Is a Security System Worth It? It Depends

by Darwin on July 14, 2010

Last night was one of those nights I wish I had a security system.  I’m a light sleeper to begin with, but when I hear a huge bang in the house, I spring out of bed, fists clenched ready to take on the invisible intruder.  This happens about once a month and it drives me nuts.  I suspect the culprit is one of the kids jostling around in bed and hitting the wall with their head or the dog downstairs moving around in his bed and hitting the wall.  I also have a shaving mirror that falls off the wall every few weeks which always tends to occur between the hours of 1AM and 6AM.  Anyway, I’d probably sleep better and not go jumping out of bed with each noise if I had an alarm system which I was confident would reasonably alert us to any intruders at night.  So, each time this happens and I’m wide awake walking around the house I say, “I’m getting a damn alarm system” so I don’t feel compelled to go on maneuvers every time this happens.

And that’s the most trivial of reasons.  Occasionally, I have to travel, leaving the wife and kids home alone.  My wife doesn’t sleep well when I’m gone.  And finally, there’s the home invasion threat.  We had a home invasion a few months back where a town resident was killed, never heard more on whether the perps were caught or why his home was targeted.  So, at least with an alarm system, not only would an intruder be less likely to be successful, but they’re probably be deterred from attempting to burglarize or terrorize our house to begin with (why go for the house with a dog and an alarm system when 8 out of 10 neighbors have neither?).

With all these considerations in mind, I’ve still never pulled the trigger on a new security system.

Security System Costs

I’ve seen various outfits offering free installation and monthly monitoring for around $30 per month.  The problem is that this is usually the most basic system.  If you want to add motion detectors, windows, basement, top floors, etc., it will often cost more for installation or monitoring or both.  For a system I’d be happy with, I assume we might have to shell out a few bucks and pay at least $30 per month.  You’ll likely pay more for fire and carbon monoxide remote monitoring.  In some cases, you can cut costs by having an install from a major company and then negotiating a lower price from a smaller local firm once your initial contract expires.  Finally, there’s the potential to reduce your homeowner’s insurance as well (below).

Security System Downsides

First of all, there’s the cost obviously.  You’re paying for something that you hope you never need, kind of like insurance.  With a monthly cost of $30 and up, there may be additional costs for false alarms (depending on your police department).

There are some stories of police responding slowly or not at all to some security calls since most alarms are false alarms.  Additionally, some shoddy firms don’t do a good job of handling security alerts that come into their monitoring centers.

Security System Benefits

There’s the obvious benefit of protection.  But also, your insurance company is likely to offer you a discount.  My company quoted about 20% off the cost of my homeowner’s policy.  So, at around $1000 per year, that’s a savings of $200.  If it’s $360 per year to monitor, my net cost is now only about $160.  That’s not too bad at all, slightly over 10 bucks per month.

There’s also an interesting study out definitively showing the “deterrent effect” of alarm systems.  This study showed that as the density of security systems increased in a neighborhood, break-ins decreased.  This is logical, but it’s the first study I’ve seen actually proving what I assumed to be the case.

So, with all this in mind, I think I’ll end up getting a security system; I just haven’t prioritized it amongst the various things I’ve been meaning to do.  The deterrent effect alone and the peace of mind at night is probably worth the 12 bucks or so per month.

How About You?  Is a Security System Worth It?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan July 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

Despite a security system, the kids and dog hitting the wall and your shaving mirror falling will still wake you at night.

It’d be interesting to see the difference if just a sign is placed in the front yard compared to an actual monitoring system.

Happy zzzz’s…


2 Anthony July 17, 2010 at 12:07 am

You could do what my mother-in-law used to do… Put up an ADT sign in the front yard. Presumably, this works. She was never burglarized, but who’s saying she would have without the ADT sign?

Or you could like my parents did. Install an alarm system but don’t get the monitoring. Sadly with monitoring, it will take a few minutes (or maybe an hour or more!) for the police to arrive. A robber can steal tons of valuables before the cops make it… So why pay for monitoring? The blaring alarm sound should be enough to drive the “average” burglar away.

I’m considering an alarm system now as well… since I have a newborn in the house. Thankfully, I live in a safe neighborhood and near the back. I am surrounded by people who keep an eye out for us. I’m still debating.


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