How to choose a burglar alarm

Melanie Whitehouse / 07 December 2015

With so many burglar alarms available it can be hard to decide which is right for you. Read our guide to help you choose a burglar alarm for your home.

Wired or wireless?

Wired alarms need to be fitted by a professional because the wires have to be hidden, increasing labour costs. These hard-wired systems are robust, reliable and require less maintenance than a wireless service.

Wireless alarms use battery-powered sensors that communicate with a control panel via radio signals. Usually, they are easier to install and can be done by someone with basic or reasonable DIY skills. They’re also portable, so you can take them with you if you move.

Read our guide to improving your home security

Bells only

Alarms with bells only make a loud noise, which may scare off an intruder or alert someone nearby, but won’t contact the police or the homeowner. These are most suitable for people with friendly neighbours or an active neighbourhood watch, who they know will take action on their behalf. You can install these alarms yourself or have them installed by a professional.

Text alerts

Those with speech diallers – a text alert built into the alarm – automatically contact the owner or nominated friends/family when the alarm goes off. There are no monthly fees and it can be a wired or wireless system. Speech diallers just need to be activated or connected to a phone line.

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Contract systems

Monitoring contracts come in two versions: keyholder and police response. With both, you pay per month or year to have your alarm system monitored. The alarm system connects to a receiving centre, so if your alarm goes off, they will be notified. First, the receiving centre rings your home to ask for password identification. If this is incorrect or if nobody answers, they will take action, inform the keyholder(s) or call the police, depending on what type of contract the homeowner has. This kind of alarm has to conform to certain standards, so should be installed professionally.

What it costs

The website Service Magic, which helps you find recommended local tradesmen, says the final cost depends on where in the country you live, the kind of property you have, the number of different zones (rooms or areas in the home) you want linked up to the alarm system, and what kind of burglar alarm you want installed. Here are their estimates:

• Keyholder monitoring: £69 – £175
• Speech Dialler: £99 – £150
• Bells-only audible alarm: £300 – £600
• Annual maintenance: £99 – £150 a year
• Automatic police response: £200+ a year

Tech breakthroughs

Slightly larger than a tennis ball, Cocoon, a new system costing £299, uses a microphone to detect sounds outside of the hearing range of humans to sound the alert if intruders are in the home. Using Smartphones to identify the various residents of the house or flat, the device learns their movements and eliminates them from the sound waves it detects, in turn identifying unusual movements such as those of a burglar.

The Buddyguard Flare is fitted with cameras and facial recognition software which can determine between a homeowner and a stranger, and even make 'homely' noises so it appears someone is home. It will also call the police in the event of a break-in. It can be pre-ordered for around £139.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.