Home Security Alarm Systems

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Parent Q&A

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  • I have a 25-year old hard-wired home security system through First Alarm (previously Sentry Alert.) The wiring was originally installed in the 1960s by the previous homeowner. It is monitored and requires a landline, which costs $45/month (the cheapest plan). I am exploring upgrading to an alarm system that uses my cell phone and Wi-Fi so I can cancel my landline. I have gotten bids from my current provider and from Global Security Systems. The pricing for the new control panel and for monthly monitoring is very similar. I really like the guy at Global (Sadi), plus they are a local company based in Moraga, but Global does not want to work with my existing wiring due to its age. He recommends that I upgrade to a wireless system with wireless contacts on the doors and windows, which will add about $1400 to the cost. First Alarm/Sentry Alert will allow us to keep the old wiring. I could stay with them, but their wireless door and window contacts are slightly more expensive than Global's if I decide to upgrade later. Both companies require a three-year contract, so I want to choose correctly. 

    At what point does old wiring need to be upgraded? First Alarm/Sentry Alert's service has been acceptable, but I think they were better before Sentry Alert was acquired. 

    Any thoughts on keeping an old wired system vs changing to wireless, and/or your experiences with FirstAlarm/Sentry Alert and Global Security Systems? Those are the only two companies I am considering. I want to maintain a monitored system, and no DIY products. Thanks.

    We have a legacy Sentry Alert system too--it was wired decades ago by another company, then taken over by Sentry Alert about 20 years ago. We didn't love FirstAlarm when they acquired Sentry so moved to Bay Alarm a few years ago when we got rid of our landline. They were able to use all of the existing wiring and added a few elements, including the cell. Minimal costs to switch over--mostly just related to the new components we added. At some point we will upgrade more to wireless but didn't feel it was that critical to do at the time. It still gets the job done and the monitoring cost is reasonable.

    A3 Smart Home (part of AAA auto club) installed a modern system with a central processing station that was able to wire in all the legacy wired sensors in my house (door heel sensors, motion sensors).   It also has wireless so can be augmented with wireless sensors.  Plus it has a mobile app, modern niceties and is a monitored system.  Cost was much lower than what you mentioned.  

    Your old wiring will probably die eventually, and we switched from Sentry Alert to Bay Alarm precisely because Sentry was ineffective at dealing with the repeated false alarms from our old sensors & wiring.  I'd bite the bullet now and go with fresh wiring whichever company you choose. 

    I have used Alarm Relay for the past 13 years  (https://alarmrelay.com/).  They are a central station out of El Cajon that also sells/provides various communication modules to interface with lots of different alarm systems.  I think they sell these communicators to help their customers maintain their monitored system because many times, these systems become outdated but can be easily retrofitted to work.  Most panels send a signal to a communicator.  That communicator either makes a phone call out or can be made to communicate via internet/cellular. Alarm Relay can monitor systems based on internet, cellular communicator, and telephone lines.   I use a cellular communicator with Alarm Relay because I think it's more reliable and immune to someone cutting the power and rending internet monitoring mute.

  • We're in the process of purchasing a new home in Berkeley and would like to purchase a home security system.  We had someone break into our back yard last summer in the house we currently rent so we're still dealing with some trauma from that.  I know there were a few older posts about the same topic but hoping people could offer some insight into what works or doesn't work.  I know simplisafe and arlo are reasonably popular.  Our home has a basement with windows so ideally we'd like to have a system that can provide some options for the windows in case someone tries to break in.

    We had someone break into our home as well and now we use SimpliSafe. It's a build-your-own kind of thing so you can get as little or as much as you want and you can add pieces on at any time. It's pretty inexpensive and works very well. It's super easy to install yourself or I believe they'll send someone out to install it for you. They have door sensors, window sensors, cameras, and more. 

    We have Simplisafe and are very happy with it. Easy to install yourself and the phone app is excellent. We have sensors on all windows and doors in our house, including basement/crawl space windows, a bunch of interior cameras, and we also have integrated smoke detectors, water sensors (for flood), and glassbreak sensors (detect the sound of breaking glass like a window being smashed) which are all great for peace of mind. We also got two outdoor alarms which emit a VERY loud noise if the system is triggered. One time, our system was triggered (we could never determine by what, so probably a false alarm but the only one we've had in 2 years) and two of our neighbors immediately started calling us because they could hear the outdoor alarms going off. We want to get some of their new outdoor cameras which might be good for your yard. Hope you find something you like!

  • Home Security Systems

    Jun 27, 2017

    My family and I recently moved from a condo, where we had a front desk and security, to a rental home out in the Oakland hills.  We are looking into home security options, but are a little overwhelmed by the number of options. ADT seems to be the most common system, and the home is actually already wired for it, but it would also be the most expensive as we'd have to update the wiring/system (current system is quite old) and the monthly fees are higher than we'd like, especially as we are planning on moving in 2-3 years and would hate to not be able to bring along the equipment we paid to install.  The most cost effective option would be Xfinity Home since we already have Comcast and this could just be added to our services as a new "bundle".....great in terms of cost and as the system is "mobile" and we could move it with us in a few years, but I wonder if you also get what you pay for, and we'd really not be any safer.

    Any other suggestions? Thoughts on either ADT or Xfinity Home? Advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

    We use Simplisafe and the setup was easy and there's no contract.  It's all DIY (not hard) and the basestation has its own cell service so you don't need a landline.  You can select the type of monitoring you want. 

    We use Arlo, which is a service provided by Netgear and is free with wifi.  I think it's better than ADT and XFinity.  Highly recommend.

    I don't know how much a security system really works.

    We switched to the Xfinity bundle one. I install sensors in doors and some windows. Also motion sensor in a main hall. 

    We also got  a security camera that it never really worked, maybe because it was too far from the internet connection.

    Am I happy? I don't know... the other day, it seems there was a malfunction .... Xfinity called all our numbers. I knew everything was ok but because I had forgotten the specific code, they had to inform the police...2 things; first of all, the alarm does not sound loud enough to be heard by neighbors; second it took 5 hours for the Police to show up...If my camera would have been working and recorded and intruder, the police department is too busy to look at  all your recordings...By the way, if you go the route of cameras, make sure it is far enough from people to be able to remove it and that actually records faces or a car, etc.

    I guess that having an alarm system will discourage the intruders, I can just hope...

    Home alarm systems are over-rated.  Pick whatever is cheapest and easiest -- there is no reason to spend a lot on an alarm company.

    Our home was burglarized while we were out.  The alarm went off and the alarm company called us immediately.  They called OPD and we called OPD, and OPD never bothered to show up.  An alarm is only as good as the police response, which is pretty bad in the Oakland Hills.

    There are good security measures to take, though.  Keep your house and vehicles locked at all times.  If you have a fence or gate, keep it locked all the time.  Don't leave any valuables out.  Get a wireless camera system to see your front porch and driveway.  

    Some neighborhoods have local security patrol that you can sign up for, and this might be more useful than a security system.  They usually have very good response times, and have a good understanding of the neighborhood.

  • Home alarm systems

    Nov 19, 2016

    My wife and I just purchased a house in Oakland and wish to have an alarm system professionally installed as I travel a lot and she will be home by herself. As we have no experience with alarm systems we would be grateful for any information you could give us regarding this subject-especially about the type available and good quality companies who could perform the installation. Many thanks.

    We ordered and installed SimpliSafe.  It was easy to set up on our own, the monthly fees are low (about $15 per month), and they are 100% responsive the times we've accidentally set off the alarm. 

    It's been many years since we installed our alarm system, but when we did it 8 years ago, I learned that the advertised price is never the true price you pay. The big companies will tell you installation is free, but that's just the basic system, and the extras will add up to $$$$. So look for the company with the best continuing customer service, and ignore those fliers that offer you discounts or free installation. Your installation will be a drop in the bucket compared with your monthly/yearly monitoring fees. We went with Bay Alarm and although they are not perfect, we are very happy with them. They are quick and responsive when anything happens in our house, and their service department has been easy to work with.

    We have Bay Alarm at our home and business.  We've been pleased with installation and service.  Our business is located in a high crime area in Oakland so we've had a few breakin attempts.  Bay Alarm has responded exactly as promised.   We were having a false alarm problem, turned out it was the glass break alarms going off when there was gunfire in the neighborhood and bay alarm figured out a solution that didn't reduce protection and eliminated false alarms.  We have been pleased with bay alarm, also prefer to use a CA based provider.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Another company beside ADT?

March 2012

I'm hoping to hear new recommendations about alarm systems. We have had ADT for the past 10 years and have received a few price increases over the years. Can anyone please recommend another company with reasonable pricing, etc. that supports the Bay Area. Thank you! Veronica

Check out Reed Brothers. They tend to be affordable and as far as I've heard are way more reliable than Bay Alarm or ADT. They also keep their technicians around versus all the turnover these larger companies tend to have. Plus, they're local! AD

We signed up with Bay Alarm a few months ago. Ask for Gerard Dell. He has been with the company for a long time. We were skeptical about them, mostly because ADT salesperson was so flaky that we thought all the big companies were the same. Gerard spent over two hours with us as we asked him all sorts of questions and negotiated his price down. (Actually my wife was better at negotiating than me) We got a deluxe system at a reasonable price. He didn't offer things we didn't need, but he did explain the value of some features that we had not considered. Feel free to mention my name. stu

As a Bay Alarm customer, I'd like to add my first hand experience. Contrary to another poster who 'heard' they were unreliable, our experience at our home and business has been that Bay Alarm is very reliable. Due to the neighborhood, our business alarm has gone off a number of times. They have always contacted us promptly. They have been working with us to reconfigure our business alarm system so the neighborhood gunshots will not set off the glass break alarms. We have been satisfied with Bay Alarm service for both our business and home installations. As far as being a local business, they are a family owned business that has expanded from the bay area to statewide CA. Please don't post a negative review of a business you have no experience with, and likewise a service you don't use. An actual Bay Alarm customer

I'm surprised no one mentioned a local home security company, Sentry Alert, based in Berkeley. They wired my house 14 years ago, and I've been with them, without complaint, ever since. (They haven't raised their prices during that time either.) I'm a single parent, and my house is very close to the street as well as all on one level, so I was nervous about security, particularly while asleep. The Sentry representative was responsive to my concerns and did not try to 'up-sell' me features I didn't need. The number is 510-549-0306.

Seeking home security system-hardwired

Feb 2012

We are looking for a home security system-hardwired, so something like ADT or Bay Alarm. We do not want to install it ourselves and would appreciate any insights, ideas and/or recommendations (and companies to avoid). a bit on edge

BAY ALARM - www.bayalarm.com - installed and has serviced our security systems for years. We recommend their professionalism and understanding ( ... like when we've goofed and set off our alarms by mistake !) Safe to go on vacations ! Now, we just need enough time to actually GO. .

After a rash of burglaries in our neighborhood, we decided to put in an alarm system. We used Bay Alarm, based on the recommendations of friends. We were extremely happy with the entire process, from the first consultation with the sales rep to the installation. You can start with a really basic system and build on it (extra motion detectors, etc).

We decided to upgrade to the smoke detector/fire alert system. We put it on our second floor so we wouldn't get many false alarms. Doing that gave us a sizable discount on our homeowner's insurance. I have heard enough stories about fires happening while the house is empty that I thought it was a worthwhile addition to our package.

Our system--and think most are this way--allows us to program in up to 45 different codes. When someone arms or disarms our system, we get an email message immediately telling us what time the system was armed/disarmed and the user who did it. This is a great way to track the comings and goings when you're not around. My kids each have their own code and don't know ours, my brother has a code, as does our dog walker.

When we first had our alarm I set it off a few times by letting the dog out before turning off the alarm. I ran and disarmed it immediately and never got dinged for a false alarm. Happy With Bay Alarm

When I moved into my house in 1998 the previous owners had installed a system from Bay Alarm so I just continued with them and have been very happy. I don't know how expensive the initial installation is, but over the years I have upgraded my system several times and the cost always seemed reasonable to me. A few times they even let me spread the payments out over a few months. Their service is very good, they are very efficient. They monitor the system to make sure everything is working, they call me when a battery is low or something isn't right. The few times that the alarm has been triggered they called me immediately and dispatched the police. high marks for Bay Alarm

Looking for a home security system

July 2011

My wife and I are expecting and are looking for a home security system (presently renting but looking to buy soon). I read some of the previous postings but they're a little out-dated. Please respond and let me know: what system you use, who installed it, how much you paid, and whether or not you're happy. Thanks! Gabe

Security Etc is a great small firm. We live in Piedmont and have been a client for 10 years. http://www.security-etc.com/ anon

We use Bay Alarm at our home in N. Berkeley and at our business in West Oakland. We have monitored systems in both locations - don't depend on the neighbors to call when the alarm goes off. We haven't had any trouble with false alarms. The alarm in W Oakland goes off because of gunshots in the neighborhood, they always call us promptly. They were really helpful in figuring out a cost effective installation, a combination of window/door open alarms and motion detectors. I don't know their current pricing for installation, ask them. But we've been happy with Bay Alarm. and they are a local company. alarmed

We ended up going with Nextalarm - an online provider. Service is about $17 a month - much cheaper than the ADT's of this world. I couldn't get any local feedback on them when we signed up but am glad to report we are happy with them. My husband installed the system as it is wireless. The initial programming of it was a bit of a pain but he got it sorted out fairly quickly with their help. I guess you could get a local company to install it too. When we've accidentally trigger the alarm they are always very prompt in calling. saving $

Home alarm for very safe neighborhood

July 2011

hi all I would like to hear current yays/nays for home alarm companies. i'm interested in alarming home that is in a very safe neighborhood crimewise. unfortuately, there is an individual neighbor who is a delusional addict/alcoholic, adult child living in elderly parent's home next door. Help! ~want to sleep without one eye open

We've used Security Etc for nearly 10 years and have been very pleased with their service and pricing. The company installs and monitors. The website is www.security-etc.com. Carl is the owner. Allen

We also live in a nice neighborhood (Moraga), but a house two doors away got burglarized. It is a good feeling to come home and here the warning alarm go off. That way you know no one is in the house.

We got bids from ADT & Bay Alarm a couple of years ago. Bay Alarm was slightly cheaper for the installation & the monitoring. Bay Alarm promised never to raise our monthly monitoring rate (billed quarterly) and so far they haven't. We had one service call and it was a simple fix so they didn't charge us. Bay Alarm is a local company. -Happy with Bay Alarm

I have had Bay Alarm for about 3 years and have been very happy. likes my alarm

We got Global Security Systems after we were broken into. They are in Moraga: 346 Rheem Blvd, Moraga.(800) 675-7000 (925) 377-8411 That was years ago and we've kept the system because it is very unique. When you leave you set the house so that a break in or a motion causes it to 'go off.' Then a voice comes over the line and asks if you are ok & to give the password. If the burglar can't give the password they call the cops. They can listen in to see if there seem to be one or more burglars, whether YOU are there, or if there are children or a dog in the house. So when they call the cops they can give more info than: The alarm went off. Also, It's local and I feel like local businesses are more responsive. same system for 18 yrs

We recently installed a home alarm system and went with Bay Alarm. We've been very happy with the entire process so far. Our sales person explained the system really well, installation happened very quickly, and everyone was very nice to work with and walked us through everything thoroughly. Fortunately, we haven't had to use it, but that means I can't comment on how well the response times are.
Features we like:
-- Easy to use.
-- Direct panic fire & police panic buttons on the keypad, and a remote you can keep on you also has a panic button. (Not that I am paranoid or live in fear, but I like to keep that next to the bed when my husband travels b/c the alarm keypad is downstairs.)
-- The ability to program up to 43 separate codes. My kids each have their own, which is a great curfew-obeying incentive! My dog walker has her own. We get emails when the alarm is armed and disarmed (including the code for who armed/disarmed it), so even if I'm not home, I know who is coming and going and when.
-- We also installed a fire/smoke detector that is part of the system. That is great peace of mind when you travel.
-- We got a 15 percent discount on our homeowner's insurance for having the burglar and the fire alarm.
Bay Alarm was really great and I highly recommend them

We use Bay Alarm and so far have had no problems with them. Tried to get a quote from ADT and got terrible customer service from them, so I don't recommend them.

What is the best alarm company?

June 2011

I'm thinking about having an alarm system installed and I'm looking for up-to-date recommendations. What is the best company? What factors do I need to take into consideration? I have a corner lot -- is the house more or less likely to be burglarized? Any other tips? I have a dog, but she's too sweet to offer much protection. anonymous

I had both ADT and Bay come and give me their pitch when I bought a couple years ago. I ended up choosing Bay Alarm. ADT was cheaper for their set up costs, and will wire more rooms, but it's all wired into the console, so it's easily disabled. Bay Alarm's installation was more expensive, but the monthly charge is about the same. Their system has a 'brain' that can be hidden far from the central panel, so it is way harder for anyone to disable it. It is also a family owned business, where the people that come and talk to you work for them, and are not simply contractors, like for AD, so the customer service is way better. Lisa

Single mom needs alarm system!

April 2011

I am single and just bought a house. The day after I got the keys two men kicked in the back door (no one was home, thankfully). I need an alarm system! Any positive or negative recommendations for Bay, ADT, Century, or any other companies? Thanks!

I've been satisfied with Bay Alarm which came with the house when we bought it. The house was broken into last year, and the alarm scared the bad guys off. The company did call the police quickly as promised. anon

First of all, don't pay any attention to those 'Free Alarm System' ads. Yes, they offer you a basic free package, but anything else on top of that will cost money, and most houses will require extra wiring, etc. In the end, all the alarm companies will cost about the same after they tack on the 'extras', regardless of whether they offered you 'free installation' or not. So go for the company that gives you the best service, and ignore those advertised discounts on installation.

We installed our system 3 years ago. ADT was horrible. The guy came and gave us a quote, then literally disappeared off the face of the earth. I think he quit his job. I called his office AND his manager to follow up and nobody bothered to call me back. Finally some weird guy from ADT called me at night (who calls at night??) to ask me for feedback on their service. I told him I had no feedback as nobody bothered to give me any service. Nobody followed up on my feedback either.

We went with Bay Alarm and had a good experience with them. Be sure to ask your salesman for discounts. Usually they have some flexibility to throw a few free things in for you (this is different from the 'discounts' they advertise on billboards etc).

We got bids from adt and bay alarm. Bay was a little cheaper and was less per month for monitoring each month. They also said they wouldn't raise our monthly rate, which they haven't. --Happy bay customer

I went with ASI Alarms. They are in the East Bay and are VERY responsive. When my toddler son sets off the alarm by accident, the phones start ringing in under a minute. Or if the system needs tweaking, they'll come right over and do it.

I've used ADT before for an out of state home. I won't go through the trouble of switching, but I would not ever go with them again. It's a huge corporation, and when you have a simple question you gotta go through all the voice prompts. With ASI, I can talk to the owner if I want to! Cynthia

Try Bay Alarm. They must have a reputation among the thieves. Ours has not worked for a long time, but the sign out front seems to keep us safe! Andus

Try Sentry Alert in Berkeley. Been around for a long time and the only use their own installers. Work is always professional, service is great and they are the most convenient. They are right off Gilman. berkeleymom

I'm sorry your house was broken into. Even in you aren't home when it happens and didn't lose much, it still feels like you were personally violated. After our home break in (ours took someone a lot of time and effort, but they still got in) we had Bay Alarm install an alarm system. We also alarmed our garage. We have a monitored system, meaning if it goes off they first try to reach us and then call the local police. imho there is no point to a alarm system that is not monitored. My neighbors haven't been much help in any of the burglaries in the neighborhood, I wouldn't want to rely on them to respond to an alarm going off. My husband also has Bay Alarm for his office/warehouse in West Oakland. I recommend them. alarmed now

Too many burglaries - time for alarm system

March 2011

Too many burglaries in the Montclair area and it's time to put in an alarm system. I'd love to hear people's experiences with the major companies, Bay Alarm, Sentry, ADT and others you might use. Cost? Customer Service? Quality of work? Reliability? Thanks

We got quotes from ADT & Bay Alarm. Bay Alarm was a little cheaper for the equipment/installation and slightly lower for the monthly monitoring. They also pledged that they would never raise the monthly monitoring fee. So far (3 years later), they've kept their word.

We got the monitored fire alarm too which saves a little money on our home insurance bill.

We've had one service call. A door sensor went out and after replacing the battery (which I did), it needed a little tap to reset. They didn't charge us.

We are happy with Bay Alarm, but either one would be fine.

Luckily we haven't had our alarm go off for real. 90% of the deterrent is having the sign up in front of your house. But you've got to turn it on. Someone in our neighborhood had some burglars set off his alarm and they ran off.

There is a lot of piece of mind in hearing the alarm warning bell go off (telling you to turn off the alarm) when you enter. You know no one is in the house. --Bay Alarm Customer

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Alarm Systems - DIY without monitoring?

Oct 2010

We would like to get a home alarm system. There have been several recent break-ins in our neighborhood. But we're not sure that we need to be paying $40/mo for monitoring. I'm not even sure what that entails. My husband wants to install our own system (a DIY approach) and forego monitoring and contracts. I'm not sure if this is a good idea. I worry that we don't have enough experience with this field, but maybe it isn't too difficult. Has anyone installed a DIY alarm? Which one? What has the experience been like without monitoring? Can you think of any pros and cons for doing so? Also, can you please share your experience with alarm companies and what system you went with, if not DIY? Approximate cost? Thanks for your help! mama bear

Check out Al Lasher's Electronics on University--they're family owned and operated and have a large selection of DIY alarm and video monitoring equipment. http://allashers.com/ You might also check out Reed Brothers on Telegraph: http://www.reedbrotherssecurity.com/ I've had plenty of dealings with both companies and can recommend both. Ian

We used/use Bay Alarm. I forget the original cost, but it was about seven hundred dollars I think. We have door alarms and motion sensor alarms that cover the whole house. The motion sensors seemed a lot better than window alarms to us since we like to crack our windows open for fresh air (they are blocked so you can't open them all the way).

We pay $31/month for monitoring (charged quarterly). Bay Alarm pledged not to increase that if we keep our system monitored. That buys a lot of peace of mind for us. A house just down the street was burglarized during the day. Our family doesn't want to come home to a house that has burglars in it.

The other benefit of a monitored system is that they are also monitoring a fire alarm. If you have a fire when you aren't home (or don't wake up), they will call the fire department. That gets us a discount on our homeowner's insurance. I forget how much, but it helps offset the monitoring cost. I doubt you'll get a discount for DIY system.

Just having the sign up is a huge deterrent, but if it is not one of the major companies, it will probably be less of one. Happy with our alarm

DIY is easy. The alarm companies in my opinion are a complete rip off. They sell on fear. You pay $500 a year for monitoring. There are so many false alarms the police never respond. (My neighbor has one and the thing goes off once or twice a month and everyone ignores it. The only plus I know of is you might be able to save a few bucks on insurance. Other than that they are a pain in the a@@. ANON

Unless your husband has alarm expertise, I say forget the DIY approach. If you don't pay for monitoring, what do you expect to happen when the alarm goes off? The short answer is that nothing will happen, other than your neighbors will be annoyed. The thief might be scared off, more likely not until they have made a quick pass through your house. With a monitored system the alarm co will make an effort to reach you before contacting local police, this can save you the cost of police responding to false alarms. (they charge, rate varies by city) We have a monitored alarm system from Bay Alarm at home, installed after we came home from a vacation to find our back door destroyed. The cost of damage to door and surrounding framing was vastly more than the value of the few stolen items. Apparently the thief underestimated the effort required to break in. My husband also uses Bay Alarm in his office in West Oakland, his office alarm goes off regularly, it's a feature of the neighborhood. Bay Alarm did a great job figuring out an optimal installation, where we needed window and door sensors, where it made more sense to use motion sensors. We also get a discount on our homeowners insurance for the monitored alarm system. annon

We've had our home monitored by Bay Alarm for almost 2 decades and have been very pleased with their service. We have a combination of Door/Window alarms and motion detectors, as well as fire alarm monitoring. When the alarm is tripped, the company calls immediately to find out if it's a false alarm and if they receive no reply, they alert the police. This has happened a couple of times and the police came in our absence. Also, I like the added protection of having a panic button that immediately alerts the alarm company to call the police. This happened to us a few months ago when -- for the first time in many years -- we forgot to set the alarm at night and experienced a home invasion the next morning. Everyone was ok but being able to push the panic button to immediately send an SOS to police made it possible for them to be there in 6 minutes. I don't think alarm systems give you a false sense of security: anyone can break into your house if they really want to . What they do is scare off your thieves when you're not there and -- God forbid you're in the house -- give you precious time to react. On our street alone, in a ''nice'' neighborhood in the hills, 7 houses have been hit in the last year. None of the houses with set alarms had anything stolen because the thieves bolted. I don't know the reputation of the other alarm companies out there but we've been very, very pleased with Bay Alarm. Oakland Hills Mom

Alarm system for El Cerrito house

Sept 2010

We're just moving into El Cerrito and are wanting recommendations for alarm system services. Who has great service/pricing in the area? thanks! New to El Cerrito

I've had Detect All as my security system for over 15 years. Just had them redo parts of my system when I installed new windows. My contact is Rick: 415- 559-0673. Linda

More economical options than Sentry Alert?

June 2009

We have our alarm monitoring service with Sentry Alert, but would like to see if there are other more economical options. Does anyone use 911 Alarm? It is only $11.99 a month and is local company. (I checked previous posts for recommendations and they are quite old.) Are there other companies that anyone would recommend? Thanks!

We use Allen Alarm out of Orinda (925-254-2112). My father in law had used them for his home, and chose them in part because they are a small firm with an actual human to answer the phone. Our monthly cost ($20) includes fire and police, and this cost is offset by the alarm credit we get from our home owners insurance company (Safeco). There was also a set up cost when we first signed up to wire all our windows and doors, don't recall the amount - it probably depends on how many windows and doors your home has. Nancy

For anyone looking for a security system for their house, we highly recommend Sentry Alert. Dan, the owner, is personable and very easy to work with. He assessed our house 3 years ago for our wireless system and they have done an excellent job monitoring our alarm system during that time. They are a service oriented company that values their clients and we are loyal customers! Christina

Anyone have ADT home alarm system?

March 2009

Anyone have ADT home alarm system? My understanding is the central controls are not local. Does that matter? When your alarm has gone off, whether that be a false alarm or a true alarm due to home intrusion, were you satisfied with the speed and service?

I would be careful about ADT. I had a difficult time dealing with the service from ADT for my parent's house. My father was elderly and needed the alarm battery replaced. They came out, did not have the right parts, charged him for the visit and never fixed the system. a few months later when he moved to a retirement community, and we sold the house, they would not close the account until the bill was paid and continued to bill him monthly despite his written letter to end service (and even though we had properly notified them in a timely manner that he did not own or live in the house anymore). Then they fought with me continuously. They finally took off the service visit charge, but then wanted to get paid for the service during the months when he had cancelled service. It took months to finally get someone who understood the situation and would close the account and remove the charges.

For my own house, I went with Bay Alarm. They have been very responsive, good service providers. I have been with them for about 10 years and had few (and small) reasonable fee increases. I support the local businesses.

They are good about keeping the account info up to date. alarm experienced

Seeking alarm system for house in San Ramon

March 2009

Please help! My parents-in-law would like an alarm system for their house in San Ramon.
-Which company do you use?
-Would your recommend or not recommend them and why?
-Did you have to commit to a specific period of time (When we signed up with Bay Alarm before, we had to commit for 3 years. Is this still how it is?)
-What was the cost of installation and what did it cover (windows, doors, motion detector)?
-How much do you pay monthly or quarterly? (I'm of the belief it's negotiable. Is this true? When we signed up with Bay Alarm, the salesman would say things like ''if you also added on a fire detector, we'll reduce the price of X by Y but add on Z for the fire detector.'' Also, my mother says they have been raising the monthly prices by a dollar here and there.)
-Did you have to have a home evaluation before they would sit down and discuss prices or were you able to discuss prices over the phone? (When we had an alarm system, we felt pressured by Bay Alarm to sign right then and there, and we didn't get a 2nd quote which we should have gotten. )
-In the future, if you want to add other services or products or there is a problem, what do they charge? (My Mom had her front door replaced. The Bay Alarm person we talked to on the phone would not quote us an estimate for the actual part that needed replacing, though she was able to quote the price of the home visit. She kept saying only the person who did the home visit could give us a quote on the part AND that representative had to have a home visit to be able to give us the quote. Bay Alarm should be able to give a price quote on a part over the phone. What is wrong with them? Why can't they do this over the phone? The Bay Alarm rep on the phone said she'd pass on the message via email to her supervisor, but we never heard back.)
-Are the little ads we get in the mail actually worth anything or do they give out discounts all the time?
As you can see from my comments, we do not like Bay Alarm much from our own experience. Maybe if they see this post they could pipe in. We would really appreciate recommendations. Thanks in advance.

Wow - I must say I was surprised to learn of your terrible experience with Bay Alarm. We just switched our alarm system after 7 years because we had such bad experience with ADT. They also raised their prices over the time we had them, required a 3-year minimum, and wouldn't quote prices over the phone. The other issues we had with ADT included: no outside alarm (this was important to us, because our neighbors will respond immediately and the police take 20-minutes), equipment that stops working years before it is supposed to, high charges for replacing batteries (Bay Alarm did this for us free when they installed our new system using our old ADT parts), and FREQUENT false alarms in the middle of the night (and we have 2 small children - ugh).

I called Sentry Alarm first (on advice of BPN) but the person who came over (yes it seems they all require a visit to do a quote) kept changing the prices on us. They also have a VERY high monthly charge for monitoring and this person was NOT knowledgeable about alarm systems (she couldn't find our ADT front door monitor and was going to charge us, whereas the Bay Alarm person found it right away). This person also changed the price (it went up) just before she left on our estimate. I asked why and she said there were some negligible charges she forgot about, but she couldn't really explain them.

So - I'm sorry to say we LOVE Bay Alarm. It probably doesn't help you, but it sounds like it really depends on who your representative is. I'd tell you to call them directly, tell them you had a terrible experience with your rep, and have them send out Al (the Oakland Hills Rep) or someone different. Best of Luck

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Security Measures for North Oakland Home

Oct 2008

We had a recent burglary in our backyard and a break-in next door to our North Oakland duplex. We would like to provide some additional security measures for our tenants, who live below us at ground level, to make them feel safer. So far, we have added backyard gate locks, flood motion lights around home, and have a security door on the front door. The windows are all new and lock. We also provided additional locks for the window sill interior. We would like to avoid bars on windows. We are on a tight budget and are hesitant to shell out $40-50 monthly for an alarm system, but we also want to be responsible landlords and feel safe in our home too. Any ideas on additional security measures we can take without breaking the bank? thanks. Dani

In my experience from living in a neighborhood where there were a lot of burglaries, putting in an alarm and having a dog are the very best preventative measures you can take. We put the alarm only on the windows we thought were most likely to be places a burglar would try to come in (along the side of the house where you couldn't see someone trying to get in from the street) and on all of the doors. If the windows are new and therefore hard to break or jimmy open that's good, but if they can be opened and then no alarm goes off, someone can break in during the day, when the motion lights are irrelevant. The main thing, of course, is always closing all accessible windows at night and when you go out, and instructing your ground floor tenants to do the same. Good luck. anonymous

A couple of 'security' measures to add to the list- put a security alarm sign on your property (burglars don't need to know ur just advertising for the company!) and 2- get a beware of dog sign! And if you can get a dog-even better...they really are a deterent. good luck

Want to install a home security system

May 2008

We are in the middle of a major remodel, and decided this would be a good time to look into an alarm system. I've been through the old BPN recommendations, but thought I'd put it out there again. Sentry and Omni were two companies in particular I'd like to hear about, but would like to hear any opinions pro or con about other companies as well. Thanks! Steve

We have had Sentry Alert for 1.5 years and we have had a very good experiences with them. We bought a house with an extremely old Sentry alarm system in it. They accommodated this without forcing us to upgrade, which I thought was very unusual customer service. Recently we decided to upgrade afterall, because the new alarm offered better features. During all our interactions -- installation, training, calling to let them know we'd be out of town, changing the code, turning it off when we accidentally set it off, they have been incredibly friendly and more than helpful. Go to their website for more information: http://www.sentryalert.com/

Is a home security system worth installing?

Feb 2008

We live in North Oakland. Our house was broken into about 7 years ago while we were at work. My husband works late and I'm home alone with the kids full-time. I know Oakland police don't respond promptly, but I'm wondering if just having an alarm go off if someone is in the house as I'm entering the house with the kids or when I'm home alone. But, if the police won't arrive to help is it still worthwhile to be aware of an entry so I can get help from neighbor or not enter the house? Any advice or thoughts?

Yes! A home alarm system is worth installing as long as you have alarm monitoring with it. When your alarm goes, the alarm company will try to reach you first, if they cannot get a hold of you then they will call the police. Robert G. (locksmith)

May 2007

Just had our old, ancient alarm replaced by Sentry Alert (510- 549-0306). Every dealing we have had with them has been exceptional. Dan, the owner, came out to survey the job, and he was very knowledgeable and practical. The installer was top notch, on time, and left no mess. And, their after sales support was extremely responsive when we had questions. Nothing but a great experience! Myla

April 2007

Sentry Alert has been wonderful. The staff is competent, friendly, and helpful. Once, a phone company technician who knew nothing about alarm systems deliberately snipped one of the alarm wires and could not figure out what he had done wrong. I called Sentry Alert, and an employee explained exactly what the phone company needed to do to repair the damage they had done. The careful instructions from the Sentry Alert employee (who was actually on his day off) saved me the cost of a service call. RB

2005 - 2006 Reviews

November 2006

I need to have a very basic alarm system installed. Any recommendations for cheap, competent service? Thanks

WE went with the low-cost alternative when we first moved into our house and regretted it. As soon as we could cancel our monitoring contract without a huge penalty, we switched over to Bay Alarm. MUCH better customer service. Afterall, what you're buying more than anythng else is peace of mind. Having a company that responds intelligently when you call is most important. Bay is by no means the cheapest, but, I think that you will find is well-regarded and is still locally owned and operated
Bay Alarm Fan

March 2006

It's been some time since anyone posted a recommendation for an alarm system, and we're facing a dilemma. We've had terrible service from ADT since they took over from what was once Westec. We'd like to switch companies, but we've been told that the old Westec system can only be handled by ADT. Are there similar experiences out there? Has anyone paid to have a whole new system installed? If so, who would you recommnend? db

We have had a great experience with Sentry Alert (549-0306). The woman who does the estimate is very helpful. The techs who installed the system were great. Everyone I have interacted with at the company has been helpful, including the call center where we call if we accidently set off the alarm. We once had a problem late at night and I was able to talk with a technician by phone. He helped me solve the problem but they sent out someone the next day (for free) just to double check the part.

I received 4 quotes before chosing Sentry Alert. Their price was very competitive and they were the only firm I truly had confidence in after getting estimates. The companies we did not go with were: ADT, Reed Brothers and Sentry Alarm.

Other friends of ours signed up with Sentry Alert in the last 6 months and have also been happy.

2004 & Earlier

August 2004

I am considering getting a home alarm system. I've looked in the archives but the recommendations are fairly old. I'm hoping to get more up-to-date information on which companies seem to be best. Thanks! Anna

Hi, I use Sentry Alert: they're locally owned and very easy to deal with. Lucky for me, I haven't tested them in a pinch, but for day-to-day dealings, they're great. And I love supporting a real, local business. Nancy


I'm looking for an affordable home security systems. Does anyone know of a reasonable/reliable one, like ADT or Bay alarm?

Omni Alarm, 925-837-3961. They are located in Contra Costa County, but work in the east bay as well. They were recommended to us by someone who knows the best and cheapest places to get stuff like this, and we recommended them to others as well.

I had my system redone by Sentry Alert. I like them, they are local and response has always been good from them. They did a nice job of redoing my system - I had wireless sensors put on the windows to replace the old wired sensors, and the main box replaced. What has worked fine for me was to have all openings (doors and windows) on the ground floor set up with sensors, and a motion detector in the living room. The motion detector goes off if someone enters thru the upper story (thus avoiding the downstairs sensors) and goes downstairs to rip of the TV, stereo, etc. You can have your system set up however you want, though. --Nancy

We just had a security system installed by Sentry Alert, and they did a very good job. The installers are employees, not subcontractors -- and did an incredibly clean, unobtrusive installation. The person to contact is Marie Hellman, who took a lot of time with us to make sure we got the system we wanted. Their phone number is 510-549-0306. The installation cost $1600 (which is probably more than most houses because we have a lot of windows in our little house), and the monitoring is $30/month, I think. Alysson

I have lived in Montclair for 19 years without a burglary problem but had two break-ins in April. I got an alarm system from Bay Alarm. I was very apprehensive about having one given 3 kids to teach to use it and remember. I was also concerned about aesthetics. I was pleased with the salesperson (Greg Blanc 291-2673) and the installer. The system is wireless and includes a motion detector, glass break detectors and door and window contacts (alarm goes off if two pieces are separated by opening). It is not obvious (few little white boxes on doors and windows). The whole thing came to about $1100. I did commit to 3 years of monitoring at $29/month (if the alarm goes off and isn't turned off right away they call to check, if no-one can give them the family password they call the police). I also talked to ADT - Robert Little (786-5020) and found him and ADT and the price good too. I chose Bay Alarm since a neighbor showed me their system and that gave me some degree of familiarity. Mary

We have been very happy with Honeywell. We had the system put in over 2.5 years ago, so I don't remember the cost, but I know it was resonable. We pay $25 a month monitoring fee. They send the police out if the alarm goes off and no one answers the phone with the secret code.

We use Sentry Alert, locally owned and operated. Annual fee is reasonable, service to the system is excellent. They installed our system in 1990 and have monitored us continuously. They were purchased by another company about 5 years ago, but retained their name and still have a local business. We stayed with the original and they are excellent. We have a complex system and they did exactly what we wanted for a great price. Sentry Alert 549-0306 -Nuckypuff

I highly recommend Tom Finucane to install a burglar alarm system and his alarm monitoring company, Goldstar Alarm Co. Tom installed alarm systems in both our old house and our new home which we built about half of --- so he installed the alarm wiring right into the open walls and window frames. It has all the bell and whistles (zones that can be turned on and off, motion sensors, etc), the price was extremely reasonable and the job was very professionally done. He gives personal service (such as coming on a weekend to explain how to operate the system when we are both home), and that is much better than dealing with a large company. Tom Finucane, 415/225-4892.


At the risk of sounding like yuppy scum, I am soliciting information regarding home alarm systems. We live right near a bustling and fairly prosperous Oakland commercial area and I frequently read in the local rag about property crimes and violent crimes in our neighborhood, although we have been spared so far. Anyway, I'd like to know if people have had any good or bad experiences with particular systems and installation companies, and what the cost was to get a new system installed. Our house is of an extremely modest size.

We've had Bay Alarm service for about 4 years now. They had good ideas about how to give us the appropriate level of protection (wouldn't foil sophisticated thieves bent on entry, but those would be unlikely to target our humble abode) and the installation went very smoothly. Training was good and the system has worked well. Installation cost was about $450; monthly fee for central station hookup is $22 (billed every 3 months). Fran

We recently cancelled our service with a company called Protection One. Our original service provider was bought out by this company about a year ago. I sent a letter requesting the service be discontinued. About 3 months later I was still receiving bills and I also received a rather nasty letter stating that our contract said we couldn't cancel our service mid-year that we would have to pay through the end of the contract year (another 9 months). I had trouble actually talking to anyone that could help me. I sent another letter requesting a copy of the so called contract that we had signed that stated this crazy policy. After another month I got a 'oh never mind' response from them. They couldn't seem to find a signed contract so they were being nice and letting us cancel our service. We had been customers for a little over 4 years. I would be very careful about reading all the fine print on whatever contract you sign and make sure you understand the cancellation policies. We currently have service through Bay Alarm and are happy with their neighborhood patrol service, we have not had the occasion to test the alarm response with them. Kathy

We just chose Bay alarm. You can call Marcia Jones at 291-9766. She will walk you through the various options and what she recommends for your home. Hutcheson-Wilcox

You should not have to pay so much for an alarm system. Ours (a wireless system with ADT) was installed for about $500 and we pay $22.50 per month in monitoring fees. Plus we now get a discount on our homeowner's insurance premium. They put the sign up in the yard even before the system was installed and I immediately felt safer and happier -- though I, too, live in a safe neighborhood. It's the deterrent effect that really counts, so if you want to save money on installation (or do it slowly, over time) be selective about which windows you wire up to begin with. You can still cover your house with stickers, and intruders are more likely to pass you by. We actually use it most when we're home, going to bed. Nothing like feeling really locked in with your little ones at night. Worth every penny. Diana

I started with Brink's years ago and had them install the system for $199 (including motion detection). The monthly fee was $21.95. They fell down on the job in my opinion and I switched after a couple of years to ADT. I like them better, but they're not ideal either. Lisa

Our house came with an alarm system installed, so I can't help with installation advice, but we are very happy with Morgan Alarm in Vallejo. Their call backs are very prompt, they have a nice newsletter, and it's only $70 per QUARTER for monitoring. Ryan

Installing an alarm system had been on our to do list for a few years. It went to the top of my list after I was mugged outside my home (Montclair) when I was 8 months pregnant. At that time I compared ADT and Bay Alarm systems. They were pretty much comparable when it came to price and what they had to offer. One main difference was that ADT would charge for service calls but not add a surcharge if I wanted additional features added on at a later date, and that Bay Alarm would not generally charge for servicing but would charge an additional surcharge if I wanted something like an additional motion detector added on at a later date. This might vary by contract. Bay Alarm is also locally operated which had some appeal. I paid in the range of $1000 for installation but I may have gotten some extra features considering my state of mind. No system is fool-proof so remember not to go overboard. Our main usage of the system is when we are in the house. My husband was not really convinced that it would make a difference but it really does provide me with peace of mind. I think there is a little room for bargaining the price because I had gotten quotes in the past that were a lot less than what I actually paid because they said winter was a high demand season, so I imagine that summer is low demand?! We also got a discount on our homeowners insurance. Good luck! Sarah

Nov 1999

any recommendations for security systems and companies for residential / apts ?

I'd like to recommend Sentry Alert, based in Berkeley. They provide the security services for my house, but I believe they also do apartments. Of the representatives of three companies I got quotes from when I bought my house two years ago, Sentry's rep, Marie Hellman, was the only one who really listened to what I wanted from a security system: to deter prospective intruders. The other two focused on motion detectors, which would be triggered if someone were in the house already, but also by my young daughter or a guest on the way to the bathroom. Frankly, I want to keep the bad guys out, not scare them away once they're inside! In two years, I've had only one malfunction, and Sentry sent someone out immediately. Very pleasant to deal with.

We priced systems and went with Westec a few years back. They came in to install and did a poor job the first time around, for aesthetic reasons. We called the supervisor who came right out, apologized and said it wasn't up to their usual work, they redid the whole system for free (took them 3 additional days) and it has always worked quite well. They are very nice to deal with by telephone. And their monitoring system worked well -- we had no occasion to have it tested until I left the back door unlocked one day. Two years after it was installed, I was at the market one day shopping and received a phone call on my cell phone from them informing me that my back door was open, the police were on their way, and would I care to go home to check things out? We highly recommend them.

June 1999

I'd like to hear recommendations for and against alarm monitoring companies in the Berkeley area as we would like to switch companies. We would prefer a local company with a track record of consistent, dependable service.

We have been using Protection One which we do not recommend. For a while we had a number of alarm set-offs for a variety of reasons and found that it often took them 5-10 minutes to even call our house prior to calling in the alarm to the police. Once it took them 40 minutes after the alarm was set off to call us, and one time they never called us. It turns out that their monitoring center monitors alarms for all of the western US so if there is an emergency in Utah for example, there may be significant delays in reporting for Berkeley. In addition their bookkeeping dept has made some mistakes and it is almost impossible to get through to them by phone to correct them. On the positive side, we have been very impressed with their repair department. Thanks for any experience you can share.

I would highly recommend Bay Alarm .Unlike other companies like Brinks and Protection One whose monitoring centers are located in Oregon and Utah, Bay Alarm's monitoring center is centrally located in Walnut Creek. This is one of the reasons why we've decided to go along with Bay Alarm. Even though the other two major monitoring companies argued the fact that there would be no delays in reporting from one state to the next because the message is sent electronically, we were still apprehensive. Your experience just confirmed our thoughts. We've been with Bay Alarm since February and have been highly satisfied with their customer service as well as their convenient 24-hour repair service. The monitoring fee costs us a reasonable $26.00 a month. For two more dollars we added the security of smoke monitoring (not to be confused with smoke alarm.) We only had a problem once due to a super sensitive motion detector. The alarm went off, and within minutes the company sent the police and called my husband and I at our respective workplaces. They immediately fixed the motion detector at our convenience.


I've had good service with Sentry Alert , I believe they are located in Berkeley. I had them initially 10 years ago. Then I believe that they were bought out (or some customers sold? I forget how it went) by Protection One, and I had the same problems with Protection One as expressed by the person asking for the recommendation. Last year, I reconnected with Sentry Alert, and I've been quite happy with their service since.