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How to Determine Which System is Right for You

1. Are you a renter or a homeowner?

If you're a renter, you should probably choose a wireless system that you can install yourself so you own the equipment and can easily move it from one location to the next. LifeShield, for example, has a package specifically tailored to renters.

Companies that offer DIY wireless systems: FrontPoint, SimpliSafe, LifeShield, Protect America.

If you're a homeowner, you can install pretty much any security system you want, depending on your needs and budget. However, because you own your home, you might want to look into a landline system with a cell uplink backup, covering all eventualities and delivering total protection.

2. Do you plan to move in the next one to three years?

If you move often, then you will want to pay closer attention to the alarm company's contract and whether you'll own the equipment or not. Companies that require a long-term contract, for example, may not work for your lifestyle. However, many companies offer moving programs that will allow you to transfer your service and equipment for free. Moving programs often require that you've been a customer for a certain amount of time, and sometimes they do not guarantee that all of your equipment will be moved.

The following companies offer moving programs: Guardian, Pinnacle, Vivint.

If you plan on moving within the next few years, you may want to get a system that lets you own your security system equipment, so you can take it with you when you move. Although some companies will help relocate their equipmentn if you move, you'll be sure to keep your system if you own it outright.

3. Do you want mobile access?

If you want total control over your home, mobile access is a must. Most security systems let you arm and disarm your system from a key fob, smartphone, or web-enabled device, but some companies also offer the ability to control lighting and thermostat settings via mobile access.

Here is a list of actions that are generally included in most home automation systems:

  • Arm and disarm your system
  • Lock and unlock doors
  • Monitor water and flood sensors
  • Receive security alerts
  • See which windows and doors are open
  • Access a complete history of your system's events
  • Get real-time notifications
  • View live video via security cameras
  • Adjust lights and thermostat
  • Set custom notifications (Get notified via text, email, and video alerts when your children come home from school or when the housekeeper arrives and leaves. Get notified if select locations like your medicine cabinet, liquor cabinet, or garage door have been opened)

4. Do you want or need security cameras?

Aside from catching an intruder in the act, there are quite a few instances where you might want security cameras. They come in handy when you're at home and when you're away. When you're at home, you can keep an eye on family members in other rooms or see who is at the front door from the couch. When you're away, know what's going on at home, see who set off the alarm, keep an eye on the babysitter, know when the kids get home from school, and watch the maintenance workers. The benefits of security cameras extend far beyond preventing intrusion.

Decide if a security camera is something you're interested in and then check out the options available with each company. Some systems do not offer security cameras or video monitoring.

To learn more about the basics of home security cameras, check out The Beginner's Guide to Security Cameras.

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