Home Security Guide: Questions You Need to Ask
Before you start comparing alarm company prices, make sure you ask yourself these questions in our home security guide:
- Who's up late? Make sure you think about your family's habits. Does junior—or Dad—raid the fridge in the middle of the night? Is your dog's early-morning walk going to trip the alarm?
- What does your insurance company think? You can often save money on your homeowner's insurance by installing a security system—but the insurance company may have certain companies that they authorize, or require some kind of proof of installation.
- How does your police department regulate alarms? Some municipalities have different rules about how alarms can be set up and if they can be set to call the police directly. You may have to get a permit and/or pay a small license fee. It's always illegal to set your home alarm to dial 911, though—the risk of false alarms interfering with real emergencies is too high.
- Wired or wireless? Most alarms are connected with wires that run from each sensor and keypad to the central control panel. This means that installation requires drilling holes and running wires through your walls. While wireless equipment may be more expensive, it's worth comparing the cost when installation is included. You might think it's worthwhile to pay the extra to get a wireless system. There's a security advantage, too: would-be burglars can't cut the wires to disable the system if there are no wires to begin with.
- Where's your phone line? The control panel uses your regular phone line to communicate with the monitoring service. If a criminal cuts your phone lines, that's the end of that important feature. For more reliable security, look into getting your phone line run underground to your house.
And while you’re without a home security system, here’s a home security guide for keeping unwanted visitors out.
- Upgrade exterior locks. Older homes often have inadequate locks — make sure you have solid deadbolts on all entrances. Solid-core doors are a must, as well: a good lock is worthless if it secures a flimsy hollow door.
- Bar the basement. Basement windows are often easily broken without attracting too much attention. Put bars in place to prevent entry through your basement.
- Don't forget upper story windows. Many homeowners concentrate on windows they could reach, forgetting that home burglars often gain access by climbing trees or fences to get at upper windows. Make sure your family locks those entries, too.
- Keep your house visible. Overgrown bushes and trees are attractive hiding places for thieves as they look for ways into your home. The same goes for tall fencing that hides your property.
- Install exterior lighting. Motion-sensor lights are relatively inexpensive and a great crime deterrent. Use them at each door and garage, and make sure they're out of easy reach.
- Make sure your house looks occupied. If you're going to be away on vacation or extended trips, use timers to turn on lights in the evenings. Also make sure someone picks up your mail and newspapers, and consider having someone park in your driveway or move your cars periodically.