How can I feel safe about the security company I choose?

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Home safety and security companies are there to protect you, your family and your home, so it only makes sense to choose a company you can trust. To put together a list of potential companies, you first want to match up the services you’d like to get with companies that can provide them.

Choices run the gamut from basic systems that relay emergency situations to your police and fire departments through phone lines, to the latest high-tech options that are linked to your home's wiring, heating or lighting systems and can be controlled through your smartphone or computer, even showing you a live image of what’s going on in your home when you’re away. Some systems go well beyond warning you of intruders to letting you know if you left the lights on or the air conditioning running.

Most home security system installers provide all-inclusive services—equipment, installation, upkeep and monitoring. In addition to checking company credentials and reviews on TotalHousehold, the experts at Alarm.org, the consumer website of the Electronic Security Association, suggest asking these questions:

  • How long has your company been in business?
  • Can you provide references for previous home automation work you’ve completed? Then ask a current client or two whether their equipment was installed within the provided time frame, if any problems are handled quickly and how the system worked in an emergency.
  • Who will perform the installation and monitor the system—is it the company that’s selling you the system or a third party?
  • Are your employees licensed to work on different systems, such as heating, air conditioning and lighting? If not, what companies do you subcontract to do the work?
  • What kind of support and training do you offer once the installation is complete?

It sounds obvious, but it’s also very important to understand how the security system works and to be sure you’re comfortable with it. For instance, who does the security company alert first, you or the police?What happens if the alarm company can't reach you if an emergency? On a false alarm, can they reset your system if you’re unavailable? What happens if there’s a power outage and if it goes on so long that a back-up battery fails? The FTC also recommends that you ask if you need to register your system with your local police department and if you’ll be fined if police respond to a false alarm.

Next, ask these important questions about the contract you’ll be asked to sign for the monitoring services:

  • What is the length of the contract and are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move out of the service area before the contract term is up?
  • How much does the monitoring cost per month and is it broken down by individual services or are you buying a package of services, some of which you might not use?
  • Are you getting a written warranty on all the equipment, how long does it last and who makes good on it—the manufacturer or the installer?
  • Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system for the length of the contract?

Once all your questions are answered, compare written estimates from the companies that you’re considering and evaluate all the information to make the best decision.

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