Profound thoughts on home alarm systems

A security-minded friend’s home alarm system thoughts…

I have, up until now, always delegated work on my alarms to professionals, but had enough with them, and so took over all of my systems. I can now program DSC and Napco. I wish I did it 5-10 years ago. Here is what I have learned:

1. All-in-one alarms have a fatal flaw in that, since the brains are in the keypad, you can just enter and smash them when they are still counting down but before they have called for help. SimpliSafe solves this by having the brains separate from the control panel.

2. For hardwired alarms, don’t put the “can” (metal box) close by the entry area. Same problem. Put it in a location that someone will have to pass by the (instant trigger) motion-detectors to get to it. Basement/attic or locked room.

3. If contracting with a professional installer for a hardwired alarm, ask in advance if they will use end-of-line resistors. These are so that the wire is monitored and will trip the alarm if it is either cut or shorted. It will also detect a broken line from a mouse-chew even on a normally-open circuit (such as a fire alarm). For full benefit, these resistors really need to be at the end of the line, and not in the control box (common shortcut – don’t let them do it).

4. Tell them in advance that you want the “master code.” They will probably say no, for “liability reasons.” In reality, they say no because that makes it too easy for you to have someone else service or monitor the system. Insist on it, and pick another installer if they won’t agree to give it to you. If you don’t get the code, you cannot replace them with someone else, you cannot sell the house with a working alarm either, as the buyer will also be at their mercy. If they go out of business, which is very common for alarm installers, you won’t be able to service it at all and will have to pay for a new system. I have bought three properties that have “come with alarms” but they all had to be replaced because no one knew the master code.

5. I would go so far as to tell installers up front that you only want to pay them to install the alarm and to give you the master code. They will kick and scream, and maybe refuse to work with you. That is because buying your own monitoring is under $11 a month, and they probably want to charge you $22 to $34 a month. If they won’t do it, call the next installer (unless you are fine with overpaying for service). You could save $2800 over 10 years.

6. ADT and others will have long-term contracts for service. This can be ok if you are getting a “free” or discounted system and do the math and it works out. You are financing the system this way. Just don’t do it without a master code, as you will want the option to drop them after the contract is up. Put a reminder in your phone for the date in the future that you will need to cancel it by. Also remember that the free systems only come with two door sensors, a single motion-detector, one keypad, and a speaker. Coincidently, my shed has two doors so it would be a good fit. That would not scratch the surface of a typical house. So there will be lots of up-charges.

7. You can self-monitor with an IP communicator from – but you should get the professional monitoring also for the insurance discount.

8. Real alarms cost a lot for the labor. Fishing wires takes time. Wireless saves money but can be annoying when the batteries die, and the big external sensors are not professional looking.

9. Use alarm yard signs and stickers to send Swiper to your neighbor’s house. Criminals are smart enough to recognize fake and generic stickers as a good chance of not being real. I bought genuine ADT signs on eBay because they have the most name recognition (at least that is what ADT told me when they called to try to get me to sign up). I don’t use ADT for real, but my monitoring is UL listed and the same thing for 1/3 the price. Actually mine is better, as I not only get the automatic police response, but also get text messages of events.

———— end of the posting that I cut and pasted from my friend’s Facebook page

[My experiment: A savage golden retriever puppy. The pit bull folks always say that pit bulls are sweet if treated gently and that any aggression in certain pit bulls is simply a result of being reared by criminals and other aggressive humans. If they’re right it should be easy to train a female golden named “Crippler” to be a vicious attack dog. These photos on Google+ show the first day of her training (and also a friend’s four-month-old Labradoodle who should become a fearsome guard dog with time). (If you’re wondering about the name, it comes from a Simpsons episode:

[Mr. Burns sees one of his hounds limping and wheezing]
Mr. Burns: What’s wrong with Crippler?
Smithers: Oh, he’s getting on, sir. He’s been here since the late-’60s.
Mr. Burns: Ah, yes. I’ll never forget the day he bagged his first hippie. That young man didn’t think it was too “groovy”.)

source: IMDB)]

9 thoughts on “Profound thoughts on home alarm systems

  1. What do you recommend for a self-dialer? (the only reason we need/keep our wired land line is so the alarm system can call out)

  2. Bill: I cut and pasted the above from my friend’s Facebook page (with his permission). I don’t have any personal experience with alarms.

  3. My Labradoodle is the world’s worst guard dog – she want to be friends with everyone. Rub her belly and she is your friend too. OTOH, she has a bark like a doberman so someone who doesn’t know her might think otherwise.

  4. True story: I once asked an ex-burglar what the best alarm system was? His answer: a small yippy dog.

  5. I tried and failed to convince our children that our new rescue dog should be named Knuckles, after the Killdozer song. Now I’m trying (and failing) to convince one of them to go trick-or-treating as the Unknown Comic. Kids these days have no appreciation for 70’s/80’s pop culture.

  6. DSC systems in the 18XX series can be returned to factory default thus giving you the master code if you ran into an abandoned one. I have.

  7. RE: alarm systems, safes, etc. Install a (hidden from common view) panic button adjacent to the safe, maybe a second (hidden) one located on the way to the safe. If Bad Bart forces you at knife/gunpoint to open the safe, you’ve got options.

  8. There is master code and there is installer code. They *always* give you the master code. You can use it to add users and do not much else. The installer code is what you need to CRUD sensors. The ADT installer code is always 6321. It took me 30 minutes to punch in nearly all 4-digit codes to crack my current alarm.

    Don’t get an alarm that uses the landline. Motivated burglars can cut the phone line. They can cut the power and wait a few hours until your alarm’s battery dies.

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