Home security systems are becoming more and more pervasive in America. What used to be enjoyed only by the rich is now a standard purchase for most homeowners. For first-time alarm system purchasers, it can be difficult to understand all the tech talk, and many purchasers are disappointed to find out later that the system doesn’t do what they want it to do or that their neighbours got a better system for a cheaper price. This brief article will serve as guide to choosing the alarm system that is right for you.

Monitoring Service

The first thing you need to decide is what type of monitoring you want. Monitoring is the term for the service the alarm company provides when it «monitors» the signals sent by your alarm. Your company receives, for instance, an alarm signal from your back door sensor and proceeds to call the police.

When determining your monitoring service, you must first determine how you want your system to communicate with the monitoring station. It can send signals either via your telephone line or via cellular service. Providing monitoring service via a telephone line is the traditional method for monitoring alarm signals. However, in the last five years, there has been a dramatic shift from phone-line monitoring to cellular monitoring. There are two causes for this shift. The first cause is the recognition that burglars can cut the phone line and thereby disable one’s alarm system. The second cause is our societal shift away from landline telephones to cell phones. Because so many people no longer use a home telephone, the alarm industry was forced to adapt by implementing cellular monitoring for those persons who did not have a home telephone service.

If you do have a home telephone, and you are okay with the possibility that your line could get cut, then you may want to choose the traditional monitoring service through your phone line. This service should cost you no more than $35 per month, assuming the company is also providing the equipment for you.

If you want the peace of mind that comes with cellular monitoring, or if you don’t have a home phone line, then you need to choose cellular monitoring. Whenever you speak with an alarm company, ask them how much it will cost to upgrade to a cellular system. Most of the companies that offer promotional packages are not including the cellular equipment and monitoring. For cellular monitoring, you can expect to pay $40-$50 per month.

In addition to choosing between landline and cellular monitoring, you should also consider whether or not you want two-way voice service. Two-way voice monitoring means that instead of merely calling your phone the monitoring company will actually come over a built-in intercom in your keypad to speak with you whenever an alarm signal is received.

This can be beneficial for a few reasons. The primary benefit is that this service allows the monitoring station to verify whether or not the alarm is real or false. When the alarm is set off, the company can hear what is happening in your home. If it is a false alarm, they will ask you if you are alright, and they are not depending on the homeowner to answer the phone. Because this service offers a better method of verifying alarms, a small number of jurisdictions require two-way voice service to dispatch. You can expect to pay $4 more per month for this service.


Once you’ve decided on the monitoring package that is right for you, you should decide on the equipment. Don’t be afraid to shop around. When the large companies like ADT and Broadview offer their promotional packages, they are offering the cheapest, no frills equipment possible. It will do nothing but send a signal. Generally, two-way voice is not an option, and cellular monitoring requires an upgrade, so make sure you ask before you buy.

In the last couple years, there have been substantial upgrades in equipment. Alarm systems now can provide both home security and home automation, integrating with your lighting, thermostats, and appliances. They are also easier to use as touch-screen systems are becoming more and more prevalent.

Furthermore, if you choose cellular monitoring, you can add on interactive service which allows you to control your alarm/home through your smart phone or over the internet. This service is becoming a hit all across America. Parents love getting an email whenever their children disarm the system, informing them that their children are home safe from school or that their teenager didn’t really get home at 12:30.

The bottom line is that alarms can do far more these days than they did 10 years ago; and in most cases, the price will be roughly the same. You can expect to pay $99 up front and enter an agreement for the monitoring service. The standard agreement is for 36 months.

Nationwide vs. Local Company

Having worked for both local and nationwide companies, my opinion is that most consumers will be happier with the service provided by a local company. First, you can generally get a better price from a local company. For instance, most nationwide companies only offer two door sensors and a motion detector for the $99 package. A local company may cover all your doors and your vulnerable windows for the same price. Second, it is far easier to get your system repaired, correct billing mistakes, etc. Third, you can generally get a more personalized service.

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