What you’ll pay

A home security system’s price comes in two forms. First, there’s the equipment cost, which can vary from $250 to $700, depending on the options you choose. Some companies may offer a basic package at a deep discount just to get your business.

They make their real money on the monthly monitoring fee, which ensures that someone is keeping an eye on your home 24/7. Expect to pay $35 to $75 a month for that peace of mind.

Talk to your insurance agent about a discount

You might be able to save money. Some insurance companies will shave off a percentage of your yearly premium if you have an electronic alarm system; a few go as high as 20%.

With an average national premium of $800, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, that means a basic security system can pay for itself in as little as three years.

Prepare for light construction…

Installing a basic home security system takes a pro about three hours. If you’re building a new house or an addition, you can simply run the wires through open walls. Retrofitting an older home takes more time.

…Or go wireless

You can also go completely wireless. In this case, key components of your home security system are battery-powered and communicate with a monitor device inside your home. That monitor is in touch with a remote cellular network—the heart of your provider’s service.

Some critics point out that a wireless home security system can be disabled more easily than a wired one.

Get more than security

Sensors or detectors can be added to address just about any household danger, from fire to carbon monoxide poisoning. Elderly home owners can even get a wearable “panic button” in case they fall or need assistance.

Some home security systems are part of a larger home automation complex that will adjust your home’s temperature, turn lights on and off depending on whether a room is occupied or not, and even water your landscape plants when soil dries out. Expect to pay $5,000 or more for a full home automation system.

The key element: you

For all its bells and whistles, a home security system is useless if you don’t use it correctly and consistently. Resolve to learn how to arm and disarm your system, teach each family member, and use it daily. 

And don’t forget to use those stickers and signs to broadcast your new home security system. Some security experts say their presence is the biggest deterrent of all.