We've received countless emails over the years from our visitors, seeking advice on their home's security.  Although we don't have nearly enough time to answer them all, we do answer most of them.  But that got us thinking: maybe some of this information would also be useful for our visitors!  So go ahead, ask us anything (security related, of course!), we'll publish the best Q & A's here.  You can use the review submission page to send us your question.   Please note that we won't publish any personal information such as last names, business names, or email addresses.
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Q.
Please help with a dilemma. I have looked at a number of alarm companies. Only a few state they have any type of UL review. Most will state “UL Listed”. How does that kind of listing compare with “UL Certified” or “UL Approved”? Is “UL Listed” the same as either of those designations or is it just another sales ploy to trick the unwary consumer? Thanks for your time and effort.
A.
According to our friends at UL (Underwriters Laboratories), "UL Certified" and "UL Approved" are just alternate terms for "UL Listed". UL prefers that approved alarm companies use the term "UL Listed", and those that use "certified" and "approved" are simply using the wrong terminology.  You should know that to be UL listed, an alarm company must meet certain standards in regards to the equipment they install, the installers themselves, and their monitoring staff/station.  Companies that only install equipment can be listed if their installers have been trained in UL standards and procedures.  This training is provided by UL and paid for through membership fees.  Installations can be randomly audited by UL to ensure compliance.  Full service companies can be listed if installers and monitoring staff have been similarly trained.  Those that only use UL certified equipment cannot be listed. For more information, you may want to see this page: Do I Need UL Approved Central Station Monitoring?
Q.
I'm just a little confused.  I've been on the phone with ADT several times getting quotes for an alarm system for a rental 4-plex we own in Texas.  Their system sounds just like the free systems you recommend avoiding.  I thought ADT was reputable.  The system they offer is wireless, with 2 door sensors and a motion detector, cellular uplink, a siren, and a talking keypad with keychain remote, for $44.99 on a 3 year contract.  Does this sound concerning to you, or have the larger companies gone to wireless systems recently?
A.
We recommend avoiding "all-in-one" wireless systems for the reasons found here.  Regular wireless systems (i.e. systems that have their wireless receivers installed with the control panel or built into the keypad) are acceptable  if there is no possible way the system can be hard-wired. In your case, you were probably dealing with an independent ADT authorized dealer.  They are most likely to offer "all in one" units for these reasons. Corporate ADT does not install "all in one" units.  You may also find these pages useful: Types Of Alarm Companies, Differences Between ADT Security Services Inc. And Authorized Dealers.
Q.
I have read and reread your advice on designing an alarm system for a two story house.  While you recommend hard wiring, I think you are saying that it is impossible for a two story house unless the house was pre-wired with connections between the first and second floor.  Otherwise, not even a hybrid system is possible, only wireless.
If this is correct, the only reply I need is "that is correct".  If not, please clarify how a 2 story that has not been pre-wired could have even a hybrid system.
A.
If you have a basement with an open or "drop" ceiling and your house is not prewired, you can use a hybrid system.  Hard wired devices could be used in the basement and first floor, and wireless devices could be used on the second floor.  These wireless devices communicate with the receiver in your basement that is installed with your control panel, or with the receiver built into your keypad (not all brands have this feature).  If you would like to control your alarm from an upstairs bedroom, remember that many manufacturers don't produce wireless keypads.  In this case, you may need to control your alarm with a wireless keyfob unit.  Good luck!
Q.
While your website is informative, the information provided is overwhelming. It seems like when it comes down to choosing an alarm company, it's basically a roll of the dice. ADT and Broadview seem to run their companies like collaborative monopolies. It's pretty much impossible to make a decision after reading all of the reviews. They leave you more informed, but they're basically all the same in one way or another. It would be nice if there were a company that could really compete with ADT and Broadview. Anyway, thanks for listening/reading.
A.
Reading online reviews should only be part of your decision making process.  They should be primarily used to give you an idea of what questions to ask your salesperson during your consultation.  Remember that consumers are more likely to submit a review if they have had a bad experience, rather than just a satisfactory one. This page may help alleviate some of your confusion:  Types Of Home Security Companies
Q.
We live in Alabama where most houses are one story built on a concrete slab (i.e., no basement).
What type of perimeter security would you suggest for us?  Any help would be very appreciated.

A.
Set your system up as described here, and have your installer run wiring through the attic.  You should also have the control panel (not the keypad, the control panel that houses the electronics, back up battery, etc) and siren located here. If the attic is not accessible and/or if your home has plaster walls, you would have no choice but to go with a wireless system.
Q.
I have a question.  I do not have a land line phone line.  I do not wish to sign up with a monitoring company.  I do have broadband internet access.  Is there a way to use that connection to have my alarm system call or text me should the alarm trip.  I learned about the cell dialers but they require a sim chip and so another monthly payment.  The DSC TL-150 is very cool, but requires monitoring.  Is there a no charge option out there?
A.
If you want to do it yourself, the DSC TL-150 is not for you (under no circumstances can it be programmed to contact any other number than a central monitoring station).  However, the TL-250 can be programmed to send you an email in the event of an alarm, but it cannot be used with a cell phone or pager.  Obviously, the problem here is that you will not receive alarm signals in a timely manner, unless you are constantly checking your email.  And because you must know the DNS I.P. address for your email account, public email accounts such as yahoo, mail.com, etc. will not work (they will not give you this information).  You need to have your own private email server, something you may have if you own a business.  While the TL-250 will only work with DSC panels, the TL-350 has the same capabilities and will work with most other panels.  You may be able to find these modules for sale on websites such as ebay, home security store, etc, or check your yellow pages for a wholesaler that will sell alarm equipment to the general public.  No alarm company will sell you this equipment to do it yourself; they will insist on a monitoring agreement.  Bottom line, if you are comfortable with programming your DSC panel, you should be able to install the TL-250 or 300.  You may also want to see this page: Benefits Of Central Station Monitoring  And this page if you haven't seen it yet: Voip And Home Alarm Systems
Q.
I live in the Kansas City area and I am thinking about getting a security system, however I do not want to enter into a contract. Are there any companies out there that do not require a contract to be signed?
A.
It can be difficult to find an alarm company that doesn't require some kind of monitoring agreement, because that is where most of their profit is generated.  This is especially true with the companies who use the "door to door" selling method, and offer equipment for "free". (More about "free" alarm systems here).   By the time these companies pay for the equipment, installation and sales expenses, they're in the red.  So, if you think you will be able to get "free" equipment and NOT sign a contract, you would be mistaken.  Your best bet is to buy your system outright from a local company that is more flexible when it comes to the length of your contract (you could probably negotiate a contract length of 12 months or less).  Another option would be purchasing your own alarm equipment (you can find alarm systems on Ebay, and countless other sites i.e. home security store, x-10, etc.), and installing it yourself.  (Our favorite name when it comes to alarm equipment is DSC (Digital Security Controls).  DSC equipment is well made, reliable, and user friendly).  You then have two options: have a local company monitor the system, or program the system yourself to call your cell phone or pager in the event of an alarm.  You may also find this page informative: What are the benefits of central station monitoring?
Q.

I read on your website recently that you were in the process of confirming APX claim that they had been awarded a J D Powers award for customer service. Did you ever confirm it? I scanned the J D Powers website
and put "APX Alarm" in their search window and only got a "Sponsored Result." What was the result of your findings?
Sala
A.
Hi Sala.  The main confusion regarding APX (now Vivint) was whether they operate their own monitoring station, which they do not (Update: As of April /2010, APX operates two central stations of their own, located in St.Paul, Minnesota, and Provo, Utah).  However, APX did indeed receive the JD Powers award for customer service in August 08' for their call center. Details can be found here:
http://www.jdpower.com/corporate/news/releases/pressrelease.aspx?id=2008107
Q.
We are ********* Charities, Inc. located in ********, Florida. We own 28 homes, and provide housing for the handicapped and challenged.  We have a serious situation and need some information.  Two week ago, someone
broke into three of our unoccupied home's and stripped all the copper wire out of the attics.  We need a portable security alarm that can be placed in a home when the existing tenant leaves and removed when a new tenant arrives.  We  also have a home under construction. We are concerned that the copper will be stolen during
construction.  Also is it possible to install a system in each home with one cell phone number. We cannot afford 28 phone numbers?  Any ideas?  Thank You,
Jack **********
A.
Hi Jack.  Thanks for writing us.  First of all, you don't need a cellphone number, or even a cellphone, for cellular monitoring to work.  It is simply a transmitter installed near your alarm's control panel.  It is usually meant as a back up for your phone line, but some use the transmitter as the primary method of sending their alarm's signal to the central station. You may also want to look into radio monitoring, which is also used as a back up for a phone line, and is less expensive than cell line monitoring.  Search your local yellow pages for a company that offers radio monitoring (none of the national chains do, look for a local company). Keep in mind that both of these methods are not nearly as reliable as a regular phone line, use them at your own risk.  As far as actual equipment, wireless security systems are widely available, and you could have your alarm company install the unit as tenants move out and you are waiting for new tenants to move in. Obviously they would charge a fee to have the unit moved, and you will more than likely have to pay a monitoring fee whether the system is being used or not. You can do the same with homes under construction, as long as you have a power source and any motion sensors are protected from the elements.  But to be honest, Jack, I think you would be better off hiring a few security guards to patrol the area.  You would be moving your alarm systems around so much, I imagine it would get quite expensive after a while.  We are also not huge fans of wireless security systems, especially the "all-in-one" units (and this is about the only type of alarm that would work in your situation).  Hope this helps, Mike
Q.
My Mother is sometimes confused.  She has been known to, in a state of confusion, wander out of her house.  Is there a system that would alarm to notify a spouse if my mother were to leave the house?  Jeff
A.
Hi Jeff.  You could use a standard security system, with contacts on all accessible doors and windows.  This way, the system could be armed while your mother is in the house and will sound if any of the doors or windows are opened.  You could tell the monitoring station to contact you if this happens, they don't necessarily have to notify the police. Or a better and less expensive option would be a standard medical alert system with motion sensors.  These systems work differently than standard security systems i.e. the alarm will sound if the sensors DO NOT sense any motion within a certain time frame, ie. 8 hours.  It could mean your mother left the house, or is incapacitated.  There is a lot more information about medical alert systems here: http://www.medicalalertreviews.com. (Shameless plug for our sister site, we apologize).  Mike
More Home Security Resources On Alarm System Reviews.Com:
See A Step By Step Guide To Designing An Alarm
Do I Need A U.L. Approved Monitoring Station?
Home Security Terms And Definitions
Pick The Alarm That's Best For You
Beginner's Guide To Security Cameras
 
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