How Much Should I Pay for Alarm Monitoring?

Alarm monitoring ranges in price from $10/month to $100/month. While companies set their own pricing, costs should correspond to features. Better reliability can increase costs, for example. Convenient home automation features can add costs as well.

When it comes to an alarm system, it is a good idea to split the costs into two categories: 1) the cost of installation, 2) the cost of ongoing monitoring.

Installation Costs

The cost of installation is a 1-time cost. It is the price of all the equipment, plus the cost of the time for the person installing the system. This can increase or decrease depending on many factors.

  • The number of sensors. Usually, a bigger house or building will need more sensors. This is not always the case. There are warehouses with many square feet with very few entry points. These spaces might need fewer sensors. But usually, bigger buildings need more sensors. Remember that buying sensors directly from an installer can greatly increase their price. Companies like Alarm Grid sell sensors at a small markup compared to most installation companies. One way to keep costs down is to buy the sensors yourself. Some companies will give entire systems, sensors and all, away in exchange for a multi-year contract. This comes with a higher cost for the monthly monitoring fee. Usually, the price of the system gets built into a monthly fee. Additionally, the number of sensors can increase depending on how much redundant coverage an end user wants. Simple systems use two types of sensors. The first is window and door sensors that detect whether an entry point is open or shut. The second is motion sensors that will detect movement. A system owner can also add glass breaks to detect intrusion through a broken window, tilt sensors to detect an object moving, environmental sensors like fire and flood detectors, as well as cameras. The more a system owner adds, the more it will cost.
  • The hourly cost of the installer. This can be highly variable. Installers can cost between $50/hour and $150/hour. Sometimes the expensive installers are more experienced, faster, and will do a better job. Sometimes, that's not the case. When selecting an installer, reviews can be very important.
  • The type of system that's installed. There are two basic types of systems in the alarm monitoring ecosystem. You can buy either a wired system or a wireless system. A wired system requires that all sensors attached to it have a wire pulled from the sensor back to the panel. These systems are very reliable. The sensors are directly connected to the system and they use resistance to determine the status of zones. Many homeowners love wired systems because of their analog reliability. You can't stop electrons from flowing, so as long as the wires have no interruptions, these systems are almost perfectly reliable. The second type of system is a wireless system. These use radio communication between the sensors and the system. Wireless systems remove the need to run wires. Modern wireless systems are highly reliable. And, for the uninitiated, installing a wireless system yourself (without an installer) is much easier than a wired system. Wireless systems can remove the cost of installation entirely. That said, the sensors can cost between $10 and $200, depending on different features. Wired sensors, on the other hand, cost between $2 and $10. That said, if it takes 8 hours to run 30 wires at $100/hour, versus sticking up sensors and programming them yourself, the costs are often comparable. Or, wireless systems are slightly cheaper. And, as we said, the reliability between wired and wireless is comparable.

Alarm Monitoring Costs

The cost of ongoing alarm monitoring is a monthly, quarterly, or annual cost. Billing cycles will depend on your company. At Alarm Grid, we bill monthly. When comparing what you are getting when you buy alarm monitoring, it's important to consider what features you are or are not going to get with any plan you sign up for.

  • Communication Path. Alarm systems can communicate in various ways. The cheapest communication pathways are phone line and IP. Phone lines are the way these systems have communicated for nearly a century. The system literally makes a phone call to a central station and relays information. This communication method is becoming evermore unreliable. As phones have transitioned to VOIP and as copper wires become less stable, a phone line is no longer recommended. As a replacement for the phone line, more communication now can take place over the internet. As long as your internet is up, your system should be able to get messages out. The problem is that, as we all know, there are times when the internet is down. Additionally, most people are connected to internet through a wired connection. A wired connection can serve as a point of failure. A person could disconnect a home's hardwire connection. Thus, the most reliable communication is over cellular networks. The system communicates using the cellular network, just like your cell phone. This ensures near-constant uptime. Cellular networks are almost never jammed to the point of not allowing communication. However, in the rare case that they are, a system that uses IP as its primary pathway and cellular as a backup is even more reliable. This setup combines the reliability of cellular with the speed and availability of IP. And, in most cases, the cost of a dual path system is the same as a cellular-only system. That said, reliability costs more.
  • Home automation. Many home security systems can do home automation through various protocols. Almost all of the systems allow for automation through Z-Wave. The Resideo Lyric alarm system, allows its users to use Apple Homekit in addition. Going forward, systems will allow automation through Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and more. Regardless, while using the system for local control of home automation sensors is free, controlling home automation through a phone app often increases the cost of monitoring.
  • Environmental Controls. At Alarm Grid, environmental controls are free to add. They are seen in our system as additional zones. Some companies, however, charge more for environmental sensors. These sensors include flood sensors, carbon monoxide, fire, and smoke detection, as well as temperature sensors.
  • Number of Zones. Again, Alarm Grid's plans do not limit your zone numbers. Our plans allow you to use as many zones as your system will allow at no additional cost. But some companies do charge depending on the number of zones your system utilizes.

Alarm Monitoring Can Save You Money, and Grief

No discussion of an alarm system is complete without the company trying to sell it to you shamelessly explaining all the ways it can actually save you money. For that, we apologize. Even still, we're going to do it.

There are three main ways that alarm monitoring can save you money:

  • Homeowner's insurance discounts. Homeowners insurance usually gives a discount for homeowners that have a monitored system. This discount can range from a few bucks to the full cost of monitoring. Sometimes, it can be even more than the monitoring cost. It is worth calling your homeowner's insurance company and asking. Alarm Grid offers a certificate of insurance for our central station monitored customers, and will gladly work with your insurance company to get you those discounts.
  • Savings on utilities. The real benefit of home automation is scheduling. You can turn your thermostat up or down based on when you're home or away. You can turn off all your lights when no one is home. You can regulate curtains opening and closing to let heat in or insulate the house from sunshine. There are lots of ways you can save money using your system. Some of these are available in other ways. But the system definitely makes it convenient and accessible to the everyman.
  • It can prevent actual robberies. Robberies are devastating. We hope you never have to be on the other side of one. They feel like a violation. They make homeowners feel unsafe and targeted. Sometimes, the trauma of a robbery is so great, that it forces homeowners to move out of their beloved home or neighborhood. Apart from that, burglaries are dangerous. While most burglaries end in property destruction and theft, some have far more dire consequences. Protecting your family and possessions from ever having to go through this is reason enough for many to get alarm monitoring. But there are also financial costs that are associated with burglaries. The FBI says that the average cost of a burglary is nearly $2500. And while homeowners insurance can often cover those costs, they are not worth incurring in the first place. The cost of replacing stolen items in the home is the reason that insurance gives homeowners discounts in the first place. But we all have valuables that are irreplaceable as well. Maybe you own your grandfather's Rolex, or your wedding ring has been in your family for 6 generations, or you have photo albums with memories of loved ones. Whatever the case, the $2500 check that you get from the insurance company will never replace the items that you hold dear, nor can it return the feelings of safety and security that are lost in a burglary.

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