Should I get a home alarm system?

Should you keep the spare cash in your pocket or invest in a home alarm system?

Few things make the skin crawl quite like the thought of someone breaking into your home and stealing your stuff. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, around 200,000 break-ins occur across Australia every year, so there’s always a chance it could happen to you. We all want to protect our possessions and make sure they’re kept safe and sound, and one way to do that is to invest in a home security system. But are these systems worth it? Let’s find out.

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What do home alarm systems do?

Home alarm or security systems are designed to protect your home and all your stuff from burglars and thieves. They detect unauthorised entry to your home – otherwise known as a break-in – using a range of sensors, and then sound the alarm when those sensors pick up movement, or detect a door or window being opened or broken. Back-to-base alarm systems will send an alert to a security company, which will then take one or more of the following steps:

  • Phone you to check whether you accidentally set off the alarm
  • Send out a guard to check if your home is secure
  • Contact the police or other emergency services

While such systems can sometimes be an annoyance, they also offer extra peace of mind and increased protection for your treasured possessions.

How much do home alarm systems cost?

You’ll need to be willing to part with a decent chunk of your hard-earned cash if you want to take advantage of the protection that home alarm systems provide. For a full wireless alarm system with 24/7 back-to-base monitoring, you could be looking at as much as $2,500 or even $3,000. Depending on the security provider you select, you might also need to pay an ongoing subscription fee of around $2 a day for monitoring services. It’s possible to save a few bucks if you opt for the DIY route, with home security starter kits available around the $400 mark. Even the cost of installing a single wi-fi camera with nightvision will be around $150, so protecting your home against burglars doesn’t come cheap.

How effective are home alarm systems?

While the effectiveness of home alarm systems obviously depends on the quality of the system you install, as a general rule they can be extremely effective at preventing theft and burglary. If someone enters your home without a passcode, you’ll be swiftly alerted to the situation and the security provider can take action. When you’re away from home, they can provide much-needed peace of mind and protection. Even the presence of a security system is a strong deterrent for thieves. Burglars are looking for easy targets – they don’t want to plan risky, elaborate heists like the cast of Ocean’s Eleven – and the presence of even a basic alarm system will make them think twice about paying your house an unwanted visit.

Pros and cons of a home alarm system

Should you get a home alarm system? Consider the pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros

  • Protection for your valuables. Think about the value of all the items you own and how you’d afford to replace them if you were burgled. A home alarm system can help ensure that your stuff is kept safe.
  • Detect unauthorised entry. If someone breaks into your home or enters without the passcode, you’ll be alerted by your security system.
  • Deterrent. The presence of a working system or the sound of the alarm going off can be an effective deterrent against thieves and burglars.
  • Quick response. If your system is monitored by a security company, it can co-ordinate a quick response and either send out a guard or contact the police when someone breaks into your home.
  • Save money. Installing a home security system will also help you save money on your contents insurance premiums.
  • Peace of mind. Going away on holidays? Having a security system in place can help you relax and worry less about your home being burgled while you’re gone.
  • Added benefits. If you’re worried about letting a cleaner or repair person into your home when you’re not there, a security system will help you detect whether they’ve disturbed your valuables.

Cons

  • Annoying. You’ll need to remember to arm the system whenever you leave your home and disarm it when you return.
  • Can frustrate neighbours. If you keep accidentally setting off your system or it is regularly triggered by a false alarm, your neighbours could soon grow tired of you disturbing the peace.
  • Expensive. If you want a top-of-the-line system, you’ll need to pay a significant amount to cover the cost of purchase and installation. Ongoing monitoring costs may also apply.
  • Could lead you to feel safer than you really are. A home security system is not a guarantee that you won’t be targeted by burglars, so you’ll need to remember to maintain the security of your home at all times. In fact, a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that burglars found a dog to be a more effective deterrent than a working alarm system.
  • Useless if not armed. In the US, 28% of burglaries occur when someone is home. Unless you remember to always keep your security system armed while you’re at home, it won’t prevent unwanted intruders entering your home.

How do burglars break in?

The table below outlines the methods and points of entry of residential burglary offences across Victoria in the 12 months to 31 March 2015.

Method of entryNumber of offences% of total number of offences
Forced/broke door8,18726.5%
Forced/broke window5,65818.3%
Cut hole3,74412.1%
Cut/removed flywire2,7418.9%
Cut/broke lock1,8586.0%
Other4511.5%
Unknown method of entry8,30226.8%
Total30,941100.0%

Source: Crime Statistics Agency

Is it worth getting a home alarm system?

Home security systems aren’t cheap and they aren’t necessarily a guarantee that your stuff will be kept safe from unwanted intruders. However, they do provide peace of mind and an extra layer of protection for your most important possessions. So, are home alarm systems worth the money? When you consider the financial impact a burglary could have on your family, the answer may well be yes. Not only would you have to replace all your stolen valuables – jewellery, smartphone, laptop, tablet, cash, power tools, other electrical goodies and whatever else the thieves take a fancy to – but you’d also have to cover the cost of any damage the burglars cause while gaining entry to your home and then once they’re inside. Data from Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency reveals that in the 12 months to 2015, there were 30,941 residential burglaries recorded across the state. The average value of property stolen was $4,642, with the median value being $1,250. Add the cost of repairing property damage, not to mention the emotional impact a break-in can have, and you may start to think that a home security system is well worth the expense.

Burglar’s most wanted: What do they steal?

What are the items burglars most commonly target? In the 30,941 residential burglaries across Victoria in the year to 31 March 2015, the most popular items stolen were:

  • Jewellery: 25.6%
  • Electrical appliances: 13.4%
  • Tools (including power tools): 9.8%
  • Personal property: 9.5%
  • Cash or documents: 7.7%

Will they lower my home insurance premiums?

One tangible advantage of installing a home security system is that it could lower your home and contents insurance premiums. Many insurers offer discounts to homeowners with some sort of home alarm system in place, with the increased level of protection for your contents reducing the likelihood of you having to make a claim. In fact, some insurers won’t even give you a quote for a large sum of contents insurance unless you have an alarm system in place, so it’s worth checking with your insurer to find out whether beefing up your home security could lower your premiums.

What else can I do to secure my home?

Whether you decide to install a home security system or not, there are plenty of other simple things you can do to reduce the risk of becoming a burglary victim:

  • Use security screens. Installing security screens on windows and doors can make it much more difficult for thieves to gain entry to your home and can also act as an effective deterrent.
  • Don’t publicise holiday plans. If you’re heading away on holidays for a while, avoid publicising this fact through social media. It’s also a good idea to be selective with the information you give out to door knockers and telemarketers. Thieves can use the “When would be a more convenient time to contact you?” question and a range of other tactics to discover more about your movements and when your home will be unoccupied.
  • Close your garage. An open garage not only gives your thieves access to your car, tools and whatever else is stored in there, it also gives them a glimpse into your wealth and the type of items they could find inside your home. Then there’s the fact that your garage could lead straight into your house through an unlocked door, so remember to keep the main garage door closed and locked at all times.
  • Invest in a safe. Safes may be cheaper than you think and can provide a simple way to keep your treasured and valuable items out of reach of burglars.
  • Don’t leave a spare key in an obvious place. Don’t leave a spare key under your doormat or under the pot plant at the back door. If you need to leave a spare somewhere, why not with a trusted neighbour?
  • Know your neighbours. When your neighbours know and like you, they’ll be much more likely to notice any suspicious activity in the neighbourhood and report it to police.
  • Make your home look lived-in. Heading away on holiday? Make sure you stop the mail, arrange to have the lawn mowed and take care of any other issues that could show burglars your home is empty.

By taking a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a burglary victim.

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