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A Home Isn’t Secure Without Environmental Sensors

When we talk about home security, we often think about cameras, alarms, and motion sensors that sound an alarm when someone is trying to break in. Yes, these things are important, but there is a bigger threat to your home, and it is already inside your four walls.

We’re talking about fire, water, and carbon monoxide.

These environmental factors are often more costly, more dangerous and more likely than a break-in. Choosing a security system that includes environmental alarms such as water detectors, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors will not only alert you when you are home, they will protect your most valuable investment when you are away.

smoke detector house

Your normal, everyday smoke detector only alerts you to a few hazards.

All Environmental Detectors are Not Created Equal

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend your dishwasher begins to leak just after you leave for work.

It is possible to go to your local hardware store and purchase environmental detectors such as a water detector and install it under your sink, near your washing machine, next to your dishwasher, or in another area where water is likely to enter your home. These detectors emit a loud, high pitched noise when they sense water and can alert you to turn off the water to your home before catastrophic damage occurs.

But what if you’re not home to hear the alarm?

Tied in Environmental Sensors Make Sense

Now, consider the difference a water detector can make when it is tied into your home security system. A leak under the sink triggers an alert in your monitored security system. You are immediately notified of the issue and can either call a plumber to meet you at your property or go shut off the main water valve to your building yourself. Suddenly, rather than dealing with three feet of water throughout your property, you may have an eighth of an inch of water in the location where the leak occurred.

Remote Shut Off Valves + Tied In Environmental Sensors Can Save Your Home & Sanity

electronic remote shut-off valve

An example of a flo Logic automatic electronic remote shut-off valve

If having environmental sensors tied into your home security system is better than sensors alone, adding an electronic remote shut-off valve is considered the Cadillac in home protection.

Going back to our scenario, let’s say your water sensor is triggered and the home security monitoring company cannot reach you. They will begin to go down the list of people you have designated as emergency contacts to alert them of the situation. All the while, water is pouring into your home causing damage to your structure and belongings.

Having an electronic, remote shut off valve installed into your main water line can effectively eliminate water damage in your home. Should a water sensor be triggered, your main water line can be turned off remotely by your security monitoring company until you can assess the situation. No more soggy carpet, no more ruined hardwood floor, no more damaged sheetrock, no more insurance claims.

While preventing an invasion is an important aspect of security, preventing damage due to environmental causes is just as important. For more information on how HS Tech can help you protect your property from water, smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide, call us today.

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Why You Need a Camera with 2-way Audio in your Home Security System

In today’s age of Skype and Facetime, having a camera with 2-way audio in your home security system may seem like an unnecessary upgrade. However, this system can not only provide an added peace of mind for you; it can give you some unintended benefits for your family members as well.

You are likely wondering…

What is a Camera with 2-way Audio?

Much like the intercom systems that adorned homes in the 1970’s, a camera with audio and video (two-way cameras) offer users the ability to talk from one point to another. The major difference is that two-way cameras of the 21st-century offer high-definition digital video and clear audio without having to press “talk” and “listen” buttons. Two-way cameras are easy to install into existing home security systems and allow you to communicate with both audio and video with those inside of your home. They require both a power source and strong Wi-Fi for operation. They are easy to use and can be controlled via a smartphone app.

But why not just call on the phone?

No Phone Necessary

Picture in your mind the people or pets you care about that are unable to use a smartphone. Want to sing your infant to sleep while you are away on business? Position a two-way camera in their room, pointed at the crib. Want to talk to your dog while you are at work? Position a two-way camera on a ledge in their room. Want to check in on an aging parent who does not have a smartphone or iPad? A two-way camera in their bedroom or kitchen allows you to easily check in without teaching them how to use an app. Two-way cameras also allow you to communicate with people in your home regardless of whether they answer your phone call or not.

Two-way Cameras Audio Allow you to be in Two Places at Once

B.F. Skinner’s psychological theories of reward and punishment suggest that the most effective way to keep a behavior going or prevent a behavior from happening in the future is to randomize the reward or punishment. Imagine how much more productive your children will be after school if you randomly pop in on a two-way camera to check in on their homework progress. Likewise, unexpectedly communicate with home assistants and maintenance specialists about project progress or job completion. With a two-way camera, you can effectively be at work and home at the same time and offer feedback and input on your schedule.

Can be Used Alone or as a Part of Your Home Security System

It is not necessary to have a home security system to take advantage of the dividends a two-way camera can pay. However, these cameras can be seamlessly integrated into your smart phone-managed home security system. No need to download a separate app to communicate with loved ones and home helpers at home. Simply touch a button from your existing home security app.

At HS Tech Group, we proudly install Alarm.com cameras with built-in audio. For more information on two-way cameras or to have one installed in your home, contact HS Tech Group for a consultation.

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3 Reasons Why You Need an Integrated Video Doorbell

One of the most exciting pieces of surveillance technology coming to the market soon is the upgraded, integrated video doorbell. Usually, a video doorbell is designed to alert the owner’s cell phone whenever someone pushes the doorbell. Normally, a video doorbell sends a push notification to the user’s cell phone that activates a video and audio connection between the integrated camera and the smartphone app.

Useful, right?

Now, imagine if that video doorbell was connected to the alarm and lock system inside of your home. Not would you be able to have a conversation with someone on the front doorstep, you would be able to disarm the alarm and unlock the front door to let them inside.

Why would you want to do that?

1. Let caregivers into your home

From the dog walker to the babysitter to the medical staff ready to care for aging family members, an integrated doorbell can allow you to authorize entrance of any number of caregivers into your home. Imagine reducing the fall risk of an elderly parent, trying to get out of bed to answer the door. Let your babysitter in to care for your children without them having to answer the door. Allow emergency personnel to enter your home when you are not there. An integrated video doorbell allows you to keep your family members safe, even when you are not there.

Contact HS Tech Group today for information on the Skybell Video Doorbell. Also, watch the two videos in this post!

2. Maintain control of your home security

With the newest, fully integrated video doorbell the days of making keys and giving out alarm codes are gone. The ability to remotely unlock the front door and disarm the alarm allows you to retain control of your home security system. As much as you would like to trust that your housekeeper is maintaining positive control of your house key and alarm codes, a fully integrated doorbell allows you to keep your house keys and alarm codes to yourself while your home helpers still do their jobs.

3. Monitor the comings and goings of home helpers

Best of all, you can monitor when caregivers come and go to ensure your loved ones are receiving the services you have paid for. A fully integrated video doorbell not only allows you to disarm the system and lock the door, but it also requires any home helpers to contact you to rearm the system and lock the door. This virtual time card can allow you to track the comings and goings of home assistants to ensure you receive an accurate accounting of their time.

You can currently add a fully integrated video doorbell to your home security system. Let HS Tech Group handle all of your home security needs with a Wi-Fi enabled alarm system that keeps you in touch with your home, even while you are away. From motion detectors to environmental sensors, let the professionals at HS Tech guide you through the home security process. Call today for a consultation and to find out how we can help you protect your home and loved ones.

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Home Security Systems: Everything You Need To Know

Very few people say to themselves, “I want to spend the day learning about home security systems!”

Until a break-in happens. And statistically speaking, it is likely to happen.

2 million home burglaries are reported in the US every year.

A home invasion robbery happens every 13 seconds, roughly four burglaries a minute. Doing the math, that is nearly 6,000 burglaries every day.

But, 9 out of 10 burglars said that if they encountered an alarm or home security system, they would not attack the home.

Some people are tempted to buy the first home security system they find or invest in the most expensive system with the most up-to-the-minute technology instead of wading through the myriad of options that are available. After all, it doesn’t matter what the system looks like as long as you have one, right?

Not necessarily.

Your home security needs are more important than selecting a system based on one factor. Choosing a system based on price or technology or intimidation sometimes overlooks the primary reason why a home security system is necessary – your security.

That is why this guide is necessary. We have broken down, in easy to understand terms, the important factors to consider when choosing a home security system. By the end, you will be able to make an informed decision for your home, your family and your budget.

While it’s not the most exciting topic, it is important that you first answer the question:

Technically speaking, what is a security system?

In the early years of home security, wires were connected to magnets which were then attached to a door or window. When the magnets were in contact with each other, like when the window or door was closed, they formed a “closed loop.” When the door or window was opened, and the magnets were apart, they formed an “open loop.” The wiring connected to the magnets was also connected to the main control panel. If the system was armed and a loop in a particular zone was opened, it would send an alert to the control panel, and it would trigger a bell or alarm.

As simple as the technology seems, the same concept still governs most home security systems today with one significant difference. Most systems are now wireless giving the control panel the ability to monitor whether a loop is closed or open without running wires throughout a home. Some systems can also be armed or disarmed remotely using a smartphone app. Some are monitored by a call center where information is interpreted based on the type of alarm that is sounded and the zone where it occurs.

In short, a home security system includes:

  • The main control panel
  • A method to arm or disarm the system
  • A communicator in the case of monitored systems that relays information to authorities
  • in the event of a breach
  • Door and window sensors
  • Optional motion sensors, glass break sensors and environmental sensors that monitor breaches as well as carbon monoxide, water or fire.
  • Optional video cameras to verify that a break in or accident has occurred
  • An alarm or siren

So, you may be wondering…

What do the security system components do?

Each component of a home security system has an important function. Understanding each one can help you make the best decision which to include in your system.

Control Panel

Today’s control panels are highly sophisticated minicomputers. They can be armed or disarmed either remotely or via a fob or keypad (more about them below). The control panel continuously monitors the status of all window and door sensors, video cameras, environmental sensors, and motion detectors so it can communicate any breach to a central monitoring system.

User Interface

The user interface is just a fancy way of describing the way a person communicates with the control panel. This can take any number of forms. Keypads, key fobs (like what you would use to lock or unlock your car), or smartphone apps are all different types of user interfaces that let people arm and disarm their security system.

Door & Window Sensors

Even the most basic system has a series of window and door sensors. These sensors consist of two separate parts, one installed on the door or window and one installed on the door jam or window sill. When the door or window is closed, the two parts create a closed loop security circuit (remember that?). When the door or window is opened, the magnetic field is broken opening the loop. While some sensors are surface mounted or placed where they are visible to someone looking at the door or window, others can be hidden in the actual window or door and frame that holds it.

Motion Sensors

Let’s assume, for a second that someone miraculously bypasses your window or door sensors and enters your home.

Too bad, say goodbye to your grandmother’s jewelry, right?

Wrong!

Motion sensors add a layer of security that protects any given space in your home. When the alarm is armed, if someone crosses an area where a motion sensor is monitoring the zone, the alarm will sound. Motion sensors are particularly useful in rooms where valuables are kept or areas in larger homes that are not typically used.

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance cameras do more than just monitor your babysitter or keep intruders from lurking around your doors and windows. They can offer added protection against theft everywhere in your home from your front door to your garage door. Today’s models are available in both wired and wireless models and can interface with a mobile app that allows you to see any activity in your home from your smartphone. Curious when the kids walked in the door? A surveillance camera linked to your smartphone can tell you the minute they walk in. Want to know who is stealing your mail? A surveillance camera you can access via your control panel can tell you. Surveillance cameras can also offer footage of the perpetrator and a good look at their getaway car should a home invasion occur.

High-Decibel Alarm

Wise parents teach their children to yell “Fire!” instead of “Help!” if someone is trying to kidnap them because people are more likely to look for a fire than they are toward a cry for help. A high-decibel alarm is an equivalent of yelling “Fire!” in the whole neighborhood. Loud enough for all of the neighbors to hear, a high-decibel (in other words, really, really loud) alarm lets everyone know that something has happened while scaring would-be intruders away.

Still with us? By now you’re probably wondering, with all of these components in place:

What Happens if There is a Break-in?

Let’s be honest. Even with the best security system in your home, there is a chance that someone will try to break in.

Take Joe Burglar trying to break into a home without a security system.

One Saturday night, when he’s pretty sure no one is home, Joe tries to break into your home and steal anything valuable that isn’t nailed down. He decides to first try the front door because if you left it unlocked, his job is easy. When Joe Burglar finds it locked, he decides to go around to the back door through your unlocked gate. When the door is locked, he doesn’t waste an opportunity in the shadows and simply breaks the window next to it with the brick paver under his foot. With access to your house, he proceeds to carry out anything he can to his waiting car outside. Driving away, he rests assured that no one will discover his crime until they return home.

Now, let’s take the same criminal who tries to break in a home that has a security system.

Let’s assume your home is equipped with surveillance cameras, a high-decibel alarm, a home security app that is connected to your smartphone, and remote monitoring by an alarm company.

Joe walks to your front door to check the door. Immediately, the motion triggers a surveillance camera in your doorbell that gets a clear and accurate picture of his face in the porch light. This triggers an alert to your phone where you see that someone has tried to enter your home. You alert the alarm company who notifies authorities before Joe even attempts to go around back. Still, he walks around the side of the house where he is once again picked up by surveillance cameras. Joe scales the locked fence gate, tries the back door and finds it locked. He picks up a brick paver from underfoot and smashes the window next to the door only to be deafened by a high-decibel alarm. Startled, he tries to scramble back to the front yard only to be met by the authorities who promptly arrest him. In court, the video evidence from the surveillance cameras debunks his alibi that you asked him to look after the house while you were gone.

As nice as it sounds to not only identify the would-be burglar but have authorities arrest him a short time later, some people are reluctant to pay a regular fee to have their homes professionally monitored.

Instead, they sit there thinking to themselves:

I’m Handy, Can’t I Just Rig a Security System Myself?

In short, yes. Non-monitored security systems are available in home improvement stores that can be installed on your own if you have basic skills with tools and a little bit of networking know-how. Depending on the system, DIY security systems may have a high-decibel alarm, multiple sensors and even surveillance cameras that are triggered by someone ringing the doorbell. The one thing they do not have is the ability to contact police, fire, emergency medical personnel, or other first responders without the homeowner doing it themselves. In other words, you are still responsible for reporting a potential crime to the authorities should you see or hear something suspicious.

Professionally monitored security systems have the added benefit of additional eyes and ears on your home, 24 hours a day, seven days week. If any of the closed loops on your windows or doors are opened without first disarming the system, the monitoring center will try to contact you or your emergency contact before notifying the authorities, just in case you forgot to turn off the alarm.

In the event of an emergency, a professionally monitored security system will notify the authorities in your area. Sure, you could call 9-1-1 if someone tries to break into your home while you are there, but monitoring centers go beyond calling the police in the event of an intrusion. If your home is equipped with environmental sensors that detect fire, water, and carbon monoxide and connected with a professional monitoring system, these professionals can notify fire, ambulance and first responders in the event of an emergency outside of theft.

Imagine protecting your family not only from bad guys trying to get in but common household emergencies.

Picture elderly family members staying in their own homes, protected by additional eyes and ears.

Still not sold?

Well, what about this:

Homes without security systems are three times more likely to be burglarized.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Think about it, burglars, by nature, are opportunistic criminals. They want an easy target, one that doesn’t require too much work or too much risk on their part. Homes with security systems, especially those that have professional monitoring systems, make it nearly impossible for would-be burglars to steal your property and leave unnoticed. Rather than risk it, they’ll move on to a home that is not as well protected.

Right now, you’re probably asking:

How do they know?

They play the odds.

Currently, only 14 percent of homes in the US are protected by home security systems. Statistically speaking, a burglar has an 8 out of 10 chance that the home they will break into will not have a monitored system in place.

Another way they know?

Advertising.

Professionally installed security systems often come with window stickers and yard signs warning would-be thieves about their chances of being caught should they try to hit your house. Some people have argued that, rather than going to the expense of installing a security system, why not just put a sticker on your window and a sign in your yard? You could, but you also wouldn’t have the peace of mind that comes with a fully protected home.

Just for good measure:

More Shocking Statistics

59 percent of home burglaries happen during the day.

Homes with a lot of cover from trees, fences, and plants are the most commonly invaded properties.

Most burglaries happen in July and August. Whether it’s the love in the air or the frigid temperatures,

February, oddly enough, has the fewest number of burglaries on average.

The vast majority (more than 95 percent) of burglaries involve some force. Intruders commonly kick down the door or break a window to gain access to the home.

I know, I know, after all of this, you still might say to yourself:

“I live in a safe neighborhood. Do I need a security system?”

For a minute, let’s assume that your neighborhood is a veritable Fort Knox. Gated and guarded, you rest assured every night that nothing could happen to your home.

The truth is, no matter how well guarded your front entrance, and no matter how observant your “concerned” neighbor is, no one will monitor your home the way a home security system will.

In fact:

Anyone can benefit from a home security system, even if security isn’t your primary concern.

In reality, break-ins happen more often than you think. Even with 6,000 burglaries happening every day nationwide, few are reported on the evening news. Incident reports that were once reported in the local newspaper have reached fewer and fewer readers as people turn to the internet for their information. Fortunately, crime continues to be reported on specific websites designed to keep neighborhoods informed.

Even if you never experience a break-in, a monitored system will give you peace of mind in a host of other environmental emergencies. Specialized sensors that detect water, fire or carbon monoxide alert a monitoring center that, in turn, alerts your family to a problem. Not only do you stay safe in the event of an accident, monitored environmental sensors can potentially and effectively save your home and personal belongings in an emergency.

You’re completely sold on the idea of a home security system, right?

Now, you have to ask yourself:

What is the Best Security System for me?

The best security system for you is the one that is designed around your lifestyle, your home, and your budget. It should provide you with a sense of safety and confidence without being so complicated that you cannot easily use it. After all, why have a home security system if you don’t know how to arm it?

First, ask yourself four questions.

  1. Do you want to have a professional install your security system or do you want to do it yourself? Understanding that DIY home security systems are not professionally monitored, some DIY systems can offer monitoring via a smartphone app or even wireless control. Keep in mind, installing a security system is not the same as building bookshelves. It may require some skill in networking, locksmithing, carpentry, or even electrical work.
  2. Do you want your system to be monitored by a central monitoring system? This may determine the answer to the first question. Most monitoring companies will not work with systems that have not been professionally installed by a licensed technician. In researching different monitoring options, ask how the company will support your system once it is installed including service and repairs.
  3. What are your security concerns? Do you have windows that are accessible without a ladder? How many exterior doors do you have? Are there particular areas of your home that don’t have a lot of traffic or areas where valuables are kept? Do you want environmental sensors as well that monitor fire, flood, and other environmental emergencies as well as intrusions?
  4. Perhaps the biggest question you need to answer is how you want to control the system? Are you hoping for a wireless system or is your home pre-wired for home security? Do you want to have the flexibility to control your system with your cell phone? Do you want to have the option of going with another company if you are not satisfied with the service you receive from the first one?

You’re likely reeling at the possibilities.

In reality, the best home security system for you will probably combine sensors, motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and off-site home monitoring. If you travel a lot, a total-home automation system that allows you to turn on appliances and lights from a smartphone app will give you the ability to make it appear as though someone is home. Even people who work long hours find a home automation system that lets them set the thermostat, lock the doors, monitor their children through surveillance cameras, or send medical assistance to your home whether you are there or not offers the perfect piece of mind.

The options are endless but don’t be overwhelmed.

As you begin to consider your home and family’s needs, there will be some features that will jump out at you as “must haves” while others will appear less essential. It is perfectly acceptable to start with a basic security system that addresses the most vulnerable areas of your home first. Just remember to purchase a system that you can always add to later, in case your needs change.

But, let’s get down to dollars and cents.

How Much Does a Home Security System Cost?

Let’s break it down.

Installation

Installation refers to the sensors, cameras, control panel, and other components of a system as well as the process of putting a home security system in a home. While do-it-yourself systems are more widely available than ever, many home monitoring companies will only work with systems that have been installed by certified technicians. Some even insist on having their technicians install a security system so they can be assured that it is set up for their systems, software, and service.

Your cost for installation will vary based on:

  • Whether you install it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
  • Whether the installation is included in a monitoring contract.
  • The type of system you wish to put into your home.
  • The number of sensors, cameras or other components required to meet your needs.

Monitoring

Once the system is installed, if you choose to have it monitored by professionals, you will pay a monthly or annual monitoring fee. Varying from $30 to $100 a month, monitoring technicians can detect if your home has been breached, if there is a fire, water emergency or other problem in your home or if there is a medical emergency that requires first responders. A monitoring system can then notify the proper authorities and even monitor the situation until they arrive.

Aside from the obvious installation and monitoring costs, there are two other less addressed costs associated with home security.

Consider Your Potential Losses

Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.6 billion in property losses in 2015. The average dollar loss per burglary offense was $2,316. Yes, in some instances, nothing of value was stolen, but in others the losses were much, much higher. Take some time to inventory your valuables and determine how much it would cost to replace these items. Keep in mind that burglars tend to steal things that are easy to carry and can be easily sold. Electronics, antiques, jewelry, and cash are all likely to be stolen in a robbery. Would your replacement cost be higher than the average of $2,316? Could you replace these items at all? Some things with sentimental value can never be replaced in their original form simply because they wouldn’t have the memories attached. Others are impossible to find, replicate, purchase, or create.

The Emotional Cost of Burglary

Even if you don’t have items that are necessarily valuable, keep in mind that over one-quarter of all crime victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of their experience.

Which means, you have to ask yourself:

How much is your peace of mind worth?

Even if you adopt the attitude of, “It’s just stuff,” it is important to realize that home security systems are just as much for protecting people you care about than they are about protecting the things you care about. Everyone under your roof will sleep better at night and feel more secure during the day if you have the added layer of protection a home security system provides.

That’s not to say a home security system can’t be affordable.

Right?

How do I get a home security system without breaking the bank?

Home security companies normally make pricey systems more affordable in three ways:

Reducing up-front costs

Many home monitoring companies are willing to reduce the up-front costs associated with purchasing a home security system as long as you sign a contract for their monthly monitoring service. This is a fantastic option for people who want to secure their home, but don’t have the cash for hefty equipment, installation and activation costs. However, these systems do not always offer all of the bells and whistles you may want. Some companies offer a low installation and activation fee, but only offer their proprietary window and doors sensors that cannot be used with another company or a system that cannot be expanded later on. Be sure to ask about both portability and expandability before signing a service contract.

Offering DIY systems

Wait, DIY? Don’t monitoring companies frown on DIY systems? Not necessarily. Some monitoring companies offer an equipment package of easy-to-install sensors and a basic control panel. Since you are using the monitoring company’s equipment, you are also using their proprietary software which they can troubleshoot should something go wrong. Even though these systems tend to carry larger up-front costs, many people like the freedom of not having a service contract that prohibits them from shopping around should they become disenchanted with their monitoring provider.

Insurance Savings

Let’s not forget, that installing a home security system will save you on your home insurance. Many companies provide discounts of up to 20 percent should you have a monitored security system. Insurance companies know that a professionally monitored system adds an incomparable layer of protection to your home. They figure that a lower chance of being robbed means a lower likelihood of filing an insurance claim. As a result, insurances are willing to pass along the savings to you. Depending on where you live and your homeowner’s insurance premiums, the savings you experience as the result of a home security system can pay for monthly monitoring costs.

While installation, equipment, and monthly monitoring fees certainly can vary, a basic security system will cost you far less than what the average burglary.

Just remember:

Home Security is More Than the Name Suggests

Not only does a home security system give you an added piece of mind that your home, valuables, family, and pets will be protected should someone attempt to cause harm, it offers you unparalleled features that you cannot get anywhere else. Remotely lock doors, arm your system, monitor who comes to your door, check in on the kids or pets, or even turn on lights or appliances while you are gone with the touch of a button. Combine this with a second set of eyes that never sleep from a 24/7 professional monitoring center, and you have unprecedented levels of security at a lower price than you might expect.

Now, armed with this information, you can make a decision based on your budget, your home, your needs, and your wish list. Still, have questions? Ready to get started? Contact us for a free in-home consultation to discuss your security needs.

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Why You Need to Upgrade Your Outdated Security Systems

Most people feel confident in their security systems until something goes terribly wrong. Whether it is an outdated system that doesn’t work all the time (and you don’t arm the system all of the time), the neighborhood watch drops the ball, or you have a flood in the home or worse a fire, you are less likely protected than you think.  Therefore, an upgrade may be needed in your near future.

An upgrade to your security system not only protects you from those who wish to do you harm, but they also offer your family or business several additional benefits.

Download our Business Video Surveillance Preliminary Design Checklist for FREE, HERE!

Real-Time Alerts

Today’s security systems are interactive. They are designed to notify you for various types of reasons. These notifications can be based on an event occurring or not occurring. For example, if your child is supposed to come home and turn the alarm off at 3 PM, but it’s 3:30 PM and the alarm hasn’t been turned off, your system can be set to notify you by sending a text message to your cell phone. Conversely, you can receive alerts every time your front door opens, or every time your system is armed or disarmed.

If you’re running a business and can’t always open the store, it would be nice to know that your staff disarmed the system and who disarmed the system and at what time. What if you had a power outage and were away from home? Wouldn’t it be nice to know? You could make arrangements to preserve the food in the freezer as well as make other preparations before you return home to no power.

real time alerts security system

Get real-time alerts on your smartphone!

Whether these alerts are emails, text messages, or automated phone calls, they can be generated at specific times of the day or based on an event to allow you to see who is entering your facility and what is happening. Additionally, real-time feedback allows you to set alerts for when a particular event happens, such as when a medicine cabinet, gun cabinet, or safe is opened. The same sensors that monitor gun safes and medicine cabinets can also be placed on laptops, desk drawers, and other valuable items. The system can be disarmed, but it can be programmed with our interactive model to allow you to receive an alert when your mechanical room door opens or the liquor cabinet opens in your home while the kids are home and you are out on the town.

Cellular Communication

All conventional systems installed up and through the early 2000’s utilized a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) telephone line. The copper phone line was connected to your home, usually from a telephone pole close by or underground with burial grade cabling. The issue is that a majority of these lines still exist today and they are blatantly exposed on the outside of your home. They are mounted on the outside of the house in a box called a NID (Network Interface Device), which for years has been the property of the phone company. If you have a problem with your phone line, the phone company will test the service to the NID. Furthermore, if it works at the NID, then the problem is inside the home with the wiring, which most companies will excessively charge you once they enter your home to fix the wiring. Having the NID outside allowed the phone companies to service your system without entering your home. The major issue with this setup is it’s effortless for the common criminal to snip the line outside your home with a pair of scissors, cutting your main line of communication for making that call for help to the central monitoring station.

The more sophisticated earlier systems would realize that the phone line had been tampered with and would sound an internal alarm in the home notifying the owners that there is a problem. This technology was called phone line monitoring and could be added to most systems for a nominal charge. The newer systems have this feature built into the main control unit. As an added step, they also have the ability to have multiple ways to communicate to the central station, in case an exterior line was cut.

cellular communication security

Keep reading to see why 2 forms of communication for your security system are better than 1.

Communications include, but are not limited to the following:

  • IP (through the Internet)
  • Cellular (over the cellular network)
    • via Radio such as a local Radio network (AES Intellinet) or
    • via a phone line, which may not be a traditional POTS line, but may still be a land line that works through Verizon or Comcast.

With the cellular industry delivering faster speeds and newer technologies, the cost to monitor your system using a cellular communicator has dropped in price dramatically. You will need to continually replace the cellular radio as the FCC sunsets the technology being used at the time (meaning shutters the network until it is no more. For example, AT&T sunsetted 2G network in December of 2016. If you had a 2G cellular radio or cell phone and didn’t replace it back in 2016, it will no longer work. Currently, the carriers are supporting 3G, 4G, and 4G-LTE platforms. 3G devices will cease to work sometime around 2020. The official sunset date for 3G has not been formally released.

In summary, it is much better to have two forms of communication for your security system in case one of them is unavailable – one wired and one wireless connection would be optimal.

Mobile Control

Upgraded security systems often come with mobile control capability. Between web portals and smartphone apps, users can control their security system from a simple-to-use Android or IOS app. Instead of using a cumbersome wall keypad, imagine being able to arm or disarm your system, check alerts, and monitor your home from your mobile device! No more worrying if someone is home, or if you didn’t close the garage door. It’s all there for you to control from your mobile device.

Auto-Arm and Temperature Control

Some new security systems come with auto-arm and disarm optional feature that takes the guesswork out of whether you set the alarm or not. This feature allows you to set arming and disarming schedules, so you don’t have to worry if someone will forget to turn the alarm on or off. The system does it automatically for you, on a schedule that you set.

auto arm temperature control

Many systems are also equipped to monitor the temperature inside of a home or office. Not only does temperature control allow you to keep your home or office comfortable, but it also saves money on heating and cooling costs when no one is in the office. Most thermostats these days have scheduling built into them. However, the scheduling is only that. It doesn’t know when you are home or not. It just follows its schedule. When you integrate a smart thermostat with your security system and arm the system to “away,” you are in fact also telling the thermostat to forget the preprogrammed schedule and now do something else. This is because everyone has now left and it doesn’t need to abide by the regularly set schedule.

Insurance Savings

Newer security systems that not only monitor for intruders and theft but also include smoke and flood detectors can trigger a discount in homeowners or business insurance premiums. While most companies offer a discount of 5% for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks, many companies will cut your premium by as much as 20% if you install a sophisticated security system that is connected to police, fire, or other monitoring systems. Many insurance companies are now requesting a complete house water shut off system, which uses water sensors placed throughout your home at sinks, showers, toilets, tubs, and other appliances that have a water connection. Once water is detected, these devices can send an electronic signal to the main water control valve to shut off the “Main” water valve to the house, thus tremendously reducing the cost to repair the water damage. Some of these types of systems are expensive to install, but most do qualify for insurance premium discounts. It is always important to contact your insurer for their recommendations and premium discounts before installing a new system.

outdated alarm pad

If you have an alarm pad that looks like this, call us immediately!

Most of all, outdated security systems convey an unspoken message to family members and employees that their safety is not a priority. Installing an upgraded security system can have the unintended benefit of higher levels of productivity in business once employees feel safer in their workspace. Likewise, new equipment offers your family an unparalleled peace of mind in the face of potential dangers.

For more information on how to upgrade your outdated home or business security system or to find out which system is right for you, contact HS Tech Group for a consultation.

Additional Information:

business video surveillance checklist cta

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How to Increase Your Security Presence Using an Electronic Security System and Automation

At HS Tech Group, we want you and your family to be safe. Therefore, we’ve come up with 10 security tips that you should know and subsequently implement if possible. Does your home have a security system? Even if you’ve answered yes, there is important information below that you’ll need to know. Without further ado, here are 10 security tips to increase your security presence:

Have a Professional Security System Installed

Protect all accessible doors and windows, utilize interior motions and or glass break sensors, and use Enhanced Call Verification to reduce False Alarms.

Contact HS Tech Group today for a consultation for a new professional home security system!

Already Have a System?

Make sure you test it throughout the year, replace the backup battery every 3-5 years, consider updating your home security system to the latest technology. Also, make sure to have yard signs and window stickers visible

Does Your Security System Use a Phone Line?

Burglars are aware that the security system uses a phone line to call the monitoring station. They have been known to cut the line outside the home. Make sure to use a cellular backup or a primary cellular form of communication for your security system. If you do not have a cellular line, it can be added to your system. There will most likely be an additional monthly fee.

cut phone line

Go wireless by adding a cellular phone line to your alarm system

Double Check That You Armed Your System

Make sure to arm your system during the day. The percentage of overall burglaries per capita has been decreasing over the past 4-5 years. However, the percentage of daytime time burglaries has continued to increase.

Install Wireless DIY Cameras

DIY installed systems (such as Nest or Dropcam) are usually connected to the Internet and can send you alerts when they see movements and are very effective for receiving alerts. They require some wiring for power and need a very strong Wi-Fi signal. Arlo is an entirely wireless system but will require you to replace or recharge the batteries on a regular basis. These wireless cameras can be installed by yourself, or you can contact a professional security company to install them.

small business video surveillance cameras

HS Tech Group utilizes the Alarm.com platform of wireless cameras which allows you to view a live video as well as play recorded clips for the past 30 days. It’s controlled from the Alarm.com App on your phone, and you can have the video image or clip emailed or texted to your phone. The system also knows if you are home (i.e., your cell phone is home with you), and not to send the texts messages. The system will send you texts only when you are away from your home, usually a mile or more (this is called Geofence Technology). Alternatively, you can have the cameras only work when your home security system is armed.

Professional Cameras are a Serious Upgrade

Professional cameras function a little differently. They utilize a recording device, whether cloud-based or on-site, called a Video Recorder, and they are hardwired to cameras designed for a specific purpose. These cameras can see in the dark, can capture license plate information, can detect heat patterns, can see smoke, and some have speakers and microphones so the monitoring station can speak to someone on the property. A professionally installed system designed for one of these purposes will provide video footage to assist in the apprehension of the potential suspect. These systems typically cost thousands to install (compared to hundreds of dollars for the wireless DIY cameras).

Create a Physical Barrier

If feasible, install a gate at the end of your driveway, it’s a great deterrent.

security gate

This is an amazing example of a security gate

Always Lock Your Doors

Make sure to lock your interior garage door at ALL THE TIME. It is a very easy door for a burglar to break into. Remove the pull string from your garage door inside, so the release cannot be circumvented.

These Go to 11

Make sure to have an exterior alarm siren sound loud enough to let neighbors hear, the older sirens used to sound forever, newer sirens timeout in 15 minutes. If you don’t want to do the sirens – you can always flash several lights in the house, this becomes annoying for anyone inside as well.

Knock, Knock

Lastly, add a new doorbell camera. This allows you to receive audio and video of someone that approaches and leaves your front door while you may not be home. Alarm.com offers the Skybell and is compatible with the HS Tech Group security system. You can also speak and see who is at your door when they ring the bell, and let them know you are busy and to come back later without letting them know you are not home.

skybell doorbell

HS Tech Group now installs Skybell HD doorbells

3 Important Security Tips for the Summer

Why do Burglars look forward to summer more than any other season?

Summer is a time of year that is anticipated eagerly by many. When the weather is warm, children and adults are outside more, and people tend to keep their windows and doors open for longer periods of time. Adults often have more flexible schedules, and kids are off from school. As a result, homes are much more likely to be burglarized during summer months more than any other season. With a properly installed security system and some helpful tips, HS Tech Group can help prevent the criminals from ruining your summer.

1. Opportunity

It’s not that burglars are more active in the summer than other seasons; they’re given more opportunities because of the lack of effort made by homeowners to secure their properties. One of the most important and obvious tips for summer is making sure you install a home security system and using it. Controlling your security system has become incredibly simple by using mobile apps. Our HST security systems allow you to use your iPhone, Android or tablet as a keypad and for receiving notifications. For instance, the kids just disarmed the system or your home just lost power due to a storm. You can even watch live or recorded video footage from multiple security cameras directly on your mobile phone or tablet from virtually anywhere.

2. Open Doors

ALWAYS secure ALL entryways, doors, windows, etc. Whether you are away from home for an hour or the weekend, lock all open access. Burglars look for nice things, so that means closing garage doors and window shades, so you’re not exposing expensive tools, golf clubs, recreational vehicles and pricey home electronics and more.

3. Lighting

Use exterior lights! Burglars wear dark clothing for a reason and simply installing outdoor lighting will serve as a significant deterrent. You can also incorporate an HST lighting control system. We can schedule your outdoor lights to come on at dusk or whenever you want. They can also be programmed to look like you’re home with the press of a button while you’re away.

All of us at HST want you to enjoy your summer. By incorporating these helpful tips, you will reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a home burglary. Email or call us anytime for more information about lighting control, or adding some automation to your system.

Summer Sales – Security Scam!

It’s important to realize that some companies work unethically in the Security Industry. They train college students to knock on doors that have security yard signs and use lies to persuade unsuspecting homeowners to switch out or upgrade their security with ONE BIG CATCH. They are not trained security consultants, and most of the time, not duly licensed. They are college students getting paid to switch customers’ contracts. You end up owing two companies a monthly service fee. There have been so many complaints in the past several years that the Federal Trade Commission has posted an article on their website.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION WARNING – CLICK HERE

Be very cautious and DO NOT LET THEM IN AND DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. We would hate to see any of our customers obligated to pay two monthly service fees. We would be happy to discuss any upgrades to your system and guarantee our pricing.

REMEMBER, the State of Maryland and Virginia require a State Police license, not a company ID to talk to you about your security system.

These “scammers” may say one of the following:

  • “There has been an increase in crime in your neighborhood, and you really should be upgrading your system with the latest technology” – NOT TRUE!
  • “We are with the factory and giving away FREE UPGRADES”– NOT TRUE!
  • “This is a limited time offer, and you must have it installed today”– NOT TRUE!
  • “I’m from HST, QUESTRON OR HOMESAFE and here to give you a free upgrade”– NOT TRUE!
  • “We bought your old company and are here to upgrade your system”– NOT TRUE!

Some Facts About Us

CHECK HST’s BBB RATING – CLICK HERE
HST WINS BEST OF THE BEST NATIONALLY – CLICK HERE
HST WINS PDQ AWARD FOR BEST NATIONALLY – CLICK HERE

Industry News

Apex Alarm (Now calling themselves Vivint) had an “F” rating with the BBB before they changed their company name. Click on the links below for more information about them and other door-to-door problems.

Criminal Activity is Happening Across the Country

For more tips on staying safe this summer, CLICK HERE!

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8 Great Ways to Have a Smarter, Safer Home

Increasing home safety seems to be on everyone’s long-term to-do list but something we never quite get around to. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Improving your safety does not have to be complicated, labor intensive, or expensive. That is great news, especially if you want a realistic goal for the new year that will add a huge benefit to the whole family. So we want to encourage you with eight fast and easy ways to add security.

Change your Social Media Practices

You have heard it before, but chances are you are like most Americans and still post messages, pictures, and videos that compromise your safety unknowingly. This year, before you post ask yourself how much information does it provide and can that be used to jeopardize your safety.

Do a General Inspection of Your Home

If you have not given your home a thorough once-over in a while, a home inspection can do a lot of good and improve your safety. Go to the home and look for repairs that need to be made and test the condition of things like your plumbing or heating and cooling system.

Get Ready for Disaster

Thinking about the possibility of disasters like earthquakes, severe storms, fires, flooding or other disasters is not comforting but being prepared for them is. If you have not already, make this year the year, you make a disaster preparedness kit. Include food, water, clothing, medication and safety supplies enough for at least three days for each person in the family. You can check out the Red Cross or CDC websites for suggested supply lists.

Install Home Automation

Home automation is for a lot more than convenience. It can add a tremendous amount of security, too. With home automation, you can do things like look like your home even while away on vacation

Install Home Security Cameras

Being able to see your home remotely is beneficial no matter where you are. If you are inside, you can spot trouble outside, and if you are away from home, you can detect trouble and take action immediately. Security cameras are also a proven deterrence against crime.

Switch to Smart Locks

The front door is a burglar’s primary point of entry so fortifying it with smart locks makes a lot of sense. Smart locks allow users to have unique codes and get alerts when the codes are used, so you know who gets home and when. Also, if you forget to lock the door when you left for the day, you do not have to drive all the way back home. Just lock the door remotely and rest easy.

Get a Smart Smoke Detector

It is so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Smart smoke detectors never leave you without protection because they automatically test battery levels.

Increase Outdoor Safety Features

Make your home less attractive to burglars, vandals or other criminals by adding outdoor lighting, fencing, and security cameras. Trim back bushes, hedges, and trees to increase visibility and reduce the possibility of someone using it for cover.

With HS Tech Group, home security and home automation technologies have finally evolved. If you have questions about HS Tech Group can help you improve your home security this year, please give us a call.

Burglar Deterrents: What Works and What Doesn’t

Nobody ever thinks that their home will ever be a target of a burglary. It is just something that happens on television or to the house down the street, but never ours. However, a burglary happens every 15 seconds somewhere in the United States every day. That means that in the span of a typical commercial two burglaries occurred and the lives of two families violated and put in jeopardy. And it very well could happen to us.

One of the contributing factors to a successful burglary is the occupants of the home works under the false security of believing it could not happen to them. This leads to failing to use any or using less than effective burglar deterrents. To help you avoid this critical mistake, we have assembled a list of deterrents that make even professional thieves think twice as well as a list of what just doesn’t work.

What Works

  • Visible door and window locks. Sturdy locks indicate you likely have other security features in place.
  • Locking your doors. It may seem obvious, but many people forget to lock their doors at least occasionally.
  • Getting a security check. Have a professional, such as your local law enforcement agency, look over your property and provide security insights.
  • Install motion-activated lights outside. No burglar wants to get caught.
  • Get a home security system. Opt into as many security elements as possible such as motion and glass break sensors, as well as security cameras to add layers of security.

Burglar Deterrents that Fall Short

  • Using alarm company signs. Burglars are savvy and can spot a fake one immediately.
  • Leaving the lights on. Anything that remains static, whether it is having the light on or off for an extended time, is a signal that you are not home.
  • Suspending mail or paper delivery. Any changes to your regular activities can signal opportunity to a burglar.
  • Hiding valuables. Burglars know every trick in the book, and hiding valuables may only slow them down for a moment.
  • Getting a dog. Having a dog does provide some deterrence but should not be used and the only or main deterrent. Dogs can be distracted, or worse, harmed in the course of a burglary.

A burglar takes more than possessions when they break into your home. They take your peace of mind. When you are considering your plan to protect your home, choose deterrents that work. HS Tech Group brings peace of mind in ways you never thought possible with advanced, interactive security.