Get the best out of a home security system

Know what to look for and avoid when shopping for this home protection option.

Home security systems can provide homeowners with a peace of mind. This is because they are designed to protect individuals, their homes and their valuables. These systems can range in options and price. For example, some can monitor smoke, carbon dioxide and water levels, contact authorities during medical emergencies and offer video surveillance. Other systems are so sophisticated they can be linked to a home’s wiring, heating or lighting system and can be remotely controlled by mobile phone or computer. Many of these features would be appealing to many homeowners. Before making this decision, compare your needs and wants, available options and your budget. If you do not have a current budget in place, visit Michigan State University Extension for a variety of financial tips, including how to develop a monthly budget.

In an effort to ensure that you are getting the home security services that you pay for, know how to shop for a home security system and how to identify a potential scam. Before purchasing a home security system, the FTC and your State Attorney General encourage you to do the following:

  • Seek references from people you know well (family, friends, etc.) as well as previous clients from potential companies or contractors. Questions to ask could include: was equipment installed within the agreed upon time frame; if there were any problems, were they dealt with immediately; and if there was an intrusion in a home, were the authorities contacted immediately?
  • Research potential companies first. Review customer feedback online and contact your state Attorney General, local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints are on file for any of the companies that you are considering.
  • Confirm that a contractor’s license is current and in good standing. This can be done by contacting the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies to identify the appropriate agency in your state.
  • Obtain written estimates from several companies before making a selection. It is important to note that a reputable company will not try to sell you anything until they have taken the time to assess the layout and needs of your home.
  • Read the contract thoroughly before signing and make sure that all verbal promises are included.
  • Communicate with your local police and fire departments to see if you need to register your system and to inquire if there are fees or fines for false alarms.
  • Be cautious of security system companies that use unscrupulous sales tactics such as: making a limited time offer that requires immediate action; pressure their way into your home and refuse to leave; use scare tactics such as discussing supposed crime activity in your area; targeting homeowners with existing security systems and stating they are from your security company to update or replace your system; or stating that your current security company had gone out of business and they have taken over the accounts.

For more information on how to purchase a home security system, visit the Federal Trade Commission.

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