The Top 3 Home Security Companies in Atlanta, GA
Welcome to Atlanta Home Security Judge! We’ve spent countless hours researching over 100 home security companies, and below you will find our top 3 home security company picks in Atlanta, GA.
How to Choose the Right Home Security Company
The question of whether any home needs a security system seems to be in the forefront of many minds in these uncertain times. With a growing feeling of insecurity more people want to fortify their home from unwanted intruders, but there are different types of costs which must be incurred and it can sometimes feel just a little over-reactive. Yes, there is an expense involved and it might seem a little bit like George Orwell’s “Big Brother” has become a reality, but there are many benefits which outweigh the potential downsides in the minds of many homeowners today.
The peace of mind that is provided by these systems appeals to so many people that Parks Associates predicted back in 2011 that the percentage of U.S. households with professionally monitored services will expand to 30% by the year 2020. That prediction was made based on information collected in 2010, and may very well have grown larger now, given the current interest in heightened home and personal security.
Why the increased interest in protecting home, family and property? Crime, of course, is the number one reason for bumping up home security measures. In 2010 alone the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported over two million burglaries in the United States. Victims of burglaries in 2010 were estimated to have suffered an estimated lost property value of $4.6 billion, with an average household loss of over $2000. This doesn’t take into account the sentimental value associated with lost items, or the emotional toll accompanying the loss of safety in one’s own home.
Nearly two-thirds of these burglaries were of residential properties, with renters just as likely as homeowners to be the victim of a theft. Local law enforcement officials might not have the time or the manpower to follow-up on and close all of these non-bodily injury cases, so the homeowner is often left fighting with the insurance company or footing the bill to replace the stolen items. The cost of installing and maintaining a system is often far less than the loss incurred, not to mention the time involved in dealing with the after-effects of a burglary, and the loss of peace of mind.
In 2013 the University of North Carolina Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology published the results of a study which was funded by the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF), under the auspices of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). Entitled, “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective,” the report was based on survey responses from more than 400 convicted offenders. Some 83 percent of those interviewed said they would try to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary. When it was determined that there was an alarm on-site, 60 percent of these criminals said they would seek an alternative target to burglarize.
Beyond serving as a deterrent to crime, home security systems also provide safety and peace of mind. Some insurance companies will even offer a discount on homeowner’s insurance based on the presence of an alarm system. But the main reason to even consider installing home security is to protect your family, your home and your valuables.
What Type of Home Security System Do You Need?
Once you have made the decision to purchase a home security system, the first step is to decide what type of system you need. For a long time these systems were pretty straight-forward. An intrusion alarm or motion sensor was installed and either an alarm would sound or a message was sent to a monitoring company for follow-up. Today you can find a high-tech monitoring system that monitors for broken locks or windows, senses movement, tests for smoke and carbon monoxide levels, aids in remote home management for temperature and lights, and even provides health alert services. To help in sorting through these options, here are a few useful steps to take:
- Are you a renter or a homeowner? The amount you want to invest in a security system is often based on your living situation. If you are temporarily renting an apartment and have few valuables, a basic system is probably sufficient. If you own a home with more valuables and plan to stay there for a long time, it is well worth the investment to purchase an advanced system.
- Conduct a home security survey: Take a look around your home and determine what your security needs are. How many doors and windows are accessible to potential intruders? How many valuables are in the home, and what rooms are they in? Think about where you will want to have keypads installed for easy access. Review your insurance policy to find out your deductible and determine whether anything that is stolen is compensated at full replacement expense or a depreciated value. Then you can do a cost-benefit analysis to weigh the out-of-pocket costs of a security system against the anticipated benefits.
- How much can you do yourself? If you are purchasing a simple system and have some handyman capabilities, you might be able to install a system yourself. A battery-operated alarm or smoke detector can be relatively simple to install, but a monitored system is much more complicated. Check with the manufacturer’s installation instructions and be sure there is a toll-free number to call for assistance in case you get stuck. Having the company install your system will usually result in an additional installation charge.
- Other considerations: With today’s advanced monitoring capabilities, you may wish to add additional features to your basic security system. It is wise to consider adding smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring to ensure an extra layer of protection when you are not at home. If you have an elderly family member living in your home, a health alert option with two-way voice is a helpful addition. If you have many people who come through your home such as health care workers, cleaning crews, or child care personnel, you may want to add security cameras to provide 24/7 monitoring capability. A panic button might be helpful if you believe you are susceptible to some type of medical event, or might be the target of some type of attack, such as a physical attack from a former partner or an act of retribution.
- How much control do you want? You can choose to use a system that provides a simple alarm, have the company perform a monitoring function, or you can add an additional layer of protection to monitor your home from a mobile device when you are at work or on vacation. You can even turn on the lights, lock doors, check for floods, and adjust temperature levels with the latest security systems.
Learn About the Different Kinds of Home Security Systems
The next step in buying a home security system is to become educated about the available security options, and to set a budget. Here are some of the basic options that you will want to explore:
- Alarm or Monitor: Similar to a smoke detector, some systems will simply sound an alarm. This is meant to act as a deterrent in order to frighten away any potential intruders. Someone in the household or a pre-selected neighbor will have to determine the extent of the incident and notify the appropriate law enforcement officials if needed.
- Type of Monitoring: Most homeowners want to have their systems monitored in some fashion. This can be done by an outside source or via the homeowner’s digital device. Systems can be monitored via landline, cell phone or broadband, but tend more toward the wireless these days. Each has its advantages in speed and reliability in the event of an incident, or in the case of a power outage. There may be additional charges for this access, and an outside company that is providing the monitoring will usually charge a monthly fee for this service. Remote monitoring by an individual means the homeowner will need to have a mobile device available at all times in case an alert is received from the home. Outside monitoring by an independent company can respond to an alert quickly and will notify you and the local authorities in the event of a fire or intrusion. In the case of smoke or carbon monoxide inhalation, this can be a lifesaver for your family if you or your loved ones are unconscious and cannot call for help.
- Additional Features: Determine if you are satisfied which basic intrusion monitoring and alert, or if you think any other features such as surveillance, temperature control or remote access might be a wise investment for your family situation.
- System Backup: In the event of a power outage, there is usually some type of battery back-up. Check how long this back-up protection lasts, and find out how often you need to change the batteries.
- What happens if I move? If you own the equipment and installed it yourself, you should be able to take it with you to your next residence. If the company owns and installed the equipment, you may not be able to take it with you and will have to start again, unless your new residence already has a system installed. If you think you will be moving in the next three to five years, be sure to read your contract very carefully.
Locate Potential Home Security Companies
Once you have educated yourself and determined what you need in a home security system, you can start gathering information on potential suppliers. Here are some independent ways you can gather information:
- Company Websites: Use these to get a general idea of each company and the services they offer. Keep in mind that these are often written from a marketing point of view, but you should be able to gather pertinent information on company background, years in business, areas of expertise and certifications. Google each name individually along with some type of qualifier such as “complaints about ‘x’ company.”
- Referrals: These are perhaps your best form of research. Try to find somebody on your own such as a friend or neighbor who has had a system installed and ask their opinion about the security company, the equipment, and the costs. Use your social network to reach out and find non-company representatives who are willing to share their experience with you. You can look at testimonials provided by the security company, but be aware that some of these might not be accurate representations of what they offer.
- Complaints and Recommendations: Look for complaints with your local Better Business Bureau. Online sites such as Angie’s List or Consumers’ CHECKBOOK can provide trusted recommendations, while general review sites such as Yelp can be compromised. Ask the company to provide you with a list of ten satisfied customers, and then randomly contact two or three of them to find out why they are happy.
- Beware of Scams: Unfortunately this is one of those industries which can fall victim to scams, so you really need to do your homework. The Federal Trade Commission has compiled a list of some of the most common scams such as high-pressure sales tactics, limited time offers, or threatening language. Your state’s Attorney General may also have information on known scams.
Questions To Ask A Home Security Company
The last step is to meet with each of the potential companies and get answers to your questions. You should meet with at least three companies so that you will have a valid point of comparison and can determine which offers the solution that is best for you and your family. Some items to cover with a home security company include:
- License and insurance information: Verify that their contractor’s licenses are current and in good standing. You can also find the appropriate agency in your state by checking with the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA). If an installer will be in your home they should provide a copy of their insurance policy which shows that you and your home are covered.
- Cost: Get a written cost quotation for everything, including equipment, installation and monitoring. Read your monitoring contract carefully before signing to determine what happens if you are unhappy, terminate the contract, or relocate to another residence. The salesperson must give you a copy of your contract and two copies of a cancellation form. Your contract must show the name and address of the seller, it must have a date, and it must fully explain your right to cancel
- Options: You don’t necessarily need to take the first system the company’s representative offers. Ask about the options that are available in terms of equipment and monitoring capabilities. You might find that there are different packages or specials that are more suited to your current needs.
- Warranty and guarantee: Request a list of the exact equipment that will be installed, find out what types of warranties are offered on the equipment, and determine when it will most likely need to be replaced. Find out who is responsible for repairs or needed upgrades down the road. Your warranty should stipulate that the security company will repair or replace any malfunctioning equipment or parts for a specified period of time after your purchase.
- Installation: Be sure you understand the installation process completely. Is there anything you will be required to do as the homeowner? Will the installer need to drill any holes into your walls? Where will the equipment be located? Ask whether the installers are employees or independent contractors, if they are trained and certified by the Electronic Security Association’s (ESA) National Training School (NTS), and if they will be training you on your system. Get written documentation and proof of all claims. You may need to contact your local authorities to register your system. Make sure all members of your family are aware of how the system works so it does not get set off accidentally.
- Monitoring: Have an in-depth discussion of their monitoring system as this is a crucial component of your system. You might have the highest quality of equipment, but it is useless if it is not monitored properly. Find out if the monitoring is done locally, whether they are familiar with local addresses and first responders, if there is a redundant monitoring center in case of emergency, and the average response time.
- Right to Cancel: Even if you have signed a contract, you have the right to cancel if you change your mind shortly after making a purchase decision. The Federal Trade Commission has a Cooling-Off Rule which gives you three business days to cancel the contract without having to provide any type of reason if you signed it in your home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. This rule stipulates that, even if the equipment has been installed, you still have the right to change your mind.
Installing a home security system is a big decision, and is worth the time invested to make sure you make the best choice. In June 2011 Consumer Reports found that 80 percent of the homeowners who had alarm systems installed rated those systems as being effective at providing protection for their homes. They provide protection from burglaries, as well as notification of potentially life-threatening home situations. Shopping for the right system can be a little confusing at first, but take the time to learn about the types of alarms, monitoring capabilities, and the security company, and you will rest easier knowing that you have done everything you can to keep your family safe.