4 Mistakes To Avoid Before Choosing A Home Alarm

I’ve personally installed over 5000 alarm systems in Melbourne since 1981. – and I’m still out there installing most days.

And not just for homeowners. I’ve worked in prisons, banks, television and radio studios, jewellry shops, government offices, schools and universities as well as VIPs and “celebrities"

I even appeared in a short segment on the channel 9 program, The Block in 2011, after installing security systems in those 4 homes in Cameron Street in Richmond.

My small team and I focus on home security now and I’m proud to say we install more home security systems in Melbourne each week than any other security company.

All that experience has taught me one thing: do the job right the first time.

There are plenty of good alarm companies that follow that principle.

But there are many more who don’t.

Robyn, who runs our office would receive  at least two calls each week from frustrated homeowners who are having a variety of problems with their alarm systems but can’t get the original installer to come back.

In some cases the system has only been installed for a few weeks!

Of course we help out where we can and most problems I find are caused by either:

(1) the installer has not selected the right alarm panel or detector for the the job

(2) the equipment  hasn’t been installed and/or set up properly resulting in false alarms

(3) bad workmanship and a sloppy installation. The installer didn’t know how to do the job properly

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I receive a steady flow or questions from friends, neighbors, friends of friends etc. etc wanting advice on how to better protect their homes and families.

If you don’t know anything about security systems, but you find yourself in the position of needing one, the research process can be very confusing. There are so many products and conflicting information it’s hard to know where to begin.

And there are new products being released all the time – video intercoms, cloud cameras, app – based alarm systems. It’s an exciting time in some ways because this new technology is now affordable for most of us.

When you choose the right system and it’s installed properly it can really provide a strong deterrent to a would-be intruder and give you real peace-of-mind.

So, in an effort to make my life a bit easier by not answering the same questions over and over again, I’ve decided to write a few short and useful articles with the aim of making your decision a bit easier.

Mistake # 1: Choosing an Alarm Installation and Monitoring Bundle

Some alarm companies will only install a system for you if you agree to have ‘Back-to-Base’ monitoring.

They may offer you a lower up-front price for alarm installation however it works out alot more expensive in the long run.

If you’re considering getting an alarm system installed at home, you probably DON’T need back-to base monitoring.


Well, there are lots of reasons but here’s 3 to kick things off:

1. An expensive phone call

So what happens if you have back-to-base monitoring and your alarm is triggered?

You’ll receive a phone call (or a text message) from the monitoring company to let you know that your alarm has been activated.
That’s about it!
The police won’t attend a residential alarm based on a phone call from a monitoring station.
If you want a patrol sent to investigate an alarm you’ll pay a hefty fee for the privilege.
A modern alarm system can send you real-time notifications, usually quicker and certainly in more detail than a professional monitoring station.
Depending on the system you also receive a series of color snap-shots or a 30 second video clip showing you exactly what caused the alarm.

Back-to-base alarm monitoring for homes is an outdated concept.

It is a task far better handled by modern technology.

There are always exceptions of course, but for most of us I believe it’s a complete waste of money.


You have to sign a monitoring contract from anywhere from 1 to 5 years.

 The contract re-news automatically UNLESS you notify the company IN WRITING at least 1 month before your contract expires.

And yet this is how some of the best-known alarm companies behave.

Do they really care about your security or are they really interested in getting you to hand over that monthly monitoring fee each month?

It’s free money to them in a lot of cases.

3. $$$

If you request a patrol service to attend at your home after an alarm activation expect to pay between $80.00 – $100.00, but don’t expect much for your money.

It could easily take over an hour for the patrolman to arrive.
Unless you’ve already handed over a set of house keys to the monitoring company (oh, and there’ll be an additional  monthly ‘key-holding fee’ for that thanks), the patrolman won’t be able to do a thorough inspection of your home or even confirm if you’ve had a break-in.
 “At least he can do an external inspection and look for signs of forced entry…..right?"
It depends on how security conscious you are.
If, for example, you have a locked gate preventing him accessing the side of your house or the  backyard the patrolman won’t be able to check the back door or side windows.
So he can certainly check your front door and front windows for signs of a break-in.
But in my experience an intruder is more likely to enter a home from the side or back of the house, not the front where there’s more chance of being seen.
So you could find that you’ve paid for a patrol visit, and on returning home, find you’ve had a break-in might even find that you’ve had a break-in and the patrolman didn’t know.
It would be possible then for a customer to pay for a patrol visit after his alarm was triggered, be told that everything seems OK by the monitoring room, only to return home to find that he has in fact been broken into.

Mistake 2: Choosing an Alarm Company That Only Sells One Product

It takes a degree of knowledge and skill to do a decent job of installing an alarm in a home.

Of course it’s not rocket science but no one wants to see exposed cables or wiring. Or have equipment mounted in odd locations or not installed neatly.

A knowledgeble and experienced installer will take pride in his work and respect your home.

He or she will also consult with you every step of the way when choosing locations for the sensors, codepad and sirens.

At the end of the job, you’ll have an effective security system in your home that’s also aesthetically pleasing.

Professional, highly skilled installers are always in demand by reputable companies.

Their skills are recognised as valuable and they are paid very well.

Less reputable companies on the other hand tend to employ low skilled ‘technicians’ that don’t have any in-depth knowledge and most likley have never been taught how to carry out an installation properly.

The companies that employ these workers usually only offer 1 product. It will be a simple all-in-one system that has the codepad, control unit and keypad in one box.

These systems require almost no skill to install.

They are really just plug-and-play and offer limited customisation options to suit your individual needs.

The technician can be in and out quickly and get 3 or 4 of these systems done in a day.

There is certainly a place for these systems, such as one or two bedroom apartments in the city.

But it’s ridiculous to suggest that the same system will provide satisfactory protection for a 4 bedroom home with pets that have free range of the house when the alarm is on is.

Yet there are alarm companies that advertise here on the internet and elsewhere that would have you believe otherwise.


When discussing your needs with an alarm company, I would suggest that you don’t accept their first offering. Ask them what other products they have or could recommend that would be suitable for your requirements

Mistake 3: Not Asking For The Installer Code and Installer Manual

As I mentioned earlier, I receive regular calls and emails from customers that are unhappy with their home alarm system and are unable to get in touch with their installer.

When I visit these customers to try and help I find that the installer has left neither the installer code nor the installer manual with the customer.

This might not seem like a big deal and you would probably never think to ask your installer for it.


if a problem occurs and the system settings or programming needs to be changed, the installer code is needed. Without the installer code the system needs to be set back to it’s original settings and programmed from scratch.

Now while this normally isn’t a problem, it can add unnecessary time (and money) to what would otherwise be a simple and straightforward job.

Some alarm companies get very protective about ‘their’ Installer Code because they use the same one on all their installations. If they give you their code you would now have an Installer Code for all the other systems they’ve installed.

The real reason though is so that you’ll be “locked-in"  to using them for all future servicing and add-ons should you need them.

But at the end of the day, it’s your alarm, you’re paying for it and you have every right to be given the Installer Code and a copy of the installation manual.

You shouldn’t be forced to use a particular company if you’re not happy with their performance.

I would suggest that you select an installer code of your own choosing – it can be any 4-digit number – and ask the installer to make that the Installer Code if he objects to giving you the one he normally uses.

Mistake 4: Not Getting an External Siren Included.

A good alarm system is an important element in making your home unattractive to intruder.

But t’s the last or second last line of defense.

You want to make sure an intruder doesn’t even consider breaking in to your place.

The other important elements are physical barriers  (locked gates, fences and security doors) and visual deterrents.

The best visual deterrent on a home is the alarm system’s external siren.

An intruder can see it from the street or footpath and doesn’t need to get close to your home to check what security measures you’ve taken.

There are so many homes without an alarm it makes sense for a thief to target those homes rather than deal with an alarm.

The stuff that he is interested in stealing from you (jewellery primarily) is just as likely to be available in any other house in your street.

Why tackle the house with more obstacles for the same reward?

It’s becoming more common for alarm companies to not install this important component. As I mentioned in Mistake 2, you need to have some skill to install the siren in a location that’s pleasing to you, the homeowner, and also so it can act as a good deterrent.

This takes time, in fact it can take longer to install the siren than almost any other component of the system. Maybe that’s why some alarm companies don’t install them.

Some will even tell you that your local council are going to ban them so that’s why they don’t offer it.

That is complete rubbish. I believe it has more to do with using lower skilled installers that may not have the necessary knowledge to o the job properly.

Whatever their reasons, insist on having an external siren installed.

It doesn’t have to be so prominent so as to become a main feature of your home but it should be visible from the front of your house.

I hope you find these suggestions useful I’d love to hear any comments you have – there’s a space for you at the bottom of the page.

 Plus…. When You’re Ready, Here are 4 other ways I can help right now:
1 – Not sure what type of system is best for you? Check out this 3 minute article to help

2 – Download this free report “5 Things You Can Do This Weekend To Make Your Home Less Attractive to Burglars"
3 – Read this article to learn the truth about most perimeter alarm systems
4 – Send me an email if you have any questions. Put ‘Hey Dave" in the Subject Line and I’ll reply as soon as I can –    

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