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What Makes Home Security Companies Worth It?

You've probably heard the saying, "Your home is your castle." But castles had drawbridges, moats and sentries to ward off enemies. If you're looking for the modern version of these castle defenses, then we've got the list for you! We've laid out the pros and cons of different services home security companies offer, in order to help you understand the features you need to keep your home as safe as possible.

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Burglar Alarm or Full Home Security?

The first step in analyzing your security needs is to ask whether you need a simple burglar alarm, or a full-service home security system.

True home security includes options to monitor for fire, CO levels, frozen pipes and basement water infiltration. There’s nothing wrong with burglar alarms, and that may be the best option for you. But make sure you understand what you’re getting before you sign a contract.

To help decide what level of service you need, analyze your property with an honest eye, and see what its vulnerabilities are. Get started with this list of eleven common home security mistakes that may be putting your home at risk.

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The Ultimate DIY Solution: Self-Monitoring

The good news is that from installation to activity monitoring, every aspect of a robust home security system can be done in true DIY fashion. In fact, many home security companies provide options for self-monitoring. The trade-off is that even the most avid DIYer sleeps, has work meetings, goes to the movies or theater, or otherwise is in an area without cell reception—whether camping in a remote area or on the subway. In those instances, your ability to monitor and take quick action is sharply reduced.

Even if you’re considering the DIY route, it’s a good idea to find a security system that has the flexibility to adjust monitoring levels as your needs and budget dictate. Everything you need to know about DIY home security systems.

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Multi-Year Contracts

Home security companies can make their money in one of two ways: by charging for the installation, or by requiring a multi-year service contract. Many offer free installation, but require a pricey, multi-year contract. However, some providers allow for month-to-month service, or offer single-year contracts.

If you think there’s any chance you’ll be moving within the contract duration, be sure to check what the cancellation policies are before signing up for the service. If you want the ultimate in low monthly cost, check out this list of security devices with zero monthly fees.

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Mobile App Options

In today’s interconnected world, almost everything comes with a corresponding smart-phone app. A home security app allows you to monitor your home and respond to events in real-time. More robust features allow for remote activation/deactivation, so that you can allow someone, such as a dog walker, to have short-term access, or communicate through a home speaker to anyone in the house. But if you don’t think you’ll make use of the app, there’s no point in paying for this extra feature.

Here are 16 more suggestions on how to use your smart phone to make your DIY life easier.

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Candid Camera

Doorbell cameras are skyrocketing in popularity, and an increasing number of ‘nanny cams’ record the interior of homes around the world. If you want to keep a video record of your home, consider how your security provider will store that video and whether you’re comfortable with them having video of your family.

While interior cameras tend to be subtle, doorbell cameras are designed to make their presence known. This is especially important if your neighborhood is plagued by so-called “porch pirates” — thieves who steal packages left on front porches or stoops. Doorbell cameras can’t stop someone from taking a package, of course, but their visible presence can deter a potential thief, sending them to take advantage of a less well-monitored home.

Thinking of installing a security camera? Here are twelve of the best-reviewed options for home security monitoring.

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Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Here’s one of the dirty secrets of the security industry: it’s far better to scare off a potential burglar, than to catch them in the act. The best security system is one that is never needed.

One of the most reliable ways to ward off potential intruders is to prominently display a home security company’s logo. It doesn’t need to be a giant sign in the middle of the yard, but it should be obvious in those places where a burglar is likely to be looking, such as a garage window or side yard that’s not easily visible from the street.

Sometimes, signs can deter a burglar even when a security system isn’t actually installed. If you’re interested in the psychology of preventive security, here are 15 ways to fake-out burglars into thinking you have a security system.

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Power Outage Protection

Does your home tend to lose power during storms? Before committing to a security system, ask what the back-up plan is for a power outage. After all, fires, floods and other events shouldn’t take your system offline, right when it’s needed most.

Of course, there’s more to worry about than your security system during an outage. Here are Family Handyman’s 10 ways to survive a blackout.

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Family Handyman

In-Home Caregiving

Increasingly, we are a society of caregivers. Whether it’s an aging parent, special-needs children, or a medical concern of our own, our most vulnerable family members are now more likely to live in our homes rather than institutional care facilities. If this is your situation, connecting medical monitoring to a full service home security system can provide protection and peace of mind.

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Smart Home Integration

As our tech expands and interconnects, the ability of a monitoring system to communicate with your entire home becomes more and more important. Your security system may be able to adjust the thermostat, activate lights remotely, or even check the power usage of your appliances (and be alerted if one of them seems to be malfunctioning).

But a home doesn’t need to be wired to be protected. This Family Handyman article reveals 22 low-tech ways to affordably make your home more secure.

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Warranty Questions

Very few (if any) security companies truly warrant against theft or vandalism. After all, who can guarantee that no one will steal or commit a crime? But, several of them do offer warranties against equipment malfunction, and this is especially worth looking for if you expect to be in your home for three or more years.

Always on the look-out for a great warranty? Then you’ll love this list of 25 companies with outstanding warranties.

Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.