Home Security Systems: Installation and How They Work

Understand how a home security system works and how to choose professional installation that best fits your needs and budget.

Do some online research and talk to neighbors before choosing a home security system. It's a good idea to go with a company that offers 24-hour repair service. Image: momentimages/Getty Images

Every 23 seconds, a house is burgled in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each break-in costs home owners an average of $2,200 in stolen personal goods and possessions.

A $250 to $700 home security system can provide a powerful deterrent: it sends the message that your house won’t be an easy target, and gives crooks a strong incentive to pick another place.

How a home security system works

A home security system works like this: a keypad in your house’s entryway communicates with sensors and motion detectors around the home. The brain of the system—the control panel—is installed in the attic or utility room.

If an intruder breaks a window or kicks in a door:

  • The sensor sends signals to the control panel, which typically uses your phone line to contact an off-site monitoring station.
  • Simultaneously, it sets off an ear-splitting siren within the house.
  • Staffers call the house immediately and ask for a password.
  • If there’s no response, or if the person who picks up the phone gives the wrong password, monitors will notify the police.

Types of installers

Once you’ve elected to invest in a home security system, you’ll need to decide whether to go with a national installer or a local company. Security experts recommend choosing a company with at least ten years’ experience. Either way, you’ll spend $35 to $75 per month on monitoring fees.

  • National firms boast that their call centers are fully redundant, which means if a center in Oshkosh loses power, the Vancouver center will pick up the slack.
  • Local installers are going to be close by, and those companies have an incentive to do a great job in order to maintain their reputation in the community.
  • Full service companies—ones that operate and control all aspects of your home security system, from installation to service and monitoring—generally provide good personalized care and attention to detail.

Before you sign a contract:

  • Talk to neighbors who own a home security system about their installer; if you’re new in town, ask firms for letters of reference.
  • Choose a company that offers 24-hour repair service.
  • Finally, educate yourself online before making a call; websites such as www.alarmsystemreviews.com offer useful information about home security systems.