The most important things to know

to choose meaningfully.


Alarm systems are a combination of devices that interact with each other with the scope of informing homeowners and neighbours about undesired break-ins and ideally, preventing them. While traditional alarm systems require lots of wiring and, in most cases, professional installation, wireless smart versions offer faster installation and increased peace of mind through remote control and activity alerts.

Basic alarm systems are usually made of:

1. A central security hub. These can take the shape of a dedicated hub or a non-dedicated hub (like security cameras, control panels, keypads, etc.) and their goal is to make the different components of the alarm system talk to each other.

2. Motion Sensors. As what happens with hubs, motion sensors can be either single devices or part of more complex systems, like security cameras. In any case, the aim is to detect movements, and even distinguish whether the source is a person or a pet.

3. Access Sensors. These are devices that are attached to home windows and doors. When any of the accesses is opened, the siren goes off and the owner receives a notification. Some access sensors do not just notify homeowners when a door or window is opened but, through the analysis of vibration patterns, some devices can notice break-in attempts before accesses are opened.

4. Alarm Controllers. They generally take the shape of control panels, keypads, key fobs and tags. Although control panels may offer some additional functions, these devices are mainly used to arm and disarm the alarm system.

5. Range Extenders. They are used to increase the range covered by the central hub. They are sometimes required by large homes where smart devices are located far from the hub.

6. Indoor Sirens. These devices can be standalone or integrated into other products like security cameras. They will emit an audible alarm based on specific triggers (typically when motion is detected, when accesses are opened or when a particular noise arises, namely broken glass noise).

7. Indoor Security Cameras. Sometimes equipped with a siren and motion sensor, they record what happens at home based on the occurrence of specific triggers.

More advanced alarm systems can include additional security and safety devices like door locks, doorbells, glass break sensors, outdoor sirens, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, leak detectors, etc.).

Although the number of burglaries is generally decreasing (in 2017 there were 1.250.983 burglary offences in the US), residential properties are the preferred target for burglars (representing 67,2% of all burglaries)1. Installing an alarm system and knowing the patterns between burglaries can help you prevent break-ins. For instance, you need to consider that 50,5% of residential burglaries occur during the daytime being the average value loss per burglary equal to $24162.


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Time saved thanks to the possibility of scheduling the arming and disarming of the alarm, as well as to manage it from remote.

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No direct impact on the physical environment.

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Peace of mind increased thanks to increased visibility on what happens at home and a decreased reaction time in case of a break-in.

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No direct impact on home costs.


Alarm Systems can be classified considering several factors like the type of connectivity used (wired or wireless alarm systems). However, the aspect that makes the difference between alarm systems is the range of services offered by the manufacturer and their partners: installation, monitoring and cloud storing. From these services, the type of installation selected is the one that creates the most significant differences between one alarm system and another:

These alarm systems are installed by professionals and come with 24/7 professional monitoring. Their goal is to offer full peace of mind to homeowners: in case the alarm goes off, the monitoring centre operations will alert the authorities. These alarm systems usually come under a multi-year contract in which you pay a monthly recurring fee for monitoring. Additionally, you may need to pay for the installation and for the equipment (either as an upfront cost or as a deferred payment, based on this the owner of the equipment could remain the service provider). As well, most professional alarm systems come with an App from which you can control and monitor your home from remote.PROFESSIONAL ALARM SYSTEMSPROFESSIONAL ALARM SYSTEMSPROFESSIONAL ALARM SYSTEMS

These alarm systems are supposed to be self-installed (you can always contact a technician on your own) and self-monitored. They are made of several devices packaged all together. Most manufacturers offer several kits. You can select the one that includes the proper type and number of devices for your home. Additionally, many DIY alarm systems provide the possibility to have professional monitoring (either monthly recurrent or for a specific time like when you are on holidays).


When selecting an alarm system for your home, there are some variables that you might want to consider:

We have seen that there are two main types of alarm systems: professional and DIY. Select the one that better suits your needs. Convenience and control will be generally higher with professional systems, but so will be the costs. You may also want to omit alarm kits and to create your alarm system from scratch one piece after another.

Take into account fix costs like installation fees and monthly professional monitoring fees. Consider as well the flexibility of the offer, namely, the possibility of contracting professional monitoring during a limited period and the possibility of using a control and monitoring app for free.

While some alarm systems allow you to save security camera registrations for free, either locally (in microSD cards for example) or at your cloud, some other alarm systems are designed to store the contents directly at the cloud of the brand. In this case, registrations can usually be accessed for free within a limited amount of time, a period that can be extended through a subscription plan.

Consider the type and number of components included in the pack. Are the ones required by your home? Or do you need different/additional ones? When examining the costs, contemplate both the costs of the alarm system pack (upfront and/or deferred) and the costs of any other device needed.

Most alarm systems are wired to the electrical grid of your home and include a backup battery to keep the system functioning in case of a power outage. Consider the lifetime of the battery as this is the window time that you (or anyone granted) will have to put things in place without risking a non-notified break-in.

Depending on your needs and the size of your home, the number of devices required might vary. So make sure that the hub you use can handle all of them or if you will need additional ones.



The location of the alarm system depends on its' components. However, as a general rule, the indoor siren should be located in a central location of the home, in a way that can be heard from the main entrance. In case of sirens integrated into indoor security cameras, place them on a shelf or other elevated places so to maximize the visual camp. Homes equipped with an alarm system have a lower break-in rate, so you may want to put an alarm sign at the accessible entries like the front door or the first-floor windows.


When adopting an alarm system contact the local authority to verify if it's needed to register the alarm. As well, let your neighbours know that you have an alarm system. Schedule the arming of the alarm system to meet your routine (full arming when leaving home and night mode when going to sleep). In case of voice-equipped sirens, you may want to set-up the system in a way that when access is opened the voice will refer to that specific access ("Break-in detected in the living room!").


Do not share alarm codes, key fobs or any other sensitive information with anyone else than who needs to enter into your home on a recurrent basis. When leaving home, make sure that all windows and doors are closed and that all shutters are down. Do not leave extra keys outside the home premises.


Keep the software up to date with last releases. Perform burglary simulations from time to time to make sure that the alarm system works properly.


1,2 FBI: Uniform Crime Report, Burglary Offense Analysis Numbers and Percentage, 2016 - 2017. Accessed August 2019. <>.

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