Because most burglars enter homes by simply opening unlocked doors or windows—or pushing and kicking locked ones until they open—even the most basic protective measures will improve your security. Several ways of shoring up your home are more effective—and much cheaper—than alarm systems: Secure all doors with good deadbolt locks; lock all windows accessible from the outside; set up lighting systems that deter burglars; and improve your own safety habits.

While an alarm system will also improve the security of your home, it may not be worth the price if—

  • You live in a very-low-crime neighborhood.
  • Your house is well-secured physically (with locks and other measures).
  • Someone is almost always at home.
  • Your neighbors keep an eye on your house and will call the police if they notice anything suspicious.
  • You possess little of substantial value that could be stolen and have good insurance coverage.
  • Children, houseguests, or others are likely to frequently trigger false alarms.
  • The hassle of setting the alarm and avoiding false alarms would deter you from using it regularly.

Homeowners are increasingly setting up their own simple security devices to save money on equipment and avoid monthly monitoring fees. We discuss some of these options.

If you go with a professionally installed system, choosing a good company ensures that the system is effective, convenient, and unobtrusive; minimizes false alarms; and controls costs. Our Ratings Tables report ratings of area alarm system installation companies.

Have several companies come to your home to propose system designs and quote prices. Some will be much better than others at designing a solution that meets your needs at a reasonable price. Even for the same basic setup, you will find substantial price differences.

Read the contract before you sign it. Some companies make it very difficult for customers to switch monitoring services by refusing to provide programming codes or to reset systems to their default modes. We advise choosing companies willing to contractually agree to provide programming codes either upfront or if you request them later on.