You’re thinking of getting a home alarm. You’ve done your research and are close to making a decision. Here are 10 questions to ask any home alarm company when choosing which home alarm to purchase. These questions will let you make the right decision in protecting your home and family.
1. Is there a contract?
Almost all home alarm companies will force you to sign a contract when getting a home alarm system. Big name companies like ADT and Vivint, along with cable companies like Xfinity and Rogers Smarthome all make customers sign contracts.
Why do they do this? First, this is done to lock the customer up. The home alarm industry is very competitive. Locking up the customer is ideal for the home alarm company. This means that the customer will be stuck paying for the system even if you’re unhappy. If you want to cancel, too bad. You’ll have to pay out the remainder of the term.
Contracts are great for alarm companies, not so great for customers. It’s important to understand that contracts only benefit the company. Try to avoid having to sign a contract at all times. Look for an alarm company that won’t require you to sign a long-term contract. Free yourself from a contract. This way if you’re unhappy you can cancel at any time. This will also force the company to provide better service.
2. How much does it cost?
Home alarms used to be expensive. Customers would have to pay huge amounts of money upfront and ongoing for monitoring. Plus service calls would cost additionally. Having a home alarm was an expensive venture. And you would also have to sign a long-term contract.
With the improvements in technology and the ever-growing home security space, you can now get a great home alarm at a fraction of the price. You shouldn’t have to pay more than $20/month to get a home alarm. If a company is charging more, be skeptical and find out for what. The vast majority of the time you’ll be paying more for fewer services.
So why would companies charge more than $20/month? The reason is that they historically charged higher rates. Due to this, they have to keep the prices high, otherwise, if they lowered them they’d have to lower all of their older customers’ rates as well. A rebound effect in lowering prices could bankrupt a company. It’s always easier for a company to raise prices as opposed to lowering them.
Shop around and do your research. Know what you’ll be paying and what you’ll be getting in return.
3. What are the system’s REAL costs?
You sign up for a home alarm system that costs $25/month. Good chance the alarm company will raise monitoring rates every year! In almost all contracts, there’s a clause where the alarm company reserves the right to raise monitoring rates at any time. ADT and the cable companies are notorious for raising rates. If a company with a contract won’t put in writing that they won’t raise your monitoring rates, then avoid them at all costs. Know what you’ll be paying ongoing, so you won’t be stuck paying more for less.
4. Does the system come with a mobile app and how much is it?
You carry your phone with you everywhere you go. Make sure that you can connect to your alarm system through it. Most new alarm systems have a mobile app that will let you control the system through. If the system doesn’t come with a mobile app, avoid it since it’s older technology.
These apps should be standard, included at no additional cost. If the company is charging you more for the mobile app, it’s nothing more than a cash grab. Avoid that company, since this should be a standard feature.
5. Is the system wireless?
30 year ago, you needed to have your home wired if you wanted a quality home alarm. That’s not the case anymore. A wireless home alarm can do everything a wired home alarm can do (and more)! An alarm company wanting to hardwire an alarm into your home simply wants to log more hours of service that they can bill you for. Always choose a wireless alarm system. It’s an easier, better solution that is far less intrusive to your home. And you’ll save thousands of dollars.
6. How easy is it to add features/equipment?
With some home alarms, the system you’re getting is the best it’ll ever be. In order to add equipment or features you’ll have to spend hundreds/thousands of dollars or the system just won’t be able to handle the additional services. For example, if you have a Simplisafe alarm, you can’t add home automation. Simplisafe doesn’t have that service. Or if you have Ring.com and you want it professionally monitored, then too bad.
Find out what additional services and equipment the alarm company offers and what are the costs. Ask if you can add them at any time. Find out how easy they are to add. Do they require an installer to come over or can you do it yourself? Get all the info when making your decision.
7. Does the system require an installer to set up?
New alarm systems are so technologically advanced they don’t require an installer to set it up. So then why do companies offer installers? It’s because they have alarms out in the field that uses older equipment. This requires ongoing service, which only someone skilled can do.
Times have changed and technology’s improved. New alarm systems don’t need installers. The problem with installers is that you’ll have to take a day off work for them to come in and do something you could do yourself. It’s inconvenient and unnecessary. Plus, you’ll have a stranger in your house that will leave a mess behind. And more often than not the installer will have to come back for one reason or another or will have to reschedule, making you miss additional time off work.
And remember that installers don’t work for free. The cost of the installer will be passed on to you. You’ll end up paying for something that you didn’t need!
Get a new home alarm that you can do yourself. You’ll be able to set it up anytime you want with minimal effort. A system with the newest technology will take between 30 to 45 minutes to install and will require no drilling. You’ll save hundreds of dollars and will get a better system.
8. Does the alarm company serve all areas?
Not all home alarm companies service all areas. For example, AlarmForce has geographical boundaries where you have to live certain areas to get service. If you move out of them then you can’t take the system with you. So with AlarmForce, if you live in Toronto and you’re moving to Seattle, your AlarmForce system won’t work there. You’ll have to pay out the remainder of your contract or find someone to transfer to it.
Ideall, find a company that doesn’t have geographical limitations. Find a national company that can serve you anywhere. Don’t be handcuffed by limited service areas.
9. Is the system professionally monitored?
Thinking of buying a Nest Cam or a Ring.com. These aren’t home alarms. They’re self-monitored systems. This means that if they detect an intruder they simply notify you. Now the onus is on you to respond. You’ll have to assess the situation and then contact authorities if needed. While Nest Cam and Ring.com are better than nothing, they aren’t home alarms.
For real protection, you need a home alarm that is professionally monitored. This means that if your alarm goes off, a link will be established to a central station. There a professional can assess the situation and contact authorities along with an emergency contact list.
This real 24/7 protection works. Proof of this is that insurance companies give homeowners with monitored home alarms discounts in their insurance rates. You won’t get the same discount if you have Nest Cam or Ring.com.
If your home alarm isn’t professionally monitored by a company with a 5-diamond (the highest certification) central station, then find one that is. Get the best security available.
10. What kind of return policy does the company have?
You’re thinking of getting an AlarmForce alarm. You get it installed. 11 days later you decide you want to return the system. The problem is you signed a 3-year contract. And AlarmForce has a government issued 10 day cooling off period. So now that you’re past that, guess what? You’re obligated to pay out the entire 3-years of the contract… even if you want to cancel!
A small number of companies have certain money back guarantees. For example, Think Protection has a 30-day risk free money back guarantee. If you’re unhappy at anytime during this period, you can return your system and get all upfront equipment costs refunded.
Alarm companies that don’t have long risk free guarantees lack confidence in products and services. They are trying to lock up customers because they know that better offers exist.
Avoid any company that won’t give you back your money if you’re unhappy. Plus if you sign a contract remember that you’ll be forced to pay out the entire term of your contract. Proceed with caution and know what you’re agreeing to.
If you live in Canada then there’s a good chance you’ve seen Rogers Smart Home Monitoring television commercials. These commercials show the Rogers Smart Home Monitoring system, with their touchscreen keypad and video cameras, along with certain home automation capabilities. The commercials offer a general overview of the system. They don’t go in depth, however, they demonstrate various features on a high level.
So what’s the problem with these commercials?
The Rogers Smart Home TV commercials (along with their radio spots) aren’t effective because they miss one massive thing that is truly the most important things to the customer – the price of the services and if a contract is required for service. By not including these two incredibly important points, the commercial, in essence, provides no value.
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring is trying to hide the fact that the system is expensive and that the customer must agree to a long-term contract in order to get the services. The price for their entry-level home automation package with their home security services is $39.99/month with a 24-month contract.
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring decided to not include the pricing in their commercials because they understand that their offering is expensive. Certain other companies do the same thing in their ads as well, show particular elements of the system and avoid the pricing and fine print details until the customer is on the phone. Then use high-pressure tactics to get them to sign up because once they’re on the phone it’s hard for them to compare pricing and value propositions.
The lesson is that when watching TV commercials or listening to the radio, if the home alarm company doesn’t talk about their prices and contractual demands, then odds are they’re doing this for a reason. Be aware of prices and contract lengths and if possible avoid signing a contract at all times.
There are some major alarm companies that operate in Canada. Some are national while others do business in certain selected areas. Each company brings different positives and negatives to the table, either through their value propositions or the technology they make available to their customers. Here are a few of the biggest names in the Canadian home security landscape:
ADT is an American home alarm company that does business throughout Canada as well. ADT provides a traditional home alarm system that is installed with an installer. They do business both direct to consumer and also through dealers. ADT provides a standard service, along with cellular backup and two-way voice. ADT is the largest worldwide provider of security, protecting over 4 million customers. Beyond that, they are by far the largest home alarm company in Canada. ADT’s alarm systems range in monthly pricing from $28/month to over $50/month. There is usually an upfront charge as well as a 3-year contract.
AlarmForce is the largest provider of live two-way voice home alarm systems in Canada. Based in Toronto, AlarmForce protects over 140,000 customers throughout Canada and selected areas of the US. AlarmForce offers a $25/month home alarm system, with no upfront fee. The system is installed by AlarmForce and a 3-year contract is required. AlarmForce offers additional services, like their VideoRelay video surveillance system and AlarmCare personal emergency response product, at additional monthly charges. AlarmForce does not have a dealer program and has their own central monitoring station.
– Rogers Smart Home Monitoring
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring is a service provided by Rogers Communications. They currently install home alarm systems throughout Ontario and selected parts of BC. Rogers systems start at around $35/month and require a multi-year contract. They also make you pay some funds upfront for part of the installation and equipment. The Smart Home panel is a touchpad, and for additional costs, you can get two-way voice in your system. Rogers only sells Smart Home Monitoring through their call center and all service issues are dealt with through their call center as well. Rogers Smart Home Monitoring alarm systems are monitored by Northern 911, a central station based out of Sudbury, Ontario.
Protectron was recently purchased by ADT, however, the Protectron brand is still in operation separately from ADT. Protectron was the third largest Canadian home alarm company at the time of their purchase by ADT. Protectron offers a standard home alarm system, priced around $30/month.
Two-way voice home alarm monitoring means that in the event of a home alarm signal, the home is connected to a central station where the monitoring operator can listen inside the home and voice threaten the intruder out through a two-way voice speaker. This connection provides a verified response, as the operator has instant information on what is truly occurring inside the home.
The big concern for the homeowner though is if the home alarm company can listen to the home when the alarm hasn’t already been triggered. Can this happen?
The answer is no. With live two-way voice monitoring, the connection is only established after the home alarm’s been triggered. If the alarm transmission hasn’t been launched then there is absolutely no way the central station rep can listen into the home. The technology doesn’t allow it, and doing so would be illegal.
Certain companies that don’t offer two-way voice monitoring will say that companies that do can indeed listen inside the home when the alarm hasn’t been triggered, which is a blatant lie. They do this to try to sway the customer to devalue live two-way voice monitoring.
Fear not, companies that have live two-way voice monitoring like AlarmForce, CPI, ADT and Rogers Smart Home Monitoring can only hear what is occurring inside your home after your alarm is triggered – which is where the value of live two-way voice monitoring lies. If your alarm has not been triggered then you have absolutely nothing to worry about, nobody has the ability to listen in on your home.
So, Think Protection when researching home alarms and understand that with live two-way voice monitoring you get a great form of monitoring that provides a verified alarm response.
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring is the home security/home automation service offered by Rogers Communications. Rogers Smart Home Monitoring is offered in various areas across Canada. While their systems have some bells and whistles, ultimately it’s an expensive security solution that falls into many disadvantages that can be seen in various other home security offerings.
Rogers Communications is a massive company that offers cellular service, TV, and internet as well as smart home/security. Beyond that, they own magazines, radio stations, TV stations and sports franchises. They are an enormous company that employees tens of thousands of people.
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring has been in service for around two years and offers security and for additional costs can provide smart home features (remote arming, remote control over your thermostat, video, etc).
The low-cost security solutions, $0 upfront and $19.99/month is a self-monitored home alarm system. The $0 down is actually only if you pay $459 to purchase the equipment, otherwise, they add another $4.99 rental fee to the package. Rogers requires a three-year contract for service. Remember, with any self-monitored solution, the system does not connect to a central station. In the event of a break-in, the system would send you a notification, where then you need to take care of the event yourself. This is not real protection and cannot adequately protect a home or family. Avoid all self-monitored systems.
For a monitored alarm system, Rogers charges an additional $12.99/month, bringing the package cost up to $32.98/month. There again is a required three-year contract for service.
Two-way voice monitoring is an additional $3.49/month, smoke/fire monitoring is an additional $3.49/month and carbon monoxide monitoring is also $3.49/month. Three-year contracts are required for each of the additional services.
A customer can easily see how Rogers is an expensive solution with all of these added monthly costs. Beyond that, there are costs for the equipment beyond the basic package.
Rogers is notorious for the customer service one would associate with a company of their size. Levels of bureaucracy and lack of showing they value their customers, have constantly left Rogers customers with “bad tastes in their mouth”.
As a Rogers customer (cellphone, internet, home phone) I’ve experienced their subpar customer service. Frustration and anger have become commonplace when dealing with any cable company and Rogers is no different. Their goal is to tangle you in a bundle, where because you have multiple services with the company, you’re unlikely to leave to a competitor since you have so many services with them. It’s as if laziness trumps the want for quality, and unfortunately, this is often the case with Rogers customers.
Beyond that, the price is incredibly high and Rogers has in their contract that they reserve the right to raise their prices at any time. So your already high rates will become higher, and since you signed a contract you have to pay whatever rate they choose.
Rogers does offer some smart home solutions, however, these services just further increase your monthly monitoring rates. All of their services are offered by other companies at a fraction of the cost.
Customers need to distinguish between smart home features and home security. While smart home technology is trendy and some aspects have value, any home alarm system needs to be focused primarily on offering maximum home protection. Think protection when looking at home security systems and let the bells and whistles come second.
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring is an extremely expensive way to protect your home. They force you to sign a three-year contract and will raise your monthly monitoring rates while under contract. There is no shortage of better security solutions offered by other home alarm companies at a fraction of the price that can provide similar or better service than Rogers. And remember that with Rogers you’re dealing with a company that focuses on tons of things beyond security (running a baseball team, TV networks, etc), so they will treat security as an afterthought.
Think protection when choosing a home alarm system. Make the best decision and don’t always go with the bundle. When you do, you just end up getting tangled in a bad decision.