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The Hidden Costs of Self-Monitored Security Systems

8 Apr 2019

Joel Matlin found out about the hidden costs of self-monitored alarm systems the hard way. When intruders tried to break into his Toronto home at 4:30 a.m. while he was on vacation, Matlin's exterior cameras attempted to notify him through his phone. But the notification was useless because, as usual, he had turned his phone off before he went to sleep.

When the intruders kicked in the front door, the alarm inside Matlin’s house went off, alerting his stepson Robbie, who was sleeping in the home. Robbie ran downstairs to confront the intruders, and fortunately they fled without harming him or taking any property.

The hardware on Matlin’s security system worked perfectly, but the self-monitoring system failed because Matlin was asleep and unable to respond to the emergency.

Had Matlin chosen an alarm monitoring system, the alerts would have gone to a monitoring station instead of his powered-off smartphone. The monitoring center would have notified the police, who would have arrived at Matlin’s house within minutes and may have intercepted the intruders before they broke in.

The Hidden Costs of Self-Monitoring

Matlin’s story illustrates why it’s important to think twice before choosing a self-monitored security system instead of a monitored system. Sure, you may save a few bucks by not paying that subscription fee to an alarm monitoring company. And self-monitored systems usually do not require high-end hardware or a subscription fee for monitoring, so they’re a good low-budget option.

But what hidden costs are you really paying when you opt for self-monitoring?

1. Your personal safety

It’s important to think about the circumstances that will trigger your security system. There are two scenarios:

  • You are inside your home or business during the break-in.
  • You are not home when the break-in occurs.

If you're at home, you want the police to arrive as quickly as possible. If you are in an emergency situation, it may not be possible to call 911 from your home. An intruder is not going to wait for you to open your security app and signal the police.


In the second scenario, you're not home. Do you have a good connection to Wi-Fi or data? Are you on vacation?  What if the break-in occurs while you're scuba diving in Cancun? Are you going to be tied to your mobile device 24/7 during work, vacation, meetings, while you’re at the movies, during your commute?

Even if you do get the security alert and are in a position to respond, you certainly do not want to return to your business or home to confront the intruders and put yourself in danger.

Break-ins aside, what about your smoke and heat detectors? What if there is an emergency, and you are not able to monitor the system closely?


In both of these situations, you will be safer if your alarm system is monitored by a monitoring center that can contact emergency services for you. Self-monitored systems will alert you of an emergency, but they’ll leave it up to you to contact the police. That puts your safety at risk.

But with a UL-approved central monitoring station, you ensure that you, your family, and your property are protected 24/7, 365 days a year.

2. Delayed response time

A security system is only as good as the response it generates. Let’s say you are out of town and receive an alert from your self-monitored security system. Do you have the correct number to call? If you call 911, you will not get your town’s local dispatch. You'll have to be transferred to the right person, and those precious seconds can feel like an eternity.

In the case of an active intrusion, every single second counts. If your thief is savvy, they can often break in and smash your control panel before you get the notification and call the police. Crash and smash technology paired with a professional monitoring station will prevent this common occurrence.


The delayed response time you get with a self-monitored alarm system might make a difference in how much damage intruders do to your property and whether they get away with your valuables.

With a monitoring plan, though, you’ll get quicker response times, keeping your family and property secured.

3. No customer service and tech support

Have you ever bought new technology that stops working at some point?

Consider how you’ll handle tech problems when you buy your own security equipment: If your system has false alarms, how will you figure out what’s wrong so you don’t get fined by the police? Who are you going to call for help when you want to upgrade your system, add new devices, or move your system from one property to another?


The lack of customer service and tech support is a major hidden cost of self-monitored alarm systems. Although it might cost a little more per month to work with an alarm monitoring company, the support and service will pay off in the long term.

Why Alarm Monitoring Is Worth It

A high-quality UL-approved central monitoring station will charge you between $25 to $50 per month. This is likely a third of your cable bill, a fraction of your family phone plan. It’s worth it to keep your family and property safe from the hidden costs of self-monitored security systems.


Do your research before switching alarm monitoring companies. Some alarm monitoring companies will force you to buy their proprietary security equipment. Look for the companies that are customer-focused and will help you keep your existing alarm system and secure better monitoring and service.

Schedule a time to talk with us about how you can switch alarm monitoring providers and lower your monthly fees.

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