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Home alarm

By pricerunner Updated 09/03/2018

Are you worried about domestic burglary? According to official statistics, around 2% of households are affected by burglaries every year, but the figures vary on the basis of a number of factors. For example, people living in houses are affected more often than those in flats, and people in cities more often than country dwellers. Some areas are also more likely to be affected than others. Equally, the nature of your garden and your house affects the likelihood that you will be a victim. For example, if you have a large hedge that conceals part of your property so that burglars can work uninterrupted.

With a burglar alarm installed, many people feel more secure. Alarms are useful both if the property is burgled while you are away and if you're at home. There are many different types of alarm system intended for domestic users. These essentially consist of an alarm panel where you switch the system on/off, a number of sensors and some form of app or similar so that you can control the system. A system that's only connected to windows and doors is called perimeter protection, because you can live and work in your home while the system is monitoring it. But you can also protect the inside, for example by installing movement detectors. There are also systems with zone divisions, where only certain parts are protected.

Alarm systems often also include surveillance cameras. This means that, in addition to being notified if someone has broken into or is outside your home, you can see them acting in real time. The cameras often have movement sensors to detect whether someone is moving nearby. Many cameras have recording and storage capacities in addition to real time transmission. Some are intelligent and can see the difference between people and objects, which means that they react if a thief moves through the field of view, but not if the movement is caused by a robotic vacuum cleaner.

These cameras also have different areas of use. Some are motorised so that you can control them remotely, some are IP classified for outdoor use, some have the ability to see in the dark and so on. The cameras you choose for the different parts of your home depend on your needs and the type of space.

You can also buy accessories for your burglar alarm which mean that the area around your house makes it clear that a burglary is taking place – for example with illuminated or flashing lights, sound sirens etc.

DIY or buy a ready-made system?

When you look at solutions for burglar alarms, you will quickly realise that there are two options. One is to choose different components and create a system yourself, and the other is to purchase a complete system installed by a manufacturer/dealer.

In the first case, this means that you buy products, either a ready-made kit or a number of separate items, which you install in your home. These systems rarely include any ongoing costs. Instead you pay for the products and then carry out the monitoring yourself. For example, cameras and sensors can notify you by mobile phone if someone is moving in your home.

If you instead purchase a complete system from an alarm supplier, they will come and install the system in your home. You usually choose between different sized packages and then have an installation cost and a fixed monthly cost. The monthly cost is usually £20-40, while the fixed installation often costs several hundred. The price varies depending on the supplier, the package and the functions you choose. In some cases, the operator retains ownership of the system for a number of years. So in other words, if you cancel the contract they have the right to remove the system. You should also remember that some systems have a minimum term. Another factor that can vary is whether call outs are included in the monthly costs.

With some systems, you receive the alarm call first so that you can verify it is a genuine break-in, and you then forward the alarm call to the alarm operator. Others go directly to the alarm operator, who then contacts you. In some cases the alarm operator can even see who is in your home and talk to them. This provides further security in that if a family member injures themselves you can quickly get help. On the other hand, this has integrity implications and you need to think about what you're willing for a stranger to see in the case of any false alarm.

The majority of alarm systems today are wireless. There are still models where cables are installed in the walls, but these are generally installed while the building is being constructed.

In terms of the wireless systems, they have different sensitivities to interference. Things like built-in encryption and the frequency they transmit on affect how good they are. For example, some of them have double encryption, while others only have single encryption. If the system communicates on a normal frequency, it may even get interference from other gadgets on the same frequency. If you're thinking of investing in a wireless burglar alarm, you need to invest in a product with high security levels.

Choosing the right burglar alarm – check list

When you want to buy a burglar alarm, there's no one system that's right for everyone. Your needs and desires in terms of functions, your interest in technology, your budget and your family structure all affect the choice you should make. A few questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Do you want to construct and maintain your system yourself, or use an alarm operator?
  • Do you simply want perimeter protection (windows, doors etc. so that you can set the alarm when you're at home at night) or do you want more functions, such as a fire alarm, indoor movement sensors etc.?
  • Do you want to both receive an alarm and see what is going on in your home, or is the alarm function alone sufficient?
  • Do you have pets at home during the daytime, or other things that move and which can trigger any movement sensors?
  • Do you want a system where an alarm operator can immediately investigate what is taking place in your home, or do you want to check first whether it's a false alarm?
  • Do you want control of the system from your mobile phone?
  • Do you have children who get home before you? Can they remember a secret code and enter it, or do you need a system with tags? Do you want to be notified when they get home?
  • Do you want accessories such as sirens and floodlights in the system?
  • Do you want to be able to expand the system with intelligent home functions, such as a connected fire detector, temperature sensors, moisture sensors etc.?
  • Do you want the alarm operator to only check your perimeter protection, or do you want them to also be able to enter your home and check every room?
  • Do you want battery backup so that the alarm isn't knocked out by a power failure?
  • Do you want a system that you own, or one that you only own after a couple of years (check the purchase conditions with your alarm operator)?
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