14 Reasons Why Monitored Home Security Systems Are For Suckers

It seems like I’m always being bombarded with countless ads from companies offering home burglar alarm installation and monitoring services. Maybe that’s because 83% of homes in the US don’t have a security system in place to ward off potential thieves.

Are those homeowners crazy? Or crazy like a fox?

I took the plunge and got one not long after moving into my current home and it certainly provided peace of mind — for a little while.

However, I eventually came to realize that the cons of owning a monitored home security system far outweighed the pros. Here are 14 reasons why:

1. They can be expensive to install. Yes, some companies will do the job for under $100, but if your home isn’t pre-wired — or you want one of the more elaborate systems — you could spend thousands of dollars in installation fees.

2. Those monthly monitoring fees add up. They can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per month — and the commitment is typically over several years. That usually exceeds the average annual homeowner’s policy discount of 15% or 20% for having the service.

3. They’re annoying. Ask any security system owner who sets their alarm at night before going to bed how much fun it is when another family member wakes up and accidentally sets the alarm off because they failed to properly deactivate it. It isn’t. That’s one reason why:

4. They have a high false-alarm rate. Actually, ridiculously high. In fact, the central monitoring stations experience a false alarm rate of approximately 80% … so it’s no wonder that:

5. The security monitoring centers are overwhelmed. In order to reduce traffic, some monitoring companies intentionally increase the time it takes for an alarm to register at their site, which is why it can often take as long as two minutes to get a call-back. Meanwhile:

6. Your neighbors will hate you. Especially after they’ve been roused out of a sound sleep at 3 o’clock on a Monday morning by the blaring sound of your home alarm — while you’re on vacation in Maui. Needless to say, when they can:

7. Most people simply ignore them. All of those false alarms have conditioned neighbors to pay little attention to them anymore. Of course, the cops have an obligation to show up. Just in case. As a result:

8. Some police departments charge a response fee for wasting their time. Usually, you can expect a bill from city hall after the first or second false alarm. But even if it isn’t a false alarm:

9. Burglars know that police response times are slow. Even in small towns, don’t expect the cops to be at your house for at least seven minutes. That’s an eternity when you need help. And in  larger cities wait times can average between 30 and 45 minutes.

10. If you’re a dog owner, they provide little added value. Man’s best friend can protect your home just as well as a modern alarm system — if not better. True, a good watchdog can’t call the police; but that rarely ever matters because they’re such a good deterrent.

11. They won’t work during an extended power outage. If you’re lucky, a 12-volt back-up battery will typically keep most home alarm systems functioning for no more than 10 to 24 hours. That’s it. Just remember, when they are working:

12. They’re fairly easy to disable. Never mind that they’re no match for professional burglars. Amateur thieves can neutralize them too if the lone connection point to the monitoring center is via a phone line that can be easily cut. And even if the bad guys can’t disable the system …

13. They’re not effective against snatch-and-grab burglaries. Most criminals strike quickly because that decreases their risk of being caught. Besides:

14. They’re not foolproof. After all, monitored home security systems only work if you remember to activate them. Then again, considering all of their drawbacks, that’s probably a good thing.

Photo Credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments

  1. 3

    says

    I live in a nice family neighbourhood but I live next to a drug dealer with a steady flow of customers.

    I have been pricing monitored alarm systems but they won’t just arm my windows and doors. They all want a motion sensor and I know that myself or my old hard of hearing dog would set it off constantly.

    I have found individual battery operated window and door alarms for $11.99 at the hardware store and that will work out great. They will be on the basement windows and both doors and make a huge noise if disturbed. That will alert the dog and I can call 911 and sleep much better at night.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      In my opinion, there is nothing better than a good dog, Jane.

      I’ve always owned dogs that weigh over 100 lbs but, in reality, dogs don’t have to be big — they just have to be willing to make a ruckus when it senses danger outside.

      That’s usually more than enough to send a thief on to a less riskier target.

  2. 5

    Spedie says

    I had an alarm system for two, back to back, 3 year contracts. I quickly learned that:

    -My cat could jump over 5 feet in the air coming down the stairs and set off the front door motion detector;
    -The cops gave me two drive by “freebies”. From then on, each call was $100;
    -My local city decided alarm owners must register their product with the city for another $40 per year, every year, or get fined;
    -When the alarm went off, it would be at least 2 hours before the company called my cell phone, if they called it at all. Often they would call my home number, which is of no use. I could not convince the alarm company to call my cell and not my home number – no exceptions;
    -My alarm company was continually getting bought out by another company and it was a headache.
    -When I went to move, the termination fees were as high as if I just paid monthly. Never again…

    I agree that a dog is the best idea. Or, have an acrobatic cat like I have that can jump unbelievably high in the air, in the dark, land on it’s feet, run and tear up the place in a single bound! After all, an insane feline is enough to scare any burglar right?

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      I cancelled my service after the first two-year contract. I don’t believe I had to pay a cancellation fee though, Spedie. Talk about adding insult to injury.

  3. 7

    Tara Dawes says

    We have looked at adding all kinds of security systems to our home but I have a friend who has ADT and barely turns it on because of all the false alarms.

    Came across this http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/canary-the-first-smart-home-security-device-for-everyone – and it actually looks pretty promising. Especially since you don’t have to pay a monthly fee – trying to decide if the initial large(r) startup cost is worth it – I really like that it has the fire warning on it as that is my larger concern when I’m not home – my dogs barking I feel is a better deterrent to theft.
    However, I think back to years ago when a cousin of mine had their house burn down while they were away for the day – it burnt to the ground and killed all their pets which absolutely broke their heart. My husband and I consider our pets part of our family and I don’t think I could handle it if something like that happened. :(

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      Fire is a risk we all have to live with, Tara — and I completely understand where you’re coming from, as I own two pooches myself.

      Still, in the grand scheme of things, the risk is really quite small.

  4. 9

    says

    We had one a long time ago. Not anymore, for the reasons you outlined. We lock the doors, put on plenty of lights and keep the brush away from our home! Some folks put the sign up as a deterrent without the actual alarm system!

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      I tried to find stats on the effectiveness of using a fake sign prior to posting this article, Barb. I couldn’t find any though.

      I wish somebody would do a study because I am really curious as to whether they are really effective.

  5. 13

    skolvikes says

    Len, as a 911 dispatcher who has dealt with alarm companies for years, I can say that you are right on almost every count. But I also have an alarm for my family.

    My opinion changed the day my house got broken into and someone walked away with my 47″ TV among other things. I felt that I had to do something. I did a lot of research and ended up going with a regional company. They worked with me to install an effective system to minimize false alarms. I have only had one false alarm in 3 years. We have 3 cats so we elected not to get a motion sensor. However Glass Break sensors are very effective Our system is “hardened” in that the brains of the system are hidden in the basement encased in steel. It has its own cellular connection so you cant cut the phone line.

    A year later someone tried to kick in my rear door while I was sleeping. The alarm went off before they got in and scared them off (I have steel doors).

    My reasoning for getting the alarm is that at least I know that my house is secure and if someone does get in again their time will be minimized, They Certainly wont have enough time to get open safes etc. And if they do get in again while I am home they will meet me and my shiny new handgun.

    One thing I will say: Stay away from ADT. They are horrible. They gave me a crazy high pressure sales pitch and even started calling me at work.

    Some people are starting to get systems that text them when something is wrong. Last week I had a guy call me saying he was out of town and his alarm was going off. We sent a squad to check. The alarm company called TEN MINUTES LATER to report the alarm after the squad had already arrived. I may explore this option as an alternative to having a monitored system myself.

    One last thing. If you have an alarm PLEASE don’t use the “panic” function to have help sent. Dial 911 yourself. My pet peeve are these “life alert” type companies that only delay the response time. Unless you are disabled and unable to get to a phone or dial you are always better off dialing 911 yourself.

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      Thanks for sharing your story and tips, Skolvikes.

      And good for you on getting the handgun! For your safety and the safety of others, if you haven’t already, make sure you take a couple of handgun training classes to boost your confidence and proficiency with your weapon.

      My entire family — including my 13 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son — have taken multiple handgun safety and training courses and know how to properly use, and care for, a handgun. I consider those classes to be among the best investments I’ve ever made.

      • 15

        skolvikes says

        Thanks, Len, for the reply. My wife and I took a class together and got our carry permits but are looking for some follow up classes. Now only if ammo prices/availability improve…..

        • 16

          Len Penzo says

          Ammo prices are easing down a bit, but they are still off the hook. Fortunately, I bought a lot of it before the prices took off. They’ll come back down.

  6. 17

    Larry says

    When I was researching alarm companies…one of the sales guys blurted out that 90% of burglaries occur during the day. I work from home. Problem solved. Also…they’ve interviewed criminals and found out they hate motion detector lights (check). Also…I am stunned to find almost every home invasion…they got in through an unlocked window. Seriously?

  7. 19

    says

    Loving the comments here. I never knew this but you can “localize” your alarm system. For a small one time fee the alarm company will come out and make your alarm ring, but the monitoring will be turned off. Then you can keep an alarm that will hopefully scare away the criminal without the monthly fees.

  8. 20

    Char says

    Jane Savers – I also have a dealer next door (at least part-time). Broken into once, and then after the second attempt got an alarm system. And they do it in broad daylight while I’m at work. I may not continue with the monitoring once the contract is up, but the stickers and signs will remain as a deterrent! It annoys me that I have to pay monthly to keep riff-raff from targeting my house, but it’s better than the alternative at present. And yes, I had to register with the local police (one-time fee), and so far I’ve had no false alarms. I grew up in a small town where we never even locked the doors, and always left the keys in the cars, etc. Not happening here or now.

  9. 21

    Mary Ann says

    We have an alarm system that you can set with or without the motion detector. So, when we are home or asleep at night we don’t set the motion detector. Plus, when we had dogs, we couldn’t set it because they had free range in the house. The windows and doors are still “protected”. When we leave the house, we set the motion detector as well.. When we are on vacation, we set the whole house to the max so there is no alarm delay if a door or window is opened. We decided not to get a dog after my last 2 passed away because we are older and want to be free to travel and have less work/responsibilities since we are still employed. In addition, the security system also has the wired fired detector, which is a plus.

    The reason we got a security system is that we live in the woods in an isolated area with no neighbors, etc.

  10. 22

    SLCCOM says

    Safemart has a no-contract program where you pay for the control panel, it is wireless, and uses a phone line, and monitoring is $19.99 a month. You pay for the first year in advance, and after that it is month-to-month.

    Fire is a major issue, and many people are not able to hear the smoke detector with their hearing aids out, or when they are in denial about their hearing loss, or when they are drunk or medicated or ill. Ours also monitors carbon monoxide. Children, too, respond poorly to smoke detectors.

    We got our first system with our first house when I kept looking up in my office to find my husband standing behind me when he came home for lunch. I am hard of hearing, we had two dogs and hardwood flooring above my head. For my protection, we will always have an alarm system until we are in assisted living or a nursing home.

    We’ve always had both dogs (as many as 5) and motion detectors. If they are set correctly, they shouldn’t be a problem. (Can’t speak to cats who fly five feet in the air, though!)

    An honest appraisal of your ability to detect unwanted intruders and smoke detectors is in order before blowing off monitored alarm systems. And get that appraisal from someone else who knows you well and isn’t afraid to speak the truth. It is impossible to know what you didn’t hear. Most people with alcohol problems are in denial about how often they are drunk. Getting stoned on marijuana slows your reaction times.

    And carbon monoxide will take you out of action before you are aware of the problem.

  11. 23

    says

    Love your title. Yes, these systems are a waste of money. 20 years I had one and it was nothing but a bother. This is before the age of getting billed for false alarms, of which I had many. It was $25 a month back then. When I moved into my current house I decided there was better things I could do with that $25 bucks.

    • 24

      chkm8k2 says

      Suzanne—I suspect you spend $25 a week at Starbucks. I have had an alarm system in place for the past 5 years and guess what? $25 a month is a very small price to pay for peace of mind. I’d rather pay for that than coffee any day…Not sure why you had many false alarms but we have not had any issues with that….

  12. 25

    says

    Agree with you Len that they can give you a false sense of security. I have a dog which is the best burglar alarm in town. In my previous home I canceled the monitoring service and kept the sign out front, not sure if that was ethical but the burglars didn’t know that!

  13. 26

    Jan says

    My neighbors have an alarm system that they pay for but never set because it was “too much trouble”. So when they were burglarized, no alarm was sounded and they were robbed blind. Dumb.

    My mother is almost deaf and lives alone. She would never know a burglar was in the house until he was in the room with her. She has an alarm system that she does turn on. She may not hear it if it goes off, but at least she has the peace of mind of knowing that SOMEONE is aware of someone in her house.

    My husband and I have an alarm system we set. If someone breaks in in the middle of the night, I want to know about it the minute they cross the threshold so I can grab my gun and call 911.

    You can’t guarantee that an alarm system won’t be circumvented in some way, but I’d rather have one (and use it!) than not.

  14. 27

    says

    Well, installing a home security system have disadvantages but if you think about how well these systems can provide security, i think it is just okay. You can sleep well at night and you have a feeling of security every time you leave the house, so i guess it’s all worth it.

  15. 30

    Frosty says

    Our home was burglarized soon after we bought it by the crooks leaving newspapers in the neighborhood over the holidays to see whose didn’t get picked up. Many years later I worked for a security system co. and sold commercial alarms, so I got one installed and only had to pay the employee discount rate for monitoring. That gets us 20% off our homeowners which is more than our service costs. The alarm did offer piece of mind and I feel that is worth something and each person would have their own estimate of worth for that. That being said, yes, the can be disarmed way too easily even by dumb crooks. So, I highly recommend a cell phone call system. And if you have that, why bother with monitoring if you can have it call you and you decide who to call next. No monthly fee, but no insurance discount either. Maybe that will change. We switched to VOIP for phone calls and were slow to change because our alarm required a land line, but now the VOIP system can call through to the monitoring and the crooks can’t get at the cable. Yea! BTW Some VOIP phone services are completely free, so we have finally been able to drop AT&T and save about $35/mo.

  16. 31

    Fred says

    If you own a dog AND get a security system your nuts. You just put your dog in harms way. Google it. A cop shoots a dog every 98 minutes, 87% should not have been shot as they was NOT attacking the officer. These are real stats based on real events, not debatable. So, if your alarm goes off and it ends with your death or the death of your pet(s) its on you, I warned you.

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