Vonage Forum Senior
Joined: Sep 15, 2006
We're going to be snowbirding this winter, and decided it was time to get an alarm system. We actually had an alarm system that the builder put in, but they never get around to explaining how to use the darn thing, and it's sat unused since.
I originally was going to go with the "alarm over broadband" solution (nextalarm.com), but I got a little nervous by the fact that there are no phone numbers anywhere for them. I also wasn't impressed with the web site -- no demo as to how to install the thing, etc.
In any case, I ended up going with alarm.com/vonage. You get a $100 discount via Vonage, so that was nice. We did the "upgrade existing alarm" option, since we had a hardwired alarm in place. I purchased an extra keypad, and two fobs. I had one concern insofar as we had a couple of sensor wires that were cut in the crawl space (a home automation project gone awry -- I wanted to splice into the doorbell circuit, and my very clever solution was to cut wires that looked like doorbell wires, and then have my wife press the doorbell to see if I cut the right one . . . .). I called alarm.com, and they said "no problem," just tell the installer, and he would take care of it.
The package came in the mail a few days later. Our installer/provider in the Seattle area for alarm.com is Protection One, which has a co-branded alarm.com site at alwaysp1.com. I can actually log into either web site. Colors are a little different than alarm.com (they're "alwaysp1 blue/green"), but otherwise the functionality is the same.
Protection One was pretty good. We had some issues with their installers having trouble meeting installation dates/times, but once the guys showed up, they were competent and did a good job. The first guy came and did all the basic wiring (well, the wiring was pre-existing -- he fixed the crawl space issues, and wired the new panel and the new control panels). The second guy actually did the programming.
Once the second guy finished the programming, he called alarm.com, and after telling them some numbers, gave the phone to me. The lady on the phone went through all the basics of the web site, which seemed easy enough to master.
Playing with the system has been great fun. You can get email notifications any time any sensor is activated, even when not in "alarm" mode. You can also get email notifications when the system is disarmed/armed/etc. And you can arm and disarm it from the web. Further, you can add users and add/change access codes over the web. The only thing you need to call them about is when you want to change the actual "call list" when an alarm event happens.
I've called Protection One twice so far. Once to do a test of the system, and all the operators are competent insofar as that is concerned. When you start asking alarm.com/alwaysp1.com questions, though, if it's anything past anything basic, they bump you up to a specialist -- and if the specialist doesn't know the answer, they have to call alarm.com's people. I didn't understand how the motion sensors were reporting notifications on the web site (even though it's on the help screen -- DOH!), and the Protection One lady couldn't figure it out either. She called me back the next morning with an alarm.com guy on the phone, and it was explained to me.
The cost for the hardware was pretty fair (go to www.alarm.com/vonage to see). I paid $90 for the guy to reconnect all the wires in the crawl space, which I also thought was fair. There was no charge for the actual installation, but they do lock you into a contract. Two or three years.
The only downside is the monthly expense. It is pricey -- $35/month. For us, though, it's worth it, since we'll be out of the house for months at a time. We'll be able to know each time the housesitter comes in to check on the house, etc. I'm also pretty comfortable with Protection One, which is the monitoring company for our area, based on my phone calls with them.
I know that nextalarm.com offers $8/month monitoring, but the service didn't give me the warm fuzzies I need/expect/want from an alarm company based on their web site. I was also a little more hopeful that the "alarm over broadband" would have been actual data sent, as opposed to a modified-VOIP box (which seems to be a kludgy solution to me). The alarm.com system may also be considered more reliable insofar as it's cellular as opposed to over broadband. But that said, our cable modem has not failed us yet. We even had an 8-hour power outage, and have a backup generator -- and the cable modem still had a signal for the first 7 hours.
Anyway, the short of it is that if you're looking at alarm.com, I think it's the real deal. The downside is price and the commitment contract if you choose to have professional installation. Alwaysp1.com actually has better prices than alarm.com, not including the Vonage discount. If you're in an Alwaysp1.com area, then alarm.com will push you to them (where alarm.com is basically the "back end" provider for the web site). I asked one of the Protection One (P1 is the "owner" of Alwaysp1.com) guys who came to our house how we could upgrade the system with additional (wireless) sensors in the future, and he gave what I thought was a very fair answer -- "we can do the whole thing for you, but if you know what you want, you'd probably be best off just buying it off the web, and then having us install them to save money."