Experts laud modern security systems, say market has spiked in recent years

By Gabriel Lagarde

Home security is reaching an intersection where the quality of the products rise and their prices steadily decrease to the point where it’s both practical and affordable for a large chunk of the population to purchase – and Eau Claire County residents are taking advantage.

Garrett Lewis and Hunter Braatz, co-owners of HomeTech Innovations, said there is a significant increase of buyers willing to cough up money for peace of mind.

There may be a number of reasons for this bump in sales. Matt Lokken, a security specialist at Tru-Lock & Security, said people are less trusting than past decades and more are taking measures to safeguard their homes, or they may be driven by motivations that have little to do with security at all, such as watching the activities of small children, the elderly or mentally disabled.

“I think people have a vested interest in seeing what’s happening at their house,” Lokken said. “It’s a growing industry. It’s no longer just a matter of emergencies, but about all the things we can monitor.”

Both Lokken and Lewis said they believe the integration of wireless smartphone technology, among other innovations in the field, make home security less of a hassle and more user friendly for homeowners.

Not only do security systems serve to catch criminals in the act, it also deters attempts to force entry. Lewis said there are reports that unsecured homes are three times more likely to fall victim to a break-in than homes with security systems installed.

A complete home security system uses a wide array of equipment to monitor points of entry to a property. A traditional system incorporates sensors to detect movement, door security and window glass integrity. (Lagarde)

“What you’ll find you’ll get a string of burglaries in a single area, over a short amount of time; nine times out of ten it’s the same group of people doing it,” Lewis said. “Cameras are a huge deterrent.  A lot of people are worried about they’re surveillance systems being seen. No, you want your cameras being seen. Let the burglars go to the next house.”

Tru-Lock & Security offers a section dedicated to electronic monitoring systems, as well as more traditional barriers, locks and other security implements. (Lagarde)

According to a study conducted in January by the Statistics Brian Institute that utilized data provided by security giant ADT and the FBI, only around 15 percent of homes currently utilize an alarm or surveillance system.

The same study indicated that it takes burglars less than a minute to break into a property, a crime that occurs every 13 seconds in the U.S. Between 2011-2015, Eau Claire Co. saw an average of almost 400 burglaries’ per year, a statistic that placed it among the highest risk counties in the state, according to Uniform Crime Reporting data compiled by the FBI.

The basic alarm system

An “entry-level” security package, one that homeowners most commonly choose, is an alarm system that uses a sensors to monitor door contact (whether it’s ajar), glass frequency (the sound pitch when a window is broken) and motion (any movement in the rooms inside).

A typical cost estimate, given by both Lokken and Lewis, is between $800-1200 for the equipment and installation.

A kiosk in Tru-Lock & Security displays wall mounted units, including touch screens and detectors. (Lagarde)

Lewis said it’s difficult for installers to give an accurate estimate. Each property is different and presents a unique challenge for installers, who in turn have to set up the security system according to the homeowner’s specifications.

“Cheapest is going to be when I can wire it, when the walls are open and I can wire everything,” Lewis sad. “Then I can get everything in for about 25 percent less than the usual cost.”

Hard-wired packages aren’t always cost-effective, Lewis said. While it’s easier to run the wiring through new construction, trying to install hard wires in a used home or “retrofit” — which requires tearing into drywall and the building’s framework — can run up the cost quickly.

Lewis said modern homeowners have the ability to instantly set the status of their security systems, watch their camera feeds, check their sensors and a host of other options with a tap of their finger against a touchscreen. These setups can be so comprehensive that every electrical system (lights, audio, video, security, thermostat, etc.) can be accessed through opening a single app.

Video Surveillance

Beyond a traditional alarm system, many homeowners are choosing to include a surveillance system as well. This is the result of nosediving prices in the last half-decade, Lewis said.

A PTZ camera, pictured, is capable of providing high resolution filming, as well as the capability to set a scanning parameter, to track movement and to focus on subjects 40-50 yards away. (Lagarde)

Likewise, the durability of cameras and the quality of their footage has improved exponentially. Lokken said today’s security cameras, IP (Internet Protocol) models, well outperform older analogue models.

“The technology is growing by leaps and bounds. Five years ago, for cameras, it was difficult to tell if they walked upright,” Lokken said. “Now, we’re getting crystal clear HD cameras. We’re able to zoom in on people’s faces, 40-50 feet.”

Keeping in touch

Lewis said there are two options homeowners have when it comes to setting up the wireless connection with their security system.

The first, connecting their security system to a website like Alarm.com, he said, is based on subscription. For a monthly fee, the website communicates with the system and, in case there is a breach, notifies the homeowner and inquires whether to call for dispatch.

HomeTech Innovations owner and co-founder Hunter Braatz, pictured, demonstrates the many functions a wall interface can provide home owners in terms of controlling and fine-tuning their home security systems. (Lagarde)

The second option, automation, involves installing a controller that hooks up and communicates with all the systems in the house, centralizing it within a hub. Lewis said he favors this option because it’s accessible, user-friendly and involves a one-time purchase. It also offers instant responses — such as the ability to automatically shut off the water pump once a water leak sensor alarms.

For both options, Lewis said, rural homeowners may be at a disadvantage. Monitoring these systems and accessing them is more difficult because internet connections are slower, especially for satellite users.

“Once you get past that data cap, they throttle your internet speed down to a crawl,” Lewis said. “It’s barely worth using at that point.”

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