Frequently Asked Questions For Home Security

Frequently Asked Questions For Home Security

It’s not cheap to install a new security system for your home, but protecting your investment and your family’s safety is priceless. Installing or upgrading a home security system can be confusing, so here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to help your search.

Is it better to have a wired or wireless system?
Both types of systems have pros and cons, so the choice depends on your needs. A traditional hardwired alarm system connects each sensor from around the house to a master control panel via a hidden network of wires. It also connects to the monitoring company through physical wires in the form of a phone line, which not all homeowners want. These systems are more reliable, but are more expensive and much more intensive to install, often requiring drilling holes in walls or interior masonry.  

Wireless systems, on the other hand, are quick and easy to install as the sensors communicate with the control panel using radio frequency technology. There is no damage to the home, and require less equipment to purchase and install. Your monitoring company will receive alerts from the control panel through a cellular uplink connection similar to a cell phone line.

It is possible to get the best of both systems by installing a hardwired sensor network and use a cellular uplink to communicate to the outside world as either the primary or backup connection for monitoring. It’s also easy to install wireless sensor equipment and connect it to a hardwired landline.

Will I have to sign a long contract?
There are two kinds of typical contracts for home security systems: long-term or month-to-month. If you know you will be living in your house for at least three years, signing a long-term contract can actually save you money as your equipment and installation costs are spread out over time to make lower monthly fees. While a long-term contract can range from one to five years, 36 months is typical.

Smaller security companies who operate locally may offer a month-to-month option that you can suspend or reinstate as needed. These contracts are useful if your security needs change frequently, or if you already own fully installed security system equipment. However, they’re not a cost effective choice for new buyers because you will have to pay for the equipment up-front which is not financially viable for most homeowners.

I already have a security system installed. Can I just purchase monitoring?
Not all providers will agree to monitor an existing security system. If your equipment is not compatible with the monitoring service, they won’t be able to connect to your control panel to interpret alarm signals and the system becomes ineffective.

In this case, you could opt to keep your current security system and use it without monitoring, but this limits your security options. It’s easiest to add a monitoring service from the same company that originally installed the system. The control panel should have enough information to contact the installer, either written inside the panel or through the make and model number stamped into the unit.

If you prefer not to continue working with that company, there are a few other options. There are special converters that can adapt the wireless signal from almost any control panel to be compatible with the alarm monitoring service’s software. Additionally, many of the largest alarm monitoring services already service multiple brands of home security equipment, and may be able to activate monitoring on an existing system.

Can I use VoIP with my system?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) converts your voice into digital information that can be streamed to the monitoring center. Hardwired systems that connect to monitoring via landline don’t convert these digital signals in the same way as a wireless connection, so your monitoring service may not recognize VoIP signals as alarms. VoIP is also dependent on electrical power to communicate alarm signals, so when storms or break-ins cause a loss in power, VoIP requires a battery backup to remain functioning. Most security systems include battery backup within the house, but if you have wireless monitoring, you’ll need backup for your internet connection to use a VoIP effectively.

Can my pet set off false alarms?
A security system that relies on regular motion sensors will be easily tripped by pets. However, many companies offer pet immune motion detectors that use algorithms to distinguish between human and animal motions. They respond only to a possible intruder, not to a cat or dog. Several technologies work together to collect information about the body temperature, movement patterns, speed, and mass to prevent false alarm triggers from  typical house pets, including dogs up to 80 pounds. A quality installation company should help you place your sensors in areas that will further reduce pet-related alarms without compromising the security of the home.

What kind of cameras will I need?
Many homeowners find adding security cameras gives them increased peace of mind. You can choose both indoor and outdoor cameras, but it’s important to know what stressors you want your camera to tolerate. Outdoor cameras tend to be more sturdy, usually made of metal and in casing that protects from weather and tampering. Indoor cameras can be smaller, lighter, and less intrusive, but are less durable. Both types of cameras should offer similar functional features like infrared to keep images clear in any light condition.

Many consumers prefer dome cameras which can be used indoor or out, prevent the direction of the lens from being visible, and further protect the camera from damage. In areas with extreme weather conditions, there are outdoor cameras that include heaters or other features to protect the lens against ice or cold. Hidden cameras are available, but due to their concealment are not weatherproof and are only suitable for indoor use.

Is a phone line necessary?
Many homeowners choose not to have a landline phone connection, and home security companies have evolved to accommodate this shift. Fully wireless security systems use radio frequency technology similar to a cell phone to connect to the monitoring service around the clock. This technology uses existing cell towers and does not require a landline, internet connection or electrical power to keep your family safe. It also allows you to link your personal cell phone to your security system, meaning you can receive text alerts or access your system remotely.

What happens to my system if my internet goes out?
Your home internet connection can be disrupted for many reasons. If you have a hardwired system that uses a landline to connect to your monitoring service, your internet connection will not affect your coverage. However, may other system configurations could experience problems.

Hardwired systems that use internet connections for monitoring service would obviously be immediately disconnected if the internet is interrupted for any reason. VoIP connections are the most at risk from internet interruptions and should be used with a backup technology to maintain connection. Cellular radio is the most reliable wireless technology for staying connected to monitoring as it does not rely on your home internet. This technology can be used as the primary connection or a backup for any of the hardwired or VoIP systems.

What is the benefit of a monitored system?
The equipment for both systems is comparable, as they will use the same sensors and control panel equipment in your home. Unmonitored security systems can alert you via sound or cell phone alert when a sensor is triggered, and will be economical on a month to month basis. Because you won’t be tied to an installation contract, you could also opt to install the system yourself and save even more.

Monitored systems include 24/7 connection between your system and a professional service that interpret any alarm signals and can quickly and effectively respond to potential emergencies. If the system indicates an alarm, the monitoring service will analyze the data and decide whether a security team or local emergency services need to be alerted. When you are away from home, or have specific security concerns, having this additional layer of security response increases your peace of mind. Usually, the same company will provide monitoring and complete your installation, which can decrease errors in the installation process and may make you eligible for a discount on installation packages.

What features are necessary for a good security system?
This depends on your security needs and preferences. All home security systems should include sensors, door chimes, and alarms that connect to a control panel and optional home monitoring. Wireless technology has enabled a whole range of next-level options, however, that can help you customize the best features for your lifestyle. Wireless sensors and wireless monitoring are more reliable, by preventing damage to the wires through storms or intruders and keeping you more connected to monitoring. Any system can take advantage of this reliability by adding a cellular backup.

If you want cameras in your system, you have choices between visible cameras that may deter crime, or hidden cameras that blend into your décor. You have the option to have high quality HD feeds and high capacity DVRs to store your footage.

Home automation systems are not strictly necessary, but are the most innovated feature available in modern home security. By integrating your system into your cell phone, you can now monitor and control your home security remotely. You can set your locks and alarms, adjust your lights and thermostat, and view footage or alarm data right from your phone.

Upgrades to the basic necessities may also improve your home security experience. Door and window sensors can be upgraded to be tamper-sensitive, or pet-immune. Sensors can also alert you to changes in humidity or air quality, or can be synced with your smoke detector and carbon dioxide monitors. These advances help your home security system go beyond home invasion to cover a broader range of potential safety related scenarios.

Beginning your research into a new home security system can be overwhelming. With your family’s safety and a financial investment on the line, these frequently asked questions can get you started to finding the right system for your needs.