The real story behind the "free" or "giveaway" alarm systems - what they
don't want the consumer to know:
How do they do it for that ridiculously low
- You're committed. You must commit to a 36 to 60-month
agreement for monitoring service. What if your needs change, you need to
relocate, or the system has broken and you simply can't afford to repair it? There is virtually no out, shy of paying off the balance of
your contract. In many cases you are leasing or financing the system, which is
why you are committed.
- The dealer program. Don't be surprised to
find out companies selling these
systems are "dealers" of a third party, usually a large, well-known national company.
This dealer is nothing
more than a sales and installation machine, used to lower their cost and
separate liability. Any incentive to use quality equipment on your
installation is lost, as every additional dollar spent on quality comes directly
out of their pocket. Many times the installer working in your home
is not even a true employee of the installation company, and has no FASA or BASA
certification. This certification is required by Florida State law for each
technician, and is your
proof that the technician working on your premises has met the minimum training, and
passed a criminal background exam. Once the system is installed and
operational, your monitoring contract is sold to a second company of their
choosing. It then becomes another company's
responsibility to service and maintain these systems.
A dealer or agent is still required by the State of Florida to be a licensed
contractor. If you decide to go this route, make certain you request a
copy of his or her state license prior to signing a contract.
- The monthly charge. In many agreements, the company has
the right to increase your monthly charges 10% per year for the life of the
contract. As a result, a $45.00 monthly charge could become a $63.00 monthly charge by the
- The warranty. The warranty is usually for the first
90 days. In some cases, it may cover the life of the monitoring
contact, but only on specific package items. Extras and the battery are
usually excluded from the warranty, which means most of the service will incur
- The cost. The true cost of these giveaway systems,
(3 door contacts and a motion detector),
including equipment, labor for installation, and the salesman's commission, is at least $500.00,
plus the cost of the electrical permit. The company is really buying you as a customer,
and your monthly fee, for the term of your contract.
- The central station: Many of these systems are monitored
by one national monitoring center for the entire country, monitoring hundred of
thousands or in some cases millions, of customers. By consolidating all of their
customers in one large central station, their cost to monitor those customers is
much lower than if they had a central station in each local market. Now I ask
you, how would you like to be just one in a million? The last thing you
want to hear when you are trying to cancel a false alarm is "Please hold for the
next available operator." It is always best to use a local central station,
which is familiar with your police and fire departments policies and dispatching
- What do you really save: With the cost of false alarm fines
as high as $200 each, does it really make sense to buy the cheapest? Remember,
no matter who is at fault for the false alarm, it is the homeowner who pays the
No alarm company
is giving their products away; you will be paying for it one way or another.
Doesn't it just make more sense having a system custom designed to meet your
individual and unique needs, one easy to use and designed to prevent false
You are buying
peace of mind, when you purchasing a security system. You are also buying the
reputation of the company and their employees, you want them to be there to
monitor and maintain your system for many years to come.
If you were shopping for a parachute instead of a security system, would you be
looking for the cheapest one you could find?
Other Things to Consider
In most cases you do not own the equipment or the system at any time; it belongs to the alarm company.
- When you sell your home, you cannot legally include the alarm system, or list it in
the sales contract, because the system does not belong to you. If the new buyer of your home
does not wish to take over your liability for the balance of
your contract, it could cost
you thousands of dollars to pay off the balance of your agreement.
- If at any time you decide to change alarm companies, you
would be required to pay the balance on the agreement, allow the company
remove all their equipment, and pay for the installation and permit all over
again with the new company.
Many companies say they will reinstall
the system in your new home if you move or relocate, but neglect to tell you
that comes at an additional cost, and that you must extend your contract.
What are the odds your old system will be the right system for your new home? And
who will pay to repair all the holes and remove wires from your old house? In
most cases you are responsible for the cost of all those repairs, which add up.
Most system package includes just
two or three door and window contacts and a motion detector.
What if you have more doors and windows? It will cost you more money.
Sometimes one additional motion detector added to a package can cost more than
the entire original system package. And after all that expense, you don't even
As you are getting estimates and
interviewing alarm companies, do your homework before inviting them into your
home. Ask for references in advance, no matter how large and well-known the
Remember, you are inviting strangers into your home, showing them all your valuable
possessions, and pointing out your security weaknesses. Make sure that you
do business with a company you can trust.
Finally and most importantly: always read the contract before you commit !
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