If you think you’re going to get adequate security protection for “free”, you’re going to be disappointed. Let’s set the record straight about the infamous “free home alarm system”. When you’re offered a free system, it usually consists of the following:
- An “all in one” wireless keypad, siren, control panel and dialer
- One wireless door or window contact, one wireless motion sensor
- A long term monitoring contract, that automatically renews
- Extra charges for additional contacts, motion sensors, features etc.
- Extra charges called “activation fees” or “police and fire registration fees”
- Especially sneaky: Some companies that use central monitoring stations that are out of your telephone area code will actually charge you to use their 1-800 number, in order for your alarm to send its signal
Why Is The Free System Wireless?
Most of these “free” alarm companies go with “all in one” wireless systems because it takes virtually no skill to install. A lot of the programming can be done ahead of time, so the technician who installs the system can get the job done as quickly and easily as possible. Many of these employees have little to no skill. Really talented technicians are paid well, because they are a surprisingly rare and valued commodity in the industry. These “free” alarm companies do not attract the best technicians.
What’s Wrong With An “All-In-One” Wireless Unit?
Most are extremely vulnerable. The best set up for your alarm is to have the keypad, control panel (the brains of the system) and siren installed in separate places. So for example if a thief rips the keypad off your wall, it doesn’t matter. The dialer that sends your alarm system’s signal to the monitoring station is located inside the control panel, which is most likely installed in your basement, and is not damaged. If you have an “all in one” system, not only is the keypad disabled, but so is the entire alarm system, including the siren. Some more savvy, self install alarm companies like Frontpoint, have a feature called Crash & Smash which ensures an emergency signal is still received by the monitoring company even if the panel is destroyed.
They Cannot Be Monitored by Another Alarm Company
It is important that you own your alarm equipment, so that you can switch monitoring companies if you’re not happy with their service, or want to shop around for a better monitoring rate. And there are dramatically different levels of service quality and monitoring costs between the various alarm companies. With a free system, it is almost certain that it is locked out. This means that no other alarm company can monitor it. These companies may also use software that can remotely kill your alarm system, rendering it useless in a matter of minutes.
They Give A False Sense Of Security
Protecting your home with one motion sensor and one or two door contacts would not be adequate protection for the average home owner. It will leave huge gaps in your security protection, allowing an intruder to easily enter your home, and stay a lot longer, before the alarm actually goes off.
The Free System Offer Gets Their Foot In The Door
As explained above, you are definitely going to have to add more equipment to get to an acceptable level of security. Typical prices for a wireless device offered by any alarm company would be: $75-$95 for a door or window contact, $90-$130 for a wireless motion sensor, and about the same cost for a wireless smoke detector. If you decide to go with fire monitoring (highly recommended), or if you need a backup for your phone line using cell or radio, the monitoring charges will be much higher.
The Bottom Line
Most regular security companies will charge $300-$400 for what free companies offer for no charge. After that, devices tend to be the same price, or slightly lower with the non-free companies. So for an extra $300-$400 upfront, you get a system that is more comprehensive, more reliable, lasts longer, is installed by the better technicians, and gives you the freedom to shop around for better service and/or a lower monitoring rate.
For more information on the best security providers you can visit our Best Home Security Systems 2016 page.