Security & Fire Protection Systems/How to best protect my home using alarm


QUESTION: I am a renter in a third floor walk-up. front door, back door 8 windows. There are neighbors down stairs and beside me in a dense residential area in a good neighborhood.

I want to protect my "palace" using an alarm and I know very little.

What are the best (or important criteria) for selecting alarm units, power methods, door/window sensors, monitoring service wired or wireless, etc?

What should I expect to pay for the initial cost plus monthly monitoring service?


--- John ---

ANSWER: You can start with this FAQ and then ask further questions here (or give me a call).

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the article.

Looks like I'll need an IR motion detector, two door sensors, a coupla' window sensors, and one keypad. Maybe a cellular backup and a glass breaking detector.

How much should I expect to pay for equipment/install, monitoring, length of contract?

I have some quotes and there is quite a range in pricing for similar systems. Is there a way to judge quality beyond price? Do you get what you pay for? Is price shopping advisable?

Is there any point in protecting 3'rd floor windows?

Also, My telephone is an cable-internet phone like Vonage - is this considered acceptable and reliable for the system link to the monitoring center?

Thanks again

1.  You're in a third floor walkup.  Unless you have a balcony with easy access from the roof or an adjacent balcony, chances are you won't need glass break detectors.  

2.  Buy your system.  You can shop online from a number of reputable retailers.  Stick with the DSC Alexor wireless product.  I believe the base kit comes with the control, motion, keypad, and three door contacts and it's extremely easy to program yourself.  Locate the control in an out-of-the way place like a second bedroom.  You'll have to run telephone wire to it from the demarcation in the suite and power from a convenient outlet.  

3.  Vonage (or similar VOIP service) is NOT recommended.  They have a limited backup (usually four hours) in the event of a power failure and you'll have NO SERVICE after that.  Besides, it's subject to the vagaries of  the cable provider which often take down the system (like mine does) in the "wee hours" for something they call "maintenance".

4.  If you're going to go with monitoring, stick with a local company and not a national.  In my experience the local will provide far superior service and you can often "dicker" on price because they want/need your business.

5.  If you're thinking of monitoring, avoid long term contracts (the local provider will be far more willing to provide a more "open ended" solution for you).  Unless you have an art collection that includes some original works, I would suggest that you consider a system supervised smoke detector rather than a cellular backup.  Protection of your family is paramount and outways any other consideration.  If you have gas burning appliances in the apartment, then I would suggest investing in a Carbon Monoxide detector.

Good luck!

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Frank Kurz


Questions relating to Burglar Alarm and Security Equipment, Fire Alarm and Extinguishment Systems, Access Control, CCTV Systems, Installation, Service, Testing, Verification


30 years installing, servicing, and testing security, access control, extinguishment, and fire alarm systems

Chair of ULC Working Groups for Fire Alarm Testing (CAN/ULC-S536) and Fire Alarm Verification (CAN/ULC-S537), Executive Director of the Fire Protection Technicians Network (

Publications, Better Business Bureau Magazine, Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia ( SUPPRESS! and Techs Fire Break Newsletters

Associate in Science; Emergency Systems (University of British Columbia); Aircraft Maintenance Technology (BCIT)

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