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Which alarm system should you get for your home?

There are several types of alarm system to choose from, but your home insurance provider may ask that it meets specific requirements to validate your policy.

In one year in the UK, seven homes are burgled every minute 1. Having a burglar alarm fitted in your home is one way to protect what matters most to you.

Installing a home alarm can deter thieves from attempting to break into your house, as well as notify you and the authorities if there’s a break-in. 

To help you decide which home alarm is best for you, we’ve listed the types of alarms you can choose, the standards systems should meet and how to look after them.

Types of home alarm systems

Whether you’re looking for a professionally-installed alarm, or are fitting it yourself, below are some different types for you to bear in mind:

Bells-only alarms

If set off, the box flashes as a visual cue outside your home and a bell-only alarm emits a loud noise for up to 20 minutes before the auto-cut off feature steps in or the alarm is manually turned off.

Not only does it notify you (if you’re at home), but it’ll also let your neighbours know. Unfortunately, this type of alarm doesn’t contact the police or a dedicated person, so there’s a risk it will be ignored and go unreported.

However, it’s an affordable option for most people and can still help deter burglars from trying their luck at your home.

Monitored alarms

There are two types of monitored alarms: keyholder monitored and police monitored. Both are connected to an external security company that monitors your alarm for a monthly or annual fee.

Unlike some of the other systems, a monitored alarm usually needs to be professionally installed and abide by certain standards.

If you have a keyholder alarm, the security company will typically call you and request a password if your alarm goes off. If you don’t answer the phone, or the password isn’t given, your nominated key-holder is informed.

Nominated key-holders must live within 20 minutes of your home, and it’s your responsibility to give another contact if they’re on holiday or away from home.

If you choose a police monitored alarm system, your security company will inform the police if two of your alarms are triggered. However, these alarms are governed by the NPCC alarm policy 2 and if you have three false alarms within 12 months, they won’t respond to any more unless a member of the public alerts them. 

Smart home security systems

If you’re away from home a lot or don’t want strangers watching over your house, a smart home security system allows you to monitor your property from your mobile phone or tablet.

There are plenty of smart home security systems on the market, but in general, they use a series of devices that connect to a main hub via WiFi rather than sensors. 

You can choose the level of security you want by buying a range of devices such as security cameras, motion detectors and contact sensors that all work together to detect any intruders.

Dummy alarms 

Non-functioning boxes that look like home alarms can be fitted outside your house as a deterrent. 

They’re a cheap and easy way to discourage opportunistic thieves. However, professional burglars may spot a fake alarm straight away, so it may be worth considering one of the options above for more effective home security.

Wired or wireless? 

Wired systems need cables running through each sensor, meaning while a wired system may be cheaper, installation costs are higher. 

Wireless alarms, on the other hand, are battery-powered and connect by radio signals or WiFi. The advantage is that you can set them up anywhere in your home. While they’re initially more expensive, you can usually install them yourself.

How much will a home alarm system cost?

The cost of a home alarm system will vary depending on the level of security you want, whether it’s professionally installed and if you have an external security company. 

If you install it yourself, the whole thing could cost as little as £200. A high-end professional installation could set you back nearly £1,000. Don’t forget any annual maintenance costs which would be around £400 for a top-end alarm 3.

What your insurers need

The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) and Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB) are both certified bodies consumers may see on their security systems. It means the product you’ve purchased is safe and meets safety standards, and the company provides quality work. 

Check your home insurance policy to see if your alarm is required to be installed and maintained by an NSI or SSAIB approved company.

Also, keep in mind that poor maintenance of your alarm could invalidate a claim if you need to make one, so it’s important to take care of your security systems.

Home alarm systems are one of many ways to secure your home — however, they can’t completely prevent break-ins. Our home security guides will tell you some more ways that you can protect your home.

How to maintain your home alarm system

Once you’ve set up your home alarm, you must look after it so it functions properly. To look after your burglar alarm properly: 

  1. Keep it clean and regularly check for any damage or if it’s been moved – especially before going away on holiday. 
  2. Make sure you trim any external obstructions, such as trees or bushes
  3. Have it checked by a professional once a year if it’s a sound-only alarm, and twice a year if it’s monitored. 

Check your policy documents to see if annual check-ups are required by your home insurance policy.

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