A security system might seem like an unnecessary expense to you, but to a thief, it’s a huge red flag. In fact, one study found that over 50 percent of burglars won’t go near a house with a security system in place. Those are great odds.
Our Picks for Best Home
Fortunately, home security is now available to every budget. They range from simple DIY systems that work well in small apartments and dorm rooms (and can move with you as you grow out of your smaller space) to fully customizable systems with advanced home automation features that let you lock your doors from the other side of the world using your smartphone. Add in professional monitoring and local authorities will be notified the second an alarm is tripped.
It’s up to you to decide how much security is necessary, but even a basic system can go a long way toward keeping your family and your valuables safe. Consider what you need and check out the options available to you. We’ve picked our favorites and broken them down here!
Home Security Basics
At its simplest, a home security system is a network of cameras and sensors that report to a control panel through Bluetooth, WiFi, or physical wires. When one of the sensors is tripped, the alarm goes off. We recommend you at least have door and window sensors and an audible alarm.
If you have a “Do It Yourself” system, the audible alarm itself is the main deterrent. It alerts you of the danger and hopefully scares any intruders away. The advantage to this type of system is the affordability: the upfront cost is small compared to a custom system and there aren’t any monthly charges or installation fees. They’re also easy to take with you if you move and you won’t have to put any holes in the wall. The downside is they’re pretty easy to disable — cut the power or the internet and your system is blind. Some DIY home security companies let you add professional monitoring for a small monthly fee, though.
Custom systems often cost more upfront and require a site visit from a technician to determine the needs of your home. They typically require professional installation and a minimum 36-month monitoring contract. The monthly fees vary depending on the kind of monitoring you get — broadband, landline, or cellular. With these systems, a tripped sensor not only sounds the alarm within the home, it also signals the monitoring center who contacts the appropriate authorities and sends them to your home.
Shopping for a System
Home security systems come as bundles or custom-built systems. Bundles include a control panel and a set number of sensors and cameras. Many give you the choice to purchase additional sensors if you need more to completely cover your home. Pricing for bundles is usually available right on the company’s website, though some may require you to speak to a salesperson. You’ll likely have to sign a three-year monitoring contract with these plans.
Custom-built systems are designed specifically for your home. Often, the company will send someone out to your home to do a site survey, but it’s up to you to decide how much equipment you need to feel safe. If you decide to go with this type of system, you’ll have to call the company for a quote.
No matter which type of system you choose, you’ll likely end up with the same equipment. Most home security companies use 2GIG, GE, or Honeywell control panels and sensors. Local security providers use these manufacturers as well, but they may not always have the latest models. If you’re looking for top-of-the-line home automation technology, for example, you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for with a national company.
The most important consideration when choosing a home security system is what type of system best fits your place. An apartment or a dorm room isn’t ideal for a permanent, hardwired system (and your landlord probably wouldn’t let you install one anyway). In that case, a DIY system would be a better fit. But if you plan on staying in your home long-term, a permanent system won’t be an issue, and can add value to your home or land you discounts on your homeowners insurance.
Beyond that, think about what would make you feel safe. We recommend door and window sensors and a control panel, but if you’d feel better adding some motion detectors and security cameras, by all means, do so. Keep in mind that more equipment is going to raise your upfront costs.
Our Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Baltimore
In order to recommend the best home security providers in Baltimore, we evaluated several DIY, bundled, and local companies. We looked at their overall reputation (Better Business Bureau rating, Angie’s List rating, customer reviews), pricing (transparency, contract length, monthly monitoring costs), and customer service (whether the site had a working contact form, whether a real person answered our calls, whether the company offered free installation). Then we compared our results to our overall top home security recommendations.
Two local companies rose above the rest. Crimpco and Baltimore Alarm & Security — they have both been serving the Baltimore area for nearly 50 years and customers have had a lot of positive feedback for each of them. But these companies only offer custom-built systems. If you’re interested in a bundle, you may want to check out Frontpoint or Protect America instead. And if DIY is more your thing, check out Lowe’s Iris or Piper NV.
Baltimore’s Best Local Home Security Companies
Crimpco has been designing custom security systems for Baltimore residents since 1968, and is dedicated to preparing customers for the security needs of today and the security advances of the future. Because the company focuses on custom-designed systems, its security experts take time to understand your security needs before creating the system for your home.
Alarm systems that include keypads and window and door sensors are available, as well as additional features, such as CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) security systems. CCTV systems feature security cameras that you can set up around or inside your home and include 24/7-hour CCTV monitoring so that you don’t have to keep up with the video feed.
Systems also include alarm verification technology to help you greatly reduce false alarms. Crimpco also offers fire monitoring, carbon monoxide monitoring, and personal security monitoring with their GE Security Pro system. They also use Alarm.com to make interactive security, video monitoring, and additional home automation features available to customers via their smartphone, tablet, or computer. Interactive security gives you the ability to arm and disarm your security system, lock and unlock your doors, and set up reminders and alerts for your home. Video monitoring enables you to check in on your family or pets or check out your home during specific times, such as when your kids get home from school. Home automation features give you the ability to have control of your home’s lights and temperature, so that you can turn off your lights when you’re away or set your temperature for when you return home.
Cellular monitoring starts off at $35 per month, but you’ll need to speak to a representative to get an exact quote.
Baltimore Alarm & Security offers custom security systems for homes of all sizes and is known for its high-quality customer service. The company guarantees flexibility for scheduling appointments and meeting your security system needs.
You can easily select a basic system with a keypad and a loud audible alarm and choose to add extra types of security later on. Baltimore Alarm & Security offers additional outside perimeter detection devices, so that you can know when someone has entered your yard, even before reaching your home. And they also have internal motion detectors to protect your doors from forced entry. Baltimore Alarm & Security also uniquely offer systems that cater to the handicapped such as strobe light alarms for the hearing impaired.
Like Crimpco, additional fire monitoring and CCTV monitoring are available, but Baltimore Alarm & Security also offers flood alarms. Flood alarms alert customers to when a pump stops working or there is an unknown leak, which helps them discover the problem early on. The company also provides temperature alarms, which lets customers know when their heating system isn’t working properly. Integration is also available so that you can access and control your system and these additional features from your smartphone or computer. Pricing varies, so you’ll need to contact the company for a quote on equipment and monthly monitoring.
Local Companies That Didn’t Make The Cut
We looked at these local companies as well, but for one reason or another, they didn’t earn a place on our list. Some never responded to our phone calls and others we simply couldn’t gather enough information on to feel comfortable recommending them.
- Strat Security Systems
- A-1 Security
- Guardian Security Systems
- Avnet Integrated Systems
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint has three scalable packages that monitor your fire and carbon monoxide alarms as well as your security system. All packages come with cellular monitoring and a 36-month monitoring contract. You’ll have to call the company for an exact quote.
Protect America: Protect America has five customizable packages to choose from. You don’t have to pay anything upfront, but you will have to sign a 36-month monitoring agreement. Like Frontpoint, Protect America requires you to speak to a salesperson to obtain an exact quote.
SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe offers four home security packages designed to suit a range of needs. You can also build a custom system from scratch. There aren’t any contracts and you can install the equipment yourself, usually in just a few minutes.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: Lowe’s Iris system lets you choose from several starter packs or build your own system from scratch. You have the option to add professional monitoring for a low monthly fee.
Piper NV: The Piper NV is a compact unit with several sensors, an alarm, and a camera built in. It’s ideal for dorm rooms and small apartments, but there’s no way to add professional monitoring.
Preventing False Alarms
Once you’ve designed and installed your security system, you should take steps to prevent false alarms. Baltimore police respond to hundreds of thousands of alarm calls every year and 98 percent of them turn out to be false. That’s a huge problem because it takes time and police resources away from actual emergencies and costs the city quite a bit of money.
In 2003, the City of Baltimore instituted the False Alarm Reduction Program to cut back on the number of false alarms police were responding to. All residents with home security systems must register their system with the city. You get two free false alarms during each calendar year. Any more than that and you’ll be fined. Your third false alarm will cost you $50 and more could cost you up to $500 each.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to prevent false alarms. Simple things like making sure doors and windows are securely shut before arming the system and regularly replacing batteries in the sensors go a long way. Check out our guide below for a complete list of steps you can take to prevent your security system from sounding a false alarm.
How to Register Your Alarm System in Baltimore
Register your alarm by filling out the Alarm User Registration Statement and mailing it to the address listed on the form. There’s no cost to register, but failure to do so will result in a $500 fine for each false alarm. Eep!
Is a home security system worth it?
Yes. A burglar’s goal is to get in and out without attracting any attention. A loud siren going off and the police showing up on the doorstep is the last thing they want. Even a simple DIY system can make them think twice about marking your home as their next target.
According to a study by the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, most burglars will leave a home immediately upon discovering an alarm system and only a small percentage will attempt to disarm a system that’s going off. You significantly decrease your risk of becoming a victim by installing a home security system.
Home security systems can also save you as much as 20 percent on your homeowners insurance premium. Insurers know that homes with alarm systems are less likely to be targeted, which makes them a lower risk to insure.
How much security is enough?
Only you can decide. Your neighbor might be content with a couple of sensors and a control panel while you might want a few cameras and motion detectors to feel truly secure. You also have to consider the size of your home. A bigger area is obviously going to require more equipment.
We recommend door and window sensors and a control panel with an audible alarm at a minimum. That should keep out all but the most determined thieves, plus give you some solid peace of mind. And if you’re having your system professionally monitored, you may want to add monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarms as well. No matter where you live, you’re at risk of fire or a gas leak. A monitored environmental system ensures that help arrives quickly, even if you aren’t at home to report it.
What can I do to keep my home from being targeted?
It’s a myth that burglars only target the wealthy. Burglaries are crimes of opportunity and these days, nearly every household has plenty of valuable, portable electronics lying around. A security system can help deter potential thieves, but you shouldn’t rely on that alone. Check out our guide below for some suggestions on how to make your home a less appealing target to burglars.
“Don’t give information to anyone asking about your home security. If someone claiming to be a salesperson comes to your door or calls your home asking about your home security, politely turn them away. The individual may be a legitimate salesperson from a home security firm hoping to make a sale, or that caller could be a would-be burglar hoping to find unprotected houses.”
Are cellular systems better than landline systems?
In short, yes. It may be tempting at first to go with a landline system because it’s cheaper, but landline monitoring has one fatal flaw: no phone service, no security system. Cellular monitoring is much more difficult to disable because it relies on the same cell towers your smartphone uses. Even if the thief were to cut power to your entire house, most security systems have a battery backup to keep the alarms functioning.
The best home security systems employ multiple types of monitoring. For example, most companies offer landline monitoring with a cellular backup. That way, if the landline is cut, the system can still send out a signal using its cellular connection.
What if I’m a renter or live in a small apartment?
A DIY security system usually works best for renters. Your landlord isn’t going to let you hardwire your security system into your apartment, so that means you have to stick with something wireless. Most DIY systems are easy to install and easy to take with you if you move. Here are some of our top recommendations:
The Bottom Line
No matter where you live, you’re at some risk of theft and environmental dangers. But the good news is, that whatever your budget, there are options available. Any of our top picks deliver on equipment, service, and reliability.