We live in a world where a locked door isn’t always enough to keep out intruders. In the past few decades, home security systems have become an increasingly popular means of deterring burglars and new companies keep cropping up to meet the rising demand. Security systems are no longer just luxuries for the wealthy; they’re now a viable option for all budgets and living situations.
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There are DIY systems that work well for renters, students, and those on a budget. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s home automation technology that lets you monitor and control your alarms, lights, and locks from a smartphone app. There are bundled options if you’re looking for something basic or you can go all out with a custom system designed specifically for your home.
Whatever your situation, it’s worth exploring your options. It’s not just your protecting your valuables — it’s your peace of mind as well. Knowing there’s a system in place to protect your home and family, even while you’re not there, can go a long way toward helping you sleep more soundly at night.
Home Security Basics
A home security system is basically a bunch of sensors that transmit a signal, either through physical wires, Wi-Fi, or a cellular connection, to a control panel. If a burglar tries to break into your home, they’ll trip one of the sensors, setting off a loud alarm.
If you have a monitored system, the control panel will also send a signal to the monitoring center and the authorities will be dispatched to your location. The monitoring center may also reach out to you with a phone call or directly through the control panel to make sure you’re safe. This provides an extra layer of protection, but it often comes with a monthly fee, ranging between $15 and $50, and a 36-month monitoring commitment.
For those those who don’t want to make that kind of a commitment, there are DIY systems. These are generally much more affordable and there’s no monthly fees. You can install the equipment for yourself, usually within a few minutes. But there is no one monitoring your system. The alarm still goes off, but if you want the police to come, you’ll have to call them yourself.
“DIY systems can be a visible deterrent (cameras, signs, sensors), and if a house is broken into, the piercing sound of the alarm may scare the suspects off.” — Sergeant Bryce Heinlein, Sacramento Police Department
There are some DIY systems, like SimpliSafe and Canary, that are compatible with professional monitoring. One of these is a great choice if you’re looking to combine the portability of a DIY system with the added protection of 24/7 monitoring.
Shopping for a system
Home security systems are sold either as bundles or as custom-built systems. Bundles are most commonly found among DIY or national companies. The nice thing about bundles is the pricing is usually straightforward. There’s a flat rate for the equipment and the monitoring, which is usually listed on the company website. Most of these companies aren’t going to negotiate with you on the contract term at all, though. A 36-month contract is industry-standard, but some security providers make you sign a 60-month agreement.
If you go with a custom-built system, particularly if you choose a local home security company, you can often get that contract down to one year or less. A custom system also has the advantage of being built just for your home, but that means you’ll need to call for a quote. Sometimes they may need to send someone out to your house to do a site survey before giving you a price.
Whether you go with a bundle or a custom system, you’ll probably end up with the same equipment. Nearly all home security companies use Honeywell, GE, or 2GIG sensors or control panels. That’s why most companies can easily take over a system that was installed by another security provider. That means the choice of which company to go with is largely going to come down to who can offer you the best price.
What to consider when choosing a home security system
The most important consideration is what type of system works best for your lifestyle. If you live in your own home, a wired system with a long-term monitoring contract may work just fine. But for renters or students, that’s not an option. In that case, a wireless DIY system is a better choice. You can install it on your own within minutes and take it with you when you decide to move.
And then, of course, there’s personal preference. Some people might want cameras in every room while others might find that intrusive. Think about what you need to feel safe and choose a system that lines up with that. We recommend going with door and window sensors and an audible alarm at a minimum. But if you don’t think that’s enough protection, by all means, add more. Just remember that your monthly costs may be affected by the size of your security system.
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Sacramento
We evaluated six Sacramento-based home security companies and evaluated their pricing, customer service, and reputation. We considered factors like the length of their monitoring contracts, whether a real person greeted us when we called, and what real customers had to say about the service they’d received. Then we compared those companies against Freshome’s recommendations for the best home security system.
Two companies — Bay Alarm and Sacramento Valley Alarm — stood out from the rest. Both have been serving Sacramento for decades and have high ratings from Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and their own customers. If you like the idea of working with a local home security company, we recommend choosing one of these.
If you’re interested in DIY, though, you’re better off going with a national DIY system company, as they have a lot more options for you. National companies are also better if you’re interested in the latest home automation technology. You can get home automation equipment through local companies as well, but their equipment is often dated compared to what Frontpoint and Protect America can offer you.
Sacramento’s Best Local Home Security Company
Sacramento Valley Alarm believes in providing exceptional service to their customers and giving homeowners a peace of mind whether they’re inside or outside of their home. For over 43 years, it has provided reliable and trustworthy service to many homes and businesses and maintained a positive reputation.
Customers can choose a home security system package option for an upfront cost of $249 with $35 a month monitoring or call to set up a free consultation for their home to get a custom-made system created to fit their situation. Both options have no hidden fees and a guarantee not to raise monthly monitoring rates. Plus, the company’s employees that know the northern California area well and can offer the best advice for your home.
While the company has been around for quite a while and the website could use an update, the security equipment is state-of-the-art and the company’s employees are readily available to answer questions or concerns, or fix any issues. Each system includes 24/7-hour monitoring via hard-wired phone lines so that your house is always protected.
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers three wireless security packages that include fire and carbon monoxide monitoring. You have to contact the company for pricing information and you’ll have to sign a 36-month monitoring commitment.
Protect America: Protect America’s five home security bundles don’t require you to pay anything upfront and you can install the system yourself within minutes. Like Frontpoint, Protect America’s packages come with a 36-month monitoring agreement.
SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe offers four affordable home security bundles, with the cheapest starting at just $230. There’s no contracts to sign and you have the choice of whether or not you’d like to add professional monitoring.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: The Iris is a fully customizable DIY security system that’s compatible with professional monitoring. Choose from several bundles or build your own system from scratch.
Piper NV: The Piper NV is a compact security tower that contains several sensors, an audible alarm, and a security camera. It’s ideal for small apartments or dorm rooms. If the alarm goes off, the system will notify you with a call, text, or email.
Local companies that didn’t make the cut
We considered these local companies as well, but they didn’t make the final cut. Some never returned our calls, some had consistently poor customer reviews, and others we simply couldn’t find enough information on to feel confident recommending them.
- GHS Interactive Security
- West One Security
- iAlarm Systems
- Watchdog Security
- Bay Alarm
Preventing False Alarms
Once your security system is installed, you should take steps to prevent false alarms. In 2014, the Sacramento Police Department responded to over 21,000 calls from alarm companies and only 2 percent were actual crimes. That’s a huge problem because it means officers have to waste an incredible amount of time — not to mention fuel and wear and tear on their vehicles — responding to false alarms when they could be dealing with actual emergencies.
In an attempt to reduce the number of false alarms, all Sacramento residents with a security system are now required to obtain a permit. Your first false alarm won’t cost you anything, but subsequent false alarms within a 12-month period can cost you anywhere from $60 to $320 per incident. These fees are based on how much it costs the city to respond to an emergency.
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid these fines. In most cases, preventing false alarms is as simple as making sure all your doors and windows are securely shut before arming your system. Otherwise a little wind could push them open and accidentally trip one of the sensors. Replacing batteries in the equipment will also help prevent your system from accidentally sending out an alarm signal. Check out our guide below for a complete list of actions you can take to prevent false alarms.
How to Register Your Alarm System in Sacramento
Register your alarm by filling out the online form and paying the $30 permit fee. The whole process takes only a few minutes to complete and the permit is good for two years.
If you don’t register your alarm system, you’re risking additional fines. For the first false alarm, it’ll cost you $30 — the cost of an alarm permit. A second offense will cost you $80 for lacking a valid permit on top of the false alarm fine. The non-registration fee continues to rise, up to $220 per incident, so it’s really worth it to pay the permit fee in the first place.
Is a home security system worth it?
Yes, a home security system is definitely worth it. According to one study by the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, half of all burglars will avoid homes with alarm systems and 80 percent won’t attempt to disable them. Of course, no security system is foolproof, but even if you only have a DIY system, there’s a good chance the alarm itself will scare thieves away.
Insurance companies know the value of home security systems as well. That’s why most companies offer homeowners insurance discounts if you have a monitored alarm system in place. The exact discount varies from one company to the next, but you could save as much as 20 percent on your premium.
How much security is enough?
That’s largely a matter of personal preference. You might feel comfortable with just a few window and door sensors, but your neighbor might want cameras in every room. When designing a security system, it’s all about what you feel you need. The important thing to remember, though, is, no matter how safe your neighborhood is, there’s always some risk of a break-in. Any protection is better than none at all, so consider your budget and explore the options available to you.
We recommend purchasing door and window sensors and an audible alarm at a minimum. Even if the system isn’t monitored, the alarm will at least notify you of the intruder and will hopefully scare them off before they manage to take anything.
What can I do to keep my home from being targeted?
Burglars look for easy targets. They don’t want to be seen or heard and they definitely don’t want to get caught. A home security system can make a criminal think twice, but if they’re determined enough, they could still break in. Take a look at our guide below for some simple steps you can take to deter a thief from marking your home as their next target.
“Thieves generally focus on accessibility and the path of least resistance. Most thefts are crimes of opportunity.” — Sergeant Bryce Heinlein, Sacramento Police Department
Are cellular systems better than landline systems?
Yes. Cellular monitoring is generally more expensive than landline monitoring, but it’s also much more reliable. You can disable a landline system simply by cutting the phone lines. In order to take down a cellular system, the burglar would have to cut power to the entire house and even then, most cellular systems have a battery backup.
There’s always the rare chance, though, that something might go wrong with a cell tower in your area, so it’s best to have multiple types of monitoring if you can. Most companies offer landline monitoring with a cellular backup, so if something happens to your phone line, your emergency signal will still reach the monitoring center.
What if I’m a renter or live in a small apartment?
Most landlords aren’t going to let you wire a security system into your apartment, so you’re going to want to stick to wireless equipment. DIY systems work best. Many systems give you the option of adding professional monitoring if you’re interested and the sensors and control panel are usually easy to relocate if you move. Check out Freshome’s list of the best DIY security systems if you’re not sure where to begin.
The Bottom Line
You can’t put a price on peace of mind, and a home security system can give you just that. As the industry continues to expand, new technologies become more affordable for everyone. So no matter where you live or what your budget is, there are plenty of options available to you. If you’re not sure where to begin, try one of our top picks listed below.
Best Local: Sacramento Valley Alarm