Protect your home, right from your phone

Remote control — it’s the latest in home security. New systems use internet, cable, and cellular networks to keep you connected to your house, no matter where you are. Now you can activate an alarm from the road, view video of movement near the back door, or remotely unlock the garage.

With the right setup, you can even control certain utilities and appliances, turn the heat up before you come home, or switch the lights on, all from your smartphone or tablet.

Add up the fees
Get a clear understanding of the fees and contract requirements for these services. Expect a base installation fee, equipment fees, and a monthly service fee. You’ll probably pay extra for services like water detection, fire and smoke monitoring, glass break sensors, and lighting and thermostat controls.

Monthly fees start around $30 to $40 for security services with most national companies. Ask about minimum contract terms and early termination fees, too.

Who calls for help?
Most standard services include central monitoring, meaning the police are notified when an alarm is triggered. Monitoring offers the best protection, ensuring help will be on its way if a break-in does occur. But if you’re concerned about false alarms or want to trim costs, you can choose a service that sends an alert to you instead.

Customer service matters
Pricing and equipment won’t vary widely from one provider to the next, but service will make or break your experience. Check online reviews and use this handy home security comparison tool, but remember that service is only as good as the local dealer in your area.

Watch for scammers
If you have an older security system and are considering updating to a more tech-savvy option, make sure you are contracting with a reputable service provider. Scammers have been known to target homeowners and sell them an updated system, when in reality they are trying to lock them into over-priced, long-term contracts, or worse — tamper with the alarm system so they can return and burglarize the home.

Consider DIY
If you’re even moderately tech savvy, you can set up your own in-home sensors and camera systems with remote monitoring and control. Be aware, however, that do-it-yourself systems don’t include central monitoring (mentioned above), so you’ll still be in charge of calling for help.