Selecting an alarm system can feel overwhelming: There are so many options, and the stakes seem huge.
After all, choosing the wrong one might just mean the difference between keeping your family safe and letting an intruder into their midst. Face it: You'll do just about anything to keep the bad guys out. Right?
Home security technicians are there to help transform your Home Sweet Home into Home Sweet Fortress. But you need to be involved in this process, too: By doing a little prep work beforehand, you can sleep soundly sooner (say that five times, fast. We'll wait.).
Here's what your home security techs wish you knew, long before they ever step foot inside your home.
1. Know what you want ahead of time
Before you place a call to a home security company, you should have a pretty educated idea of what you're looking for. How much are you willing to pay? Are you able to cover the cost of dedicated cellular service? What do you want to happen when the alarm triggers: an audible signal? A phone call to your cell? A phone call to your neighbor's cell? Or a ding straight to the monitoring system?
"The biggest issue is customers that are uninvolved with the sales or installation process," says Marcos Valdez, the senior director of operations for Hawk Security in Fort Worth, TX. "When customers aren't involved, it creates issues." This is why God created Google.
2. You're probably going to be confused -- and that's OK
Don't feel bad if your new alarm system confounds you. Unless you're an engineer or a computer scientist, it almost certainly will -- and you're not alone. The solution? Be inquisitive.
"Asking a lot of questions is what we expect and even prefer," Valdez says. "The security system is being put in place to secure your family and possessions, which are the most important assets in your life."
After installation is completed, ask for a thorough demonstration of the alarm system to pinpoint anything that still confuses you.
3. If you select the alarm, you need to be there for installation
Yes, we're afraid that means your best friend, your perfectly responsible (you hope) 19-year-old who's home for summer break, or even your significant other should not be the one meeting the technician.
If you have done your research, only will you know which questions to ask and which features should be installed. And you can also answer questions from your technician about your alarm preferences.
4. You need phone or internet, too
Looking for a system for your remote vacation getaway? Spoiler alert: You can't have an alarm without some way for it to communicate for the outside world -- and that means you need to have Internet service, a phone line, or cellular access at the home.
"We're asked all the time to do cottage or vacation property installations for a 'wireless' system, but without any type of communication service, that's just not possible," says Nathan McBride, who provides technical support for online alarm retailer Absolute Automation.
What's the point of an alarm that can't alert? While there are plenty of options that work over cellular (often at an added cost), if your cottage is too remote you'll have to install Internet or phone service so it can communicate with you or your monitoring service. Deal with it.
5. Clean up before installation
Your technician will need to access any number of hard-to-reach spots in your home. So clean your place up thoroughly before they arrive.
"Clutter is a nuisance that makes it hard for the technician to get around," Valdez says.
And it's not just everyday messes that might need to be moved: Consider all of the locations you want sensors installed. Are they accessible? Is there a giant bookcase blocking the path to your living room window?
"If you know that an item or obstacle, like a couch, will need to be moved in order to get to your window, do it beforehand, to save time," says Mike Kochik, the service operations manager at My Alarm Center in Philadelphia.
6. Installation can take around 8 hours
A lot goes into installing an alarm system: Adding sensors, installing CCTV, automating your locks and lights, adding remote thermostats -- all of this takes time.
"Alarm systems are not simple anymore," says Valdez. "Installations used to take, on average, 4 or 5 hours. Now they can take up to 8 or 10, if not more."
Consider the complexity of the system you're purchasing when you're planning your day. (No toe-tapping irritation here!)
7. Think like a burglar
You know your house best, not your technician -- so determine beforehand where you'd be most comfortable to have sensors placed.
Put yourself in a burglar's shoes. Sure, they might try the doors, but also consider any ground-level windows they might use for access. You'll also want to zero in on doors to offices or bedrooms -- or anywhere else in the home with high-value items you want to protect, McBride says.
Technicians and your alarm company will help you determine the best ways to keep your home safe, but coming into the process with your own knowledge goes a long way toward expediency and efficiency.
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