Today’s topic is one of the more controversial ones we’ll cover, since it examines two very different approaches on how to set up an alarm system in the home.
Of the many ways that innovative alarm companies are changing the industry, system installation is potentially the most significant departure from the traditional alarm company business model: and we think that the pros and cons of setting up your own alarm system, as opposed to having it installed by a technician, are worth a close examination.
For literally decades there has been little or no choice about how your alarm systems is installed – and that’s for a commercial or a residential system.
Remember, in the older systems all the alarm sensors had to be physically connected to the alarm control panel. That meant lots of drilling, running wires, programming, and even soldering. In other words, tools, mess, and time. Alarm installation technicians often have to be part-electrician and part-carpenter to install a system correctly and aesthetically in an existing home.
Wireless Sensors Changed Everything
In the 1980’s the industry finally welcomed reliable wireless sensor technology. Well, most of us were happy about it: you can still find some “hard-core, hard-wired holdouts” who haven’t climbed on the wireless sensor bus – yet!
But wireless technology surpassed hard-wired sensor use for residential systems some time ago. For a good rundown on the topic of hard-wired vs. wireless sensors, see my post from last Monday.
Wireless Opens the Door
Although it was not clear back in the 80’s, wireless sensors really created the opportunity for alarm systems that could be set up by the homeowner. In fact, it took another fifteen years or so before a few innovative alarm companies started experimenting with “DIY” (Do It Yourself) alarm systems that didn’t require any tools – or any technicians in the home.
After all, we’re already setting up our own computers, routers, modems, and the like: why not a wireless home security system? The first DIY alarm systems weren’t pretty, but they did offer an alternative.
Times Have Changed
Speaking of technicians in your home, this is just one of the cultural shifts that has resulted in more people becoming comfortable with an alarm system you set up yourself. It’s not just the mess and the scheduling inconvenience: people just aren’t as comfortable anymore with strangers coming into their homes. And that applies to alarm salespeople, too – especially the pushy ones that knock on doors with an offer you can’t refuse.
So What Are the Issues?
There were some initial issues for the companies who pioneered the “DIY” home alarm system to confront. For one thing, you certainly don’t want to trade quality or peace of mind when you opt for DIY. Some of those questions remain to this day – and here’s a partial list:
- Is the system actually monitored? Some DIY systems are only self-monitored – we’ll cover those details and differences in a future post – but suffice to say an alarm system that is not monitored by a 24/7 monitoring center is generally not considered an alarm system at all.
- Is the monitoring cellular? Only 100% cellular monitoring lends itself to a reliable DIY approach: any other methodology, like a standard phone line or internet connection, requires physical connections and wiring that should be left to professionals. And as we discussed in a prior post, cellular is also the safest and most reliable monitoring technology.
- Is the equipment completely programmed in advance? This could seem like a basic question, but believe it or not, some DIY companies started out shipping equipment that you had to program yourself. Some even still do that! The best DIY systems arrive fully programmed: they should be as easy to set up as putting a magnet on a refrigerator.
- Can the alarm company make sure everything is working? This is an important question. The most advanced systems today include interactive features that allow you to control them and receive notifications from your system about anything happening in your home. That means that the alarm company should be able to confirm remotely that the system you set up yourself is working perfectly – and that spells peace of mind for you.
- Can the alarm company perform remote troubleshooting? Just as with the setup confirmation, checking out a component that is not behaving should be a simple (remote) operation. And the beauty of this approach is that the new component is easily shipped to you, to replace the non-working part.
Add Sensors, and Even Move Your System With You
Another significant benefit of the system you set up yourself is the ability to add sensors to the system at any time – and even to move the system with you. You own the equipment, so why not? At least, that’s how the better alarm companies operate. By the way, it should not cost you a dime to move your system – and it shouldn’t restart your monitoring agreement, either.
Which is Better: Technician Installed or Set Up Yourself?
Despite the industry’s entrenched practice of using alarm technicians, there is an increasing trend toward end-user setup for residential home security. To summarize, here are a few reasons why:
- The best easy setup systems are fully programmed on arrival, require no tools, and can be up and running in about half an hour.
- No technicians are needed, either for the installation or for subsequent servicing. And that means no strangers in your home, no interruptions, and no scheduling hassles.
- You should save money if there are no technicians involved – not just upfront, but also for any subsequent visits that can (and should) be handled remotely.
- Adding sensors and even moving the system is a breeze. Think of it as portable peace of mind!
The best alarm companies offering easy setup systems have pretty much figured out how make it simple and convenient for you – and even how to save you money. As for how to assess one of these companies, the best way is probably reading lots of customer reviews – another topic we’ll cover later.
We hope you are enjoying this Monday series on alarm technology and related topics. It’s our goal to give you everything you need to make the right decision when shopping for home security. Information often translates to peace of mind – and FrontPoint is all about that. See you next Monday!