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What types of burglar alarms are there?

Keep your home protected and one step closer to being burglar-proof. Here’s all you need to know about burglar alarms.

Person setting burglar alarm

A decent burglar alarm has the power to deter intruders. Either it'll put them off from entering in the first place, or cause them to flee the scene when they trigger the alarm.

The type of alarm you choose will depend on the level of security you’re after and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

If you’re thinking of installing an alarm system in your home, it’s worth considering what the police response would be if the alarm goes off. And, if it'll have any effect on your home insurance costs. These factors vary depending on what alarm you choose. 

But first, let’s look through the most common types of burglar alarms.

 

Wireless or wired alarms

Wired alarms usually need to be installed by a professional, so all the wires are hidden and tucked away. Labour costs may be higher to get these installed.

Wireless alarms are battery-powered. They are generally easier and cheaper to install.

 

Wireless burglar alarms

Wireless burglar alarms are battery-powered and have sensors that communicate with a central control panel.

Without the need for wiring, installing these kinds of burglar alarms tends to be easier. You might even be able to do it yourself without having to rely on an engineer.

The drawback here is that the extra convenience tends to come at a cost. Wireless burglar alarms, are generally more expensive.

 

Wired burglar alarms

Wired burglar alarms are your bog-standard alarm systems. Just like with wireless alarms, you get sensors and a control panel, but they’re all hooked together.

While this option tends to be cheaper than with wireless models, you might need to have it installed by a qualified engineer.

This could inflate your costs a little bit, so it’s worth comparing with wireless models to see which works out best.

Another plus point for wired burglar alarms is that they tend to not need a great deal of maintenance once they’re installed.

 

Monitored burglar alarms

A monitored alarm connects to an external security company, which monitors signals from your alarm for a fee.

Typically, someone at the security centre will call your home for a password and to check everything is OK should the alarm go off.

If they don’t get the right password, or the phone isn't picked up, the company will notify a nominated key holder or the police.

The main advantage with monitored burglar alarms is that there’s someone able to keep an eye on your property all the time.

As you might expect with a service like this, it likely comes at an additional cost. Monitored systems often come with a contract or a subscription to the service.

 

Bells-only burglar alarms

A bells-only alarm is the kind of burglar alarm that you’re probably used to hearing at some point. It’s a ringer alarm that makes a noise when it detects a break-in.

The external alarm will only continue for a maximum of 20 minutes. But the internal alarm and outdoor light will continue to flash until the system is turned off.

These systems aren’t connected in the same way that monitored alarms are. They’re mostly there to scare the burglar off and to try and attract attention to the fact that someone’s trying to burgle your home.

Unmonitored systems are typically better suited to lower-risk homes, or those without a significant amount of contents or valuables.

Usually the police won’t come unless there’s proof that an offence is in progress, eg a witness at the scene.

 

Smart burglar alarm

Smart burglar alarm systems keep you connected to your home 24/7 by allowing you to connect your security system to your smartphone.

This allows you to keep an eye on your home anywhere – even when you’re on holiday. No more relying on neighbours to check up on your house!

Some smart burglar alarms hook up to police systems in the same way that monitored systems are.

This means that there’s likely to be a subscription fee, making these kinds of burglar alarms more expensive than others. 

For more examples, check out our guide on home security devices.

 

Dummy alarm box

This is arguably the cheapest option. A dummy alarm box is literally a hollow box that you mount to your wall that makes it look like you’ve a burglar alarm installed.

Some of them even have flashing LED lights to give the appearance of it being functional.

This could be an effective deterrent for amateur and opportunistic thieves. But be mindful that professional burglars might be able to spot a fake alarm from a mile off.

What’s more, it’s unlikely to have any effect on your home insurance costs as it’s not a real security device.

 

How are burglar alarms installed?

Burglar alarms typically come in two parts -the central control panel, and the sensors.

Unless you’ve opted for a wireless burglar alarm, you’ll need to hook up the central control panel to your home’s electrics. You should get a qualified installation engineer to do this for you.

The specifics may vary between burglar alarms, but you generally arm and disarm the alarm from the central control panel.

You can place the sensors more or less wherever you like around your house. Again, unless you’ve shelled out for wireless tech, you’ll need to connect the sensors to the central console.

Most burglar alarm sensors are Passive Infrared (PIR) detectors. These sensors measure changes in heat in a room. If the temperature fluctuates past a certain point after you arm it (indicating something that gives off body heat is in the room), it’ll go off.

Some burglar alarms come with a separate keypad. This lets you arm and disarm the alarm without having to make a dash to the central console before the alarm goes off.

Anyone can install an alarm in your home but it’s best to use a reputable installer. Companies with National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Boards (SSAIB) approval come strongly recommended.

They're fully audited against British and European Standards for things like system design, installation, monitoring and maintenance.

 

Does having a burglar alarm lower the cost of home insurance?

When you compare home insurance quotes with us, we’ll ask what door locks you have, what patio locks you have and if you have a burglar alarm.

In some cases, you could get a discount off your normal premium if your property has a higher degree of protection against intruders.

Typically, you’ll be given five options for alarms:

  • NUD Audible-Only Alarm

  • NUD Monitored Alarm

  • Nacoss Audible-Only Alarm

  • Nacoss Monitored Alarm

  • SSAIB Alarm Fitted.

Check your home insurance policy for any on-going conditions or requirements relating to alarm protection, and make sure you comply. If you don’t it could invalidate your policy.

Don’t forget to switch your alarm on when you’re out of the house. If your home gets broken into and you didn’t have your alarm switched on, it could impact your chances of making a successful home insurance claim.

Insurers might also need to know if the alarm system has been certified by an approved organisation. Check the documentation that came with your alarm to see if it has either NSI or SSAIB approval.