The following is a guide to how to choose an alarm system, taking into account all the different factors like 'wired vs wireless alarm?' through to 'what type of alarm monitoring to choose?'.
Alarm systems in the UK are getting increasingly complex, driven by the advancements in technology - especially smart phone technology. Because of this, we've put together this guide to burglar alarms (UK-orientated) so you get a better idea of what types of questions you should be asking when selecting an alarm system.
How to choose a burglar alarm
The following are the top 10 things to look out for when buying a burglar alarm:
1) Alarm system design
2) Wired vs wireless alarm technology
3) Alarm monitoring types
4) Personal attack alarm
5) Fire detection
6) Alarm reliability
8) Smart alarm functionality
10) Cost: installation cost & ongoing burglar alarm costs
1) Security System design
The fundamentals of an alarm system is that it must provide you with ’security’. This may sound like a stupid thing to say, but it’s super important to consider this when buying an alarm. The reason for saying this is that some alarm systems sold (especially Smart Alarm systems) are more gadgets than security systems; they may look good and they may come with whizzy apps, but often they’re sold as ‘out of the box solutions’ meaning that they don’t have the versatility to actually provide you with real security.
AMCO recommend making sure that you get an alarm system properly designed - to ensure all potential vulnerabilities are covered.
2) Wired vs Wireless alarm
We’d say that there’s no such thing as one being better than the other; the choice between wired or wireless alarms comes down a number of factors, and the best one depends on your circumstances. Key considerations are:
- Wiring potential: if your property is easily wired (e.g. if you’re doing your property up or you have a commercial property with wiring ducts) then a wired system is best, as overall wired systems are more reliable and lower-cost in the long-run (see notes below). However, if you have a newly done-up house or a flat with no easy way to wire, then a wireless system is the only option - as wiring neatly would be a near impossibility.
- Reliability: wireless systems have improved their reliability x100 in the last few years, however wired system are still x10 more reliable than wireless. The weaknesses of wireless systems mean that sensors can ‘fall off’ the system (rendering them useless) or batteries can fail over time. Good wireless systems will limit this and will warn you of these issues, however that said they are issues that occur - and reliability issues that wired systems don’t have.
- Running costs: the installation costs for wired and wireless systems are about the same; however the ongoing support costs for wireless systems are a lot higher - because of the reliability issues noted above.
- Hybrid option: beyond wired or wireless alarms, there’s also a 3rd way - which is the ‘hybrid’ alarm, combining both wired and wireless functionality. This is arguably the best route as you get the best of both worlds. The Texecom Premier is a great example of a Hybrid alarm.
3) Monitoring types (and response types)
There are x3 types of alarm monitoring: immediate audio-response, call-back and auto-dialler. Immediate audio-response provides the best security, as when an alarm is activated someone is immediately (after c.20 seconds) listening in and talking into the property via a speaker microphone. Call-back and auto-dialler are similar and are the most standard types of monitoring on the market; both essentially call the owner and key holders alerting them of an alarm activation, however unlike ‘immediate audio-response’, there’s no way of verifying if the activation is a real activation (i.e. a real burglar).
AMCO recommend installing ‘immediate audio-response’ monitoring, which is at the core of AMCO’s LiveTalk system. [read more about LiveTalk here >>]
4) Personal attack alarm
Beyond your alarm providing ‘intruder detection’ you should also consider making sure your alarm includes some kind of ‘personal attack’ functionality like a PAB (panic attack button). PAB’s can either be fixed, or mobile - in the form of a fob. Mobile fobs are especially useful for the elderly or for people with medical issues.
AMCO recommend including PAB’s in your alarm system, for added personal security.
5) Intruder alarm with fire detection
Linking smoke detectors into your security system, means that your alarm double up not only as an intruder system but also as a fire alarm too.
AMCO recommend linking smoke detectors into our LiveTalk monitoring system; with LiveTalk’s speaker microphone unit, our monitoring staff can remotely verify whether you’ve burnt your toast or there’s a more serious fire issue.
6) Burglar alarm reliability
The reality is that burglaries are in-frequent; that said, if (when) that moment comes you need to make sure that your alarm system is working. This means that making sure your burglar alarm is reliable and will work when it’s needed is really important.
AMCO recommend a wired alarm for the best reliability; hybrid alarm systems are a good middle ground.
In 99% of cases the most important thing you need to do with your burglar alarm is turn it on and off. This means that you need an alarm that is easy to use, so that you’re not having to fiddle around with unnecessary buttons / configurations all the time.
8) Smart Alarm functionality
Adding smartphone functionality to your alarm system is viewed by some as an ‘unnecessary complexity’ or by others as a ‘necessary modern-day feature’.
The benefits of smart alarm functionality is that you can easily access the functionality of your alarm remotely; for example, being able to check whether you’ve set your alarm or not (and set / unset remotely). With more sophisticated smart alarm systems (like the ones AMCO installs using Texecom SmartCom app technology), you have the ability to create recipes (another name for rules) that allow you to do things like ‘automatically set your alarm if you’re 20m from the house’ or ‘turn on lights when you enter the house’.
The negatives of smart alarms are that the app can be unreliable (due to connectivity issues) and can add an unnecessary level of complexity to your alarm system.
AMCO recommend installing sophisticated Smart Alarm functionality if you’re tech savvy and know how to get the most of the technology.
The best alarm systems deter burglars from trying to break in in the first place. The best way of doing this is to install a ‘bell box’ in a visible location - meaning that a burglar will think twice about trying to break-in your house.
We’d also recommend adding stickers to windows too - to add a further level of security.
10) Burglar alarm Costs (installation & ongoing maintenance costs)
There are x2 main costs associated with a burglar alarm:
1) Installation costs: this is the cost to install all the equipment included in a home alarm system
2) Monitoring & maintenance costs: this is the cost of the 24/7 remote monitoring of your alarm system, and the ongoing technical maintenance of your system - ensuring it is in full working order.
Additionally, you should also check the minimum length of contract of your alarm company agreement, as some (especially the bigger companies) lock you into a minimum 3 year contract (with high monthly monitoring costs).
AMCO recommend to make sure you check get a fair deal for your monitoring fee; for example, anything around £20 a month is a fair amount. Also, don’t get locked into a lengthy contract, as some of the bigger companies lock you in and then give you terrible service (often also putting up prices).