I am the proud owner of FoxCrest Security, a security installation company formed in 2016. Hard work, countless hours, and being supported by some truly amazing people got me here. I am blessed to be able to serve the many home-owners and businesses in the Frederick & Hagerstown areas.
Small & Local Vs The Big & National Security Companies
After opening FoxCrest Security in 2017 there were some questions I was asked frequently. One of those questions was, “How does a small, local security company monitor my alarm system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?”.
There is a misconception by consumers that a smaller security company doesn’t have the resources to provide reliable service. Customers may think that the bigger company will provide the best service since they have more resources. This thinking is simply not true.
Central Stations – Your Local Security Installer’s Helping Hand to Monitor
The vast majority of security installers, big and small, use Central Stations to monitor their customers’ alarm panels. Central Stations are professional 3rd party companies that monitor customers’ security systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When your security system goes into alarm, it sends a signal to a Central Station. They see the signal, and then respond appropriately. This could be just simply contacting you or calling the local authorities to dispatch to your property. Your local security installer should also be notified that their client had an alarm/issue. Your local company should have 24/7 emergency service if you need your installer to resolve an issue with your equipment.
These Central Stations go through strict regulations to ensure their services are extremely reliable. Similar to a Hospital, they must have properly trained staff, back-up procedures (including for power-outages) and the right technologies to monitor your alarm system. Many also set-up redundant sites that they can route signals to whichever station can best service your signal.
What the Large Companies Might Offer
Some larger security companies have their own “central station”. Their central station is comprised of their own employees who are alerted by an alarm panel. Other than using their own employees, there is no difference in level of service. There is also no difference in price for you the customer. In fact, many times you end up paying more. The never-ending quest to bring in profits for their stakeholders will never allow you to be their highest priority.
So how does the local security company monitor my alarm system 24/7? Just like the national companies. It really is a non-issue. What your next worry should be is the reliability and cost when comparing your local security company against the national companies. In the next blog article, I’ll tell you how the local guys are way better in both.
Why Your Local Security Installer Has Better Service, Reliability & Cost
In the previous blog post, we established that the local security company can monitor your alarm system 24/7 by using a Central Station. Remember, even many of the big companies use the same Central Stations as your local company. But you still need to consider service and cost right? Let’s talk about service & reliability first.
Service & Reliability
OK, so since the big companies have so many technicians, they can offer better and faster service than the local guys? Um…no. Let’s talk about the biggest security installer, ADT Corporation. ADT Corporation uses ADT Authorized Dealers (basically franchisees) to install and service. ADT Corporation buys your alarm contract from the ADT Dealer, then can use any of their dealers to service you. So now it’s the luck of the draw to see how good and fast your service will be. I’m sure some of the local ADT dealers are good, but I can’t imagine they are as dedicated as the local security installer who is looking to keep their reputation intact.
Now, I can’t speak for every local security installer. From my experience, the majority really do try to give the best & most reliable service. I imagine it would be hard to stay in business if you didn’t. FoxCrest Security services establishments that run 24/7. We service places that are critical to public safety, including many local firehouses. We understand the importance of a good response time. And we truly believe you take care of the customer you have today before the one you’re trying to get tomorrow.
A local alarm installer can have cheaper monthly rates than the national installer? Yes, you read that right! So the larger company who does their monitoring in-house to save money in their bottom-line, also charges you more? Yep. I have seen what they charge and it makes my jaw drop. I’ve seen some contracts that charge $40-$50 per month for monitoring. I met one gentleman who payed $200 a month! FoxCrest Security’s most popular plan is only $25 a month. That’s a very significant difference over the years!
I talked to an individual last week who proudly stated she has been with a national company for 17 years. And that’s what they are looking for. They entice you with “free equipment”. You pay for that equipment with the high monthly rate in about 1-2 years. Then they rake in your hard-earned dollars from there on. Lastly, they make it extremely difficult for you to switch out to another company. Many local security installers have much simpler exit strategies for their customers.
Make The Right Choice!
As mentioned in the 24/7 blog post, we know your local security installer can monitor your alarm system just like the big companies do. So use your local security installer, they are giving you the same 24/7 service, if not better + more reliable. Plus, the vast majority of your hard-earned dollars go to support a local business. Your support for small business is really what makes America so great. Oh and by the way, the local company will likely be saving you money too. What could you possibly not like about that?
Wireless cameras are a great idea, but there is one big problem. The technology just isn’t where there yet. Maybe someday wireless cameras will be worth your hard-earned dollars, but not right now. Here’s why:
1. Wireless cameras are unreliable
You put a wireless camera up, get it powered and connected to your network/DVR. It is very likely to lose connection. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But at some point, a wireless camera will lose connection. Video footage is a tremendous amount of data that has to continuously hop wirelessly from the camera to your recording device. Also, any type of interference (example: walls) can cause disruptions in connection. Unreliable connections lead to lost video footage. What is reliable? A wired camera that has its own dedicated travel path for your video footage. And trust me, it is a terrible feeling when your video footage is not there when you need it.
2. They still require wiring
The majority of wireless cameras still need a wire ran for power. Why run a wire for power but not for the video? If you can find a local power source for the camera, is it also easy for a perpetrator to find it? Digital cameras can deliver video and be powered by the same cable. There are some wireless cameras that are battery operated, which are very easy to steal. Battery operated cameras are also more prone to the next issue:
3. Poor video quality
Remember how I said video footage is a lot of data that has to be transmitted? One way wireless camera manufacturers try to keep their customers from sending the cameras back is limit the video quality. This helps ensure the majority of the video footage makes it back to your recording device. You can then end up with that pixelated video image that has no use to you or authorities. That sounds like a waste of money, right? Wired camera systems can deliver at least 1080p Truly High-Def video (Equivalent to 2.1MPX camera resolution) and much higher. It’s hard to find wireless cameras that can do any higher than 720p. That is equivalent to just 0.9MPX. When trying to identify an individual or vehicle, every pixel counts and wireless cameras just don’t give you many.
4. It could slow down your WiFi
Depending on the camera system, your WiFi network might become much slower. It has to do with the way WiFi works. For one, the number of devices on your WiFi network can reduce the speed for all devices. Next, the distance that those devices are relative to your router/DVR will affect the speed for all your devices.This includes your smart phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Usually a system has multiple cameras and most go on the outside of a home. That’s a recipe for decreased WiFi speeds.
5. They don’t save you money if you value your time
Maybe you’re looking to get wireless cameras because you plan to install yourself and save a few dollars. However, they can cause you big headaches, even if you are a techie. Besides all the problems just mentioned, wireless cameras and many camera kits sold online bring a lot of problems. Check out the Wireless Camera Systems sold on Amazon. You will be hard-pressed to find any that have more than a 4 star rating (and how many companies on Amazon boost their own ratings?). Here’s a wireless camera system Amazon claims is one of their “Best Sellers”. 17% of the reviews are 1 star! You could be in for hours of wasted time and possibly money for a camera system that could easily fail to meet your needs.
What should you do?
Invest in a local security installer that can professionally install a wired camera system. There are plenty of DIY wired camera systems. But can you handle wiring, installing and programming? I have met plenty of people that tried to take it on and then called a professional. The only problem with that is many professionals do not work on DIY camera systems. So you either pay twice or you get a sour taste for video surveillance and give up. If you want a good & professionally wired camera system, call your local security installer first. Get a quote from them. Many, like FoxCrest Security, have plenty of experience in hiding camera wires and installing in a professional manner. Security camera installers are also getting pretty competitive price-wise.
Maybe some day wireless cameras will be great technology, but right now stick with wired camera systems. They are the right choice.
If you have no security on your property, consider an alarm system when you think you need security cameras.
Have you been vandalized and need security?
You’re walking out the door to get into your car & head off to work. You look at your vehicle & something’s amiss. The glove-box is open or there is a wrapper in a different place. As you get into your vehicle you realize your GPS is gone & your tote-bag with your iPad is missing. It is an awful feeling to have when somebody violates your personal property. Quite often, vehicles are a prime target. An entire neighborhood can be vandalized in one night by a single individual. The perpetrator just walks around, see which vehicles are unlocked and quickly grab whatever they can carry.
With no type of security whatsoever, many people instantly think they need security cameras on their home. Security cameras are great investment for the following reasons:
They can help deter a theft or break-in, if they are easily seen
You have a chance to record the act and perpetrator
You can monitor what is going on around your property, even when you’re not there
But here’s what they have a hard time doing:
It is extremely hard to catch a thief in the act and stop them
Sorry, you can’t really rely on motion detection to alert you. The camera system would send you a notification for every leaf that blows by the camera. A heavy rain can send hundreds of notifications.
A wrong camera angle, weak night vision or a smart thief can prevent identification
A camera won’t call the authorities if you’re in trouble
Alarm System are Proactive, Camera Systems are Reactive
While I don’t think a camera investment is a bad idea at all, I try to make sure clients at least consider an alarm system when they have nothing at all. An alarm system is a much more effective defense, at least for the home. Its job is to deter potential thieves. Plus, be sure to add fire detection too.
Still worried about your vehicle? Yes, your vehicle is still sitting there vulnerable in the driveway/street but please take these lessons and apply them today:
Always keep your vehicles locked
No matter how quiet and peaceful your neighborhood is, there is always the potential for break-ins.
Don’t leave valuable items in your vehicle, especially within sight of a passerby
Car insurance does not cover items stolen from your vehicle. Homeowners/Renter insurance can but you’ll have to pay your deductible. Ready to shell out $500 in deductible to cover the theft?
Install motion lights to keep your vehicles well lit at night and if you have a garage, please use it.
Be proactive yourself, Take the next step to protect your property
Talk to your local alarm installer, ask to get a quote on an intrusion system. Maybe you can even do both an alarm system and a camera system if the money is there. There is a monthly fee for most alarm systems, but some alarm installers (FoxCrest Security) keep their monthly fees within reason. My clients typically go for the $25/month option. While video cameras do not have a monthly fee (or at least the ones I install do not), please keep in mind an alarm system can help deter or stop theft, break-ins and prevent fires. Video surveillance has only a small deterrence factor and does not help stop the theft. Every situation is different and its all about what takes priority. Do you place priority on your home/family/pets or a few low $ items in your vehicle (now that you’re not keeping valuable items in there). Call FoxCrest Security @ (240) 422-8369 if you want free quotes on both an alarm system and camera system.
Proprietary sounds like a dirty scheme, doesn’t it? Basically, the equipment manufacturer took measures to limit what parts work on their system and/or the people that can service their product. Vehicles are a great example. You’re not going to put a Ford F150’s headlight bulb in a Subaru Forrester. Proprietary equipment is also prevalent in the security system industry.
Low Proprietary vs. High Proprietary
There are diverse levels of proprietary in the security world. There is some equipment out there with relatively low proprietary. An example is analog cameras. If you have an analog camera system, you can connect just about any brand’s analog camera to an analog DVR. This has gotten a bit trickier with recent developments in analog cameras (Learn about HD Cameras). You could call up any security installer in the area and they would at least be able to replace an analog camera.
Then there is equipment with extremely high proprietary in both the product and those that can work on it. A good example is most Simplex fire alarm systems. If you elected to have a Simplex fire system installed or inherited one, you can only call Simplex to service their equipment. Likely there will not be a fire or security professional in the area that can service the equipment.
Proprietary security system equipment has advantages and disadvantages to the end-user. It does have more advantages to the security installer and manufacturer, the biggest being it helps them stay in business. It is not fun when you find out your security professional is going out of business. All end-users should be looking at the brands & equipment the security professionals offer. Choose what works best for you, and your security installer should be helping you with that. Here are some things to consider with proprietary security equipment:
Better support & service
You should get better support & service with an installer that had to be trained on installing the equipment. Also, the more time a manufacturer took to develop, build, & train on their products can help ensure a positive experience for the end-user. They are in the business of selling and making money. They do have to keep dealers and end-users happy.
All security dealers should be “locking” the programming of the alarm & fire panels. Locking the panel keeps out those who know “default” programming codes getting in and changing programming on your system. Now if your dealer didn’t “lock” the panel, that doesn’t mean somebody can disarm your security system with programming codes. But there is a way to get you, especially a business. They could come in during a time you are disarmed. Then, enter into programming with the default code and delete that back-door zone. It is unlikely you would notice it was deleted. Then they have a free pass into your property that night after you armed.
Less headaches finding a good installer
If you already like the security equipment brand but haven’t found an installer, you shouldn’t have much problems finding one. And depending on the level of proprietary, you could find multiple installers and have them bid against each other. Pricing should be very similar, but you can then determine who will serve you best. There are also less headaches for architects and corporate purchasers. They can spec in proprietary equipment which prevent every single security installer and Joe Shmo trying to bid the job.
Likely higher costs the higher the proprietary
End-users must choose if a brand that is proprietary is worth it. Like mentioned earlier, proprietary equipment typically comes with better trained installers. Be wary of the very high proprietary systems, especially if their bid is very low. There are companies with proprietary equipment that will bid low to entice you in, then after installed they can charge however they like.
Fewer installers to choose from
Depending on the area you are in, you could be limited to how many installers are authorized to work on the equipment. Some proprietary manufacturers will make exclusive guarantees to certain installers that they will not authorize other dealers in the area. Be sure to do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask if other dealers in the area can work on the equipment.
You’re stuck with a certain manufacturer
Just like buying a car, you don’t want a “lemon” security system. Maybe it just doesn’t fit your needs or is too complicated for you. The higher the proprietary, the harder your exit strategy might be.
Just like buying a vehicle, take your time and find the right security professional and the equipment they use. Ask questions and do some of your own research on the brands they are offering. Security systems might be complex but due diligence often leads to better decisions. Lastly, many security systems are meant to last, so make sure you find something that fits your needs. FoxCrest Security can help you make this important decision. Call us at (240) 422-8369 or Contact Us
I couldn’t agree with you more. It must be one of the most annoying things a security system can do. Ghandi would have muttered a curse word about his alarm installer if he was woken up in the middle of the night by an incessant chirping noise. And what’s worse is this can easily start in the middle of the night. Most alarm panels do what’s called a self-test and they’re usually programed to do so around 2 AM. That’s when a lot of problems cause the beeping to start.
So why is my alarm panel beeping!?!
It’s likely a trouble condition. Your alarm panel is trying to get your attention and make you come to the keypad. The best thing to do is hit the Status button. First though, I recommend disarming the system. Most systems out there have a Status or Troubles button. Very often, it is the * key. Press the *, Status or Troubles button and you should see what the issue is. Here is a list of trouble conditions you might have (exact words vary by brand of equipment):
System Low Battery – The alarm panel’s back-up battery is low
Sensor XX Low Battery – Whatever sensor or zone it states has a low battery
Failure to Communicate – The system attempted to send a signal to your monitoring company but failed
Loss of AC Power – You probably already know this. If your property has power but the panel doesn’t, call for service.
Sensor XX Fault or Tamper – The system believes there is an issue with this sensor.
Sensor XX Supervisory – The system has not heard from this wireless sensor during its normal check-in period.
System Alarm – You had an alarm on your security system (which I hope you knew about). Many alarm panels will beep until you have acknowledged the alarm.
Stop the beeping!!!
When you hit the Status/Troubles button, it likely did stop beeping. But it may resume chirping in around 4 hours, depending on the condition and type of equipment. Hit the Status button again, does it still present the trouble condition on the screen?
If yes, hit Status one more time, let it “talk” all the way through, then hit Disarm + Your 4-Digit Code. Now, hit Status one last time. Still there? If so, you’ll have to call for service or get the trouble condition to go away (i.e. replace the battery if that was the issue). Quick note, this does not work for every alarm system out there, but many of them have some type of action you can follow to silence the beeping. Look in the user manual if this doesn’t work for you.
If you hit the Status button and it says, “System OK” or something similar, you are finally in the clear (for most trouble conditions). System low batteries are notorious for coming back, especially at 2AM when the system does its self-test. But then you’ll know that it needs replaced. I agree it’s not fun to be woken up in the middle of the night, but the system is doing its job. Take care of your system with proper maintenance by either you or use a security professional. It just might help you sleep better.
FoxCrest Security specializes in taking over monitoring and servicing existing security systems. Contact Us or call (240) 422-8369
If you have an alarm system or are thinking of getting one, you can expect to have an occasional false alarm. Hopefully, you will never have one. FoxCrest Security has some simple steps to take that will at least minimize their occurrence. Security systems are easy to use now with many of them giving much more descriptive screens and buttons, which help reduce the risk. But all of us have forgotten to unlock a car before pulling the handle. It’s going to happen to some of us. The key is to make sure it does not become a recurring event.
BEFORE: Pre-emptive measures
Properly designed alarm system
Make sure the system is designed for your unique situation. Have pets? Then no motion detectors. “Pet-Friendly” motion detectors are not that friendly. Instead, place sensors on all the windows and doors & utilize glass break sensors. It is going to be more expensive in upfront costs but will save you money in the long run by saving time, aggravation, and you’ll continue to use the system longer. Make sure the security professional designs the system with you, he or she should be collecting vital information from you to design the best system for your property.
Minimize Human Error – The leading cause for false alarms
This is the number one reason why most false alarms occur. The number one way to avoid it is training. Make sure you know how to use your system and how your system works. That includes every single person in the household or business. If you have a business, make sure every employee knows that there is an alarm system and those with authority know how to use it. That goes for fire systems too.
If you don’t know how to use your alarm system, get the security professional back out to train you or call somebody that can. Know your codes, both the touchpad and “verbal” passcodes to cancel an alarm. Ask your security professional to give you a “testing period”. During this time frame, any alarms (false AND real) will be ignored and no authorities will show up. I recommend 1-3 days and make everybody use the system so they are familiar with it.
Know what to expect after the alarm is tripped
When a false alarm or any alarm occurs, you should already expect certain things to happen. Of course, sirens will be going off and you should be trying to disarm the alarm. Then it is likely you will get a phone call if you are monitored. Many alarm systems give you a 30 second grace period before the signal is sent out to your monitoring company. So, it is possible that you can trip the sirens and not receive a phone call. This was implemented into many panels to help reduce false alarms. If you do get a phone call, make sure you know your “verbal passcode”. Simply tell them your verbal passcode and cancel the alarm. If you know it is equipment failure or afraid that the system will go off again, ask for your system to be put on “test” for a few hours (or until your alarm installer can get there). An example of when to do this is when the house is filled with smoke from a burnt pizza, your smoke detectors may trip several times.
AFTER: Assessing a false alarm and what to do
Hopefully by following the preventative measures, you have successfully cancelled any authorities from coming. So what caused the false alarm? When you received the phone call from the monitoring company, they should have told you what “tripped” the alarm. Most newer alarm systems will also text/email you what tripped (i.e. Text Received 2:46 AM: Zone 5 Front Door Alarm). If you didn’t gain this information yet, you can check your system’s history by using the touchpad. After an alarm, your panel will likely be beeping at you to notify you that there was an alarm. Most systems out there have a status or troubles button. Very often, it is the * key. Press the *, status or troubles button and you should see what tripped on the screen. If you have no clue what caused the alarm, call your security professional.
Understanding the Cause
The overwhelming majority of false alarms are due to some type of human error. Other causes for false alarms can be: unexpected heat or motion in front of a motion detector, nature (high winds, thunder), faulty equipment/wiring, wireless interference, improperly installed equipment, and bad luck. Bad luck is when a sensor trips for what you think is no reason whatsoever. It might have been a one-and-done tamper alarm or a momentary equipment failure. A tamper alarm means that your system was in an armed state, and the system believes somebody was trying to maliciously harm one of your sensors. These one-and-done alarms are rare but it can happen with both wired and wireless sensors. It baffles a security professional and makes customers lose faith in their alarm system. If it is a recurring event, the security professional should be replacing equipment. If it is a one-and-done, don’t lose faith in your alarm system. All technology has a mean time between failures. There are hundreds of thousands of alarm systems and sensors out there. There is an incredibly low rate of failure on most of the systems out there. Many alarm systems go 5, 10, 20 years without a glitch. It can be just bad luck if your system falls into the few that do have a momentary failure.
Be sure to do an occasional testing of your system and work with your security professional. They should be willing to help you on reducing false alarms, whether the fault is human error or equipment. If they are not helpful, consider using another company. Be sure to go through the preventative measures again. The biggest failure that can happen is no longer using an alarm system. Alarm systems can prevent unwanted intrusion, detect fires and save the lives of loved ones.
Analog vs Digital: What type of camera system should you have?
Let me note first that this is a time sensitive article written in June of 2017. As early as 2018, this article may not be relevant. Security cameras are rapidly advancing in technology.
Not going into brands & models, let’s just stick to the basics. First what is analog and what is digital? They both use a bunch of tiny image sensors to make one cohesive image electronically. The difference is what they do with that image after, mostly in the transmission of the images.
Analog Camera Systems
Analog security cameras take that image and essentially “broadcast” the image out. They rely on something else to receive the image, like a DVR. The DVR (Digital Video Recorder) can then record the video. In the past, video from an analog camera could be received by a TV, but new developments are changing that. It’s called HD-TVI* technology and has dramatically improved the image quality an analog camera can “broadcast”.
Analog Camera Pros:
–Lower Cost. Right now, analog camera systems are less expensive than digital. I find that they are usually around 10-15% less expensive than digital camera systems.
–5MPX Resolution. There are analog security cameras that can go up to 5MPX resolution. They will be released in the 3rd Quarter of 2017. That’s incredibly good resolution. This was a huge jump from the 1MPX cap just a few years ago. I have been told by a Hikvision manufacturing rep that 8MPX cameras are being developed.
–Video analytics. You can now use video analytics for things like people counting, motion alerts, and easy video retrieval.
–Transmission Distance. Can transmit video over 1500 feet of wire, enough said!
Analog Camera Cons:
–Less “smart”. Although analog cameras are getting more video analytic capabilities, they are typically less capable than digital cameras to analyze an image. Also, analog requires the use of a DVR to record images. The analog camera cannot record the images itself.
–Security Risk. Remember, analog cameras “broadcast” their image for anything that can receive it. There are ways for somebody to also receive that image besides your DVR. The risk is very low, but can happen.
–May or may not be future-oriented. A few years ago, we thought analog was dead. I stopped selling it when digital cameras finally came down in price. Then analog cameras made the jump to HD-TVI with 5MPX resolution, while remaining very inexpensive. The question is, how long will analog continue to get better? In my opinion it will continue to develop. In 4 years, will you want 20MPX digital cameras and be stuck adapting an analog infrastructure? Don’t laugh at 4 years, that’s a common cycle for upgrading many technology systems out there. Especially for security-conscious businesses.
Digital Security Cameras
Digital cameras, also commonly referred to as IP cameras, do not “broadcast” the image for anybody. You must hold the correct credentials to receive the IP camera’s video. Essentially the DVR was moved into the camera (you can even record in the camera itself using an SD card). Many people use an NVR (Network Video Recorder) that sits on the same network as the digital camera(s). It has the credentials to record the video of multiple cameras. This makes the system simple to manage. Digital cameras have been continuously improving in quality and price for years.
Digital Camera Pros:
–Very high image resolution. I will say that the 2,3,4 & 5MPX digital cameras out there right now are in affordability range for many end-users. 8MPX cameras are moving into the main stream. Within a very short time, 12MPX will likely be next. There are digital cameras that are 20+MPX. Of course, they are very expensive as I write this article.
–Future-oriented. Unless something dramatic happens and we get a 3rd type of security camera, digital will be around for a very long time.
–Higher security. If your installer follows best practices (like changing the default password), you have little to worry about with somebody looking in at your video footage.
–Slightly better analytics. Security camera manufacturers typically put better analytics in their digital cameras. One analytic to keep an eye on is object recognition, which allows the camera to identify objects (ex. Trash cans, cats, humans and so on).
Digital Camera Cons:
–More expensive. Yes, the price comes down on digital cameras all the time. The problem is they keep coming out with the next best camera. I know, it’s terrible. Just like the iPhone, they drop last year model’s price as the bring out the new iPhone that has more bells & whistles you want.
–Transmission distance. Most cameras are limited to 330 feet on network cable. This problem can be avoided by using different methods (IP over Coax) but is more expensive.
–Compatibility. You are often stuck with proprietary issues using digital camera equipment. The camera manufacturers do try to integrate some other camera brands in, but they have to focus their R&D to making the next best camera.
Which camera system is right for you?
The vanilla answer is what works best for your situation. If you are a very security-conscious business, I do recommend using digital security cameras if it fits the budget. They are more secure, have higher video resolution peaks and may have analytics that can help you. If you’re a small business or homeowner, go ahead and use analog cameras. I think analog is going to be around for a long time, but I could be completely wrong. Nobody knows whether it will or not. The biggest caveat is the development of wireless digital cameras, which could eliminate having to run wires that analog must depend on. Right now, I do not recommend them because the technology is not there yet. Too much data to transfer, too susceptible to interference, lost connections, a drain on your WiFi and there still has to be a wire for power!
There are also hybrid systems out there that can handle both analog & digital. I have put many of them in, especially for those that had analog and are trying to migrate to digital. A professional camera installer should be able to help you design the right system for your unique situation. Call FoxCrest Security, we can help you get the video solution you need. Contact Us or call (240) 422-8369
*Security experts will be quick to point out that HD-TVI is not the only new technology for analog, there is also HD-SDI. HD-TVI is by far winning the battle, much like how Blu-Ray beat HD DVD.
Buying a house or business with an existing security system
Congratulations! You just bought a home or building and it has an existing security system. It may not have been a deciding factor in buying the place, but you’re hoping you can use it. I certainly hope you do. Studies have shown that burglars do determine if there is an alarm system before attempting a burglary.
What you can do
So you just moved in and there’s a touchpad on the wall. Now what? Does it work? What do those buttons do? I don’t recommend pushing all of them. There are some buttons you can hit that will set off the alarm and the only way to shut it off is by disconnecting the power or have the 4-digit code to disarm. But there are some things you can do:
If this is an option, ask the previous owner about the existing security system
Maybe they can explain how it works or at least give you the 4-digit code
They may have a number for the company that you can call
Does it look like it’s on? Is there anything displaying on the screen?
If it doesn’t look like it’s powered on, look for the system’s transformer to plug-in. this could be difficult to find depending on how it was installed. Many plug-in transformers look like the one in the picture.
If sirens don’t go off, keep it plugged in to see if you can get to the next step
If you are being deafened by sirens, unplug it immediately and call a professional.
Almost all systems have a Status button feature
Often, it’s the * button on the touchpad
Go ahead and hit * or a button that labeled “status”, it should present to you any issues on the touchpad screen
If the system says, “System OK” or something similar, it is likely in good condition. If it says something like “low battery”, you already know it may need a battery. Either way, its best you find a security professional that can help train you on how to properly use the system and be monitored in the event of an intrusion or fire.
Calling the security company on the sign or sticker…
Who could be better help than the company that put the alarm system in the first place? Well, that depends on the security company. Some companies are very helpful and want to gain another satisfied customer. Some will not be so enthused, especially since they don’t get to sell any new equipment. They may charge a high monthly fee just to be sure they make some money off you. Others may try to get you to buy all new equipment. I fully recommend that you at least call a 2nd security professional. That way you can at least compare how well the first company is treating you. Usually a phone call to a 2nd professional will suffice, but sometimes they will ask to see the system. You should not be charged anything for a consultation. You could save a lot of money by getting a 2nd option.
Getting a 2nd security professional’s opinion
Finding a second quote to service/monitor the existing security system may be difficult. There are proprietary brands out there that make it very difficult for other security companies to service/monitor a competitor’s system. If you have an ADT, Simplisafe, or Xfinity/Comcast sign out front, you’ll have a very difficult time getting a 2nd quote. There can be situations where a replacement of the system is in your best interest. This can include taking out a proprietary system that has high monthly/maintenance costs. More often than not, the security systems that are out there can be serviced/monitored by multiple security companies. So don’t be afraid to make the 2nd call, it can definitely be worth it! Make the 2nd call to FoxCrest Security at (240) 422-8369 or Contact Us!
You want the best alarm system but there are so many alarm system choices…
So, if you’re thinking of getting an alarm system for your home or business, you’re probably trying to decide what alarm installer to go with. Or maybe order a kit online? Or are you enticed by bundling with your cable/internet provider? How do you know who has the best alarm system?
Here’s a question: Are you looking at the equipment they are providing as well? I agree, they all kind of look the same. They all have something “central” like a touchpad or a base and then you add some various kinds of sensors for doors, windows, etc. They should all offer a mobile app that you can use. Well then, I guess it just comes down to price. But if price was the only thing that mattered, we would send Heinz ketchup, Starbucks, Nike, and Apple straight into bankruptcy. So should we only consider price when it comes to an alarm system that has the critical task of protecting your property?
There are many different brands of alarm systems out there. With so many brands & models out there, we can’t possibly go over them all. It does help to have an understanding of who provides them. Here are our ratings of who provides the best alarm system equipment:
The Big Three:
Honeywell, Interlogix, DSC/Tyco
SERVICE (# OF INSTALLERS, CUSTOMER SUPPORT)
EXIT STRATEGY (SWITCH TO DIFFERENT COMPANY)
PRICE (EQUIPMENT & LIKELY MONITORING COST
Reliable, backwards compatible, good product innovation, plenty of Honeywell installers, some equipment can be used with Alarm.com
Slow product development, watch out on the “built-by-component” systems and how many security zones they can handle, expect to be pushed to use Total Connect
22 OUT OF 30
The Concord/Simon series are very reliable, Concord/Simon series use Alarm.com app, very good security zone capacities, plenty of Interlogix installers
Almost no product innovation, Interlogix is bringing in new series that don’t support Alarm.com and is developing their own app, like Honeywell
18 OUT OF 30
Reliable equipment, great product innovation (incredible wireless range), now using Alarm.com on many of their panels
Not nearly as many DSC installers as Interlogix & Honeywell, zone capacities, backwards compatibility issues
22 OUT OF 30
***These are personal ratings by the author***
Honeywell is probably the most “known” brand out there and for good reason…they’re huge. Honeywell Security is just one small faction that the Honeywell brand offers. They range from thermostats in your home to actual space satellites. Honeywell has many different models of alarm systems. Some are a “self-contained” system (which is where the “central” base is also the touchpad) and others are the “built-by-component” system (which there is usually a “central” base that has the brains and your touchpads communicate back to it). Honeywell systems use the Total Connect mobile app to allow customers to arm/disarm, smart home features, etc. Total Connect is proprietary to Honeywell systems only.
Interlogix Alarm Systems
Interlogix is something you may not have heard of, but GE is something you probably recognize. For a long time they used the GE brand to prop them up, but no longer do so after some re-alignments. Interlogix is now under UTC (United Technologies), which still has some good brand recognition in the construction industry. The brand Interlogix is not well known to the masses, but in the security world they have a well-known presence. This is in much thanks to two models: the Concord series and Simon series. The Simon series is their “self-contained” system and Concord is their “built-by-component” alarm system. These models use the Alarm.com mobile app. Alarm.com is not proprietary to Interlogix, the mobile app can also be used for Honeywell and DSC/Tyco systems making it the most popular mobile app out there.
DSC Alarm Systems
DSC/Tyco is also not well known to the general population but is in many homes & businesses. DSC (Digital Security Controls) was bought by Tyco in 2002. Tyco is owned by Johnson Controls, so once again the brand is just one tentacle of a mega-corporation. And just like Interlogix & Honeywell, they have “self-contained” models and “built-by-component” systems. DSC just recently added some of its panels to be used in conjunction with Alarm.com.
I won’t go into much detail with these brands. 2GIG is a pretty popular brand, which is owned by Nortek Security & Control. 2GIG systems can also be used with Alarm.com mobile app. Bosch is a recognizable name and their camera line is popular.
Alarm brands that are proprietary (basically installed by their own installers or do-it-yourself):
ADT, Simplisafe, Comcast
SERVICE (# OF INSTALLERS, CUSTOMER SUPPORT)
EXIT STRATEGY (SWITCH TO DIFFERENT COMPANY)
PRICE (EQUIPMENT & LIKELY MONITORING COST
The equipment is low in cost if willing to sign a long-term contract with high monthly rate, equipment is reliable, no shortage of ADT installers
“Free” equipment but really paying for it over the contract, rate won’t go down once equipment is paid, luck of the draw on how good your local ADT franchisee services customers, terrible exit strategy
15 OUT OF 30
Very inexpensive, favorable reviews online, save money by Do-It-Yourself installation, no annual contracts
Little product development, no choice in equipment, no home automation options, limited wireless range, very hard to back out
12 OUT OF 30
Bundling might save you money, has home automation, has DIY option, one less company to deal with
You’re signing a contract with them, no choice in equipment, price fluctuation, cancellation of service won’t be easy and company switching is out of the question
14 OUT OF 30
***These are personal ratings by the author***
Yes, ADT is an alarm installer just like those that sell the big brands. The significant difference is that ADT tries to keep almost everything in-house. It depends on your local ADT franchisee dealer as to what equipment they offer. But the mobile app, monitoring and customer service are all ADT. The alarm installer putting in your ADT equipment owns an ADT franchised by…ADT. Every penny spent on ADT makes Apollo Global Management, LLC shareholders very happy. APO also owns Protection 1, a huge alarm installation company.
Simplisafe is championing the Do-It-Yourself security market. They are much like ADT but instead you are their installer. They have their own equipment, monitoring, mobile app, customer service. It’s a very low cost model which does allow for them to pass on significant savings to the customer. All customer support is done either by phone or computer. Their website claims you can be finished installing in under 1 hour with a 5-minute video. If you only have a few sensors and no issues arise, that might be true.
I’m bringing up Comcast/Xfinity Security (the broadband cable/internet/phone provider) but there are several companies like them that are getting into the security industry. They offer their own equipment and look to “bundle” your monitoring in with the rest of your bill. Quite often this is a promotional offer to entice you to choose them, then raise the price once the promotion is over. Once the “professional” installation is complete (which still requires you to do much of the programming), you will then rely on Comcast’s phone support for any issues.
Who does FoxCrest think has the best alarm system?
As an alarm installer, I believe in providing clients the best alarm system equipment available at a price my clientele can afford. I also plan on servicing the alarm equipment I install for a very long time. That’s why I stick with the Big 3 brands (Honeywell, Interlogix, DSC). They provide the most value to end-users and help keep a long healthy relationship with installer & end-users. That’s why the Big 3 have been around for so long.
Personally, I like DSC/Tyco. They made the right moves in recent years with acquiring some great innovations and moving to Alarm.com mobile app. The technology in their wireless sensors blows the other brands out of the water. Alarm.com is by far the best alarm system mobile app out there for security & end-users. It is simple to use and they just keep making it better. I truly believe they have the best alarm system available. If Interlogix could have kept the Concord/Simon series going, I might be saying they’re the best alarm system manufacturer (which I did for years when they were). Honeywell is a very reputable company, and you can see by the ratings I think they are tied with DSC. Alarm.com was the tiebreaker for me when I decided between the two.
ADT, Simplisafe & Comcast are what you pay for, hopefully
You can see that the proprietary brands (ADT, Simplisafe, Comcast) did not fare so well when you look at other things besides prices. I believe that most the time, you get what you pay for. I also believe that they have their place in the security industry as well. Not everybody can afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a system but need at least some basic protection for their home. I’m glad that these companies are there to help, but I also hope that they fulfill that individual’s security needs. Putting your money into these companies is a definite risk and you could end up losing more than you bargained for.