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New home security systems no longer alarmingly expensive

The good news about home security systems is they are better, more efficient and easier to install. The best news of all is that the newer systems cost less and, in some cases, are free.

"The market is such right now that with the technology and the competition, we're becoming more of a monitoring company," says J.D. Keller of ADT Security Services. "Periodically, we'll have a sale where we'll put in a no-frills system, which is typically a motion sensor and two door sensors for free when they sign up for the monitoring service. It's similar to some of the programs with the cell phones."There has been an increasing interest in home-security systems here in Utah.

One reason is the influx of people from places like California and other high-crime areas who are more comfortable with a home-security system.

It wasn't that many years ago that security systems were considered strictly for the custom-home market. A good system could run anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. Today, similar systems are on the market for as little as $99.

Technology has also raced ahead in the marketplace. The latest is called the "Smart Home System."

"Here we're moving into home automation. There are home systems that are incorporated into the home in every way possible, from the garage door opener to features where the owner can call from outside the home to have the system armed and lights turned on," he adds.

The perfection of the new wireless systems has also pushed the market ahead. In the past, wires needed to be run throughout the home. In some cases, with existing homes, it wasn't always easy. It also required that new-home buyers have their homes prewired during early construction.

"Wireless were not used because they were not always that dependable. But now, with the consistency of wireless, they're more reliable. One nice feature is they are less obtrusive because you don't need to run wires," Keller says.

Another early problem with wireless was that it used to require a service representative to change the batteries periodically. Now the batteries, which last between five and six years, can be easily purchased and installed by the owner.

As far as what system to install, Keller suggests that people look at their needs and lifestyle and then work through an authorized agent.

"If you're out of town a lot, then look at a system where the interior and perimeter of the home are protected. This would include all of the doors and windows. Remember, 75 percent of all burglars will enter a home through a door. Therefore, you should have all the doors with at least the minimum protection," he says.

"The motion sensor is looked at as an interior trap. If they're able to slip through a door or break a window, then this is a backup."

The three elements to consider in a home-protection system include the basic door protection, followed by window protection and then a security notification feature like a panic button.

Currently, fire protection is a big issue for home systems. Because fires kill, Keller recommends people look strongly at a system that not only includes smoke detectors, but also a fire notification system, which would include heat sensors in places like the garage and kitchen.

Along with all of the other security features, some of the new systems incorporate small TV cameras that can watch entrances to the home. The new cameras can be tied into a video recording system. Homeowners can return home from a day or a week away on vacation and review the tape to see who came to their home.

ADT is also involved in a program with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's office where it will install for free a special alert system in homes where spouses are pursuing abuse charges. ADT will install an alert notification system that when triggered sends a high-priority 911 call to police.

ADT is a front-runner in custom-home systems. Keller recommends that people look at a home-security system during the early planning stages of home building. This will give them ample opportunity to put in the system they want in order to get all of the protection they seek.

The best time to wire a home for a security system is sometime after the electrician has finished, but before the insulation and drywall. Code requires wiring for security to be a certain distance from electrical wiring. Wiring for security after the electrical wiring is done eliminates the possibility of a problem.

Today's new technology has also expanded the capabilities of new security systems.

Notification technology is also branching off into other areas.

"We're looking forward to someday having reliable carbon monoxide sensors. Right now, especially with the inversions we get here in Utah, they're not very dependable," Keller says.

Sensors, for example, can now be placed in critical places in the home that might be subject to extreme cold. In these areas, the system can be designed to notify ADT if the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Not only can this help prevent frozen pipes, but it can also notify people of possible problems with the heating system, say in cabins or while people are away from home.

There are also sensors that can notify owners of flooding problems.

In such cases, ADT authorities are notified of a problem. The company then either notifies proper authorities or notifies the owner or a designated person on a phone list supplied by the owner.

There is new technology, too, that will not only determine if a window has been tampered with, but also sense if it has been broken.

There are usually two devices, one to pick up the motion of breaking glass, and one that senses the impact.