You’re thinking about getting a home alarm system. You’ve called up your local cable company to get information about their security products. Seems like a good fit. The bundled discount is tempting. Why shouldn’t you get your home security from the same place that’s supplying your TV and internet?
The truth is that when choosing a home alarm system, you should never have a cable company protect you. Here are a few of the reasons why to avoid security services from your cable company.
First off, never get any alarm company that will make you sign a long-term contract. Virtually all cable companies will force you to agree to a contract. These contracts are usually for two years terms. All contracts only benefit the company, never the customer. Contracts lock up customers where if they’re unhappy they can’t cancel service. Instead, they are forced to stay with the company regardless of satisfaction level.
Cable companies say that by adding their security services you’ll save money by discounting all services in a bundle. This isn’t actually true. While you will lower your overall rates, the initial costs are higher than other companies. The real savings end up being an illusion.
The real reason cable companies want you to add another service is the more services you have with them the less likely you are to cancel and switch. It becomes more of a pain to switch if you’re unhappy. Think about it, if you just had your cell phone with the company, if you were unhappy then no problem – cancel and switch. But if you have your cell phone, internet, home phone, cable tv and now your home security, if they ever provide lackluster service (which is often the case) too bad, since it’s such a pain to replace all services elsewhere.
Cable companies provide notoriously bad customer service. Check reviews online and you’ll see negative testimonial after negative testimonial. Long wait times and ongoing frustration is common when dealing with cable companies.
An issue with cable companies is security is the thing they prioritize least as they have their hands in so many other things. Take Rogers for example. Rogers Communications has so many verticals. Rogers has radio stations, TV stations, provide internet, home phones, cell phones, magazines, cable TV, has sports teams (Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors), has arenas… and they provide smart home monitoring. If a customer has an issue do you think you can get the CEO of Rogers on the phone to help solve their concern? I highly doubt it. Same goes for Comcast. Xfinity’s smart home solution is just another service – one of the lowest things on their totem pole.
And last, cable companies are notorious for raising prices. Whether you’re under contract or not, cable companies often raise their customer’s prices. Usually, this is once a year, around a dollar or two higher. This adds up over time. Especially if you’re locked into a contract, you’re stuck paying these prices regardless.
When choosing a home alarm system, go with a company that solely focuses on security. It should be priority one. The only thing the company does. Security is incredibly important and shouldn’t be regarded as an afterthought. Pick a company that doesn’t have a home alarm contract. And lastly look for the best value and the lowest price.
Have you ever seen a TV or radio for a home alarm company? Companies like Rogers Smart Home Monitoring, AlarmForce and ADT spend millions of dollars on commercials focusing on how they have the best home security system. The thing to remember is often in these commercials certain things are either not mentioned or are misleading to the customer.
Here are a few things from recent commercials to note:
- In Rogers Smart Home Monitoring’s recent TV commercials they show footage taken from their indoor video surveillance solution. The truth is that it’s not actual footage from one of their security cameras, but instead professionally shot footage recorded on an expensive professional camera. Will the actual camera footage look as crisp and clear as that shot on a $50,000 camera on a professionally lit set? Probably not.
- In AlarmForce’s recent TV commercial, the “central station” is actually not their central station. The station in the ad looks like mission control, when in fact it’s simply a call centre located in the bottom floor of their office. While I understand the want to spice up a boring unglamorous call centre, the fact in the commercial the call centre looks like mission control is misleading.
- Recent Rogers Smart Home Monitoring radio ads would mention the price of the system, however, they would say it’s “x” amount over the first two months of a 24-month contract. Then they would never mention the inflated rate of the monitoring over the remaining 22 months of the contract. Is the remaining rate $25/month? $40/month? $1000/month? It’s never mentioned! Plus, they never mention the fact that Rogers reserves the right to raise monitoring rates at any point during the contract and often do.
- ADT uses dealers to sell their products. One such dealer is a company that used to be called Defender. Defender doesn’t have the same brand value as ADT, so Defender changed their name to Protect Your Home. This way, one direct mailers and various print marketing that Defender historically used, the customer would see the ADT logo followed by the words Protect Your Home. The customer may not have known Protect Your Home was a secondary company, but rather they could have thought that ADT is simply using Protect Your Home as a marketing byline. Misleading? You be the judge.
With any marketing, make sure you read the fine print and question everything. Understand that what may look slick in a commercial is actually not as great in person. Ask the right questions and look at the real underlying value. And cover yourself by never agreeing to anything that forces you into a contract!
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.
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.