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Choosing a Home Security System

Depending on the type of system you choose, your insurance company may offer you a discount on your homeowner’s insurance policy, too, because homes that are protected are less likely to be robbed, vandalized or damaged.

Home security systems vary, and most security companies customize each package to include the features that meet the individualized needs of the customer. Typically, home security systems include features that protect your family and home from intrusion and burglary, fire and smoke, flood and water damage, carbon monoxide poisoning and/or extreme temperature changes. Many security companies also offer personal emergency response systems for individuals who live alone and want the security of knowing that someone will come to their aid should they face an emergency situation.

When an emergency occurs within your household, your system detects a break-in, fire or other security breach, your alarm is activated and sends a signal to the provider’s central monitoring station. Two-way voice communication is established, or if no one in the home is able to answer, the provider contacts the appropriate authorities – police, fire department, ambulance, etc. Exact protocol varies from company to company, so make yourself familiar with your security company’s processes before having your system installed and activated.

Do You Need the Protection of a Home Security System?

Your home is your sanctuary. It is where you raise your family, relax after a hard day’s work and sleep soundly in your own bed. Everyone should feel safe and secure in their own homes. There are times when you may not feel safe in your homes. If you:

  • Live alone
  • Live in a neighbourhood with a high incidence of crime and theft
  • Are elderly and concerned for your safety
  • Want to be able to monitor your home remotely Have young children who are home alone periodically

For times like these, many Alberta homeowners consider installing a home security system. Home security systems come with many benefits from the deterrence of crime, to the protection of family members and valuables, to reduced home insurance rates.

A home alarm system:

  • Provides peace of mind. The sense of security that you gain with a home security system helps you sleep easier at night knowing that your home, family and valuables are protected.
  • Discourages criminals. Sometimes the alarm system sign on your window alone helps to discourage intruders. But if someone does try to enter your home, an alarm will sound to scare off the intruder. If the intruder is caught, you have helped to keep the community safer as well.
  • Alerts you to fire or gas problems. Many home alarm systems have additional features that include the monitoring of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide levels. Depending on the provider, you can receive alerts if alarms are going off when you are away from home and ensure local authorities are instantly notified.
  • Fits your budget. There are numerous home security options to fit any budget. Compare installation and monthly monitoring fees to find a system that works for you.
  • Boosts resale value. A home security system can add value to your property when you are selling it, particularly if it’s a hardwired system because the complicated installation is already complete.
  • Reduces home insurance premiums. Insurance companies can offer discounts on home and tenant insurance if there is a home security system present. Some insurance companies may require a security system if your home has been previously burglarized or if you live in an area with a high incidence of theft and break-ins.

Things to consider

When looking for a home security system, here are some of the different features to consider:

  • Hardwired or wireless? Hard-wired systems are very dependable as all the sensors and panel are tied together through the floors and walls. They don’t require batteries and the sensors can be easily concealed. The disadvantage to a hard-wired system is that it takes longer to install and requires drilling into existing walls. Wireless systems use radio signals that are transmitted from the sensors when they detect an intrusion. These systems run on battery power. Manufacturers suggest changing batteries annually.
  • Supervised or unsupervised? Supervised systems will alert you if a door or a window is open as well as the location of the open door or window. Supervised systems will also indicate if a sensor is not working, which usually means that a battery needs to be replaced or a technician needs to come to your home. With an unsupervised system, if a door or window is left open or a sensor is not working, you will not be alerted.
  • Two-way monitoring? When the alarm detects an open door or window, or motion inside the home, a dispatcher at the monitoring centre speaks to the intruder through an intercom. The voice can be heard throughout the home. Police are alerted if an emergency situation is detected.
  • Glass breakage detectors? If your home has a considerable amount of glass that may be an obvious entry point to the house, you may want an alarm that detects breaking glass.
  • Perimeter protection or interior protection? Perimeter protection positions sensors on doors and windows that trigger the alarm if a window or door is forced open. Interior protection refers to motion sensors inside the home that detect movement inside the home.
  • Warranty protection? You want a home security system that carries a reasonable warranty on parts and labour. When your system requires maintenance, you don’t want to be out of pocket for those costs.
  • Easy and affordable to upgrade? Look for a system that is easily upgraded with minimal costs.

Don’t Forget the Alarm Permit!

In Edmonton and Calgary, alarm permits are required by law for residential home security systems. These are intended to promote safe and responsible use of alarm systems and to reduce the chance of false alarms. Without a valid alarm permit, city police will not respond to an alarm unless criminal activity is present.

In the case of a false alarm where police were dispatched, the city will send a penalty notice to the monitoring company, and fines may be issued to the homeowner.

The City of Edmonton has a $30.00 application fee for an alarm permit, while there is no cost to apply for a permit in the City of Calgary.

A home security system is an investment in personal safety – and it is impossible to attach a price tag to that.

The costs incurred by a home security system typically include installation and activation fees as well as a monthly monitoring fee. To compare various systems, ask each security company about the following:

  • Contract length.
  • Warranty.
  • Installation fee.
  • Activation fee.
  • Monthly monitoring cost.
  • Any additional charges (be aware that some home security companies consider two-way voice communication an upgraded feature).

Sources:

DT Security Services Canada, AlarmForce, Home Security Dealer Canada.4+

Choosing a Home Security System

Installing a home security system can give you real peace of mind, because you know that whether you are at home or away, your home and family are protected.