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15 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home Security System

More than 2 million homes are burglarized in the U.S. each year, according to the FBI. That means someone breaks into a home in this country about every 13 seconds. If you're thinking about buying a home security system to protect your property and valuables, here are 15 things to consider.

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Understand a Wireless vs. Hardwired Home Security Systemplantic/Shutterstock

Understand a Wireless vs. Hardwired Home Security System

With a wireless home security system, there are no wires to run other than the electrical cord on the control interface. And that means if you can hang a picture on the wall, you can install a wireless security system and save money on installation costs. Hardwired systems usually require you or the installer to do a lot of drilling in walls to run cable and hook everything up to your home's circuit breaker box.
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Burglar Alarms vs. Home Security SystemsRainer Fuhrmann/Shutterstock

Burglar Alarms vs. Home Security Systems

Burglar alarms and home security systems are very different. Burglar alarms have sensors on doors and windows that will alert you or police that someone has entered your home. And a home security system provides additional benefits, such as alerting you to fire, a high level of carbon monoxide and even flooding. Be sure you know what you're getting before you sign on with a security company.
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Shop AroundSpeedKingz/Shutterstock

Shop Around

Get at least three price quotes from well-established security companies for both system installation and monitoring. Also, check with companies highly rated by organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List.
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Consider MonitoringAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Consider Monitoring

For about $20 to $50 per month, central-system monitoring will notify the alarm company that there's an emergency. And the company can then notify police or the fire department. However, if your home is usually occupied or you believe your neighbors will call police or fire if there's a problem and the alarm is going off, you may not need monitoring as a part of your home security system.
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Protect Your ValuablesAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Protect Your Valuables

You can install asset protection devices that will alert you if your valuables have been tampered with. This would let you know, for example, if you were having work done in your home while you were at work and a jewelry box or safe was opened or moved.
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Ask About Power OutagesLars Hallstrom/Shutterstock

Ask About Power Outages

Most systems will continue to operate even when your home loses power. A traditional electric home security system is usually low voltage, so it doesn't take a lot of power to run the system. And most systems also contain a battery backup.
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Solar Security OptionsDiyana Dimitrova/Shutterstock

Solar Security Options

There are solar-powered security systems that are more costly, but are a green option with various components. You can set up a solar home security system as just an outdoor security camera or use solar to run your home's entire system.
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Size MattersPhotographicss/Shutterstock

Size Matters

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a home security system. A small DIY system may be great for an apartment, condo or small home. However, if you're looking to secure a larger home, you'll need a system that can handle a larger amount of information and monitoring.
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Do You Need Personal Security?Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Do You Need Personal Security?

Seniors and those who live alone may want to consider a home security system that offers personal security. Suppose you slipped going down the stairs or in the shower and can't get to your phone. And these systems often offer users a pendant or bracelet with a button that will alert emergency personnel.
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Live View vs. Recorded VideoREDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock

Live View vs. Recorded Video

Those interested in installing surveillance cameras need to understand the difference between live video and recorded video. Do you want to be able to watch a live feed of what's going on in and around your home while you're away? Or would you rather be able to just watch a recording? IP (internet protocol) cameras offer a live view, while a system with a DVR allows you to watch recordings later.
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Don't Buy a Cheap CameraFamily Handyman

Don't Buy a Cheap Camera

Webcams from retail stores won't get the job done if you're serious about a home security system, as they are typically designed for video chatting. And instead, look for dome cameras and bullet styles when installing security cameras.
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Camera ConsiderationsSellwell/Shutterstock

Camera Considerations

When buying cameras for security, consider the image type (color, black and white, infrared), image quality and range of view. How many cameras will you need to cover your space, and how high-quality do you want the picture to be?
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Understand the ContractPORTRAIT IMAGES ASIA BY NONWARIT/Shutterstock

Understand the Contract

Some home security system companies may offer you additional services or devices as add-ons, so knowing exactly what you need and what the contract covers is essential. Will the contract cover security of your garage, valuables or offer personal security? Also, be sure to ask about all up-front charges, including installation and monitoring fees. Also, how long does the contract last? Can you cancel at any time?
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Inquire About Insurance Discountscreate jobs 51/Shutterstock

Inquire About Insurance Discounts

Many homeowners can get a percentage discount on home insurance premiums for having a home security system with a monitoring service. However, that discount typically won't cover the monthly monitoring cost.
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Are There Some Easy Security Upgrades You Can Do Yourself?Family Handyman

Are There Some Easy Security Upgrades You Can Do Yourself?

Burglars aren't usually that sophisticated, so there are many things you can do that would discourage would-be robbers. Be sure to lock your doors and windows when you're not home and install a deadbolt. Outside motion sensors also work well, as do dogs and beware-of-dog signs.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.