Choosing a Rural Home Security System

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Kongs
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The Small Home, Big Decisionsseries follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.

If you’re interested in a rural security system for your home, we have some tips from our experience to help you customize the system to your needs and, hopefully, not pay more than necessary. Of course, you could choose to “install” a canine or even a guinea fowl alert system, which is probably fuzzier and more entertaining (when not on patrol).

First, definitely get multiple quotes. Our bids ranged wildly — from thousands of dollars to $300 — to simply install the system. The monthly cost also varied depending on the number of services we required. You know, in case we wanted to adjust the thermostat of our house from our cell phones, which is cool but not something we needed (or wanted to shell out cash to have).  Compare the warranty plans, too, and ask about guarantees on responsiveness should your system need repair or should the alarm be set off by an intruder.

Second, really think about how someone would break into your home. It’s weird, but it helps you decide on the pieces of equipment you really need instead of the pieces that someone wants to sell to you. In reality, most of the company representatives we met with were down-to-earth and didn’t try to oversell. But only most of them. Be realistic about the complications that pets can cause with motion sensors, and if you even need motion sensors if you have the entrances and windows covered.  Whether you need glass breaks (sensors that are set off by the sound of breaking glass; maybe not a good idea in a kitchen) or sensors that will detect if someone forces a window open (maybe not necessary on second-story windows or windows you plan to leave open overnight).

Third, consider connecting your smoke detectors to the system. We heat our home primarily with a woodstove, which made us a bit anxious when we left for work in the morning (not that we left the fire burning, but coals can remain hot for a long time). We opted to connect our smoke detectors to our alarm system, so that should a smoke alarm go off, we and the fire department will be notified.

Fourth, you don’t need to add a home/land phone line to have a great rural home security system. Ours works with our cell phones and our email, so we get updates right away if something is out of the ordinary.

Fifth, you can choose a DIY home security system (Google it and you’ll find tons of options, or try your hand at this 1986 plan from MOTHER EARTH NEWS). We ultimately preferred to have a network of agents who could help us if a piece of equipment broke or if we had questions about our system. Many nationwide options exist, including the “old reliables,” such as Protection 1. Don’t forget to ask for the yard signs, either — they are cheap and help to deter intruders (even if you don’t actually install the system).

Six, call your home-insurance company. Most companies offer substantial discounts to homeowners who have an alarm system installed.

We hope to add a few canine protectors in the coming months, to act as our outdoor security and crime-prevention crew. Plus, who doesn’t want some Great Pyrenees as livestock guardians?

Photo by Fotolia/highwaystarz

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Jennifer Kongsis the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer by leaving a comment below.

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