Whether you’re moving into a new home or simply rethinking how you live in your current residence, one of your top concerns is likely, “How do I keep this place safe?”
Protecting your property and, more importantly, yourself and your family is a top priority. Deciding how to go about protecting your home is a big decision. Many homeowners turn to security systems to keep themselves, their family, and their property safe. And the type of security system you choose could make a difference in an emergency situation.
When it comes to security systems, you can choose an unmonitored security system or a monitored system. Both options have pros and cons. Here are the major differences between unmonitored versus monitored security systems and how to choose between them for your home.
An unmonitored security system consists of tech like security cameras, sirens, and other devices that activates or alerts you when something is amiss but does not contact emergency services directly.
There are two categories of unmonitored security systems: self-monitored systems, which link to your phone and send you notifications, and truly unmonitored systems, which simply record video footage from security cameras or set off a loud siren when an intruder is detected.
The primary advantage of an unmonitored security system is that it tends to be cheaper than a monitored one. You only have to pay for the upfront costs of the equipment itself. You can install the equipment yourself with your trusty screwdriver, or you can hire a professional to install it for an installation fee. After that, the system is ready to go, and the only additional costs going forward are maintenance costs.
The main downside to an unmonitored security system is that while it may deter some criminals and can alert you to an intruder, the system won’t actually do anything to stop someone determined to commit a crime. The best you can hope for is that a blaring siren and a visible security camera will scare off potential burglars.
When an unmonitored security system goes off, you’ll typically get an alert on your phone, and you’ll have to contact the police yourself, as opposed to having an alarm monitoring company evaluate the situation and reach out to emergency services on your behalf.
Being the sole point of contact for your security system has some disadvantages: What if you miss the notification? What if your phone dies and you don’t receive the notification? What if you’re asleep and have your phone on do not disturb? As with any alarm system, your neighbors may be mindful enough and call the police for you when they hear your alarm going off, but there’s no way to guarantee that.
An unmonitored security system is better than no security system, and you can always call in emergency services and respond to alarms yourself. But with an unmonitored system, there will always be gaps in your home security. That’s why some people opt for monitored security systems.
Monitored security systems use the same equipment (security cameras, alarms, etc.) as unmonitored systems but also include the services of professional home security technicians to keep an eye on your home security system and respond to alerts in real time.
These monitoring services fill in the gap of unmonitored systems—the fact that all responsibility lies on you. Did a fire manage to get out of control? Your monitoring company has seen it and has contacted the fire department. Burglars broke in through the window? The company was notified of a glassbreak sensor going off and has called the police.
Your alarm monitoring company will keep you in the loop, and you won’t need to lift a finger. And while the professionals are keeping an eye on things, you’ll also have the opportunity to notify them in case of a false alarm.
The downside to a monitored security system is the cost. Unlike an unmonitored system, where you just pay upfront for the equipment and installation, monitoring is a recurring expense.
In most cases, security companies require that you sign a contract for alarm monitoring services. Each company offers a set of plans, and you can choose which one has the features you need. The company handles everything else once you pay and sign the contract.
Contract length can range from one year to five years (the industry standard is three years). Your monthly bill from a security company covers a few things: the ongoing fees of monitoring, the repayment for the equipment installed, ongoing maintenance for the equipment, and, as always, overhead.
The contract includes equipment and installation, and the technicians will use their expertise to ensure that coverage is as comprehensive as possible. You won’t have to worry about a poorly placed camera or buying the right equipment.
The longer your contract with a monitoring company, the lower your monthly bill generally is. And should you wish to end it early (because you plan to move elsewhere, for instance), you also take the remaining cost onto yourself.
The good news: Your insurance company may offer you a discount on your homeowner’s insurance when you install a monitored security system, so call and ask how much it’ll save you.
If you’re installing a monitored security system, check with the city clerk’s office about setting up a monitored system in your home. Some cities require you to have a permit so that emergency services can be dispatched to respond to an alarm, and sometimes these permits come with a small fee.
Unmonitored security systems are more budget friendly but place responsibility of your home’s security solely in your hands. Monitored systems do require an ongoing cost, but they’ll keep your home safe even when you’re not looking by offloading the responsibility of responding to emergencies to your alarm monitoring company’s technicians.
The choice comes down to the price you put on safety, security, and peace of mind when it comes to protecting your home.
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