Home security systems aren’t just for the super-rich anymore. Technological advances and an ever-expanding industry have brought top-quality security within reach, no matter what your budget is. And that’s good news because it’s not only the wealthy that have to worry about their homes getting broken into. According to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, lower-income households were actually at a higher risk of burglary.
Our Picks for Best Home
Security systems range from a simple DIY system with a control panel and a few sensors you mount yourself to complete home automation that lets you lock your doors with an app on your smartphone. There are systems you monitor yourself, and others with 24/7 professional monitoring that alerts the authorities the second your alarm is tripped.
Only you can decide how much protection you need to feel safe. But whatever you’re looking for, there are home security companies that can provide the equipment and services you need, along with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your home and family are safe. Let’s take a look at the best options in Richmond.
Home Security Basics
A security system is basically a control panel for your home that’s connected to some sensors via wiring, Bluetooth, or WiFi. If one of the sensors is tripped, the alarm goes off inside the house. But what happens from there depends on what type of system you have.
With a “Do It Yourself” system, it’s all up to you. The alarm goes off, alerts you of the situation, and hopefully scares away the intruder. But the police will not be contacted automatically. The appeal of this type of system is the affordability. There’s no monthly monitoring cost and there are no installation fees. DIY systems are also easy to relocate if you decide to move. Just take down the equipment, pack it up, and reinstall it in your next abode. There’s no one to call, no need to get a new city permit. The downside is they’re easy to disable. Cut the power or the internet and your security sensors become nothing more than wall decor.
Some DIY systems have the best of both worlds; they’re compatible with professional monitoring, and one of these might be a good fit for you if you want the portability and easy installation of a DIY system along with the added protection of 24/7 monitoring.
The alternative is a professionally monitored system. This costs more, both upfront and in the long run, because the system often requires professional installation and a 36-month monitoring commitment. How much the monthly cost is depends on which type of monitoring you get — landline, broadband, or cellular. When the alarm is tripped, a signal is sent to the monitoring station which immediately notifies local authorities of the situation.
Shopping for a system
Home security systems come in custom-built systems and bundles. Bundles are often upgradeable to fit any unique needs your home may have, like an extra side door or more than the average number of windows. Each comes with a control panel, some sensors, and possibly some cameras, depending on which bundle you choose. The good thing about these packages is the pricing is usually listed right on the website, so there’s no need to deal with a salesperson. You’ll most likely have to sign up for a three-year monitoring agreement, though.
Custom-built systems have the advantage of being built specifically for your home. You can choose as many sensors and cameras as you wish until you have a system you’re happy with. You’ll have to call the company if you want a quote, though, and they may have to send someone out to your home to survey the property first.
Whichever route you choose, you should know that the equipment will likely be the same. Most home security companies use Honeywell, 2GIG, or GE equipment, which is why most of the time, a new security company can take over your old alarm system without too much trouble. If you’re interested in home automation, though, you may be better off sticking with one of the national companies, as they’re the companies with the most high-tech cameras and mobile software.
What to consider when choosing a home security system
The most important question to ask yourself is, “what type of system works best for my lifestyle?” If you’re a student or a renter, you probably won’t be allowed to drill a bunch of holes in the walls to mount sensors, so a DIY system is a better option. If you plan on staying in your home for a while, a permanent, monitored system is the way to go.
Think about what’s going to make you feel safe as well. We recommend an audible alarm and some door and window sensors at a minimum. Beyond that, it depends on what is going to add to your sense of security. More equipment may seem like a good idea, but it also means a bigger expense. Run the numbers and see what feels right for you.
Our Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Richmond
In order to recommend the best home security system providers in Richmond, we evaluated the bundled, local, and DIY options. We looked at the transparency of their pricing, their Angie’s List and Better Business Bureau ratings, customer reviews, and the quality of their customer service. Then we compared what we found against our top home security recommendations.
Two local companies stood out from the rest. Richmond Alarm Company and Dynamark Security Centers have been building custom security systems for decades and customers have had a lot of positive things to say about both companies. But if you’re interested in a bundle or the latest home automation technology, you’ll be better off with a company like Frontpoint or Protect America. And if DIY is more your style, we’d suggest checking out Lowe’s Iris or Piper NV.
Richmond’s Best Local Home Security Companies
For over 65 years, Richmond Alarm has been one of the leading security system companies in Virginia due to the company’s competitive pricing. Richmond Alarm cares about its customer’s happiness and safety, and treats them with the same courtesy and friendliness as their friends and neighbors.
Richard Alarm’s systems are custom-designed to fit your home and individual needs, and there’s always some kind of special offer available to help cut costs and make the process more enjoyable. While price varies depending on situation and personal needs, the starting price for a system is $299. Customers will also enjoy free maintenance service, so you’ll never have to pay extra if a component bites the dust.
If you’re interested in home automation, Security+ might be worth looking into — it gives you the ability to control your home’s locks, lights, and temperature, and provides other additional security features. Richard Alarm’s basic cellular monitoring starts at $45 per month, but you’ll have to contact the company for an exact quote. You can also add fire monitoring and personal security response for a low monthly fee that also requires a quote.
Dynamark is another largely recognized local security company in Virginia with over 30 years of service under its belt. One thing that really sets Dynamark apart is their 24/7-hour service to answer questions and handle concerns whether it’s 2 p.m. or 3 a.m. — a rarity among security companies. If some part of your system goes down while you’re away from home (and you can’t activate the alarm from your smartphone, tablet, or computer), Dynamark will go to your home and fix the issue for you.
The company offers a few basic systems that work for most cookie-cutter homes, but it also designs and builds custom rigs to work with unique situations. Dynamark provides a free on-site consultation and walks through your home to help you decide what security equipment you need. It also guarantees to not push you to purchase extra equipment when you only need a certain amount.
Many different products are available, so you can easily start with an alarm system and window and door sensors, and add on extra features later on, such as cameras or home automation. Dynamark offers wired and wireless security systems for your home with 24/7-hour cellular monitoring starting at $40 per month. You can get a free quote by filling out the form on their website.
Additionally, you can also enter your name to win a year’s worth of free security system monitoring or free monthly monitoring. There’s even a referral reward program where both you and your referral can be rewarded with special gifts. The website provides more information about each of these special offers and the terms and conditions for each.
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers three home security packages that include 24/7 cellular monitoring for your security, fire, and carbon monoxide alarms. You have to sign a 36-month monitoring contract and you’ll need to call for an exact quote.
Protect America: Protect America’s five upgradeable packages don’t require you to pay anything upfront for the equipment, though you do have to commit to a 36-month monitoring agreement. All of the equipment is wireless and you can install it on your own.
SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe offers four affordable home security packages and gives you the option to design your own, if you’d like. There are no contracts and you can install the system within minutes.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: This is a completely customizable DIY system. Starter packs are available, or you can build your system from scratch. There’s also the option to add professional monitoring for a low monthly fee.
Piper NV: A small system that’s ideal for compact spaces like a dorm room or small apartment. The system itself is a single unit containing a motion and sound sensor, an audible alarm, and a security camera.
Local companies that didn’t make the cut
We considered these local companies, but they didn’t score high enough to earn a place among the best home security systems. Some never returned our calls and others we just couldn’t find enough information on to feel comfortable recommending them.
- General Security
- Woodfin Security
- Structured Cable of Virginia
- Allegiance Security Integration
Preventing False Alarms
Once you have your alarm system installed, it’s important to make sure it’s not going to cause any false alarms. In 2014, Richmond police responded to more than 35,000 calls, of which nearly 3,000 were false alarms. And that’s a problem because it wastes time and money that could be spent responding to actual emergencies.
In an attempt to reduce the number of false alarms, Richmond now requires all homes and businesses with security systems to obtain a permit. All you need to do is fill out a form online. It doesn’t cost a thing. (Registered alarm owners can also renew their permits here.)
But if your system keeps sending false alarm signals, that’s another story. Your first two false alarms won’t cost you anything, but a third false alarm within a 180-day period will earn you a $50 fine and any more beyond that will cost $100 per incident.
Thankfully, preventing false alarms isn’t difficult. Make sure you regularly replace the batteries in your sensors and secure all doors and windows before arming the system. Otherwise, a little bit of wind might cause them to open and trip a sensor. Check out our guide below for a complete list of things you can do to prevent false alarms.
Is a home security system worth it?
The short answer is yes. Burglars don’t want to attract attention, so even a DIY security system can scare them off if it sets off a loud audible alarm. According to one study by the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, half of all burglars will leave immediately if they discover an alarm system. And of the remaining half, only 20 percent will attempt to disable the system if it goes off. Of course, no security system is foolproof, but chances are good that it’ll scare most criminals away.
Owning a home security system can also save you up to 20 percent on your homeowners insurance. Insurers know that homes with security systems are less likely to be burglarized than those without them, and less risk to them means a lower premium for you.
How much security is enough?
That’s largely up to you. Some people might be content with a few door and window sensors while others won’t be satisfied until they have security cameras in every room. The size of your home will also play a role. Obviously, the more ground you have to cover, the more equipment you’re going to need.
We recommend at least an audible alarm with door and window sensors. That should be enough to serve as an effective deterrent. If your system is monitored, you may also want to think about adding monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarms. No matter where you live, there’s always a risk of fire; a monitored system ensures help is deployed as quickly as possible.
What can I do to keep my home from being targeted?
Burglaries are crimes of opportunity. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you make. There’s always some risk that a burglar might come knocking. A security system can do a lot to decrease that risk, but you shouldn’t rely on that alone. Take a look at our guide below for some simple steps you can take.
“As long as there are people with a criminal mindset in the world, we are all potential victims. There are simple things we can do to guard against crime in general. Simple things like locking doors and not leaving things in plain view are great ways to avoid becoming a victim.”
— Officer Farrhard El-Amin, Richmond Police Department
Are cellular systems better than landline systems?
Yes. Cellular monitoring is more expensive than landline monitoring, but it holds a distinct advantage that makes the extra cost worth it. Cellular monitoring is much more difficult to disable. If someone cuts the phone lines, your landline system is useless. The only thing that’s going to take down a cellular system is something that takes out all of the cell towers in your area.
The best home security systems use a landline and a cellular signal. The landline serves as the primary means of communication between the system and the monitoring center, but if phone service is disabled, a cellular signal will be sent instead.
What if I’m a renter or live in a small apartment?
Most landlords aren’t going to allow you to mess with the wiring in order to install a security system and some may not even want you drilling holes in the walls to mount sensors or cameras. In this case, a DIY system is your best bet. Most of them include wireless equipment you can install yourself and easily take with you if you move. Here’s some of our top recommendations.
The Bottom Line
Home security systems don’t just protect your valuables — they protect your peace of mind. And it’s difficult to put a price on that. But even if your budget isn’t large, there are plenty of options available to you.