also promote a $99 alarm system, only to upsell homeowners into several thousand dollar packages. In many ways, the industry operates like the old days of the car business. What makes matters worse, is that after paying thousands of dollars you may not actually own your alarm system equipment. Many of these contracts are structured as leases, meaning you are only paying rent and never own the equipment!
Update: October 15, 2015
My Own Story Of Dumping My Traditional Alarm Company
We spent several thousand dollars to purchase an alarm system about four years ago. We went with a big name company that seems to be the major player in our area. We had a sales rep come out to the house, and we ultimately signed up. Even though we bought quite an expensive system, we still had the monthly obligation for monitoring. Initially it was just $25 per month, but after three years it jumped to $50. Next, we were told that we would be required to pay about $200 for an equipment upgrade. If we did not upgrade, our monitoring would increase to $70 monthly! OK, I had enough and needed to dump this company (but, it was not so easy).
My wife made dozens and dozens of phone calls simply trying to find a new company we could transfer our monitoring to. What we learned is that alarm companies use custom codes and equipment to make transferring very difficult (if not impossible). We ultimately gave up on finding a company to take over monitoring. I had been hearing ads on Rush Limbaugh and other programs about a product called Simplisafe. Well, the price was right ($259). and monitoring was just $15 monthly - with no contract. You should also know that monitoring is not required (more on this a little later in this article).
I installed my Simplisafe system in less than an hour, and have had it up and running for about a month now. I have to tell you that I was very skeptical about such an inexpensive system, but it works exactly as advertised and I just love it.
This is my earlier article on home security systems from May of this year -
The New Home Security Model
Each family has its own security needs and many are finding the answer in low cost plug and play alarm system. You may have heard Rush Limbaugh and a number of other national talk show hosts promoting SimpliSafe. SimpliSafe is the most well known name in the plug and play alarm system niche. Amazon.com sells a wide array of these kind of do-it-yourself home security systems. The SimpliSafe basic set up is currently going for $259.
These lower cost systems use wireless sensors, so no hard wiring is required. With the ability to connect one of these systems to the Internet, you can monitor your home while you are away. You can even add a camera to have a live video feed. Some of these alarms work like their traditional counterparts and offer monitoring. Simplisafe offers a no contract monitoring service for $15 monthly (about half of what traditional security companies charge). Monitoring is one option, while others provide a way for you to receive a phone call or an alert on your smartphone if your alarm has been tripped.
If You Move, Just Unplug Your System And Take It With You
Where the plug and play alarm system really offers a huge advantage is its portablity. If you move, just unplug it and take it to your new home. On that issue, these kinds of systems are likely the only option for someone that is renting.
How To Decide What Alarm System Is Right For You?
There are so many variables here, the most important piece of advice I can offer is to take the time to think through what your security needs are. Some people want and need monitoring, while others may only want the loud burst of a siren in the middle of the night if a window or door is opened. Some families can get by with a couple of wireless cameras that they can monitor online. Others many want the whole deal, including traditional monitoring. The good news is that all of the above is now available without long term contracts or thousands of dollars in installation costs. Take for example home security cameras, which can be purchased for about $50 and then monitored over the Internet from your smartphone 24/7. These cameras even have a motion detector setting that will start recording when there is movement, and send an alert message to your phone!
I don't think the traditional alarm companies will disappear any time soon, but these new options should drive prices lower on both equipment and monitoring.
Helping you make the most of God's money!