Dear PoP – Alarm Company Recs?

Photo by PoPville flickr user [F]oxymoron

“Dear PoP,

My husband and I just bought a new house and I’m wondering if we need to consider an alarm system. If so, do readers have any advice on which ones are best/cheapest? I’d rather not spend a ton of money, especially since I kind of doubt their effectiveness. If not alarms, any other tips?”

We recently discussed the pros and cons of alarms vs security bars. But to answer your question – I’d say yes, you should get an alarm system. I think when you get an alarm you can get a little discount on your insurance but the reason I say yes instantly is because it can be both a deterrent and give peace of mind. The cost is not insane (you can get a basic set up). Basically, I’ve heard a lot of stories about alarms being very effective. It is not foolproof but the police usually respond very quickly.

As for specific companies that is a much harder question. Who do you guys recommend?

35 Comment

  • ADT is easy, fast, simple, effective, and cheap. And they have great customer services.

    • ah

      I’m not sure I’d include cheap in that list of adjectives. I use them, but I think it’s pretty expensive at ~$400/year.

    • I echo the ADT recommendation. We got a great sales rep who got us a $200 gift card promo deal and they were pretty willing to switch out pieces to get us what we want and to do it without a landline. The only time it went off, response has been good.

  • When we bought our house, a Petitbon alarm system was already installed. I’ve been incredibly happy with their customer service, and I believe it’s a local company. A friend of mine has ADT, and it took several visits and a lot of hassle to get her system set up properly.

  • For me ADT was very easy to get, set up, and they have great customer service – however as AH said, they are on the high end for cost.

    Don’t fall for that auto payment/give me access to your bank account crap – just say no flat out, and you get want you want.

    Side Note: With Pets you are limited to the options you can set your system at which is a real drag. Most likely will change my service to a lesser expensive option once the ADT contract expires. (Stay versus Away setting)

  • We have Guardian. We were originally going to go with Brinks, but their $99 installation was suddenly 6 times that when the sales guy came out. And then he tried to use some serious scare tactics on me (my husband was out of town) and that just pissed me off on principal. We’ve been happy with Guardian; the installation was maybe $200, the installer strongly recommended against the movement sensor since we had a cat and had good advice on where to use sensors based on all the things he was always fixing or replacing. I think the monitoring is $35/month but it’s on auto-pay so I’m not quite sure…

  • I actually had ADT installed just this morning. Installation was simple enough (not exactly “fast”…about 2 hours). I think the price is reasonable considering a neighbor recently bought a new, reinforced door for $1200 after his was place was broken into. That alone pays for the 3-year contract.

    Security choice is currently having a special whereby equipment is free and installation only $99, plus you get a $100 gift card.

  • we have adt and i love it. we don’t have motion detectors, as we have pets, and i feel pretty good about just the window and door units. we have every point of entry (doors and windows) on the first two floors alarmed, plus smoke detectors that tie in to the system. it’s all wireless and it all works really well. we’ve had dust from sanding our molding set off the smoke detectors, so they are pretty sensitive, and we always get calls immediately from adt if one goes off (and they send out the fire department or cops right away, too). if we are doing something that requires a temporary non use of one door or window or something (like a home repair), we just call and they turn that one off so you can still arm the system. they’ve always been quick to respond and really helpful. we pay $40 (approximately) a month for our service, and i think the install was like $200 or $300, although i think it’s more now (additional wireless units cost more). in any case, i feel really good about them, and i would not live in my neighborhood with our young son without that peace of mind i get from having the system.

  • We have a reputable alarm company’s stickers left over from a prior owner, but don’t have the alarm. Seems to work just fine knock on wood.

    • Because you haven’t been robbed yet? What exactly constitutes “Seems to work just fine”?

      • Well, several years and no problems. Saved a lot of cash that would have been spent on an alarm system. If you look at the statistics, there are significantly more false alarms on these things than anything else. These companies make a ton of cash trafficking in fear. I don’t feel like indulging that b.s.

    • Stupid advice. When I was renting in SW we had the alarm company’s stickers too, but we opted not to activate the system because we didn’t want to pay the $40/month plus whatever it costs to get a landline. We also reasoned that since the house had thick bars on the windows and doors, and watchful neighbors next door, it was unlikely someone would break in.

      Well, they did. Had the alarm been activated, they probably would have grabbed my laptop– the only thing remotely worth stealing– and run. But as it was, they clearly spent a long time in house, ripping every inch of it to shreds. That part was far worse than losing the laptop.

      • Conversely, my parents (in suburbia) had an alarm system that didn’t call the police, but made a lot of noise. The guys who broke in made a beeline for the bedroom, grabbed my mom’s jewlery, and darted out. The rest of the house was left untouched.

        I imagine DC criminals are a bit savvier and could tell the difference between an alarm system that calls the police and one that’s just there for show, but regardless they’re likely to spend less time in there if there’s a loud alarm going off.

  • ADT is awful, I just canceled with them after they wouldn’t cover a wire that went bad even though I’ve been paying the extra maint. charge for 5 years (when they installed the system they chose to use an existing wire and suddenly they claim its not their wire so its not covered.

    Anyway, canceling was the best thing I ever did. I bought a wireless GE Simon XT and now I can not only go on the net and look at my house, but everything from my attic to the basement is covered with sensors. Additionally, there are 20 other monitoring companies to choose from that only cost 9.99 per month to monitor and the Simon XT will call me directly when there is a problem. If the current company fails to monitor my house I can change to any other company. Its awsome…

    You can go to to get a pre-packaged deal but I’d recommend buildin out the system yourself and choosing a monitoring company yourself (you can buy your own equipment at

    • Oh yeay, I forgot the best stuff. I have fire alarms on all 3 floors, a flood detector in the basement and the Simon XT will even turn my lights on and off based on how I program it. I can even look at my house on my blackberry and turn the alarm on or off. There are abunch of other gadgets I can get for it, but I’ve pretty much maxed it out for now.

      • For what it is worth, ADT is now offering a new wireless system called Pulse that offers the same features: wireless alarm, sensors, video cameras; automatic control of lights, heating, etc.; system control and monitoring via computer or smartphone app. I don’t know the cost yet but I have asked ADT for information about switching to PUlse from my current hardwired ADT system, which came with the house. I have been happy with ADT but I do want to go the wireless, internet accessible and controlled route, so if I can’t switch to Pulse I may go with Frontline.

  • I lived in a rented house on Capitol Hill may years ago (early 1990’s), and the house came with an ADT alarm system. The day that I was robbed on my stoop in broad daylight, it was reassuring to know that if the “gentlemen” wanted to come inside with me, I would be able to tell them I needed to turn off the alarm system, and then punch in a panic code that would call the police immediately. Totally worth whatever little premium we were paying in rent.

  • Adt and brinks are old technologies. The simon xt is more like a lifestyle assistance computer. That thing does everything but cook diner.

  • nope, no landline needed. We have ADT and we have a big transmitter thing that plugs into the wall and basically works like a wireless router to transmit information to them. We’ve had a few false alarms, so we know it works.

  • We have Front Point Security. Completely wireless and configurable based on your needs. I think they’re local too, Arlington maybe? You pay based on the sensors you choose. And I have a sweet little app on my phone that notifies me of what’s going on in my house and lets me turn on/off the system as needed. But the big perk, as we own a basement condo, were the wireless water sensors. Those are great for reassurance!

    • Same here – love, love, love the remote features. I can set or disarm the alarm from anywhere. Also – pet friendly motion sensors. Bonus – excellent customer service.

  • Miles Fawcett from Urban Alarms. DC Native, responsive, knowledgeable small business.

    • I absolutely, completely, totally recommend Miles and Urban Alarm. They are wonderful wonderful wonderful. No landline needed. $40 month for monitoring, and if the alarm goes off and you can’t be reached, they send the police to check on the house. In terms of set up, Miles will lay out options for you, no hard sale, just facts, and you can decide what you want. For example, it’s XX per window, do you want to do first floor only or second floor too. It’s XX per motion sensor, here’s where one could put them, which ones do you want. Etc. Really, the customer service is exemplary and he is a fantastic, local, competitively-priced small business. One of the easiest parts of setting up my new home.

      • I can agree that Urban Alarm folks provided good customer service, but were a pain with the install. To the point that I thought maybe they were the ones behind all the good reviews out there. They seemed clueless as to how a system should work and it took about 5 visits to get everything working more or less correct. Having said that, it has worked great since the bugs were fixed.

  • I bought my system (a DSC Alexor) from It cost about $300 including 6 window/door sensors, a motion sensor, and a keyfob. I installed it myself. It’s wireless, so the install was pretty straightforward. I use Alarm Relay for the monitoring. They charge $8.95/month, if you prepay for a year in advance.

    ADT was significantly more expensive, and wanted to lock me into a really long contract (5 years?). I wound up with a much better alarm at a much lower price with only a 1 year contract.

  • Depends on what you need. If you have a system already installed, then all you need is the $7/month phone line and an alarm monitoring company. You shouldn’t be paying more than $10-15 a month for monitoring.

    If you need a system installed, then you have to think about whether you pay an alarm company to install it or whether you buy the components on line yourself. If there’s an alarm system that you like, it’s not that hard to install them if you get one with wireless sensors. If you’re not savvy with installation/computers, then ADT or a major brand name is probably the safest bet, regardless of price.

    The sky is the limit with alarm systems. GE makes a good system.

    • The downside with the VoIP alarm systems is that they all come with big disclaimers about VoIP reliability. Phone lines are still way more reliable than comcast (whomever) in an emergency. Also, if your power goes out, so does your internet connection, whereas phone lines stay up in a power outage.

      There’s another option which is a cell phone transmitter, but they add costs around $10/month + the hardware cost.

  • We use Urban Alarm and are really happy. The setup costs are quite a bit, but you don’t have to sign a contract. And it is a locally owned business and not a huge national company that contracts its monitoring out to random sketchy operations.

  • I second Urban Alarm. We’ve used them on a few condo developments and no complaints yet. Ask for Miles.

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