Some might say that a safe and secure home is priceless. But a burglar alarm with a monitoring contract can cost more than £400 a year, and there are much cheaper alternatives available. We’ve looked at the pros and cons.
Of the 2,083 members of the public* we spoke with earlier this year, 38% pay for a monitoring contract for their alarm, while 79% have for a maintenance contract.
On average, our survey respondents pay £223 per year for alarm maintenance and an additional £211 for monitoring. But there’s a lot of variation – your contract could cost much more or far less, depending on:
- the complexity of your alarm system
- the company or installer you choose
- whether you buy them as a package.
So is it worth it? Read on to discover the pros and cons, as well as what else you can do to make your home secure.
Before you buy, head to our burglar alarm reviews for monitored and unmonitored alarms. They include real customer ratings for ADT, Chubb, Honeywell and Yale, among others.
Monitored vs bells-only alarms
Bells-only alarms are the ones that ring outside your home, but don’t contact anyone. If you have a monitoring contract, your alarm will alert a third-party company when triggered, which will then inform either you, a designated contact or the police, depending on your arrangement.
Bells-only alarms (also called standalone)
As well as bells-only and monitored alarms, there are some in between options that offer more peace of mind without the commitment of a monitoring contract.
Dialler burglar alarms automatically dial or text your phone number, or that of nominated friends and family, when the alarm is triggered.
These types of alarms use a Sim card or your landline, so won’t require a monitoring contract.
You’ll need to top up the Sim card or pay for a landline connection, but this will be cheaper than a monitoring contract.
Smart home-security systems contact you or family members when the alarm goes off through a smartphone or tablet app.
There don’t tend to be any ongoing costs for smart systems, unless you need to store information online in cloud storage. This will usually only apply if you have a camera added to the system and need to store video footage.
Smart alarms can also connect up to other smart home security measures, such as video door bells and lights that can be controlled and monitored remotely. Visit our full guide to smart home security and monitoring for more.
Types of monitored alarm system
There are two types of monitored alarm contract:
Keyholder monitoring means that a third-party company or ‘receiving centre’ will monitor your alarm. When it’s triggered, they will either respond themselves or contact your nominated keyholders, such as friends or family who have keys to your house. Nominated keyholders must live within 20 minutes of the house and be able to drive.
Police monitoring comes at an extra cost. Instead of alerting your contacts, the company will go straight to the police. Two indicators within the house, such as a door contact and a motion sensor, must both have been triggered to warrant police call-out. This is to avoid false alarms wasting police time. After a certain number of false alarms, you risk being struck off.
Find out more about the different types of alarms and monitoring contracts in our full guide to burglar alarms.
Alarm maintenance contracts
If you’re getting a monitoring contract, you may have to pay for additional regular maintenance – this is often a requirement of the company, particularly if it’s a police contract.
Some monitoring companies incorporate maintenance into your monthly monitoring costs and remotely check for problems. Make sure you’re aware of any extra costs this could incur before you agree.
Prices for maintenance contracts vary. You’ll find some come with more added extras: additional call-outs, parts for repairs, batteries for a wireless alarm etc.
Although higher costs tend to be linked to these extra features, that’s not always the case. Some installers will include repair parts, call-out and labour, as part of a cheaper package. It’s therefore worth pushing for as many extras as possible within the lowest contract price and getting a number of quotes.
Almost all contracts will only start charging after your alarm’s warranty has expired. Make sure you ask about a warranty and what this includes, if they start trying to charge you immediately.
Take a look at our page on burglar alarm installers to find out what your contract should include before you sign on the dotted line.
10 ways to make your home secure
There are other ways to make your home secure aside from getting a burglar alarm. Whatever type of alarm you choose, the more of these tips you can follow the better:
- Keep hedges low – tall ones can provide hiding places for an intruder.
- If you don’t want to pay for a real alarm, a dummy box can also put burglars off.
- Install motion-sensor lighting and gravel around your property, so that you can see and hear people approaching.
- Monitor your property from afar with a wireless smart camera – see our wireless camera reviews and advice for more.
- Doors should ideally be fitted with a five-lever mortise deadlock tested to BS 3621.
- Fit a chain or a latch to the door, with a viewer so you can check who’s there before letting them in.
- Don’t leave windows ajar or unlocked when you’re out.
- Don’t hang keys right by the door, as burglars can try to get to them with a fishing line through the letterbox.
- Don’t leave ladders or other equipment lying around that an intruder could use to break in.
- If you’re going away, use timers or smart plugs on lights to make it look like someone is in the house. If possible, ask neighbours to open and shut curtains.
*In January 2019, we surveyed 2,083 members of the public who own a burglar alarm about their system. Data has been weighted to be representative of the GB/UK population (aged 18 or over).