Dear PoPville – Anyone have wireless alarm systems?

Photo by PoPville flickr user mosley.brian

“Dear PoPville,

I am currently looking to upgrade my older style ADT alarm. I want a full wireless system, including wireless video cameras for the front and rear of my property. Vivint recently stopped by and chatted with my wife and I have a friend that really likes their system, but only reviews are spotted at best.

Does anyone know of affordable local installers that have installed wireless systems that include video monitoring and remote access? Ie vivint has apps that I can check video etc remotely via iphone/bberry/computer and I’m not sure if others offer the similar abilities.

All in all, searching for security systems online is a complete pain in the rear end as none of the companies will really give you the whole story… rather they want to get to your house and cajole you into a deal. Its worse than buying a used car.

Anyway, curious if readers have similar systems to what I am looking for and if they recommend a specific installer. Also, did they pay out of pocket or get rolled into a long term, more inflated monitoring fee?”

41 Comment

  • We’re looking at the same thing. Currently have Broadview (formerly Brinks/ADT) and they offer something called Pulse:

    I have no clue what it costs, because, as you say, they won’t disclose much. You have to have some sales guy over to give you the hard sell over your kitchen table.

    • I had the same experience but I was able to get some basic pricing. Was told on the phone that for me to go to a basic Pulse package (door sensors, fire and CO2 monitoring, motion detectors) they’d have to install a whole new system at one cost. But if I upgraded to light and appliance control, they could use my current panel and it would cost half as much. Makes no sense to me. I may go for the free home consultation to get a handle on it. Or I may just go with Frontpoint, which I’ve heard good things about and you install yourself.

  • I just had an urban alarm system installed — not as complex as you are looking for, but it is wireless. They are local and monitoring is month to month (no contract). Great customer service and no problems so far (it’s only been a week or so since installation)

    • yeah. I say boo to urban alarm. My downstairs neighbor uses them. Our small condo building got robbed, the alarm went off, and they didn’t bother calling the police.

      When our neighbor asked why, they said “breakdown in protocol.. yadda yadda yadda”

      So I don’t recommend them.

      • This was a dispatcher error which we thoroughly investigated. Our dispatcher error rate is about 0.00053%, much better then industry average. Every issue is investigated and typically results in retraining / coaching as this incident did. We take every alarm very seriously and aggressively respond to all customer issues.

  • I have also been looking into alarm systems and while I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, I found Urban Alarm to be very up front with their pricing. I was able to get a fairly detailed quote from the over email without the hard sell.

    • +1 on Urban Alarm. They are really great, and while I got an in-person estimate, Miles (the owner) did not give me a hard sell, at all. Highly recommend.

  • Has anyone tried Front Point Security? They say it is all wireless and you buy the equipment online and install it yourself – 42.92/monthly monitoring with a 3 year commitment. Am seriously considering it, but would love if anyone could provide a review!

    • Frontpoint runs a system provided by I used an system when I lived in another city and it was fantastic. Totally wireless, online interface, video, they even have an iphone app that works really well. They are also developing some additional cool home automation products. Highly recommend.

    • Frontpoint requires you to install yourself which can be a huge pain sometimes. I don’t have experience with them but only believe they have been in business for a couple of years.

  • Unrelated to op: Fantastic pic of shipboard alarm system.

  • For what it’s worth, the last time we had a discussion about alarm systems (perhaps a year ago?), a lot of people responded. I went through all the comments and narrowed the list down to the following:

    Urban Alarm (265.2700 x11)
    Alarm Relay (Watchlight?)
    Paul Michael (301.919.7322)
    [email protected]

    I haven’t contacted any of them yet for estimates, but these seemed to be most popular services at the time. I don’t know about their wireless services.

  • Strongly recommend FrontPoint Security. You DIY the install, but it’s stupid easy, and their customer service is fantastic.

  • I really like the wireless monitoring offered by Urban Alarm. Very responsive staff, local company, installation guy was friendly and knowlegable, no problems in >2yrs and fairly reasonable pricing (<$50/mo for monitoring).

  • austindc

    We used the PoP posts to pick our alarm company (and our window bar company), and we ended up going with Ackerman Security:

    We get to own the equipment (instead of renting it), and we pay about $25 per month for wireless monitoring. We love it so far! They have video and cell phone apps and all that stuff too.

  • Open source ubuntu has software that can run security cameras for free.

    (don’t I wish)….I have begun to mount my network of secret hidden cameras all over DC. Look out young thugs. Our anti-crime membership club is watching, even while we’re at the office or coffee shop. Soon we’ll have a dossier on each of you. We’ve also planted bait bikes with GPS units all over the city. We will find your huge stash of stolen bikes anyday now. We’re training a network of gun sniffing dogs too, better hide those bullets.

  • We also went with Ackerman–installation today (!), so I’ll report back. They’re using all the hardware we had from ADT but we get monitoring, plus access via iPhone for about $30/month.

  • We got a new ADT Pulse system a month ago — wireless. We love it. The install for motion detectors, doors, windows, etc on a row house was about $1500 with a 2 year contract at $40/mo. If you are a USAA member you get a discount, which is why we chose them. It’s cool. You can monitor it all from the internet or your phone, and I love turning the alarm on/off with my iphone as I am walking home.

    • PSA: the remote access is cool but it’s best to wait until you’re in the house to turn off the alarm. It will be your notification that there’s been a breach if for whatever reason you weren’t notified.

      Some people don’t care, but I have a fear of coming home and finding a stranger in the house.

  • I actually bought my own system (GE Simon XT) – a totally wireless system for about $500. The benefit of this approach is the savings through cheaper home monitoring — I am paying $10/month through safemart for home monitoring.

    You’ve got to have a little DIY-bility but otherwise a pretty simple process.

    • I did the same, but with different brands. DSC Alexor alarm, and alarmrelay monitoring. It saved me a ton of money from my old ADT system. I don’t have any video cameras, though, and I don’t think my system supports them.

  • Try FrontPoint Security–I’ve had them for two years–everything is wireless, the service is great–no hard sells–you can choose your own package and you can place an order online without any hassle. They also have a good app for monitoring/controlling your system from your phone.

  • Not to hijack the thread too much… but what’s the general thinking here on monitored vs. unmonitored systems?

    Like, is an unmonitored system worthless? Good, but not as good as a monitored system? Equally good?

    • When we had our first false alarm several years ago, a neighbor told us that police were swarmed in front and back of our house within a couple of minutes. He seems to think it’s the reason we’ve never had a break-in because all the riff remember the response and stay away.

      I know it helps me sleep better at night. We had a power outage after a storm once that went on for a few days and the loss of that monitoring made me sweat more than the loss of A/C.

  • Related: has anyone had an incident (break-in, false alarm, etc) with any of these companies, that required them to contact you or the police? How was their response time?

    I wouldn’t mind exploring alternatives to Broadview, but I must say that they are super quick to respond when we’ve had the inevitable false alarm while letting the cat out.

    • ADT called the police right away and the police were there in 2 minutes tops. This was in Alexandria. Unfortunately, the stupid motion detector was set off by a mouse in the basement. Avoid motion detectors as part of your coverage. But… in terms of calling the police and calling me themselves, ADT was good.

    • My Trinidad house came with an ADT system and I just took over the contract. The day I bought the house, I couldn’t figure out how to disarm the system (didn’t hold the button on the fob long enough, herp derp) and ADT called the previous owner right away. I was still standing on the porch pushing buttons when the previous owner called the next door neighbor to see what was going on.

      Last week I was out of town. Some friends checked on my house and set the motion sensors when they left – I got a call from ADT about 4:30am when the cats set it off. They verified that it was just the motion sensor and not any doors or windows, so I told them to ignore it and texted my friends to reset the alarm. I was only half awake and thought of more questions over the next 15 minutes, called them back, and got a person within a few minutes who went over everything thoroughly with me.

      Since the system came with the house I didn’t comparison shop and have no clue what installation was. Monitoring is about $40/month (with cell option, so it will work without a landline). So far their service has been great and I feel pretty confident that ADT will respond very promptly when the alarm goes off.

    • I was an alarm dispatcher for ADT during college. It was run like a military camp. They take the dispatch protocol seriously and they’re uber strict with the employees. The QA’d most of your calls. You could only go to the bathroom for up to 3 minutes; if you were 1 minute late for your shift you were given an “occurrence” and 7 occurrences= firing. Reason being- you couldn’t make mistakes or a customer would sue.

      Tips for motion detectors- no motion detector is “pet friendly.” if you have dogs, install your detectors upside down on the bottom portion of your wall. The field of the detector will monitor from the 2ft or 3 feet off the ground to the ceiling.

      If you have cats—good luck. Cats jump on everything and like to set off alarms.

  • I’m having my alarm system installed on Wednesday. I used Washington Consumer Checkbook to rate them and went with N&D in Arlington. So far, their customer service has been fantastic. I had Brinks/ADT at my former place. It worked well, but it was a bit pricey for what I got.

    My backup system involves bees, prickly bushes, mace, nunchucks, a friendly dog, and a big-ass safe from home depot.

  • We had a wireless, monitored system from ADT installed 2 years ago and have been very happy with the results. The only thing wired is the control panel is wired to the box in the basement, otherwise it’s all wireless: door/window sensors, thermal/motion/smoke detectors, etc. Customer service is great, system works great. In terms of false alarms, our dogs tripped the motion detectors a handful of times and ADT first tries to call you on numbers you provide them, but if they can’t reach you they call the cops. I recently inquired about upgrading to their Pulse system which includes wireless surveillance video and remote control lights which you can access from any web connection. They do need to come out for an exact quote, but guy ballparked me something like $1,200 over the phone for installation.

  • We have a wireless system with Vivant and have been happy with their service. It costs $45 a month with a two year contract and the install was free. We’ve had a couple of false alarms (friends without the code, etc), but have been able to work it out with the customer service reps – the police have never come by. Thankfully no real break ins!

  • I currently have comparable estimates from Urban Alarm and Petitbon. Both do not require contracts, and I appreciate the clear estimates and lack of “high pressure” tactics from both. Was actually having trouble pulling the trigger because both seemed appealing. The note above about a “breakdown in protocol” with Urban Alarm now has me more nervous. Anyone else have a real or false alarm that tested response time with either of these companies?

  • I second the Front Point suggestion. We’ve had them for a year and love the flexibility. Inexpensive up front, we could pick which sensors we wanted, and the monthly rates are reasonable.

  • Have been researching companies. Called DCRA and found Ackerman, Petitbon, FrontPoint are not licensed as Security Companies in DC. Adt, Asg, Urban Alarm, and Vintage are.

    For what it’s worth.

    • That’s a good point. You should also find out what background checks the rep and installer have undergone.

    • What does it mean to be licensed or not licensed as a Security Company in D.C.? What’s the practical effect? (Trying to choose a company, too.)

    • That’s a good observation. I work for FrontPoint. Several years ago DC informed us that since our systems are set up by the end user, we do not need to be licensed. We are 100% wireless – wireless sensors and cellular communication to the monitoring center.

      We are actually exempted from licensing in a umber of states for various reasons (check the licensing link on our home page).

  • I would also take a look at Guardian Protection Services and Vector. Both offer the same ‘wireless’ protection as ADT but with their own installers and monitoring centers, meaning non of it is sub-contracted. One more note on security systems: Read the fine print, especially on the contract committment!

  • We have been using Urban Alarm for 2 years now. We liked the idea of using a local company and their contracts are month to month instead of 2 year with the larger companies. We use their wireless system and have yet to have a problem. In fact, we use them in our restaurants too. I would give them a strong recommendation for not over selling, tailoring a system best for us (not them), knowledgeable installation staff and solid service.

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