In 1988, a physician in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, installed a new alarm system at his practice. It had an exciting new feature: motion detection.

This seemed like a great idea. However, it was so sensitive that whenever the AC kicked on, the moving air triggered the sensor. In less than four hours, my police department responded to this burglar alarm six times! By the third alarm, it was getting hard to take the “threat” seriously. This type of situation can quickly become dangerous. The doctor’s alarm system led to a local ordinance prohibiting excessive false alarms (and made us very resentful of the doctor’s office).

The previous story is an excellent example of why a home-security system should be three things: reliable, easy to use and not annoying.


Reliability should be your top priority in an alarm system. The system should keep false alarms to an absolute minimum to prevent a situation like that of the doctor. If your system triggers too frequently, alarms from your residence may be assumed false, eventually resulting in a fine. Thunderstorm-induced false alarms aren’t counted against you.

Fortunately, motion-detection systems have vastly improved since 1988. Most systems today advertise that motion sensors won’t even be triggered by pets (under 50 pounds). Most of the false alarms I commonly encounter now are triggered by house sitters who aren’t trained in operating the alarm.

Ease of Use

Make sure all members of your household will be able to operate your alarm system. It should also be easy to explain to house sitters. When we purchased our home six years ago, it came wired with an extensive traditional alarm system. However, the legacy system was a bit difficult for my wife to operate since she is totally blind. After several false alarms, I disabled it.

Instead, we relied on our own “three-dog alarm system” but kept the exterior alarm sign in place. Now that our dogs have sadly departed, I’ve had to look into new alarm options. Many of the current systems allow control via smartphone. This means my wife can easily operate them with voice-over on her iPhone. I opted to go with SimpliSafe because it works without hard wiring.

Excessive Noise Not Necessary

Please don’t annoy your neighbors with exterior noise alarms. Your alarm should notify the police, and that’s really all you need. Interior noise to alert you of an intruder is also a plus. However, beyond you and the police, keep the alerts to a minimum.

One company advertises an extra siren option that blasts at 105 dB — or “about as loud as a Led Zeppelin concert in ’72.” Your neighbors will NOT appreciate that.

Do Your Homework When Choosing a Home-Security System

Thanks to the internet, you can quickly and easily compare features, prices and reviews of home-security systems. Wireless modular alarm systems like SimpliSafe or Ring do not require professional installation. They offer relatively inexpensive base unit bundles which you can modify to meet the needs of your home. Options include entry alarms, motion sensors, cameras, security lights, and carbon monoxide or smoke detectors. Other add-ons detect the distinct sound of breaking glass or warn you of a flood or freeze. Most systems offer optional third-party monitoring with reasonable rates and no contracts.

Do your research and build a home-security system that is right for your needs.