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Is a Home Security System Worth It?

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This is a Devil's Advocate post.

A security system is a waste of money, many people say. And they may be right, it is a waste of money, until a burglar tries to break into your home and steal your valuables. In that case, a security system can save you tens of thousands of dollars as well emotional turmoil and fear.

Sure, there are ways that you can protect your home that don’t involve paying a company monthly, and you should implement those strategies, but I would also urge you to consider buying a home security system. Jeanne M. Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institue suggests ways to protect your home.  “Key measures include making sure outside areas are well-lit, doors and windows are protected with locks or grates, and alarm systems are in place to scare off home invaders or trigger a response by a security firm” (USA Today).

How a Home Security System Works

A home security system has sensors on your windows and doors; some also have cameras. If someone tries to enter your home, there is a 30 second delay before the alarm sounds. If you are the homeowner, this is the time to enter your security code to turn off the alarm. If you are a burglar, this is your warning to leave. After 30 seconds, the alarm will blare and the security system will call you to see if you are alright. If you are not, police will be sent.

How Much Does a Home Security System Cost?

A home security system usually costs $500 to $1,000 to install, and then there are annual monitoring costs. Of course, this price will vary based on the company you choose, where you live and how many windows and doors your house has, so shop around.

My mom had a security system installed after her home was burglarized twice in less than two years; she pays less than $200 per year for monitoring, or $16 a month. She found it was cheaper to go with a reputable local home security company rather than one of the national chains you see advertised on television.

Why Pay for a Home Security System?

While a home security system is not cheap, there are many benefits to having one.

Peace of Mind—There is no describing the sense of violation you feel after someone has been in your home, ransacked your belongings, and stolen all of your valuables. Feeling safe in your home after a burglary is difficult once you know how easily someone can come in. A security system can make you feel safe again.

Saves You Money—This sounds contrary, but spending money for a security system can save you money on your homeowner’s insurance policy. It can also help you keep your homeowner’s policy. My mom’s insurance had a rule that she couldn’t have more than three claims in five years. She had already had a prior claim, and then she claimed each of the burglaries. Her insurance was ready to drop her unless she got a security system. Since then, there was one more attempted break in when she was not home (a large foot sized dent in the basement door was the evidence), but the alarm went off and scared the burglar away.

Saves Your Family Heirlooms—Often, it is not the monetary loss that it so difficult, but the loss of objects that represent important times in your life or are family heirlooms. My mom has the pearls that I wore on my wedding day that were a gift from my in-laws stored at her home. Luckily, she stored them in an odd location, and the burglars didn’t find them either time. I hope to give those pearls to my daughter one day, and losing them would have been emotionally difficult.

My mom had her wedding ring and all of her other jewelry stolen. Yes, you can replace the objects, but you know they are not the originals and the emotion attached to them is no longer there. Instead, the replacement items can remind you of the burglary every day.

Yes, security systems do require you to dig into your wallet, and hopefully you will never even need a home security system. However, I prefer not to take that chance. I plan to install a security system when we move into our home.

You buy car insurance with the hope of never using it, but you usually do. Perhaps a home security system should be the same.

Do you have a home security system? Would you consider buying one?

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “Is a Home Security System Worth It?”

  1. Kevin Raposo says:

    Great article Melissa. I really liked the part “it is a waste of money, until a burglar tries to break into your home and steal your valuables.”

    Unfortunately many people decide to purchase an alarm system after a break-in. There are many affordable options out there that offer the same protection as the “national” guys.

    Kevin

  2. Dave says:

    After initial costs you only have monitoring fees. My monitoring is roughly $25/month. Having it gives peace of mind when away from home. My only beef is I want to cut the home phone but it is needed for the alarm to be monitored. Many people do not figure in the cost of the phone line when realizing total cost.

  3. Soni Weiss says:

    I use Black and Brown Security Ssytem for 50 yrs and they have served me well. Minimal maint. cost and some upkeep. Black is a 185 lb Great Dane and Brown is 100 lb Doerman.(colors have changed over the years. Only reason I lock my door is they have figured out how to open them.

    I know in the past 25 yrs at least three ateempts were made to enter my home….Unless someone is willing to shoot the dogs they will not get further than the trying to open a window.

    I don’t have to worry about setting the alarm and there is a happy face to greet me when I get home. Definately worth the maintenance LOL

  4. Glenn Lasher says:

    I noticed a couple of years ago that a number of signs were sprouting up in front yards indicating that that house was protected by a Honeywell APX system. The signs were basically permanent lawn signs.

    What that got me wondering was how long it would be before someone stole one of these signs.

    I’ve noticed not so many of them more recently. I don’t know how many got stolen or how many were removed by the owner or what.

    Okay, now let me present another view . . .

    I think that one of the stupidest things you can do is to post a sign saying what kind of security system you have. Post that you have a system, sure, but don’t give the brand. If you give the brand, you are providing a research topic to anyone who really wants in to your house. The reviews will be a good source of vulnerabilities to any given system.

    Then there are some vulnerabilities that may be obvious. You got a Time-Warner security system? Cool. Disconnect the TV cable from the house before breaking the door down.

    I believe the best solution is to roll your own. Do this, and your system is unique. It is also as paranoid or as trusting as you want it to be. I do accept, however, that not everyone (perhaps not even most people) is equipped to undertake such a task. If you are, though, I recommend it.

    With all that said, the most effective security I have seen has been what my mother-in-law uses. She has a big dog. It is also effective at keeping door-to-door salespersons, evangelists and process servers at a distance.

  5. Lei Lani says:

    A home security system can be installed and self monitored (you save the monthly fee to ADT, or whomever). I have purchased GE/ITT systems (keypad, door and window sensors, motion detectors, smoke/CO2 alarms) and installed them for friends. The sensors are wireless, and easy to program. The keypad can be programmed to call your cell phone, it will send a three digit code depending on the type of alarm. The great thing about these systems is you can call your house, and listen through the keypad to what is happening, and also speak to the animals or occupants. (I call my kitties when I am on vacation, and my neighbor is over to feed them – I talk to my neighbor too, not just the kitties!!) With a little research, a decent system can be found for under $300 (including door/window sensors, motion detector and keypad). The hardest part is running the phone line to the master box for phone service. There are newer systems that have GSM cell chips, so the hardline to the phone box can be avoided, but I have no experience with them. (They would involve a monthly cell bill as well.)

  6. Amanda says:

    We have a home security system. One of the problems with the “get a dog idea” is that a lot of times the people who steal from you are the people who know you (and your dog). They’ve been over, dated your sister, or whatever… Plus, just like the commercials… dogs can be bribed with treats, drugged or killed. The biggest reason I had the alarm installed is peace of mind. If someone breaks in while I’m sleeping, the alarm is going off before myself or the dogs would be alerted. Also, we had the fire alarms linked to the system (you can also add carbon monoxide monitoring too) so if I’m asleep or at work during the day…. SOMEONE will know there’s a problem before my house burns to the ground. All of my neighbors work during the day too so it would be a fluke thing for someone to notice smoke coming from my house Monday – Friday from 8-5. On another note, you can buy those ADT or whatever signs on eBay… which may be a deterrent, until someone “tests” it. And I would be willing to bet that over half of people who have the alarms installed over time don’t set them anyway. If you don’t set it, it’s not going to work and you are wasting your money each and every month. I have dogs, and they would bark and carry on if a stranger was prowling – but if the house catches fire – the dogs aren’t going to be any help at all – nor will they be able to get out!

    • Shirley says:

      Amanda, I think you just answered the title’s question for many in similar situations. Very good response!

    • Melissa says:

      Good point about people having systems and not using them, Amanda. I remember reading that Elizabeth Smart (the girl who was kidnapped from her bedroom) lived in a house with an alarm system, but the family didn’t set it so they could leave the windows open at night.

  7. James Davis says:

    I agree! The excellent thing about today’s home security systems is that they are wireless network, call for no setup, installation is very uncomplicated, and the price is exceptionally cost effective. Think about the Home Safe Wireless Home Security System and you can quickly and quickly offer high quality security to your home or small company.

  8. Bob says:

    I work for a small independent security company so I feel security systems are worth having.

    Regarding an earlier comment you no longer “have to have a phone line”. There are systems that can use a cell communicator, radio, or even your Internet connection for monitoring. Your system may have to be upgraded to utilize these other methods.

    To maximize your value I always recommend people get fire devices (smoke detectors, heat detectors) and carbon monoxide detectors on their system. These really can save your life and usually will not increase your monthly monitoring cost once you pay for their installation.

    In regards to self monitoring it can work for some but ask yourself if you really want to be calling 911 because you got a text/email saying your alarm went off.


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