How to Choose a Home Alarm System

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Alarm systems for the home can be complicated and expensive, so it's crucial to determine your security needs before you begin consulting with alarm companies.

Things You'll Need

  • Home Alarm Systems
  • Monitoring Company
  • Alarm System Control Panels
  • Alarm System Keypads
  • Alarm System Sirens

Conducting Preliminary Research

  • Survey your home and determine how many windows and doors you want to be 'switched,' or integrated into the home security system.

  • Determine possible locations for the control panel and keypads. You might find it convenient to place a keypad close to the front door. You might also want a keypad close to the bedrooms. The control panel commands the system, and the keypads allow you to program the system and turn it, or its components, on and off.

  • Determine how far away windows and doors are from the control panel so that you know how far wires will be routed if you choose a wired alarm system or how far a wireless system needs to communicate with sensors. Keep in mind that it is difficult to install a hard-wired security system unless your house is still under construction.

  • Decide whether you want a monitored security system that will be monitored 24 hours a day. The central monitoring station 'watches' your home for a monthly fee. A less expensive alternative is a basic sensor system with a dialer accessory that connects the system to your phone lines and dials preselected numbers if the house's security is breached.

  • Consider your lifestyle. Does anyone in the family often get up in the middle of the night for a snack? Do you have a large pet that roams the house at night? Such circumstances will influence the type of motion sensor you select and how it is installed. It may also call for you or members of your family to take trips to the keypad to prevent false alarms.

Choosing the System

  • Consult with a reputable home security system adviser.

  • Choose a system with a control panel that can monitor all the zones you have in your home. Each window or door integrated into the system is considered a zone. A basic system is capable of controlling eight zones. However, many panels permit the addition of expansion modules that allow the system to watch up to 32 zones.

  • Determine if the routing of the wires for a hard-wired security system might be too long. With a wired system, you will have to drill holes in walls where wires will have to be routed. If the wire run appears too long to you, choose a wireless system.

  • Make certain that a wireless system can perform up to the distance of the farthest zone.

  • Be certain that the system you choose can accept fire-protection sensors, carbon monoxide sensors and combustible-gas detectors, anti-freeze-up low-temperature switches (especially in cold climates) and water detectors. Make sure that panic buttons are or can be included.

  • Choose a system that is user-friendly. Make certain that inputting codes into the keypad is not a complicated process and is one that everyone in the family can learn quickly. You don't want to have to refer to the owner's manual as you input or try to interpret codes.

  • Work the keypad of the system you select to assure yourself that it is easy to use. Encourage all family members to work the keypad so that you will select one that everyone can use comfortably.

Tips & Warnings

  • You may want to include some kind of alarm noisemaker. A blast of a siren or alarm bell not only alerts neighbors that an intruder is in your home, but also can scare the trespasser away.
  • A motion sensor outside the home can provide an early warning and, when used with a noise-maker, can discourage an intruder from entering your home.
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