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Are Home Alarm Systems Worth the Investment?

Like most families, yours most likely spends a considerable portion of its income on either a home mortgage or rent. Therefore, naturally, you want to protect that considerable investment.

A home is not just a roof over one's head — it's also the family that lives inside of it, including pets; the storage place for years' worth of precious personal property; the place where crucial information about one's identity is likely kept; and much more.

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What's the best way to protect one's home? Besides locking all the doors and windows everyday — and perhaps even cultivating a friendly relationship with one's neighbors so you look out for each other's homes — many also turn to modern technology, such as a home security system.

Not everyone is completely convinced when it comes to the choice to invest in a home security system, though. For many it's a considerable cost that they're not entirely sure will pay off in the end.

According to a comparison of the top 10 most popular home security brands in America by Consumer's Advocate, in addition to initial equipment and activation costs, most companies charge a monthly service fee that averages between $20 and $45 per month and, similar to cell phone plans, require customers to sign a service contract for anywhere between two and four years.

The features that come with that monthly service range from provider to provider. The more basic plans feature a simple noise alarm that is set off when someone enters the home and does not enter the correct passcode within a few moments. The system is usually connected to a 24/7 monitoring service that will alert authorities if the alarm is triggered and the homeowner does not confirm it was a false alarm.

Higher-end systems can also include more high-tech features such as cameras and motion sensors, and full home controls that can be managed via a website or smartphone app, allowing for conveniences such as turning lights on and off, adjusting the home thermostat, or even watching what's going on inside your home through cameras connected to a live video feed.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of systems like these? According to different sources, there can be several advantages, such as:

1. Having a home security system in place can often earn someone a lower home insurance or personal property insurance rate, according to comparison site Safewise.

2. Having cameras that you can check while you're away through a computer or smartphone can be helpful for monitoring children that are home alone, or for checking to make sure you remembered to turn all the lights or the heat or air conditioning off (and if you did forget, allowing you to turn them off from where you are).

3. A 2009 study by Rutgers University indicated that just having a home security system can be a successful crime deterrent. Neighborhoods in which several homes have systems often have a lower crime rate overall.

4. Some systems can even alert you if your smoke detector goes off while you are away, or detect if carbon monoxide levels in your home are unusually high.

5. If your pet is home alone and something happens, you can be alerted and send help for your pet.

6. According to HomeAdvisor.com, a good home security system can even help increase the value of your home, should you decide to put it on the market.

And, of course, there's always the peace of mind a home security system can offer you, knowing you'll be alerted if someone enters your home unlawfully while you're asleep, or knowing a loud alarm can hopefully scare away anyone considering breaking in.

That's exactly what happened to the Perez family in San Jose, California.

"It's definitely worth the investment! The home alarm system is what deterred burglars from breaking into my mom's house [recently]," said Sara Perez.

"She heard the noise downstairs, outside, and she pressed the emergency button from her bed. The sounding alarm made the burglars run away.

"The police found the side gate open as well as the downstairs bathroom's window screen removed," she said.

Monica Hartman of Sterling Heights, Michigan said she wished her family had invested in one sooner — before a devastating burglary many years ago.

"We had an alarm installed ever since someone broke into our house when [my daughter] was a freshman in high school," Hartman recalled. "They took things that could never be replaced. The alarm is well worth it to us. I'd give up my TV before I would give up my alarm."

Still, others say they have hesitations.

Alex Sommers of Fairfax, Virginia said he's still not convinced the benefits outweigh the costs, and he said he's heard "too many horror stories" of false alarms causing a panic.

"I've known friends and co-workers who have, on more than one occasion, rushed home in a panic because a teenager coming home accidentally set off the alarm," Sommers said. "Or, half the time they say they forget to arm the system when they leave the house anyway, so there's no benefit at all."

According to a survey of nearly 800 families by the company A Secure Life, more than 40 percent said cost was the most important factor for them in deciding whether to purchase a home security system. Other common factors included whether the system featured 24/7 monitoring, and whether they could control the system from a mobile app.

ATTENTION LIFELOCK MEMBERS: LifeLock has a partnership with one of the top home security system providers in the U.S.: Vivint. Customers can bundle new or existing service with Vivint together with Lifelock's identity theft protection services. Click here for more information.

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