According to Parks Associates, uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has heightened anxiety about the safety and security of our families and homes. They report that while residential security system adoption held steady from 2014 to 2017, a 10 percent increase moved the needle to 36 percent adoption in 2021. “Smart home and security device adoption is also rising in broadband households, and consumers are embracing standalone devices and DIY home security solutions,” the report says.
Essentially, there are two ways to go when it comes to residential home security systems — self-monitored “DIY” devices or systems that are professionally installed and monitored by a third-party. Self-monitored systems require a DIY solution to whatever problem arises because authorities are not automatically dispatched. Which to choose? There is no wrong or right answer as every homeowner is different. In this article, I picked the brains of my friends over at Integration Controls in St. Louis, Level Up Automation with locations in Mass., Ohio, Fla. and Los Angeles, and Brilliant AV in Southern California to bring you top considerations, new technologies and tips to find a solution that is both easy to use and provides total peace of mind.
Security Systems with Built-In Cameras: Yay or Nay?
Almost all new security systems have keypads that are touch panels, but one of the more interesting things is the models that now include a built-in camera. You can use the camera to either catch a snapshot of who armed or disarmed the panel, and some even allow facial recognition to be used to disarm the panel.
“Clients’ opinions seem split on the value in this; some think it’s cool, while many fear having a camera that is inside the home may be a violation of their privacy and ask the installing company to disable to feature or in some extreme cases, use a completely different control panel,” said Jeff Briesemeister, co-owner of Integration Controls in St. Louis.
According to Briesemeister, DIY systems have been gaining significant market share — especially with the 35 to 50-year-old crowd, which is more familiar with the internet and are comfortable with an app-based, cell-only monitored system. “The older generation trust ‘hard-wired’ security systems tied to a known security-monitoring service, such as ADT,” said Briesemeister. “The SimpliSafe and Ring systems have garnered a large and seemingly very satisfied customer base, ease of access via apps allow customers to easily view status, arm or disarm and more.”
Another concern for our aging population is distress, such as medical stress or police panic. Millennials and under seem to find less value in these systems except in the case of fire.
“Monitoring fire and dispatching if a fire sensor is tripped still has a lot of value to all age groups, especially if it is a second or vacation residence,” added Briesemeister.
Jen Mallett, CEO of Level Up Automation, said that a critical part of her client needs assessment is understanding the client and how they want to be able to view and control their home. “Do they want monitored security connected to fire and police dispatch? The answer to that question will narrow down choices. We like flexible systems like Clare Controls which can serve as both a DIY and professionally monitored system,” she said. “If the client is unsure at the time of installation if they would like monitoring, the system can be easily converted down the road.”
Do Sweat the Small Stuff
Overall home security is one thing, but what about all the little things that can get stolen from your client’s home or smaller intrusion points? There are many accessories that help with this sort of thing. Alarm.com’s Flex IO sensors can be used on an off-road vehicle, lawnmower or even a chain that goes around a back gate. These sensors can actually trigger the alarm or simply notify you via push notifications to your cell phone.
Flood and Heat Sensors
There are also great solutions for tying a flood sensor to an alarm panel that allows the alarm panel to close a main water valve if a flood condition is sensed, as well as issue a push notification to mobile devices. You can even be notified if the home gets below freezing so you can ensure pipes don’t freeze!
Get Your Permits in Order
Whether you have a self-monitored system or a professionally monitored one, your city might require permits for monitoring. For example, St. Louis requires a separate permit in order to dispatch on a call based on an alarm signal.
“Essentially, the city won’t dispatch emergency services if you don’t pull a yearly permit with the city and have the alarm registered,” said Jon Welker, Systems Design and Consultation at Integration Controls. “If you do have a professionally monitored solution, the alarm company should know this and advise you on the best course of action.”
Check with Your Insurance
For monitored systems, insurance companies usually offer discounts on homeowners’ insurance, especially for fire monitoring. They usually require a Security Certificate from the monitoring company in order to execute that discount. However, some insurance companies offer breaks even on self-monitored systems. Ring Alarm provides a monitoring certificate for your alarm system that you can submit to your insurance company to see if you may qualify for a discount on your premium.
Level Up Your Security
“In my market area of Southern California, there has been a huge increase in brash burglaries like I’ve never seen in my 30-year career,” said Brilliant AV’s Steve Stary. “Cameras do not even phase these brazen criminals, who seem to have enough knowledge about how to identify and bypass typical alarm system sensors. There have been many times that I have avoided using motion detection in a bedroom because of the annoyance factor for the client of an LED light illuminating in the darkness. Now, I am insisting on glass breaks and motion-sensing and explaining to clients the importance of multi-layer detection systems.” For a recent client who had experienced a break-in, Brilliant AV retrofitted wireless outdoor motion detectors to provide a more active alert system along with a lighting response. The same can be done with cameras when analytics are available.
Consider a Home Technology Integration Pro
“Our definition of a secure home is a safe home where the technology we design supports the environment and delivers on protecting the structure itself and the health of those within it,” said Mallet. “I believe the advantage of leveraging a home technology integrator–led security design over a traditional security installer is the home control capabilities and thought leading experience to think about nontraditional security system features create a safe environment. Home technology integrators bring experience and skills sets beyond security and deep knowledge in entertainment, automated lighting and wellness categories like air and water quality management.”
Consider Power Outages
Hurricanes, blizzards and whatever Mother Nature brings, impacts how secure a
home is. That’s why security design that incorporates how the home is protected in the event of a power outage is now a critical part of Level Up Automation’s approach.
“What good is a security system when power isn’t available for an extended period?” said Mallet. “Whether the client is a good candidate for a micro grid approach, or simply utilizing a generator as secondary resource, we need to think about how to keep security items on critical loads for as long as possible to help bridge the gap between power outage to restoration. Products like Savant Power enable circuit level control and prioritization of network and security products.”
From a personal perspective, I can share that while my husband and I held out for a long while, we decided it was time to add a layer of security to our home even though we live in the mountains of Montana where only a bear has ever broken into our home (true story). For this, I called on my home technology integration pro Jeff Briesemeister, who specified and installed a great combination of Ring video doorbells, contact sensors and entry chimes, as well as a new Kwikset smart lock and deadbolt combo. I’ve got to tell you, the peace of mind we have now knowing we’ll get push notifications whenever motion is sensed at our door is immeasurable.
But there’s a fun factor to this as well. Just yesterday, a friend stopped by to pick something up, but he didn’t know we were out of town. I got the notification on my phone and saw him on my doorstep via the video doorbell camera. I used the ‘Live’ feature on my Ring app to chat with him, then unlocked the door remotely so he could get what he came by for. When he left, I locked the door behind him and set the alarm, all while I was visiting my father-in-law in Arizona. That’s a pretty sweet application of smart home technology, if you ask me.
Katye McGregor Bennett is the CEO and Chief Strategist of KMB Communications.
Home Technology Integration Pros mentioned in this article:
Integration Controls: https://integrationcontrols.com/
Brilliant AV: https://brilliantav.com/
Level Up Automation: https://levelupyourhome.com/
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A 25+ veteran of the residential tech & AV integration industries, Katye McGregor Bennett is the CEO of KMB Communications, a boutique communications firm that anchors the intersection of technology + design by connecting brands, buyers, and prospective audiences through creating compelling content and conversation that elevates and amplifies. In addition to co-hosting Design Uncut with Veronika Miller, Katye hosts two popular podcasts, Connecting Tech+ Design and AV Trade Talk. She is part of the DesignHounds influencer group and also serves on the NAHB Custom Technology Work Group, is a strategic advisor in the CEDIA, HTA, and AVIXA communities, frequent contributor to Connected Design and founder of the AV Yoga group.