14 reasons monitored home security isn't worth it

You think you're buying peace of mind. But our writer details many reasons why you really aren't getting what you paid for when you pop for a monitored home security system.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 12, 2013 4:34PM

This post is from Len Penzo at partner site Lenpenzo.com.

MSN Money partnerIt seems I’m always being bombarded with countless ads from companies offering home burglar alarm installation and monitoring services. Maybe that’s because 83% of homes in the U.S. don’t have a security system in place to ward off potential thieves.

Hand Pushing Buttons on a Wall-Mounted Burglar Alarm © Alex Wilson, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesAre those homeowners crazy? Or crazy like a fox?

I took the plunge and got one not long after moving into my current home and it certainly provided peace of mind -- for a little while.

However, I eventually came to realize that the cons of owning a monitored home security system far outweighed the pros. Here are 14 reasons why:

1. They can be expensive to install. Yes, some companies will do the job for under $100, but if your home isn’t prewired -- or you want one of the more elaborate systems -- you could spend thousands of dollars in installation fees.

2. Those monthly monitoring fees add up. They can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per month -- and the commitment is typically over several years. That usually exceeds the average annual homeowner's policy discount of 15% or 20% for having the service.

3. They’re annoying. Ask any security system owner who sets their alarm at night before going to bed how much fun it is when another family member wakes up and accidentally sets the alarm off because they failed to properly deactivate it. It isn’t. That’s one reason that . . .

4. They have a high false-alarm rate. Actually, ridiculously high. In fact, the central monitoring stations experience a false alarm rate of approximately 80%.

5. The security monitoring centers are overwhelmed. In order to reduce traffic, some monitoring companies intentionally increase the time it takes for an alarm to register at their site, which is why it can often take as long as two minutes to get a call-back. Meanwhile:

6. Your neighbors will hate you. Especially after they’ve been roused out of a sound sleep at 3 a.m. on a Monday by the blaring sound of your home alarm -- while you’re on vacation in Maui.

7. Most people simply ignore them. All of those false alarms have conditioned neighbors to pay little attention to them anymore. Of course, the cops have an obligation to show up. Just in case. As a result:

8. Some police departments charge a response fee for wasting their time. Usually, you can expect a bill from city hall after the first or second false alarm. But even if it isn’t a false alarm:

9. Burglars know that police response times are slow. Even in small towns, don’t expect the cops to be at your house for at least seven minutes. That’s an eternity when you need help. And in larger cities wait times can average between 30 and 45 minutes.

10. If you’re a dog owner, they provide little added value.  Man's best friend can protect your home just as well as a modern alarm system -- if not better. True, a good watchdog can’t call the police; but that rarely ever matters because they’re such a good deterrent.

11. They won’t work during an extended power outage. If you’re lucky, a 12-volt back-up battery will typically keep most home alarm systems functioning for no more than 10 to 24 hours. That’s it. Just remember, when they are working:

12. They’re fairly easy to disable. Never mind that they’re no match for professional burglars. Amateur thieves can neutralize them too if the lone connection point to the monitoring center is via a phone line that can be easily cut. And even if the bad guys can’t disable the system . . .

13. They’re not effective against snatch-and-grab burglaries. Most criminals strike quickly because that decreases their risk of being caught.

14. They’re not foolproof. After all, monitored home security systems work only if you remember to activate them. Then again, considering all of their drawbacks, that’s probably a good thing.


More from LenPenzo.com:


Nov 3, 2013 10:46PM
I have to disagree with most of this list, as they are based on the author's assumptions and not facts. I'm a new homeowner and currently researching home security systems. In the process of researching this topic, I ran across this article: http://www.asecurelife.com/?s=burglary+stats
It references the FBI's annual crime stats for 2012, which are enough to make me want to install a security system right away. Some of the points made in the list above are valid, but home owners should definitely do more research before deciding against home security.

Feb 27, 2014 10:08AM

This article was written by a person that doesn't own a home and has never been broken into.
It's like reading a book on raising children by a single adult that has never had kids.
Most of this in nonsense. If you contact a quality local alarm company and discuss

security options, you will get protected. Let's not forget that most alarms today should

all have a monitored smoke detector on them. Alarm systems save lives.
Look at the statistics where people walk into their homes and there is an intruder already


Do an ounce of research before you write an article.

Mar 17, 2014 4:04PM
Have to loudly disagree.  There are too many points with which I disagree to be able to counter each within the space allotted to a comment, so instead here are articles that do it for me....

They've come a long way. http://suretycam.com/the-evolution-of-security-alarm-systems/

Dogs. I have a big scary dog. It's on the vicious breed list. A gun or a steak would be all an intruder would need to stop him.  http://suretycam.com/a-dog-is-a-great-addition-to-home-security-but-isnt-the-final-answer/

False alarms. They're bad. They're also increasingly easy to avoid. http://suretycam.com/verification-preventing-false-alarms/

I find my system incredibly useful, especially when I'm away. Is closing my garage door remotely annoying? Um, no. And I pay less than $30/month to have my home monitored 24/7 and to have automation services I use all of the time that make my life easier, whereas I pay over $100/month for a smart phone that sometimes doesn't dial out because I wanted the newest "best" features.

Also, central stations are not all alike. If its taking two minutes for you to get a call, you need to alert your company there is a problem for them to fix or find a company that can do better. Seriously, that is an unacceptable response time.

An alarm is only part of a security system. Remember that for real security you need to:
Discourage the threat.
Detect the threat.
Delay the threat.
Document the threat.
Disable the threat.

Jul 1, 2014 5:33PM
As a professional burglar, this story is great! Please do not get an alarm system and if you do have one, please do not get it monitored!
Jun 4, 2014 10:44AM
This article is crazy. As a professional alarm installer I beg to differ. If your neighbors ignore your alarm , chances are you are not a good neighbor. My neighbor nearly shot me when my alarm went off. He was checking on my house. Also alarms are deterrents. The smash and grab is what you want. You don't want to let a thief have time to take all of your belongings. If your alarm is installed properly and tested by the tech they are hard to defeat. Also ask your tech how long they have been in the business. 
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