Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

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DanL
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Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by DanL » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:50 pm

What has been your experience and recommendations for a Home alarm system? We travel 5 months away and we are looking for advice on what ways we can protect our home.

Living in Seattle and crime seems to be increasing. Curious if an internet type camera system could be as good as a home alarm system. What kind of fees are reasonable for a good alarm system? Anything I should watch out for when signing up for an alarm service? Which companies do you recommend?

Any tips welcomed.

Thank you for sharing. -Dan

HereToLearn
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by HereToLearn » Sun Mar 10, 2019 1:19 pm

I have ADT and want to warn you about bait & switch. Perhaps my installer was unscrupulous, but I do think his approach is systemic.

I have VOIP and ADT knew this when the appointment was scheduled. Monthly billing rates confirmed based on VOIP as opposed to WiFi access. Phone sales also very misleading about the amount and type of installed equipment required to secure the property. (Motion detectors vs. glass break resulting in higher equipment costs.)

Installer had me initial contract page where I agreed to the extensive up-charges he convinced me I needed to have installed (contrary to information communicated over phone), but worse than that, he installed a system that used WiFi. My initials were added electronically throughout the contract to pages I never saw, resulting in a $60 monthly charge instead of the agreed upon $29.

ADT's contract states that customers only have three business days to change their minds, and after that they are locked into the agreed upon rate for the duration of the three years required to pay off the installed equipment. I noticed the charge on my CC statement and called to dispute. Resolving the issue took MANY threatening phone calls. ADT finally agreed to send out a new installer to install the equipment that operates over VOIP. The keypad installed to work on VOIP system is smaller than the keypad originally installed, leaving holes in the wall.

I will be looking into SimpliSafe or whatever else is available once my ADT contract has expired.

The annual savings on my homeowners' insurance is almost the amount of the ADT monitoring.

whomever
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by whomever » Sun Mar 10, 2019 1:41 pm

"Curious if an internet type camera system could be as good as a home alarm system."

I don't think so. My 2 cents is that a monitored alarm has one advantage: once it trips, burglars know the clock is ticking. Depending on your jurisdiction's priorities and what other calls for service the police have at the moment the police response can range from hours to minutes. If your jurisdiction responds quickly even some of the time then the alarm tripping starts burglars thinking about how much they would not like to be in the house when the cops arrive. We used to live in suburbia serviced by the King Co. Sheriff's Dept, and once a deputy happened to be right in the neighborhood and was on scene maybe three minutes after the alarm tripped, and the burglars had already left. That's way better than at our unalarmed neighbors where a team of burglars spent several hours carefully selecting a van full of stuff to take, or friends that were gone for the summer (in a rural area) and burglars made repeated trips with a u-haul, leaving them with a close to empty house.

I only have second hand experience with the unmonitored systems where you get an email saying something is going on and check the cameras yourself, and presumably call the cops yourself if something is amiss. Our friends with those haven't been too happy. For example, we've had to go over a couple of times and reset their cable modem. That may be more of an indictment of their ISP than anything. Since they are doing the monitoring, that model also doesn't work if they don't have cell coverage, e.g. if they are backpacking.

Traditional alarms can communicate via landline phone lines, your internet connection, or the cell phone network (including more than one of those). A burglar who knows it has tripped doesn't know which of those your system may be using, and so can't be sure company isn't coming. Even cutting the lines won't stop ones that talk over the cell network.

"What kind of fees are reasonable for a good alarm system?"

We use alarmrelay.com, which charges something like $10 a month (I don't remember exactly). And our city has an annual alarm permit fee of
$20 or something like that.

"Anything I should watch out for when signing up for an alarm service? Which companies do you recommend?"

Yeah. There are some big names whose business model is to install the alarm for relatively little up front, then have you pay for it through high monthly fees - like $35 and up. The problem is that they don't ever lower the fee, so after a couple of years you would have been better off paying whatever the going rate is to buy a system outright and then hiring alarmrelay or similar companies. And you never own the system, so you can't cancel and sign up with another monitoring company. Read the fine print carefully.

"Any tips welcomed."

IMHO it's easy to start down a path of building the Fort Knox of alarm systems. Burglars have fairly predictable habits, like heading for the master bedroom hoping for jewelry and unsecured nightstand guns, etc. So I think you get most of the value in a basic system with a few motion detectors
covering the pathways they will use to look for what they want. If they break in the window of the guest bedroom that has nothing of value and don't trip the alarm until they go into the hall, good enough.

Others will have to chime in on the merits of the newer DIY ones like Simplisafe; ours have always been the old fashioned ones, and they work well.

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corn18
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by corn18 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:14 pm

Decide what you are trying to accomplish and then go that route. We decided we wanted security while at home. Security while away was not a big concern for us. We don't even arm our system when we leave home.

We have an ADT system for the alarm bits. Just window/door sensors and breakage sensors. I think it cost $400 to install because we got a wifi capable system and window breakage sensors. The wifi has proven next to useless as we don't arm when we are away, but it is cool to ask our google home stuff to arm or disarm the system. Not worth paying $52/mo to have the wifi capability, so we may downgrade the monthly service.

We also have a Nest doorbell and 4 outdoor Nest cams with DVR. These are nice. While we are away, it sends us alerts when they see something. If we ever saw something suspicious, we could just start yelling at them as they have 2 way sound. We would call the police if we felt something was amiss.
Don't do something, just stand there!

TooOldForThis
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by TooOldForThis » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:58 pm

Recommend that you investigate SimpliSafe. Super easy to install yourself. Works well while you are home and away.

Only issue we've had with this service is that the dogs set off motion sensors, even on the lowest sensitivity and mounted high (according to Simplisafe recommendations). The good news is that you can set these sensors as "advise only" meaning I get a notice on my phone when they set these off, I can check the camera to make sure there really isn't a home invasion, and go about my business without having to take a call from their control center.

Their control, though, is super efficient and officious.

You can even go without their monitoring if you really only want coverage while you're away.

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LadyGeek
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by LadyGeek » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:19 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (alarm system).
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

Saving$
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by Saving$ » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:27 pm

Considerations:
1. Do you want professional monitoring or are you ok self monitoring? I'd want professional monitoring.
2. The challenge with the new systems is the hardware ties you to a particular monitoring company. Its not (yet) like the old systems where they could just reprogram the dialer and that changed monitoring companies. If the hardware company goes out of business or sells out, you might be left with no way to monitor the hardware you invested in. Even going with a big company is no guarantee. Lowes is shutting down their Iris system and monitoring on 3/31/19, so if you had bought that system last year you would now have a bunch of worthless hardware.
So going with a company with a large market share seems wise - maybe Simplisafe or Ring, or a traditional system on which the dialer can be reprogrammed.
3. Monthly cost is a big issue. Interestingly the lowest cost monitoring is Ring, which is also the lowest cost hardware.
4. Privacy is an issue. There were reports of Ring employees overseas viewing videos.

TLC1957
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by TLC1957 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:37 am

You may want to check out

https://www.wyze.com/product/wyze-cam-v2/

$20 for each camera plus shipping add a $10 micro card to record 2 days in HD. They do not charge for monitoring of the equipment and will Tex you when the camera detects movement. We have cameras inside and out and like the comfort of knowing what is going on when we are not at home.

Amazon has them to,

https://www.amazon.com/Wyze-Indoor-Wire ... 233&sr=8-4

toblerone
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by toblerone » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:04 am

I recently decided to get an alarm system, and chose Simplisafe. The black Friday special included a free camera, which was nice. My favorite things about the system is how easy it is to configure and test, that no one but me knows how it is set up, and of course the monthly price which is free, unless you choose police monitoring which is $15/mo and no contract. Camera footage cloud storage with 30 day backup is $5/camera I believe. If you live in a dense neighborhood, get an external siren (or 2) and you may not need police monitoring.

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RickBoglehead
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by RickBoglehead » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:34 am

There is no "police monitoring" unless a system is directly connected to the police department which is rare. Central Station monitoring is the correct term, they then call the police.

Central Station monitoring should provide an insurance discount for burglary and for fire (smoke detectors). There may be additional discounts for leak detection and freeze detection. No discounts for CO detectors.

AlarmRelay is cost effective monitoring ($8.99 per month year 1, $9.99 per month year 2, $10.49 years 3+) for an existing system or for one you pay an independent installer to put in. A traditional phone line is required, other forms of connection cost more per month. You pay a year in advance.

SimpliSafe is a good, reliable, wireless system which communicates via cellular and WiFi. You buy the sensors you need for doors, motion sensors, etc. No contracts, you pay monthly for monitoring, either $14.99 or $24.99, depending on whether you want to be able to use a mobile app, get text messages, etc.

We have SimpliSafe at our cottage (prior generation system). Main complaint is battery life in areas, not unique to this wireless system. Very quick central station call to verify alarm is valid. System will jam up once a year or so, requiring an on-site reset. No idea if newest generation system has this issue or not. We had a neighbor do it.

Our primary residence had an existing system, we have used Alarm Relay for around ten years. The company that installed it refused to provide the access code to reprogram it, so I found them via alarm internet forums and reprogrammed it myself. Alarm Relay helped me find a cellular adapter for my system that allowed me to turn off my traditional phone line, which resulted in a substantial savings (no monthly phone bill), but the cellular device cost money and has a $10 per month usage charge. Each traditional system is unique, our is now quite dated. New, state of the art systems may be very expensive once you add features. SimpiSafe would likely be cheaper, but you have to do the easy installation (removable adhesive) yourself. If you then sell the house, take the system with you.

Companies like ADT thrive on a "cheap" installation of proprietary equipment and multi-year expensive contracts. Many consumers are clueless. If you want a traditional system, use Alarm Relay to help you find an independent installer.
Avid user of forums on a variety of interests - financial, home brewing, F-150, PHEV, home repair and more. Enjoy learning and passing on knowledge.

rich126
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by rich126 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:46 am

This is something I'm going to do more research on in the near future (as I hope to be moving this year). My huge concern with anything Internet based is security. Much of the stuff out there is terrible with security and is easily hacked. Hopefully there are a few items out there that take security seriously but certainly most of the cheap stuff doesn't.

I don't know if cameras obtained via home security companies are any better (probably not).

Most of the big name monitoring companies really take advantage of their customers with ridiculous contracts. I was fortunate to find one at my previous residence that could be canceled at any time and was reasonably priced.

Anything wireless needs to be investigated for its security. And what happens if power is off?

dpa789kd
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by dpa789kd » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:49 am

TLC1957 wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:37 am
You may want to check out

https://www.wyze.com/product/wyze-cam-v2/

$20 for each camera plus shipping add a $10 micro card to record 2 days in HD. They do not charge for monitoring of the equipment and will Tex you when the camera detects movement. We have cameras inside and out and like the comfort of knowing what is going on when we are not at home.

Amazon has them to,

https://www.amazon.com/Wyze-Indoor-Wire ... 233&sr=8-4
+1. We have Wyze cameras and I'm blown away by the video quality for the price and the ease of install and connecting to their app. We have the ISmartAlarm system for motion and door contacts and they sell the exact same camera for $100. We use the ISmart to detect any motion or doors opening. It sends an email, text, and call right away to us, along with sounding an alarm. Then we can flip over to the Wyze app and see what's going on before deciding to call the police.

In the event we were home my hope is the alarm will scare them off, but our room would take a bit to get to given the layout of our old house, hopefully giving us time for her to call the police while I unlock and load a gun. In that case I suspect we would need to protect ourselves because even if the police were notified right away it would still take them 10+ minutes to arrive.

Barsoom
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by Barsoom » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:15 am

My house is monitored by Xfinity. It's part of my cable, internet, phone, security bundle.

I chose not to get cameras, and went separate for one external camera that monitors the walkway to my front door. For that, I went with the Netgear Arlo system. The cameras connect via wifi to a hub that is connected to your router. For each camera, Netgear will give you free 7-day cloud storage of your videos. You can attach an external hard drive to keep personal offline copies of the videos.

You will receive an email each time the camera detects motion and/or sound. You can set the camera to record a fixed length or for as long as it detects motion. A smartphone app lets you connect to the camera to change settings, view in real time, talk two-way via the camera, trigger the siren on the local hub, and watch the cloud videos.

There is a small latency with these setups, as the video has to go from the camera to your hub to their cloud and then to your phone. Round trip could take 10 to 30 seconds. If you plan to use the camera as an intercom for people knocking on the door, keep in mind that it could also take another 30-60 seconds for the app to connect to your camera.

The cameras are battery-operated, but I have a long covered alcove to my door so I have the camera plugged into an outside outlet by the front door so I don't have to worry about the battery draining.

-B

nguy44
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by nguy44 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:17 am

I have Simplisafe. They have been fine for us for several years. Way cheaper than what our ADT bill had grown to, and with more options. But I do have 2 issues with them:
- Their smoke alarm seems to go off for no reason almost every month. This has happened mostly when we are not home, and it became a chore to try to verify if there really was a problem as, to not annoy the local fire department with a false alarm call. I have contacted support several times, but have only gotten standard "make sure the alarm sensor is clear" answers.
- Their doorbell camera is incompatible with digital doorbells, but they do not mention it in there ads and description until you run into the problem. I installed it and it continuously rang the doorbell.

For now, when we are away, I am using a combination of Simplisafe and Wyze cameras... 4 Wyze cameras are the price of a single Simplisafe camera, and there app was easily to install and works fine (recently took a trip to Asia and was able to monitor things from there).

Ladeedaw
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by Ladeedaw » Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:40 am

I opted for Abode a little over a year ago. The reason I went with it is that I can self monitor with an app for free, and it was the only system I could find at the time that offered that for free. I did opt for the professional monitoring for the first year. It costs about $20/month after the first year for cellular backup and professional monitoring; if you want to just set alarms and cameras and monitor it yourself, the app is free. For self monitoring, the app is easy to use and I like the automation connected to my phone so that it sets when I leave and goes to standby when I get home without me having to disarm it. It was very easy to set up. I like that I can set certain windows to always be armed, even when the system is in standby. I feel like the ability to customize the system is good.

Regarding cameras, a few houses in my neighborhood have been broken into in the past couple of years. One household had cameras (no alarm) and got pictures, but police couldn't do much with those. That household lost a fair amount to the theft. Another of my neighbors had an alarm, and the burglar was in the home for less than two minutes. These neighbors felt that they didn't lose anything because the alarm scared the person off before they could really look around.

Topic Author
DanL
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by DanL » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:28 pm

Thank you everyone for the great suggestions, advice and experiences!

OnTrack
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Re: Home alarm system / Internet camera recommendations

Post by OnTrack » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:34 pm

You might want to consider whether monitoring is necessary.
The following video has some comments on that topic from 33:00 to 37:00. Basically about the high cost to police departments and that the police usually will arrive too late even if the alarm is real. Also, having a dog (even a Golden Retriever) has been found to be just as effective.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bLIFW1bCfP0

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