The range and diversity of alarm systems available can make choosing the right system for your need quite complex. The information below is not a definitive guide, but it will help you to understand the basic differences between the main types of system on offer.
A Which? survey of 281 intruder alarm installers in the UK - from June 2008 - gave an average estimated price for an intruder alarm system for a three bedroom semi-detached house at £475.
A basic system might be expected to comprise of an outside siren or bell and strobe light - enclosed in a weatherproof box - a key operated or digital control panel and a number of passive intra-red movement detectors, placed in vulnerable areas. Contacts on windows and doors may also be included.
This is generally the most basic option. If the alarm is triggered, an audible alarm sounds to alert you - or a neighbour - that an intruder has entered (or is trying to enter) the premises.
This type of system may be appropriate for most typical dwellings. However, it depends on the location of the property, the lifestyle or nature of the occupier or the content.
The system should always be fitted by a certificated installer to the relevant British Standards.
Speech Dialler or Auto (GSM) Dialler System
This will be a cheaper option than having a fully monitored system.
With a speech dialler, when the alarm is activated, pre-programmed numbers of your choice will be dialled and a pre-recorded message alerts the keyholder or neighbour to the alarm. If the phone line is cut or disabled, no signal can be sent.
Under no circumstances should the Police telephone number be programmed into the auto dialler.
A GSM alarm unit sends you and/or other contacts a text message. It is not dependent on the phone line.
It can typically send a text to up to three numbers, there is no third-party monitoring and can use any major high-street SIM on a network of your choice (for example O2, EE, Vodafone and so on.)
The system installed may be the same as (or similar to) a bells-only system, except that - when the alarm is activated - a signal informs a remote monitoring centre. They may confirm that the alarm is not false and, if necessary, they inform the Police.
It is important that the monitoring centre is recognised by the Police. A unique reference number (URN) - which identified the premises - must be obtained by the installer from the Police, when the system is installed. To get this number, the installer and the monitoring centre must be registered with a certification body - such as SSAIB.
Monitored systems do not guarantee a Police response.
If it is reasonably certain that someone has entered the premises, it will be flagged as a priority call. However, if a system has three false alarms in a year - four in Scotland - the URN will be revoked by the Police.
To be reconnected, evidence that the problem has been resolved must be provided to the Police within three months.
Please click here to find a SSAIB-registered firm near you.