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Home Security Systems
During the past several years, consumers have spent over $5 billion on home security, and the numbers of homes with security systems has increased almost 40%. Although no system makes your home completely burglar-proof, a home security system can reduce the chances of being burglarized and give you some peace of mind. The BBB advises consumers to investigate the purchase of a home security system with the same care as they would any major purchase.

Basic elements of a security system include perimeter sensors on outside doors and windows, motion detectors in key inside areas, a control unit to interpret and respond to signals from the sensors, a siren or other alert mechanism, and a connection to a central monitoring station to notify the police. Fire detection and medical emergency devices are other available options.

Security systems can be wireless or wired. Wireless systems use battery-powered radio transmitters to connect the various system components. They can be bought at hardware stores and easily installed by a homeowner. Wireless systems have the advantage of low cost, simple operation, and portability to a new home. Some are limtied in their capabilities, however, and many do not give the option of connecting to a network that will alert the police or fire department.

With a wired alarm, the system components are permanently connected by wires in the floors and walls. A professional company typically installs and services the system. A wired system is significantly more expensive than a wireless one but offers a wider choice of features, tighter security, and central monitoring. Be sure you fully understand the process for installation, the scope of the service provided and the reliability of the company offering the service.

The best home security system will be customized to your lifestyle, including your schedule and your family, and will take into account specific valuables you want protected. Carefully consider your security requirements and your budget. Your local police department may have a crime prevention unit that can recommend specific security measures.

If you decide to have a professionally installed system, talk to at least two or three companies. Find out if they are properly licensed and if they screen employees before hiring. Ask for references and check out companies with BBB and with the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Also talk to your insurance agent--some systems may qualify you for a discount of up to 30% on your home owner's premium.

Ask for an inspection, demonstration, and itemized written estimate. Read contracts and sales agreements closely to ensure you understand exactly what equipment and protection you're getting for your investment. When determining the best price, take into account not only the initial installation charge but also monthly monitoring or routine maintenance charges. Also consider the merits of leasing versus buying your system. It may cost less to lease if you plan to move within a few years.

As with any investment, make sure you fully understand what you are purchasing.
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