Okay, I get it. Save $20 or $30 a month by monitoring your own security system. Sure, it’s just another monthly bill you don’t have to pay. But let’s break this down one step further and consider some of the reasons you may want to skip a few Uber Eats deliveries and keep the security monitoring instead. The conversation around security systems is always about the criminal trying to break into your home or business. Yes, this is one reason to have a security system but in my opinion, not the most important. The first two items on your list for security should be monitored carbon monoxide detector and a monitored smoke detector. Notice, I did not say self-monitored carbon monoxide, and smoke detector and here is why… I have never heard of anyone carrying their own self out of a fire or a carbon monoxide leak. Having a monitored smoke detector and a monitored carbon monoxide detector can save your life or the life of your kids, mom, friend, babysitter, sister…. I could go on, but I am guessing you get the point.
Many potential clients I talk to don’t even realize that monitored smoke and carbon monoxide sensors are always monitored. Whether the system is armed or disarmed, those sensors will signal a dispatch to the fire department and potentially save lives. Think about this carefully. $30 for Uber Eats or knowing your loved ones are safe and sound. When weighing your options, think life safety first.
I have been in the security business for a long time owning a small firm in Bend, Oregon, and I get asked this question all the time. Most people think about home security based on the fear that someone will break into their house, causing damage and taking all their (what they perceive as) valuable stuff.
I want to change the language and priority of the DIY home security conversation to focus on life safety. What does that mean you might ask? Almost all security systems are built to detect not only intruders, but can also detect carbon monoxide, smoke, heat, and even combustible gas when you get the appropriate sensors. These devices are where I direct my clients to allocate their resources first. The smoke and carbon detectors that most homeowners have on their walls or in their outlets do not dispatch the fire department. Monitored life safety devices are designed to contact the responding authorities through communication with the central station. Noisemakers are not good enough in some circumstances.
Unfortunately, I know this first hand. My brother-in law died from carbon monoxide gas. There is another valuable piece of information that everyone should know about these monitoring sensors. When you try to take the battery out or mess with the device, the central station and the main panel on the wall are notified with what called a “tamper”, which in turn calls your attention to acknowledging and addressing the problem.
I have been in hundreds of houses to find the battery removed in the non-monitored smoke/ carbon monoxide sensor or the device practically hanging off the wall, completely inoperable. Every time I see this, it reminds me that my industry needs to do a better job of helping people understand how essential the monitoring services we offer are, and to keep sending out the message to please monitor for life safety first. Visit our shop and check out our variety of carbon monoxide detectors Here
So when you are thinking about what is most valuable in your home and are making the decision to purchase a DIY security system, think about the life safety of your family and friends first, then move to the discussion about your stuff and the doorbell camera for your front door. I hope my first-hand experience with losing a family member will help prevent many of useless tragedies that happen every day to those who didn’t have all the information or understand how this technology works. But even if I just save one life, that is enough.
“Don’t even think about stepping into that house!” the 6’4″ drywaller barked at me as I approached the front door. I had been called out to look at the security needs of a second home in the mountains for a couple that lived on the other side of the country. Never having had a drywaller give me instructions like a project superintendent, I felt annoyed and asked the problem. “I’m just doing you a huge favor man.” He said. “That house is a no-go zone unless you have a badass respirator and crawl suite! Black mold on every wall from the basement to attic.”
Seeing as I did not have a respirator or a crawl suit handy, I thanked him and, tail between my legs, headed to the car, making a mental note to fill my van with recommended construction equipment for next time.
I learned later that the house had burst a pipe on the third floor during the first freeze of the season and the water ran for over a month. The house froze again and sat idle until spring when the homeowners decided to take a week off work and head to the mountains. I can’t even imagine what went through their minds when they opened the front door. I am guessing that when Dante dreamed up the “Inferno,” it was based off something that looked like this.
This catastrophe never would have occurred with just small part that costs less than $100. This little freeze/low-temperature sensor is the most undervalued alarm sensor in the industry. If you live in a cold climate and don’t have one, do yourself a huge favor and get one. Moreover, you can add a water sensor (another undervalued sensor) to multiple areas in your home due to the high potential for water leaks. Upstairs washer dryer (any washer dryer), bathrooms, dishwasher, kitchen sink, water heaters, refrigerators, (especially the ones with tap water and Ice) sump pumps, these locations in your home are ideal for a discrete device that will tell the monitoring station to call everyone on your call list, (most importantly you!) that you have a water leak problem.
Many of my customers have said to me “Oh it’s like insurance.” My response: “No, it’s much better than insurance. It doesn’t partially pay for the mess after it happens – It prevents the mess before it even begins.”
Way back in the early days of security, there was a thing called a dialer. Some of you readers in my generation might remember the old modems that screeched and hissed when making a connection which was how the security systems communicated with the central station or monitoring center. The monitoring center is the staff of people who watch the information coming in from the security account system and follow the response protocol for specific signals. For example, a smoke sensor signal typically initiates a call to the homeowner and then dispatches the fire department. A door contact or motion would generate a call to the contact numbers you have provided and then dispatch the police. Each device communicates with the security panel, and the panel in turn communicates with the central station. The live operators at the central station give specific instructions on how to respond to the information.
What has changed most today is the adaptation of cellular service. I remember my father-in-law had a fake phone line in clear view of his house with a sign that read “security panel communication line” so that when the bad guy came around with his wire cutters, he would cut the fake phone line instead of the real telephone wire. I thought that was so funny and clever, but thank goodness those days are long gone! There are no longer wires on the outside of the house and most new systems are using a cellular module or communicator instead of the POTS (plain old telephone service). The use of a cellular communicator is a vast improvement for all to the security industry.
It is important when choosing your DIY security to remember that central stations are not all the same. Bigger is not always better, and in fact, bigger is often a problem. The larger the central station, the less personalized and meticulous it will become. You definitely don’t want a bunch of guys in a room taking turns nor do you want a handful of operators setting up shop in some hole in a wall. An mid-sized central station that has been around for 20 plus years and has more than one call center is about right. So, when deciding on your DIY product, make sure to ask a few questions and do your homework. Having something you can depend is worth your time.
After helping clients design their in-home security systems for many years, I’ve seen the importance of educating people about the purposes of each sensor. Motion sensors are well understood, but, if installed incorrectly, will carry the potential for false alarms. Installed correctly, they are one of the best tools available for covering large areas without putting a door/window contact and glass break in every nook and cranny of your home. Sensors should not placed near heating vents or facing the bright sunlit windows/countertops. The key is to read the directions on the packaging of each box for each specific motion. On almost every spec sheet, there are clear instructions for the height to install the motion detector and the recommendations of where to place it. Even veteran licensed security technicians have learned that products vary and just because it is called a motion sensor does not mean it is purposed precisely the same as all the others on the market. Also, when a motion reads pet immune to specific weight, take that with a grain of salt. Active pets that jump up on anything in your house can cause a motion sensor to trigger, as well as your friendly spider or ant walking across the front of your motion sensor. Take your time and be thoughtful when reading the manufacturer’s instructions; it will pay dividends on how your DIY system performs.
Now that we understand motions sensors a little better let’s discuss door contacts, window contacts and glass break detector installation and use. The first advantage for all these sensors is that they be armed while you are in the house moving around. Almost all panels will have a stay mode and away mode. Typically in stay mode, these sensors are all armed and the motions are not. This functionality allows you to move around your house or business without triggering the alarm. These sensors also are less prone to be set off by pets. Clients I have worked with over the years who have lots of furry friends make good use of non-motion-based sensors and devices based on my recommendations and operate their systems without false alarm issues. The best systems use a combination of all the devices with a well-planned design taking client lifestyle and pet lifestyle into consideration.
There really isn’t a short answer to this question but what I can say is that much of the difficulty depends on the support you get from the company you have chosen to provide your product. I have owned a local security company for 20 years and I am often selling my local DIY security products and services against the national chains like Simply Safe or ADT. The best way I can put this is, what company do you think values you as a client the most and will take the time needed to help you make sure your system is installed correctly? The difficulty of the installation process depends on your own ability and experience with self-installations coupled with the support your receive from the DIY Security Vendor.
My greatest fear as a small security business owner is that a detail is missed by one of our DIY customers during their self-installation and the system does not perform as expected or designed. In the past, for my own custom installation team, I would hammer in the concept that it must be done right, “failure is not an option” to quote Gene Kranz mission control for Apollo 13. Now our clients are doing it themselves? A little unnerving for a long time security guy like me. I have lost some control over how the installation is really being performed. What I can control is the amount of effort, time and energy I put in to making sure our DIY clients have the resources and the customer service to help with the process of installation. In my mind, a DIY client is no different than a client that my technicians have installed a system for, they might just be a lot further away.
So pick your Security DIY dealer carefully knowing that you may very well need their expertise and support during the installation process. In my experience larger national companies just don’t place the same level of value with each new DIY security customer. Every account is so important for success with small companies they don’t have the option to let service slide. And if they do, they won’t be around for long.