DIY Home Alarms – Which One Is Best For You?

Thinking about getting a DIY home alarm system. Not all systems or companies are the same. With Think Protection, Simplisafe, Frontpoint, Livewatch and Protect America, there are so many choices. How do you know which DIY alarm company is best? When choosing a DIY alarm system, here are some things to think about and questions to ask.

Professionally Monitored vs. Self Monitored

What’s the difference between professional monitoring and self monitoring? Self monitoring means that when your alarm is triggered you get notified. You then have to respond. If you don’t have your phone, then you won’t know you had an alarm event. Professional monitoring means a 24/7 professional response. Your alarm gets triggered and you get notified. Then a signal is sent to a professional monitoring centre. A professional representative can then respond. They’ll notify emergency contacts. After they’ll contact police if necessary. When choosing a DIY alarm system, get it professionally monitored. Self monitored alarms provide limited peace of mind. Only a professional monitored alarm will truly protect your home.

What’s The Price?

Now that you’ve decided to get a professionally monitored DIY alarm, it’s important to look at price. How much is the monitoring? Some companies charge as much as $50/month. Others as low as $12.99/month (Think Protection). Understand that most people stay with an alarm company for 9 years. This means that $37/month difference will add up to over $3500 in savings! Think long term and go with a company with great rates.

Contract

Some alarm companies will force you to agree to a long term contract. Others go month to month. Never sign a long term alarm contract. Contracts only benefit the company, never the customer. With there being so many DIY alarm choices, go with the best value. And by not having a contract, if you’re unhappy you can cancel anytime.

Money Back Guarantee

Some DIY alarm companies have a money back guarantee period. Some go from 7 days and others go for longer.  Avoid DIY security companies that don’t have a money back guarantee. A guarantee gives you a period you can return if you’re unhappy. If you have cold feet or they don’t live up to promises. Peace of mind comes with a money back guarantee. Make sure your DIY company has one.

Easy Installation

Technology has come a long way over the past few years. DIY alarms are now easy to set up. Ask on your purchase call what the steps to installation are. Look at online reviews. See what other customers are saying. Do your research. Most should be easy to install. Some panels are harder than others. Check if the DIY company has a money back guarantee. If they do, then most likely the installation is easier. If it wasn’t they wouldn’t have the guarantee!

Online Reviews

Check online reviews before purchasing. Trustpilot and Homestars are two online review sites. Both show actual customer reviews. They both eliminate fake reviews. Read about the quality of product. How good is the service? Was the DIY installation easy? How are the prices? You can learn alot from these review sites. It will help you choose with DIY company is best for you.

 

What Is Aura By Cognitive Systems?

Aura is a new home alarm system created by Cognitive Systems, based out of Waterloo Ontario. Aura is a different kind of home alarm system. Cognitive Systems say that with Aura only two pieces of equipment can protect a 2500 sq ft home. Aura is definitely different from traditional alarm systems. The question though is how does Aura work and is it a better home alarm solution?

Aura does not have motion detectors and door contacts. Instead, Aura monitors the change in spectrum inside a home. Noise changes alter the spectrum in the home. This then sends invisible ripples throughout the area. Aura will pick up these “ripples” and will trigger the alarm.

Cognitive Systems says Aura was created for two reasons. The first is they claim this technology is perfect for people concerned about privacy. A camera inside your home can (with very low likelihood) be hacked. This way someone can see inside the home. Aura lends itself to privacy-focused individuals, as what would a hacker hack? They’d see lines of data. Changes of ripples. Not streaming video.

The second reason is they say that traditional home alarm systems have equipment that can lead to false alarms frequently. According to Cognitive System staff, this system should have less false alarms. Plus they say that traditional alarms need lots of equipment to protect a home. Aura though can protect with just two pieces of equipment.

Here’s a recent CBC report on Aura: http://bit.ly/2oQz3PU

We got a chance to see the Aura system at a recent trade show, ISC West. Here are our thoughts on it.

We liked how the Aura system looked. Nice and clean with only two pieces of equipment. We also thought the concept was interesting. However, there are many issues with Aura by Cognitive Systems.

First, while it seems like an easy solution for home security, the premise is inherently flawed. In regards to privacy, if the homeowner doesn’t want a camera in their home, they don’t need one. Nest Cam, Canary, and Ring.com are security solutions that rely on a camera. These systems are based on a camera. The vast majority of alarms though don’t require a camera to work. For example, Think Protection’s systems do not. A camera can be added, but it’s simply an additional service/piece of equipment. It’s not the base. With a cameraless traditional home alarm, privacy should not be a concern. It’s no different than Aura. So thus this point is a non-issue when you compare apples to apples.

Second, looking at traditional alarm equipment, there are few false alarms. PIR’s (motion detectors) rarely will trigger without actual movement. Aura currently cannot work with a pet in the home. A pet-friendly motion detector can. A properly installed motion detector is the best way to protect a home. Bar none.

Third, with new DIY home alarm systems, the installation has never been easier. For example, you can install a Think Protection Standard Package system in less than 30 minutes. Everything is wireless and requires no drilling. Anyone can do it. Think Protection staff walks you through it over the phone. Plus they make sure everything is up and running properly. So while Aura by Cognitive Systems may be easy to install, so are other alarms. With that said, the argument by Cognitive Systems doesn’t hold water.

Remember that not all DIY alarms are as easy to install as Think Protection. Frontpoint and Protect America take longer to install. However, they still can be installed by non-experts.

Last we have to look at the price. Aura is expected to retail for $500 (plus tax). A base package by Think Protection consisting of 1 door contact, 1 motion detector, 1 pinpad retails for $299.99 (plus tax). Additional motion detectors cost $49.99. A 2500 sq foot home will typically need only 2 to 3 motion detectors to protect your home. So the cost of all equipment with a traditional home alarm is far less than $500. Plus you can continue to add as necessary with a Think Protection alarm. With Aura, you’ll have to buy a second Aura system.

With Aura by Cognitive Systems, it may look cool and clean but it can’t compare with a traditional home alarm system. Aura solves a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s an expensive security solution that may sway some people who are looking at Nest Cam, Ring.com or Canary. But anyone looking for a real home security solution should go with a real home alarm system. One that uses motion detectors and door contacts.

 

What Is Abode?

Abode is a new home security product that is currently on Kickstarter. The company was created by a former ADT executive along with an executive from Salesforce.com. Abode is a self-install home alarm system complete with remote arming capabilities and home automation. The company says that Abode will come with an upfront fee and then a monthly monitoring charge. It will not, however, have an annual contract.

The Abode system is a nice looking unit, where the central panel was designed to be displayed out in the open. It is stylishly designed, very appropriate for a product that originated in Silicon Valley. The unit seems to provide a good level of protection, however, without any actual clients in the field, the product is quite untested.

One issue I can see with the Abode system is that the peripherals are clunky. They were designed with a style over substance philosophy. With other smaller door contacts and window contacts available that do a superior job in providing outstanding protection, I don’t understand why the designers opted for such a large contract. With such an emphasis on cutting-edge style, such large contacts look like something from the 90’s.

I’m unsure what the future holds for Abode. With such competition in the self-install home alarm space, they will have to find a way to distinguish themselves from the Simplisafe’s and Protect America’s of the world. Whether they do this with value or with enhanced services, time will tell. As of April 7th, they have raised half or their Kickstarter goal of $100,000. We’ll see if there’s enough interest going forward to bring Abode to market. However, from the limited information I’ve been able to gather on the product, it seems as if it’s a good start to a home security system. They might be on to something. We shall see.

AT&T Buys DirecTV: What Does This Mean For Lifeshield?

This week it was announced that AT&T will be buying DirecTV for approximately $50 billion dollars. Not only does that completely change the media landscape, giving consumers less choice with their cable, it also affects the world of home security.

DirecTV in 2013 bought a small DIY home alarm company called Lifeshield. The idea was to be able to add home security as a bundled service to DirecTV customers. If even an incredibly small amount of DirecTV subscribers decided to add the service, it would result in huge numbers for Lifeshield and home recurring revenue for DirecTV.

From the point of the purchase to mid-2014, DirecTV and Lifeshield were working on integrating the company/product, figuring out how to make the acquisition work.

How does AT&T buying DirecTV effect the Lifeshield product? AT&T has their own home alarm product, Digital Life, so the acquisition of DirecTV by AT&T essentially means the end of Lifeshield. The Lifeshield product has some interesting features, however it’s obvious to see that this wasn’t the reason they bought the company, but rather the massive subscriber base for their cable services was. Lifeshield does not fit into their business strategy and the acquisition means it’s over for Lifeshield.

I’m not sure what this means to current Lifeshield subscribers. Perhaps another DIY home alarm company, like Protect America or Frontpoint will acquire the accounts. Or perhaps they’ll be replaced with an AT&T Digital Life home alarm system. There also is the possibility of the company ceasing services and Lifeshield subscribers just having their systems turned off.

If you are currently looking for a DIY home alarm system, there are many other options out there. Look for a home alarm that requires no contract and has a low monthly monitoring rate under $20/month. DIY home security is the way to go, as with the ease of new technology, installers are no longer necessary.

We at Think Protection look forward to seeing how the AT&T/DirecTV deal works out and seeing what happens with Lifeshield. We’ve been wrong before, however, we strongly believe that we’ve seen the end of the Lifeshield product.

 

Who Is Protect America And What Do They Offer?

Protect America is a home alarm company offering services throughout North America. They sell a self-installed DIY home alarm, where they ship it to their customers through the mail. Protect America has had great success with this model and have over 130,000 customers.

Protect America advertises significantly online. Customers reach out through internet and phone and order a system. The lowest cost plan is $19.99/monthly for a self-monitored system with a three-year contract. In regards to monitored home alarms, plans begin at $35.99/month with a three-year contract to $42.99/month also with a three-year contract.

There is no cost for equipment (as it is worked into the inflated monthly monitoring rates).

The self-monitored system sends a signal to the homeowners in the event of an alarm trigger. The monitored systems connect with Protect America’s central station, who then handle the break-in accordingly. Protect America does not offer live two-way voice monitoring.

Similar to other DIY self-installed home alarms, the system is easy to install, with no need for a trained installer.

While we believe self-installed systems are 100% the way to go with today’s technological capabilities, the two knocks on Protect America is the inflated monthly monitoring rates and the three-year contract. The services being offered should cost customers no more than $20/month. This inflated price is old school thinking, charge high prices simply because we can. Protect America is locked into these high prices due to a rebound effect from their current customers if they were to lower them for new accounts. Protect America is an expensive option for a self-installed home alarm.

A three-year contract,  or any contract for that matter, is completely unnecessary in today’s world of home security. Contracts encourage subpar service, as you are unable to switch to another company if you are unhappy, thus allowing the company you’ve signed the contract with to rest on their laurels. Beyond that, there is no real value given during the time of the contract. They may try to fool you into believing the value is in a warranty, but the truth is alarm equipment is now made so well there will most likely be no problems with the system not only during the course of the 3 years but far beyond that.

Stay away from any company that makes you sign a contract.

Self-installed home alarms are the way to go, however, Protect America is not the best choice in this space. There are other companies that offer lower monitoring rates, no upfront fees, and no contract. It’s important to think protection when getting a home alarm system, and think value and remember that if the company is $20/month and you plan on having your alarm system for say 6 years that’s $1440 more you’ll be paying!

Protect America can be found at protectamerica.com