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Should You Self Monitor Your Alarm System?

Choosing to self monitor your alarm system can be a money-saving alternative to “traditional” or "standard" central station reporting, but it’s not for everybody. With all the competition among alarm companies to find and keep customers, system prices and contract rates are within reach of most homeowners.

The decision to go with "self-reporting" should be carefully considered, since it involves the safety of you and your family. This page will point out some of the pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your situation.

What does “Self Monitor” Mean?

Most alarm owners choose to have their systems report to a central monitoring station using telephone (land lines) or cellular equipment. This station operates around the clock, and responds to alarm signals by dispatching police, fire, or medical personnel when needed.

Self-Monitoring Strategies

When you self monitor, your alarm is programmed to contact you directly, usually via cellphone or pager. Based on the signals displayed on the phone or pager, you can then decide how to respond. You may choose to go to the house to investigate, call a neighbor, or contact the police or fire department.

Self Monitor - Video Security Camera System

You can self-monitor the alarm system on its own, but it becomes much more effective when combined with one of the many available home security camera systems. If you receive a signal from the alarm side, you can use a smartphone app or other mobile monitoring setup to view the cameras in or around the home.

Benefits of Self-Monitoring

Cost – Self reporting is basically free, since there is no recurring charge for central station services. This is the single biggest advantage, and the most common reason people choose to self monitor.

Control – You can program the system to report any signals you want, while ignoring those you don’t. For example, you may want to receive alarm reports, but not “low battery” or other maintenance signals.

Drawbacks to Self Monitoring

Available Systems – Most major alarm manufacturers don’t offer panels with features that would make them easy to self monitor. Most systems need detailed programming, and even then they are limited in the information they can send to a pager or cell phone.

One of the better choices for self-monitoring is the system from Simplisafe Security. Buy it online, and it arrives at your home pre-programmed. It has several ways to send signals directly to you, without a central monitoring station.

Your Own Limitations – Once you receive an alarm signal from your house, what then? Do you call the police, or check it out yourself? Are you ready to confront an intruder or intruders? What if they’re armed?

Also, assuming you are comfortable with all of this, who will be taking your place when you’re out of town, or otherwise unavailable?

Added Maintenance Costs - Most alarm companies also service the alarm equipment for their monitored customers, usually at discounted rates. If you self-monitor and your system ever needs repairs, you’ll need to either do it yourself, or pay an alarm company to do it. As a non-monitored customer, you’ll likely pay more, and will definitely not be as high a priority as the companies’ monitored accounts.

No Insurance Discounts – Often overlooked in alarm system costs is the fact that most insurance companies give discounts for clients with monitored security and fire alarms. Self-monitoring won’t meet this requirement for most insurance carriers.

Self Reporting Alternatives

If you’re like most people and you decide not to self monitor, there are ways to make standard monitoring more attractive.

Home Security Alarm Monitoring

To lower or offset the cost of monitoring, be sure to take advantage of possible savings from:

  • Insurance discounts
  • Package deals that combine a system and monitoring
  • Adding fire protection to your alarm
  • Shopping for lower rates when your current alarm contract expires
  • Discounts for monitoring your home and business with the same company

For more information, see this page about how to save money on Home Security Alarm Monitoring.

Also, consider “customizing” your monitoring service to best fit your needs. Most alarm companies and their central stations can perform notifications, calls, dispatching, and reports according to your specific instructions.

For example, maybe you’d like to receive notifications for events of interest to you. These could include a “missed opening” report when a child doesn’t arrive home when expected, or a “missed closing” report when someone forgets to arm the system at the proper time.

Learn more about how to use opening and closing reports.

How to Use Opening and Closing Reports

Activity reports can be sent to you monthly, listing any or all events involving your account. You might want to know about every detail, or maybe just alarm events.

Some of these services may include a small extra fee, but central stations generally don’t charge extra for simple things like special call-back instructions.

Taking advantage of these functions may not save you money, but it will increase the value of the service you’re paying for.

Related Articles:

Home Burglar Alarm Systems Monitoring – Not Always Necessary?

Home Monitoring Systems Give Peace of Mind

A DIY Home Alarm System - Is It Right for Me?

For the quickest installation possible, read about Apartment Security System Plug-n-Play Solutions

5Ways to Get a Cheap Home Security System

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