Wireless and smart technology has improved the home security game

There is something about a vacation that reminds me of home security. Maybe it’s reading on Nextdoor about the rampant hacking of neighborhood porches, or maybe it’s a recent incident on the stove that triggered the smoke detector. Even more troubling, perhaps it is the occasional power outage that logs me out of the security call center because my home phones, which use the internet, are dead. Am I as protected as I could – and should – be?

In the early 1980s, installing a home security system involved drilling holes in window and door frames, screwing in sensors, and running wires through walls to a keypad. central, all powered by a large battery nestled in a basement or closet. If you went all the way, you might also have a hard-wired smoke detector. This was pretty much the norm for homeowners, including me (my security system dates from 1999), until high-speed internet, super-fast wireless technology, and smart home technology became the norm.

Goodbye wires, forgetting to arm your house or worrying about a power outage. Hello sticker sensors, high definition infrared cameras, app-based remote arming and touchscreen panels.

“The past 10 years or so have been amazing for home security,” says Tim Rader, senior director of product development and engineering at home security provider ADT, which has more than 6 million residential and business customers. “Going from wired to wireless has allowed companies to install sensors in places we previously couldn’t access. Then move on to next-generation systems, with smart home technology that can immediately identify if a window has been broken or in which room a fire has started.

Wireless technology has also paved the way for owner-installed systems, says Doug Woodard, director of customer experience at SimpliSafe, which launched DIY home security products in 2006. “More and more people are using it. comfortable with the installation and connection of home technology. They now have an accessible and affordable way to customize and install their own security system without a long-term contract, ”he says.

Whether you are planning to install a new home security system or just want to upgrade your setup, there are some factors to consider. Even the most basic online searches will return dozens of comprehensive home security system reviews, which is a good place to start.

Jeffrey Zwirn, a forensic alarm science and safety expert in Tenafly, New Jersey, says a properly designed system can save your life, but one size doesn’t fit all. Start by asking yourself a few questions. What are you trying to protect and / or guard against? Worried about break-ins, fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a broken pipe flooding your basement? How important is personalization? Do you own or rent your home? Renters or those planning to move in a few years may want the flexibility of a DIY system, so they can take it with them when they move out.

If you go for a professional installation, contact several companies willing to inspect your home in person. “A pro can assess the house and the people who live there,” says Zwirn. You might also want coverage beyond the basics. For example, if you can’t hear well, you might need several loud sirens. Or your home may need smoke detectors inside and outside of every sleeping area. “It’s a purchase you might want to leave to the professionals,” he says.

Zwirn says to be wary of any products or components that may not comply with national codes and standards. It suggests that you get the make and model of whatever is installed, then verify that each is UL Compliant – which means it’s certified by UL, a global safety certification company – by looking for the produced at productiq.ulprospector.com/en.

Rader says other initial queries should include: How long has the company been in business? Will the products work together? Who will do the installation: the company or a third-party subcontractor? Zwirn recommends dealing directly with a company rather than an authorized reseller who may be just an intermediary. Expect to pay between $ 1,500 and $ 2,500 for a professionally installed system, Zwirn says.

For homes with systems over 15 years old, you may want to consider an upgrade. Contact your security provider for a free reassessment. According to Rader, you may only need to replace a few items. Some wireless sensors can even be integrated into wired systems. The biggest change will probably be getting an improved touchscreen keyboard or control panel. While the newer panels typically use Wi-Fi, they do have a built-in battery-powered cellular module (a glorified micro-phone) and battery backup, which should last at least 24 hours. In the event of a power or internet failure, your system can still communicate with the Security Monitoring Center.

You can also consider add-ons like temperature sensors, water sensors, or glass breakage sensors. At the very least, during the evaluation, have the technician test your fire alarm. It’s the only component you can’t self-test, and it should be checked every year, Zwirn says.

Those who want to save money while still having flexibility may prefer the DIY option. Systems such as SimpliSafe, Ring, Blue by ADT, and Abode Home Security typically offer peel-and-stick window and door sensors. These, along with additional components, such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, glass break detectors, outdoor cameras, and sirens, all communicate wirelessly over radio frequencies with a base station that plugs into an electrical outlet.

You can choose what type of sensors you want and where to place them. Configuration is easy using the keyboard or a smartphone. An average DIY package costs around $ 200 to $ 600, with additional costs for more sensors, cameras, and surveillance. One consideration when selecting the DIY option is whether you have a smartphone, as some systems require an app for setup and monitoring.

Regardless of the security system, perhaps the most important factor is the call center, your lifeline in an emergency. When an alarm goes off, specialists contact first responders using direct communication lines, not 911. In the past, call centers were secure facilities monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 7, so someone was always there when needed. According to Zwirn, with the coronavirus pandemic, many operations have allowed employees to work from home, and although many are now re-employed in person, some continue to use monitors remotely.

“In an emergency, the alarm company is your partner,” says Zwirn. You don’t want someone working remotely walking away from the monitor or losing connection. Whether the security company owns and operates the call center or contracts with a third party, they must give you written assurances that their call center employees are not working from home. And although some do-it-yourself systems allow self-monitoring, it is not recommended.

Whether it’s starting from scratch or upgrading your system, you need to know what you’re getting. “You don’t want a false sense of security,” Zwirn says. “With an alarm system, you don’t have the luxury of a second chance.”

Daily is a freelance writer. This article appeared in the Washington Post.

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