Home Security Alarms Buyers Guide

The major differences, positives & negatives of popular home security alarms


Home Security Alarms Buyers GuideHome security alarms and systems can be divided into 3 simple categories. Here you can find our quick buyers guide.

  1. Audible Only
  2. Auto Diallers
  3. Monitored

Please bear in mind, that unless you are going for a simplified “off-the-shelf” DIY kit, the installations should be done by accredited installation teams.

1 Bells / Audible Only

This type of product is usually simple to use. It gets “armed” by using a key pad (or an electronic fob) to set a code and is disarmed the same way.

If the alarm is set off at any point it will trigger audible bells or sirens inside & outside the property. There is usually a bright strobe light (that will flash) mounted on the outside walls

The outside alarm bells will only ring for 20 minutes in the UK, but the flashing strobe & internal audible alarm will keep going until the system is disarmed by someone with the code.

Positives
  • The alarm boxes on the walls can be a visual deterrent
  • The noise can interrupt & ward off a burglar
  • If you are in the house sleeping the noise will wake you
  • Alerts the neighbours to the break-in
  • Battery backup in case of power outage / power is cut
  • No ongoing service or maintenance charges – “one-off” cost
  • “low-cost” option to purchase
Negatives
  • If you are not at the property, or in earshot, you don’t know about the alert
  • Experienced burglars can silence the external alarms
  • Neighbours sometimes ignore the alarm bells
  • Most basic level of home security.
What items can be included
  • External Alarm box with strobe light
  • Internal audible alarm
  • Passive infra-red sensors
  • Movement detectors
  • Window & door contacts
  • Wall mounted key pad
  • Wireless or hard wired

2 Auto-diallers / Hybrid Alarms

These intruder alarms also have internal & external audible ringers or sirens. As with “audible-only” systems, the external bell will ring for a maximum of 20 minutes in the UK.

There are 2 main products, one that uses a land-line (speech dialler), one that uses the GSM network.

Speech Diallers

These are designed to be connected to your burglar alarm using a standard home phone “land-line” in order to send an alert to pre-set phone number(s) when your alarm is triggered. It’s a good way of being informed of an alert when you are away from the property.

Similar in some ways to an answerphone, you record you chosen message and input the contact numbers of the person(s) you want the dialler to call in the event of an alert.

In the event that the alarm goes off, it will call the pre-set numbers in the order programmed into the system and the recipient of the call will hear your recorded message. Your message should be clear about what you want the person to do.

The recipient of the call can then prevent the dialler from calling the next number on the list, usually by entering some code on the keypad of the phone.

Positives
  • You get notified of an alert in real-time when you are away from the property
  • Inexpensive to operate, as no call are made unless an alarm is triggered
  • Your existing phone line is used – no need to buy a new phone or rent a line.
  • No monthly fees or ongoing service contracts
  • Can list multiple contacts (key-holders) on dialler system
  • Potential to record & send alternate messages for fire / smoke / attack
  • Audible internal & external alarm bells /sirens
Negatives
  • Cannot operate without a fixed landline
  • Suitably skilled burglars may be able cut phone lines
  • You need trusted backup person(s) to put on dialler if you’re unable to respond
  • Higher purchase cost than “audible only” alarm

What items can be included

  • External Alarm box with strobe light
  • Internal audible alarm
  • Passive infra-red sensors
  • Movement detectors
  • Window & door contacts
  • Wall mounted key pad
  • Wireless or hard wired
  • Auto dialling machine linked to alarm

Mobile or GSM Dialler Systems

Mobile phone networks or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) can be taken advantage of to contact owners or key-holders.

GSM diallers that are connected to your burglar alarm can not only make calls, they can also send text messages.

You need to programme the GSM dialler with your mobile contact number & the number(s) of your chosen responsible person(s).

Features include reply to the text with a code that will stop further messages for this alert going out on the listed numbers. Some systems will allow remote disarm or re-set – handy for false alarms.

It is prudent, to only list persons (apart from yourself) who can get to the scene quite quickly, otherwise it will defeat the purpose of this function.

In order to use a GSM dialler, you have to put a SIM card into it. If you use a “pay-as-you-go” SIM, then don’t forget to make sure it has enough credit at all times.

Positives
  • Does not need a hard line or landline to operate
  • GSM diallers are not that expensive to purchase
  • GSM line cannot be “cut” like a landline
  • Send SMS or voice messages
  • Can get in touch with you almost anywhere
  • Remote disarm
Negatives
  • Needs a SIM card & connectivity
  • You may have poor connectivity in your home area
  • You may be in bad signal reception at time of alert
  • You need to keep the SIM card funded
  • It could be possible to not notice an SMS message if your mobile is on silent.

What items can be included

  • External Alarm box with strobe light
  • Internal audible alarm
  • Passive infra-red sensors
  • Movement detectors
  • Window & door contacts
  • Wall mounted key pad
  • Wireless or hard wired
  • Electronic Code Key fobs
  • GSM Dialler linked to alarm system

3 Monitored security alarms systems

Fitting a responsive monitored home alarm

In recent surveys, it has been claimed that over 1/3rd of unmonitored burglar alarms go unnoticed or ignored. Even in a “best case scenario”, given by another survey, only just over 5% of people who hear an alarm will call the Police.

“More than 1 in 10 burglaries occur at a property that has been previously successfully burgled”

This is why, with up to 128-bit secure encryption available, responsive monitored home security alarms are at the upper end of home security products.

The whole idea behind having a monitored home security alarm is to give the owner 24hr per day peace of mind and provide a swift level of response adequate to the type of alert triggered.

Apart from burglary, monitoring and responses can be for fire, carbon monoxide gas, smoke, personal assault or “panic button”.

The majority of Home Security Providers with ARC’s or Alarm Monitoring Centres offer “packages” of beneficial services ranging from contacting key-holders to liaising directly with the Police Force in the area of the alarm.

Benefits of monitored home alarms

Monitored Home Security ALarmsWhen armed, the system sends data packages to the ARC via multi-path routes where you can take advantage of landlines, GSM or even your internet connection. Meaning you can be connected virtually anywhere and at all times.

The data sent can distinguish between different types of alerts, such as intrusion or fire etc.

Unlike an audible only alarm, monitored system alerts never get ignored, there is always an appropriate response.

Even the monitoring is monitored – ARC’s keep an eye on the lines of communication and if the primary goes down, the backup cuts in, so if a mobile signal dies or a landline is cut off, then the ARC will take action immediately.

You can go even more “upmarket” with a modern smart home system

Positives
  • Alarm events monitored are reported 24/7 and ARC’s always respond
  • Control centres keep an eye on the signal path, so any tampering is spotted
  • Quite specific alert information can be sent to ARC about trigger events
  • Primary communication line + back up
  • Can include video or CCTV monitoring
  • Can be upgraded to complete smart home system
  • Can provide Police response
Negatives
  • Pay for installation & subscription fee for services
  • Need to have a maintenance or service contract

Police Response

Bear in mind that Police responses to monitored Home Security Alarms are a tricky subject, due to a high instance of false alarms over the years.

The Police themselves do not monitor the alarm, it is the ARC (Alarm Monitoring Centre) that does it and, when necessary, contact the appropriate regional Police.

To qualify for UK Police response, the system has to meet criteria such as British Standards PD6662 and attendance by the police could well depend upon how busy they are at the time of the alert – they prioritise responses.

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