In our survey of more than 3,000 alarm owners, lesser-known alarm companies have come out on top over big-name brands.
Our exclusive study asked 3,228 Which? members* about their burglar alarms, including unmonitored alarms (also called bells-only or standalone alarms) and those monitored by an alarm company, which will react if your alarm is triggered.
When it comes to monitored alarms, the highest-rated company got an impressive customer score of 78%, while the lowest scored a less favourable 66%.
For unmonitored alarms, the top brand scored 76%, while the bottom brand achieved 65%.
Monitored vs unmonitored: what type of burglar alarm do I need?
Each type of alarm comes with different options – the type you need depends on the sort of response you would like to trigger.
There are two types of monitored burglar alarm: keyholder or police response. Both services require a monthly or annual fee.
For both types, a company will be notified when your alarm goes off. If you have a keyholder contract, that company will contact you and/or your nominated keyholders (friends, family or a neighbour) so that you or they can check on the house. With a police contract, the company will contact the police.
Only 18% of the people we surveyed have a monitored alarm, but 72% of those said it is very worthwhile.
In our survey, we ask owners to rate specific aspects of their alarm brand’s performance, including alarm sensitivity, ease of use and value for money. Monitored alarm owners also report on the monitoring service and response time.
The top brand for monitored alarms scored the maximum of five stars for ease of use and customer service/retailer’s support. This means that customers consider these aspects of its service to be ‘excellent’. The lowest was rated just three stars (‘fair’) for value for money, while the other two got four (‘good’).
Head to our burglar alarm brands rated page to find out which brands top the tables for monitored and unmonitored alarms.
If you don’t want a monitoring contract, there are three types of bell-only alarms to choose from:
- Standard bells-only – these make a loud noise if triggered, but nothing will happen unless someone in earshot reacts.
- Speech-dialler – also called auto-dialler, these alarms automatically contact you (or nominated friends and family) when they’ve been triggered.
- Smart alarms – these can be monitored and controlled via a smartphone app.
You won’t need to pay a regular fee for these alarms. However, some speech-dialler alarms have a Sim card inside that must be kept topped up with credit. Smart alarms may require extra cloud storage to store data, particularly if they come with a security camera that records footage that needs to be stored online.
When we asked owners to rate their bells-only alarms, the top brand received an ‘excellent’ rating for ease of use, alarm sensitivity and alarm quality, and a customer score of 76%. We calculate our customer scores by asking alarm owners whether they are satisfied with a brand and would recommend it to a friend.
Visit our page on the different types of alarms to find out more about the pros and cons of each.
Smart security systems
In its basic form, a smart security system is an alarm system that connects to an app on your phone or tablet, allowing you to control and monitor it.
But smart systems also have the capability to connect to a number of other security devices, including cameras (so you can see what’s going on at home through the app) and timers (so you can turn lights on and off). Some models can also be paired with other gadgets, such as thermostats or smoke alarms, through a central hub.
The possibilities are seemingly endless, but there are limitations. Not all systems and devices will connect to each other, so you’ll need to ensure that the products you buy are compatible.
The costs of smart systems can soon spiral. Being alerted if your alarm goes off is appealing, but it’s likely you will need to buy quite a few components to properly protect your home.
For example, Response’s MiGuard smart alarm costs £200 and comes with a wi-fi camera, two remote controls, a door/window sensor (which alerts you when doors or windows are open) and a motion sensor, as well as a smart-home hub (which connects everything together).
But this is just a starter kit, and you will probably need to buy more. An outdoor siren costs £60, additional wireless security cameras are £100, and extra motion sensors are £23 each.
In contrast, a basic bells-only alarm could cost as little as £100 (depending on how many sensors you need), while a speech-dialler alarm could be around £200.
For more information on smart alarms, and our verdict on alarms from big-name brands, such as Panasonic, Samsung and Yale, visit our reviews of smart security systems.
*In September 2017, we asked 4,353 Which? members about the security measures in their home. Of those, 3,412 people told us about their burglar alarm. For the brand ratings, 2,625 people answered for standalone alarms and 603 for monitored.