Today’s homeowners have numerous options for securing their properties via home security systems. From high-end, professionally installed systems to basic DIY wireless alarms, there seems to be something for everyone. Yet choosing equipment and having it installed is just half the equation. The other half is the monitoring question.
Should anyone be monitoring your home security system? And if so, who should it be? Once again, there are numerous options. A homeowner can sign a monitoring agreement with a professional provider who keeps watching over the system 24/7. Homeowners can self-monitor as well. A third option is to not monitor at all.
Figuring it out begins with truly understanding your reasons for installing a home security system. Once you know the whys, you can set about coming up with ways to guarantee you are actually getting what you want out of your equipment. You can start looking at the pros and cons of each of your monitoring options in relation to your goals.
Professional Monitoring Service
It used to be that professional monitoring was the only option. A homeowner would contract with an established alarm company to provide both installation and around-the-clock monitoring for a monthly fee. Sometimes the companies would throw in the hardware for free. That was okay because they made their money on monitoring.
Professional monitoring is still an option today. How does it work? By connecting the customer’s home security system to a central monitoring station by way of either telephone lines or the internet. The monitoring station is essentially a large telecom center staffed by trained professionals who respond whenever a security system alerts to a potential problem.
Imagine a home security system with wireless surveillance cameras guarding the exterior of the house. One of those cameras detects a burglar attempting to break in through the front door. Between the camera and a door sensor, the system detects a break-in and sends an alert. A security expert in the monitoring center recognizes the alert, assesses its legitimacy and, if necessary, contacts local authorities.
Professional monitoring covers all types of alerts. Monitoring center personnel can notify the authorities of prowlers, break-ins, the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide, and even medical emergencies and flood in cases where the right equipment is in place.
Pros and Cons
People who choose professional monitoring appreciate the fact that their systems are being monitored around-the-clock. They never have to worry about their systems alerting to a problem without anybody knowing it. They have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their homes are being monitored even as they sleep.
The obvious downside to professional monitoring is that monthly fee. Fees can be fairly significant depending on the provider. And of course, some homeowners are uncomfortable with the idea that unknown personnel could be monitoring their homes for purposes that are less than honorable.
Security system monitoring does not have to be done by professionals. Homeowners can choose to monitor their systems themselves. This is a pretty popular option among owners of DIY security systems. The DIY mindset gives them the confidence to monitor their systems without worrying that they will miss something.
In a recent blog post that asked readers how secure their homes really were, Vivint laid out the many different equipment options homeowners could choose to create a customized DIY system. The post mentioned things like glass break sensors and smart door locks.
The beauty of modern DIY systems is that the homeowner can monitor all the individual components. For instance, a system can be set up so that if one of the glass break monitors is activated, an alert is immediately sent to the homeowner’s e-mail or smartphone. Video cameras, smoke detectors, etc. all can all be monitored this way.
Pros and Cons
Cost is probably the main motivator behind choosing DIY monitoring. Monitor the system yourself and you eliminate that monthly monitoring fee. For some people, paying for monthly monitoring is just not worth the cost. Yet there are trade-offs.
Self-monitoring requires paying a bit more attention. You cannot just arm your security system and then forget about it until the monitoring center calls you to let you know something is up. Self-monitoring requires you to pay attention to every little alert. You are the one who has to decide whether or not an alert is legitimate. You are the one who must notify the authorities in the event of an emergency.
No Monitoring at All
There are some homeowners who do not feel it is necessary to monitor their security systems at all. Though they are in the minority, they do exist. By choosing not to monitor, they are essentially leaving themselves with security systems that do little more than make noise.
Noisy alarms are not necessarily a bad thing. Noise does tend to scare burglars away – especially the skittish ones. Loud noises are also more than capable of alerting the occupants of a home to the presence of smoke and carbon monoxide.
Furthermore, one does not need to have a formal monitoring plan in place to keep track of surveillance camera feeds. For example, it requires little effort to bring up your smartphone and check your video cameras during your lunch break. It is equally easy to quickly check to make sure the kids arrive home from school on time.
The biggest downside to no monitoring is the potential for the delayed response. A system that is not being actively monitored might send out alerts that go unnoticed for some time. This opens the door to the possibility that any eventual response will be too late to be of any value.
Installing a home security system inevitably leads to the question of whether or not to have it monitored. If a homeowner does want to monitor, who will handle it? There is no right or wrong answer here. Monitoring is a matter of personal preference. Homeowners make their decisions based on what they hope to accomplish with their security systems.