When it’s time to get a home security system, it’s hard to know who to trust. Especially if you’ve just been burgled, you want to know you’re dealing with someone who’s going to install a good-quality system, for a good price, and offer proper support and care to you afterwards.
But most people don’t really know the right questions to ask their installer, and that means sometimes you can get ripped off. So we’ve put together some questions you can refer to when you’re next looking for an alarm. We’ve also given our answers so you can compare them to what others tell you.
Print these out and keep them handy, and use them next time you’re on the phone getting a quote. Nobody will ever rip you off again.
Q: What does your ‘package’ include?
Always ask this question! Many installers offer ridiculously cut-price offers (one large retailer offers a ‘$299 package’) to suck customers in and then upsell them or leave them unprotected. Don’t be suckered by this. Ask what you’re going to get. They’ll likely try and bamboozle you by listing them off as if it were super impressive, but here are parts you can expect to see in a standard system:
- An alarm panel (the ‘brain’ of the system)
- Backup battery for alarm (if your power cuts out)
- An external siren (to alert neighbours you’re being burgled)
- An internal siren (to alert the burglar that he has been detected)
- A keypad
- Internal PIR sensors (indoor motion detectors)
- External PIR sensors (outdoor motion detectors)
- Door switches (detects if a door is open – should be one on every door)
- Window sensors (detects if a window is smashed or hit – should be one on every window)
- Remote Control (one for each person you want to use the alarm)
This is not an exhaustive list. Some other parts you can find are:
- HD cameras
- A screen (to watch your cameras)
- Network equipment for your cameras (if needed)
- Beam detectors (detects burglar if a beam is crossed, good for outdoors)
And so on. But the items in the first list should almost always all be there. So take time to actually go through the list with your installer and ask them what’s included. You’ll find that some of the too-good-to-be-true deals (like the $299 offer) are trying to trick you by not even including a siren (what good is an alarm that doesn’t even warn anyone that you’re being burgled?)!
At Black Cat, we don’t offer ‘package deals’ for this reason. We design every system to fit a) the precise needs of your home and where your weak points are, and b) your budget, so you can get a solution you an afford. Package deals are lazy, deceptive, and don’t necessarily stop burglars if they’re missing important parts.
Q: How long have you been doing this?
Ideally, you’ll want to make sure your installer has been doing it for at least a decade. Any less and you should make sure their prices are lower to reflect their lack of experience.
We’ve been doing this for nearly two decades, and we have no plans to quit soon.
Q: What other experience do you have in security?
Not many installers will be able to answer this. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s always a plus to deal with someone who understands crime and criminals with real experience, rather than a theoretical understanding from just installing alarms.
At Black Cat security, Damian also has 8 years’ experience as a policeman, meaning he’s dealt personally with burglars and knows how they think. That means our alarms are better designed to defend against burglars, and it means we know how you’re feeling if you’ve just been burgled.
Q: If I get an alarm, will you be my installer? If not, what experience will they have?
Unfortunately, even if the person you’re talking to has been doing this for 20 years, you may end up with an unsupervised young technician at your home who doesn’t have the same experience and doesn’t have the skills or care to keep your home safe. Make sure you’re getting the best guy for the job at your home.
At Black Cat, you will always have Damian overlooking every installation.
Q: How do you run your cables in my roof?
This question will probably take your installer by surprise, but it can reveal a lot about their work ethic. What you want to do is to imply that you’re going to be checking the roofspace afterwards to make sure they do it right. 95% of installers will get in your roofspace and just drag their cables in the shortest path from the walls to the alarm. Not only is this lazy, but it makes further maintenance more expensive as cables get tangled; it can interfere with the signal if they run too close to other cables; it can make things harder for every other tradesman in your roof, making all future works to anything like your air conditioning more costly and difficult; and it can lead to cable damage if they get pulled over wooden beams, hot pipes or around corners roughly.
It’s a small difference, but at Black Cat we make sure every single cable is run straight, neat, with right angle-bends, and away from anything that would damage it. This makes future works cheaper, is less of a hassle for other workers in your roof, and shows our dedication to doing the best job for you.
Q: Do you label the wires in your control panel wiring?
This is like the last question. They might scoff or say you’re being ridiculous, but this is a serious problem for you. Often when we have to go in to jobs other installers have done, they haven’t labelled their wiring in the control panel at all! That means we have to test every single wire to see where it goes—which adds a lot of time and money to your cost, since you’re paying for their laziness.
It would seem like basic common sense to label your wires, but nobody does it. So make your installer sweat a little and ask him whether he did it on his last job.
Q: Do you clean up after yourself?
Your tradesman will probably say yes, and then make a mental note that now he has to. A lot of tradesmen aren’t too concerned with walking on your carpets with dirty boots or leaving dust behind your chairs after they’ve been drilling to install sensors.
We make sure to always clean up after ourselves. It’s your home, after all.
Q: Do you use Australian-made or imported parts?
Not only are Australian-made parts of higher quality than cheaper imports, but they’re also easier to get hold of, meaning it’s easier to fix your alarm if anything ever goes wrong. Most installers will use imported parts for your alarm. But we’re one of the only installers in Perth to use 100% Australian-made Bosch systems.
Q: Do you have a WA security licence?
You shouldn’t even have to ask this, as it’s a legal requirement, but if things don’t seem to add up, you can check.
We’re fully licensed, of course, and can prove it on request.
Q: What warranty do you offer?
Make sure your installer is willing to stand by their work as well as their parts. If it’s good quality, they should be willing to.
We give a full 12 months for you to be satisfied the job was done correctly, and 36 months’ warranty on our parts.
Q: If I don’t like the quality of your monitoring services, will you change who provides them?
Some alarms can be ‘monitored’, meaning you pay a fee every quarter and in return your alarm is watched by a ‘control room’ or ‘monitoring station’. That means you should get 24/7 support (ask about this, too) if there’s ever a problem with your alarm. It also means that there’s always someone watching your alarm, no matter where you are, and able to call you if it goes off, or call the police or fire brigade if necessary.
Be wary, though, that there are good and bad monitoring stations. Some are notorious for slow service and poor handling of complaints. (We used to use such a station until we realised they were treating our customers badly.) So it’s important to make sure you always have the option to choose if you’re not happy with the service.
At Black Cat, we’ve invested heavily in ‘1300 numbers’, which means we can change our entire client base overnight if our monitoring station doesn’t provide good service. But thankfully, our current control room are good, and our clients are happy with them. It’s important to know, however, that we can change any client’s monitoring at any time, at their request. Make sure your installer will do that for you.
Q: Can I control my alarm from my phone with you?
If this is important to you, ask, because there are some alarms that can do this. (Ours can.)
Q: Can I watch my home from anywhere with you?
Again, if this is important to you, ask. You’ll obviously need to get cameras installed if you want this, but we can do that too.
Q: Can I speak to any previous customers?
Be suspicious if they don’t let you talk to previous customers. After all, if their service is good, they should be able to produce lots of raving customers no matter who you talk to.
At Black Cat, we offer the opportunity to talk to any of our customers to get a testimonial from a real, live person as to how we treat them.
Q: How many clients do you have?
This is a good ‘trick question’ to ask your installer. Because if he proudly boasts to you that they cover 50,000 homes in Perth, you know that it’s one of the big ‘chain’ installers, and you won’t get anywhere near the quality of coverage you’ll get with a small- or medium-size firm. Bigger is most definitely not better, and you may find with a big firm you’re dealing with different people all the time, treated like just another number, and with a technician who’s not too concerned in getting the job done right (after all, it’s not his reputation at stake).
Black Cat Security have over 1000 customers across Perth. That’s enough to show we know what we’re doing, but it’s also no more than we can manage with just Damian as the single installer, whilst providing an excellent level of customer service to everyone.
Q: What’s the biggest job you’ve done?
On the other end of the scale, if your installer is just a single ‘man with a van’, it’s good to find out the biggest job they’ve been trusted with. But even though we’re a small firm, at Black Cat Security we’ve done jobs for WA Police, Western Power, foreign government agencies (we’d name them, but it’d be unprofessional), Video Ezy chains, stores, offices, factories, detention centres, and over a thousand homes. So we definitely have the experience to do the job.
Q: Can you give concrete proof (not just telling me) that I’ll get good service from you?
If their service is good, they should be able to. Of course, if you ask us, we’ll point you to our four annual surveys that gave us a stunning 100% customer satisfaction, or to any of our clients (who we’ll put you in touch with if you like). We think that’s pretty solid proof.
Q: Do you offer free quotes?
Any installer worth his salt should say yes. At Black Cat, we offer quotes at our expense. That means we’ll come to your door, inspect your home, design a system and quote you on it, for no charge. Then it’s up to you to do what you want.
Still have questions?
This is a good list to ask your installer, and will prevent you from being ripped off. But if you have any more questions you want to ask us, it’s easy to get in touch. Just call us on 9451 5551, or use the form below. We’d love to hear from you!