Which burglar alarm should I buy?

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Many people think the sound of a burglar alarm going off in error is so common that it’s not worth having one, as neighbours and passers by will simply ignore it.Home security burglar alarm

However, they should think again. A decent alarm still has the power to deter intruders, either putting them off entering a property in the first place or causing them to flee if it’s triggered when they’re inside.

As the Metropolitan Police in London point out, “it is far less likely that you will become the victim of a burglary at home if you have a correctly fitted and well maintained burglar alarm”.

An alarm could save you money

The main reason for having an alarm fitted is clearly to prevent your home from being broken into, with all the trauma it can cause, but there’s also a possible bonus effect of reducing your home insurance premiums.

Insurers routinely offer homeowners with burglar alarms discounts on home cover premiums of up to 15%. Just make sure you turn it on when you leave your house, otherwise an insurer might adjust a claim accordingly, or even reject it.

Which alarm system to buy

There are a variety of systems available with the level of sophistication largely depending on price and the support services that can come with them.

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want a wireless or a wired system.

Wireless alarms – These tend to ‘look’ nicer, and are easier and cheaper to install. They are also more readily transferred if you move home. However, they’re generally considered more likely to go off in error.

Wired alarms – These are often cheaper to buy, but more expensive to install as the wires need to be hidden and laid to run through a property to what is usually a larger control box than wireless alarms have.

Types of system

The types of alarm system available largely boil down to three:

  • Fake boxes

A fake alarm is the good old box which isn’t actually an alarm, it just looks like one. They wouldn’t fool professional burglars, but as many break-ins are opportunistic and carried out by ‘amateurs’, they might have some impact.

However, fake alarm boxes aren’t recommended as a true ‘security’ measure. They also won’t be taken into account when an insurer is working out your cover premiums.

Effect on your insurance: None.

  • Monitored

Monitored alarms offer the highest level of protection.

In return for a monthly or annual fee, you get 24-hour vigilance from a company which monitors the signals coming from your system.

If the alarm goes off, several procedures take place initially to see if it’s been falsely triggered (usually involving someone from the calling you or other designated individuals). The response is designed to happen rapidly and, if necessary, the monitoring company will notify the police of a possible break-in and also the nominated alarm key holders.

Effect on your insurance: A monitored alarm will, on the whole, have the greatest impact in terms of reducing your home insurance costs.

  • Bells-only

With ‘bells-only’ alarms, you get the shrill alarm sound, but nothing else.

It’s usually triggered by motion and other sensors sensors linked to doors and windows so that the alarm goes off if someone breaks in.

You don’t get the option for monitoring, and it’s possible tampering can occur with the alarm being cut off by more seasoned thieves.

A bells-only alarm will only sound for a maximum of 20 minutes, and then stop (due to the laws regarding noise pollution), and the police will only respond if they are called by anyone suspecting a break in.

Effect on your insurance: An insurer may decide to offer you reduced premiums if you have a bells-only alarm, depending on the alarm quality.

Alarm maintenance

Maintaining the system helps prevent false alarms and also ensures it’s in good working order to do its main job; preventing burglaries.

Most monitored alarms come with a maintenance contract, but bells-only ones generally don’t.

It’s a good idea to have a system checked at least annually and some insurers require regular maintenance as part of your cover terms.

Caveats to take note of

If you say you’ve got a burglar alarm, an insurer will often take this into account when working out your premiums. This means that if you then don’t switch the alarm on when you’re out and you get broken into, the insurer could either reduce any claim you might have to make or reject it altogether.

Policy Expert

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The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.