A quality home security system protects your most precious assets, cherished possessions, and family members. Needless to say, it’s one of the most important things to consider when owning or renting a home. But with so many different options out there, it can be hard to get it all right from the start. This is why it is crucial to ask questions before selecting a home security company. From there, you can make an informed decision.
Are you shopping for the perfect system but unsure what to ask home security companies? Here are 11 questions to consider:
- Do you offer tiered monitoring plans?
- Is there a contract? If so, what are the cancelation terms?
- What is your exchange policy for devices?
- Is my equipment/service transferable if I move?
- Does your service qualify me for a discount on my homeowners' insurance?
- Who owns my data?
- Do you share my data without my permission?
- What is your typical emergency response time?
- How do you handle false alarms?
- Will pets set off my motion detector?
- What is the process for installing the system?
1. Do you offer tiered monitoring plans?
Some security companies offer tiered monitoring plans. These provide flexibility, variety, and the option to upgrade your services as you see fit. Homeowners enjoy tiered plans because they can choose the features that work best for their homes and families. For example, they can select a plan that includes video surveillance and smart home automation. This can be especially helpful if you want to upgrade your security system at some point in the future, but don’t want to pay more than necessary right now.
If you decide to go with a tiered plan instead of a one-size-fits-all package, make sure to ask these questions:
- What does each tier include?
- Is it easy for me to upgrade my service down the road? What will I have to do?
- Are there any hidden fees for upgrading or downgrading my plan later on? If so, what will the cost(s) be?
2. Is there a contract? If so, what are the cancelation terms?
Asking about the contract and cancelation terms is necessary for two reasons. First, it helps you understand how long your service will run and what fees you’ll have to pay if you cancel your contract. Second, you'll find out whether the company will lock you into a long-term agreement.
If there is a contract, make sure that you understand all aspects of it before signing anything. Inquire about any exceptions or special circumstances that might affect what happens if you cancel before the end of your agreement.
3. What is your exchange policy for devices?
If you end up unhappy with your devices or service, you'll want the option of exchanging them for others that better meet your needs. A reputable home security company usually asks a few questions about your exchange reason and may require an extra fee. It's best to know that fee early on so you aren't scrambling or surprised if this situation arises. A respectable company will work hard to keep your business.
4. Is my equipment/service transferable if I move?
If you're moving or planning to in the future, this is a key question to ask. Most companies will tell you that you can transfer the contract to another home. But there are caveats to be aware of:
- Does the company charge an extra fee for transferring service or equipment? If so, how much will it cost, and what's included in this fee (e.g., professional installation or removal)?
- Can I cancel my contract without penalty if I don't want to transfer it?
Get clear answers to these questions before signing on with any security provider.
5. Does your service qualify me for a discount on my homeowners’ insurance?
If you have a home security system, you may be eligible for a discount on your homeowner's insurance. Make sure to ask about it and other ways to save money. Some providers offer device discounts if you add other items, such as a fire alarm or camera, to your system. Others may give you a break if you add a home warranty to your package deal. The best way to find out if these discounts exist is by asking!
6. Who owns my data?
This one might seem like a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised at how many companies hesitate to answer this question. Some may dodge it altogether. It's a red flag if a security company is unwilling to disclose who owns your data and how they use it. This could mean that they don't see customer privacy as a priority. Or perhaps, they don't know how to protect consumer information from hackers (ironic, isn’t it?). Either way, avoid giving your business to these companies.
In addition to finding out who owns your data, it's a good idea to follow up with these questions:
- How long does the service hold onto my information? (This is especially important if you cancel.)
- Where are my files stored? (Do they store them in the cloud or on their servers?)
7. Do you share my data without my permission?
One of the biggest concerns people have when it comes to home security is privacy. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there. To complicate matters, all companies answer this question differently depending on how they store and use data.
To protect your privacy, make sure that the provider you choose doesn’t sell or share any footage with advertisers, news outlets, or social media platforms unless required by law. You should also inquire about the kind of storage systems they use for video recordings:
- Do they keep them indefinitely?
- Are these files encrypted?
- Are there firewalls between server farms?
8. What is your typical emergency response time?
When you have an emergency and need assistance, the last thing you want is to wait for hours on end. You need an immediate response from your security company that can get the job done efficiently. Find out how long it usually takes them to respond in an emergency—and what kind of emergencies they're equipped to handle.
9. How do you handle false alarms?
Most of us know the frantic feeling of trying to quickly undo a mistake. And in the case of false alarms with a home security system, it means undoing it before the police arrive unnecessarily. But false alarms do happen, and it's worth knowing what happens when they do. If your alarm system goes off accidentally, or because you forgot to disarm the system, it can incur an expensive fine. That's why you need to know how many false alarms they allow per year before signing up with a company. Some companies can provide specific numbers in advance.
10. Will pets set off my motion detector?
Motion detectors and window sensors can be super sensitive. So, if you have pets that move around in the house or bark too loudly, they may set off the alarm system. If you're concerned about this happening, ask the security company if they offer a pet-friendly option. This will usually include a sensor that's less sensitive to movement and sound than normal ones. This way, your pets won’t set it off by accident. It'll go off only when triggered by something bigger than they are (like an intruder).
11. What is the process for installing a professional home security system like?
Considering pro installation over DIY for your home security system? The process of professionally installing a home security device varies from company to company. Before committing to a home security company, it’s helpful to get an idea of their installation process and typical timelines. Find out how you would schedule and communicate with your technician so that the logistics are as smooth as possible on the day of.
The bottom line: ask the right questions to make the best home security choice
Keeping your home secure is essential but is also a big commitment. That said, don't be afraid to ask questions if you’re uncertain about contract terms, hidden fees, or the service itself. By doing due diligence, you can ensure that you get the best bang for your buck. After getting answers, you'll feel confident about committing to a home security company. Still shopping around? Read more about the best home security systems of 2023.
Sharon Wu is a Contributing Writer for Switchful with 8 years of experience covering home security and technology. With a background in research and content marketing, she helps people find the best products and services, tailored to their needs. Sharon is committed to providing accurate, resourceful, and digestible content to her readers. When not sharing her expertise, she enjoys spending time with her pugs and attending European car shows.
Eric Paulsen is a writer, editor, and strategist who has been creating content in the B2B, healthcare, FinTech, home security, and government sectors for more than five years. He holds an MFA in creative writing and lets everyone in his life hang that over his head. When he doesn’t have his hands deep in some piece of content, he’s either watching baseball or praying for the offseason to end quickly.