Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Using an ADT alarm system without monitoring?

Q. We recently purchased a home with an ADT security system already installed. If we are able to get the code from the previous owners, are we able to use the system without purchasing their monitoring service?

If we can't get the code from the previous owners, is there a way to reset the system to factory settings so that we can set our own code?

A. This comes up a lot these days, with lots of folks moving - great question. The large companies (and ADT is certainly one of them) routinely cross-reference the monitoring services against the billing database, possibly each month. When a particular system is not being paid for after a certain period time (usually 90 days) the company will commence termination of services. In other words, having the code is not enough - no pay, no play (eventually). And as for having it monitored, it just makes sense - for intrusion and also for fire. A discount from your insurance company should offset the cost, especially when you add fire monitoring

The real question to ask is whether the system is safe in the first place, and does it serve your needs. Odds are (90%, anyway) that the system you have uses your home phone line to communicate with the central monitoring station. The nasty little secret that casts a shadow over the alarm industry is that millions of these systems are hardly safe: all it takes is a $3 pair wire cutters to take them out. Sadly, that is true for internet-based systems as well. The only truly reliable systems use cellular technology to communicate. Here are some points to consider:

1) ADT is not known for their service level. Just do some on-line research on your own to check out their reviews, and Google is good place to start. Bigger does not mean better.
2) ADT will charge you for adding a cellular radio (probably a bolt-on solution), and will also add to the monthly they charge. There are companies who do not charge extra for the radio, or extra for the cellular monitoring. In fact, you may be able to buy a new system for less than the ADT upgrade, AND save money on the monthly. These are options you want to explore.
3) You also want the latest features, and the "big" companies do not offer them: cellular monitoring for no extra fee, same for fire monitoring, remote arm/disarm. email and text notifications, special apps for smart phones, and even video and smart phone functions. Don't buy the past!
4) You can even get DIY 100% wireless systems that you can upgrade at any time, and even move with you. You could even change service providers if the equipment can be used by another provider - so you are not stuck by any means.

So shop hard, check the on-line reviews, and do your due diligence. You have choices, and now is the time to learn how much home security has evolved - and what you can get today!

What other ways can I protect my home without an alarm system?
Q. I was looking into ADT but don't want to have to sign a 3 year contract since I move from apartment to apartment every couple of years. Are there other ways that I can deter intruders that are easy do-it-yourself projects and that are also not permanent so that I can take them with me everytime I move?

A. A monitored alarm system is the best surefire way to protect your residence whether it's an apartment, home, storage unit, warehouse or whatever. Most alarm companies do require a 2-3 year agreement but aren't easily transferrable to another location. There are a few companies that offer alarm systems for short term contracts that you can ALSO move with you without a fee.

That would solve your problem of moving every so often and taking the alarm with you. Try FrontPoint Security (offers one year contract) or Protect America. They offer wireless, DIY systems that can be moved with you without a fee. Here's a couple links to reviews of the companies.

Protect America:

There are also other companies on there offering DIY solutions that aren't monitored that you can take with you. Worst case, your boys Smith & Wesson ought to be able to help you out. Good luck!

if I move to a rental home that doesn't have a security system can I cancel my ADT contract?
Q. I am selling my home and moving into a rental that doesn't have a preexisting security system. Can I cancel my contract with ADT because of this?

A. Great question. First, the ADT contract: depends where you are ion the contract terms. There is usually an initial term of three years, followed by a renewal period (and that varies by state, and by when you bought the system, and even by whether you bought it from ADT directly, or one of their authorized dealers). The contract will tell you exactly what the timing is, and the penalty for early termination. Companies like ADT discount the upfront cost (and lose money), which they make back over time from the monthly fee. If you stop paying the monthly fee, they are possibly not even breaking even on the relationship - and they do not like that. They may be willing to work with you, so it pays to try. As for as getting a system from ADT for your rental, that will be a tough one. But again, it pays to ask. They may be willing to set you up in the rental, but from what I hear, it's a stretch.

In the past, there were few choices for renters, since most alarm companies did not want to deal with them. Now there are 100% wireless systems, which means not just the sensors (and landlords like wireless sensors!) but also wireless communications. That means cellular monitoring, the only truly safe way to go, and with so many folks going cell only, it's the solution for the future. It also means you can move it with you from apartment to apartment, or to a house.

You may decide you still want a system, even though renting. If you had a system before, and are used to it, that may mean it's part of your peace of mind.So, you may be shopping, and looking into the few companies that can serve renters. There are a lot of things to consider in a new system: first, is the equipment listed by Underwriters Laboratories listed, and CP-01 compliant? Many states require these levels of approval, and there are recent entries into the alarm industry that are not "real" alarm companies - they just provide equipment and service - and you hope they are the real deal. Another way to tell is the cellular network they use: you want GSM (the same network platform used by AT&T and T-Mobile for coverage and reliability). frankly, I would be worried about any "one-off" networks.

Another point is licensing - and this is a good way to tell the newcomers from the bad guys. Make sure the company you choose is licensed in your state and local jurisdiction, as required. The real alarm companies spend the time and money to become and remain compliant, and that says a lot.

Then comes interactive features. You probably want the best, like the features sold by through a network of dealers. really invented this arena, and they remain ahead of the others by a wide margin. Services now include not just the notifications, but apps for iPhone, Bâberry, and even Droid, full video with wireless cameras, and even appliance control with Z-Wave. In other words, the real deal.

You also want a full-featured system, so that you can add devices any time, from the complete array of wireless sensors out there. GE has the most complete line - and be sure you get a wireless monitored smoke/heat sensor with your system. Our company recommends at least one with every system, and it does not add to the monthly fee.

Last is reviews. you want to look hard on-line for reviews of the various companies you consider, and there should be lots of good reviews (and few if any bad ones). Look at the level of enthusiasm and specific references to things people like - are you looking for the same things!

So, as you can see, lots to think about, but worth the time. Good luck to you!

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