November 6, 2012

What Should You Do with That Old Security System?

So you just moved into your new home and you’ve experienced all the excitement as well as the exhaustion that goes along with the transition.

The furniture is in place, the utilities are set and you’ve even been out in the yard putting some personal touches on the landscape to truly make it yours.

Pictured above is a Gemini Security Panel (back) and Keypad (front).

But what about that security panel that is down in the basement and keypad that is in the hallway from the last owner? You’re fairly certain that you want to have a home security system, but who do you talk to?

Do you have to use the same company that installed that security system, or do you have the choice to use other companies? What is the process? We will answer these questions in the paragraphs to follow.

The first thing you may want to do is to contact a few local security integrators. You can check your local yellow pages or equivalent, contact your local chamber of commerce or search the internet of course.

Before you call, it helps to know what kind of security panel you have. Again, this is typically located in your basement and is a metal box approximately 1.5 x 2 feet affixed to the wall. If you open the door, there is usually a string of numbers and letters that may be of use to the security provider that you call as well.

Hopefully, the security panel will not be “proprietary”, which of course means that it can only be serviced by the security company who installed it. With some of the national companies that provide security services, this is sometimes the case.

In fact, when you contact new providers, you may want to make sure you ultimately choose a security integrator who uses “non-proprietary” equipment. This way, if you want to change providers at any time, the next company will be able to take over the equipment with no problem, the switch of service will be seamless and you won’t have to buy all new equipment.

If the panel cannot be serviced by the companies you’ve contacted, and you don’t want to use the provider that installed that panel, than you may need to have a new panel and keypad installed at the least.

Sometimes the window and door sensors, as well as the motion detectors for instance can still be serviced by the new company, even if the panel and keypad can’t.

Of course, this information is general in scope—it is not absolute. You may find a company who can take over a proprietary panel, but is it not altogether common.

When you do contact new security companies with the information about your panel, besides asking them if the equipment that they install is non-proprietary, there are some other questions you can ask.

Make sure that they do not use sub-contractors to do installation or future service work. You do not want a third party company who is not an expert on your equipment to service it. You want technicians hired and trained by the company you originally retained.

Also make sure you are not being made to commit to a long-term contract, such as three years, for your monitoring. And speaking of monitoring, compare rates when you call around. You don’t always have to choose the absolute lowest, but make sure you aren’t being stuck with an extremely high monthly rate relative to the others.

And also regarding monitoring, make sure that the company uses a U.L.-listed central station and that it has a redundant back up location.

Will you own or lease the equipment? Some security companies charge you very little for equipment or basically give it away, but you do not own it. They technically could take it back at the end of the contract because it is often leased from them. It is good to find an integrator who allows you to outright buy the equipment and sells you a non-proprietary system that can be taken over by others if you switch providers.

Ask them about their company. How long have they been in business? Are they a member of any security or fire associations or the chamber of commerce? Do they have a main office where you can visit and meet with advisors, or do they just work out of a home office and the back of their truck?

In summary, the biggest wildcard in this situation is the security panel and if it can be serviced by the companies that you talk to. If not, new equipment will need to be installed.

But this is often worth it. Because the new equipment is yours since you own it outright and you have more freedom with it down the road.

So if you did just move into a new home (new to you at least), good luck and congratulations.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.


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