The pros and cons of company-monitored and self-monitored home security systems

Dec 27, 2018
There are several steps you can take to prevent break-ins before they happen, and installing a home security system can take your efforts to the next level. Both company-monitored and self-monitored systems can enhance your home security and help deter or catch unwelcome guests, so take a moment to understand the pros and cons of each before you sound the alarms.  

What to consider when choosing an alarm system

Before you consider a company or self-monitored home security system, take a minute to review your own expertise and how comfortable you would be monitoring your own system. There is more to an alarm system then the cost.  

  1. What type of alarm system do you require? Consider the type of home you live in, where it is located, how often you are gone on a regular basis, and how often you travel.
  2. Do you have children, pets or elderly people in the home? Consider who and what you want to protect and who will have to operate the system.
  3. Do you have the expertise to do a DIY installation?
  4. Do you have the technology and home automation capabilities?
  5. The type of monitoring you can afford or want to pay for.

Company-monitored home security systems

Company-monitored security systems are installed and monitored by professional home security companies. They can include  cameras, motion detectors, door sensors, glass-break sensors, silent alarms, and not-so-silent sirens to scare off intruders. While each system operates a little differently, a company-monitored security system is usually set up to send a signal to the company’s call centre when someone enters your home while the system is engaged. Then, you’ll receive a phone call to make sure the alarm wasn’t set off accidentally. If you don’t answer or if you aren’t home when you receive the call, the police or the fire department will be dispatched.

Pros
  • Monitored alarm discounts are available and could reduce insurance premiums;   insured must provide an alarm certificate to qualify.
  • You don’t have to worry about monitoring the system or contacting authorities when the alarm is set off, which is helpful if you’re away or out of cell phone range.
  • When installed properly, a company-monitored system is usually set up to cover every room in your house, so there won’t be any “blind spots”.
  • The alarm itself can scare off burglars as soon as they break in, preventing theft of your belongings and further damage to your home.
  • Many run on traditional phone lines or cellular radio and come with battery backups, so they should continue working even if the power goes out.
  • The display of an alarm company sticker that shows you have protection is a deterrent for thieves.
Cons
  • Most require you to sign a contract and pay monthly monitoring fees.
  • When the alarm goes off by accident, you have to answer your phone and disable it so the police or fire department won’t be called — but if you’re not home, you won’t know if there’s an intruder or if one of your kids accidentally tripped the sensor.
  • You could be charged for a false alarm if police are dispatched but find no signs of forced entry.
  • You have to remember to set the alarm system before you leave the house or go to bed, or it will not be activated.
  • In consideration of the policy discount provided by your insurer, a warranty is added to the policy that states it’s understood and agreed that the home security device(s) are activated and properly maintained and that you notify the insurer immediately of any changes, deactivation or removal of the alarm.

Self-monitored security systems

Self-monitored security systems are exactly what they sound like — they’re security systems you monitor yourself. These can include motion sensors, silent alarms, sirens, door sensors, and security cameras that send text or push notifications or call your mobile phone when they’re set off — and most connect to smartphone apps that allow you to monitor them remotely and give access to neighbours or other emergency contacts. If you receive a notification when you’re not home, you can call 911 yourself or have a neighbour look for signs of a break-and-enter. Some of these systems (like Nest Cam ) even come equipped with a speaker, so you can tell the burglars they’ve been caught on camera and police are on the way.

Pros
  • Local alarm discounts are available to reduce insurance premiums, but it is a smaller discount than those given for monitored systems.  
  • Relatively inexpensive after installation (no monthly fees since you’re monitoring the system yourself)
  • Easy to relocate to a different room or new home since you can usually install and uninstall these systems yourself
  • Cell phone alerts notify you when the system has been activated and you can decide whether or not to call the police (avoiding false alarms)
  • Camera systems record videos of intruders, which can be helpful to police when trying to track them down
Cons
  • Most need power or Wi-Fi to operate, so they likely won’t work if the power’s out
  • If you’re unable to look at your phone (or if you’re in an area with poor service), you might not receive notifications — so you won’t know to call 911
  • Camera systems alone will only cover rooms where they have been installed, and installing multiple cameras can become expensive
  • Self-monitored systems don’t always include alarms — so while a camera may help police identify intruders and make arrests, it may not do much to scare them off

What about unmonitored alarm systems?

While company and self-monitored home security systems both offer some way of monitoring your home while you’re not there, unmonitored alarm systems are simply intended to scare off intruders as soon as they step foot in your home — but you’ll have to rely on one of your neighbours to call the police if they hear the alarm. While an unmonitored alarm-only system can make quite a racket and scare off those pesky burglars, it’s safe to say that some form of monitoring adds an extra layer of security, whether it’s done professionally or you do it yourself.

Did you know that installing a security system in your home could qualify you for a discount on home insurance? If you’re thinking of installing a new home security system, reach out to your Reliance Insurance broker to find out how much you could save.

"Although, we don't recommend specific security companies, we do recommend to find an expert in the field that has a good track record, and the security system has options for fire, burglary and a water detection systems."  Sandra Sobarzo, Personal Lines Manager. 

Resources: 
Part of this blog was previously published by Economical 
Reliance home insurance information

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