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Best Home Security Systems Comparison – Do It Yourself (DIY) or Professionally Installed?

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This year, I’d like to purchase a home security system. I’m interested in a system with an alarm to prevent residential home burglary for a few reasons: I have a young son who is at home with me quite often, I started my own home small business and therefore store a lot of inventory in my house, and I have been aware of increasing crime rates for quite some time now. I don’t live in a bad area, but these days, you just never know.

So far, the biggest turn-off to home security systems has been the price. The monthly monitoring fees seem to be in the same price range across the board (typically around $15-$20 per month), but the installation fees are outrageous. I want to get this product into my life and home, but I am trying to figure out the most cost-effective way to do it.

Consider a Self-Installed System

My research ultimately led me to is a self-installed home security system. There are plenty of companies that offer them, and the savings, when compared to a professionally-installed system, are substantial. I found one company that offers a self-install system for as low as $199 for an apartment for rent (great to supplement renters insurance coverage) and $299 for a home (supplement homeowners insurance coverage). The cost for professionally-installed systems ranges from $600 to $800. This is motivation enough to go the self-install route. In addition, the self-install system does not require that I sign a contract, which is a huge plus from my perspective.

Can I Do It Myself?

My next biggest question was: can you do it yourself versus hiring a contractor? The last thing I’d want to do is purchase one of these things, screw up the installation, and lack protection in the event of a robbery. I took the time to watch the installation video for one of the self-install systems I was considering, and I was shocked at how easy it is to install.

Here are the main components of a security system.

  • Base Station
    This is essentially the “brains” of your home security system, and all you do is plug it in. It comes pre-programmed so once you turn it on, it automatically communicates with the security company’s cellular provider. You don’t even need landline phone service for this to work.
  • Keypad
    This is what you install near your front door, to arm and disarm the alarm. It is a simple peel-and-stick process.
  • Sensors
    The package includes sensors and magnets for installation on your doors and windows. Installation of the sensors is simple and easy.
  • Motion sensor
    The package includes motion sensors in addition to the door and window sensors. These are placed in rooms in your house to detect motion. They are pet-friendly, and dogs and cats won’t set off the alarm.
  • Panic button
    Finally, the security system includes a panic button, most likely for placement near a bed or nightstand. This button is used if you need to notify the police of an emergency.

When all is said and done, the entire installation process should take less than an hour or two.

Beware Of Professionally Installed Systems

Based on my research, I learned that the costs of a professionally installed system can be very tricky. If you are considering going this route, here are four things you should do or consider as you make your decision.

1. Count Your Doors and Windows
Know how many doors and windows you’ll want protected before you get a quote. This will have a significant effect on your installation price.

2. Investigate Special Offers
Beware of any “free equipment” offers. More than likely, these discounts will somehow be worked into the total price, whether it is in the form of increased installation fees, or increased monthly monitoring fees. Don’t fall for any of these hidden contractor fees.

3. Stay Away From Contracts
Never, ever sign a contract. When you sign a contract, it locks you into a certain price for a certain period of time. Prices are always dropping on everything, and it can be difficult to get out of these contracts. The company will probably even automatically renew your contract unless you cancel during a certain period of time – which can sometimes be as little as just one day.

4. Do Your Research
Do not make an emotional decision. Most burglary systems are purchased after a break-in or robbery occurs in your neighborhood. Keep a level head about the whole thing. Before you make your final decision, research all options and prices, and go with what you feel is best. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with contractors to save money when hiring contractors or companies to install your home security system.

Final Word

I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t consider a professionally-installed home security system. I just want to share the benefits of my research and let you know you have other options. I’ve investigated the topic enough to know that you can save yourself a good bit of money by going the self-installed route, while still having the same protection that comes with a professionally-installed system. Look at the ideas and concepts that I have outlined above, do some research of your own, and go with whichever option feels right for you.

What are your thoughts on home security systems? Do you have any experience with a self-installed system? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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