Another new home DIY or install Security Question


New Member
Hi Guys,
So I'm moving into a new home in July.  I've decided to DIY the surveillance camera system and NVR, but haven't decided what to do regarding the security system itself.  While doing my PDI the other day, there was of course the ever present sales man walking around who offered a "free hardware and installation" of either a DSC or GE wired system with up to 3 keypads, with a 3 year contract for $24.95/month including monitoring.
The house itself comes prewired at the windows and doors on the main floor, and I've run Cat6 and power to 3 keypad locations (front door, laundry room door, master bedroom), plus two wired motion detectors (one upstairs main hallway and main floor hallway).
Researching online, seems I could use something like NextAlarm to monitor, which comes with a fee ranging from $15/month to $11/month if I go the 3 year route.  So around $10-15 savings vs what they are offering.  However, I have to buy my own hardware upfront.
I'm looking for what I think it is a relatively basic system.  I.e., a system that has motion, glass break, and door/window sensors along with possibly fire.
Ideally one that I could operate via a smartphone app in case I forget to turn it on, or more importantly, for alerts, etc.
Seems many are pointed to the Elk Gold system, but that seems to run at over C$1k just for the brains, and excludes the motion detectors, door, window, glass breaks, etc.?
I can't seem to figure out if the wired DSC or GE systems offer the above.
Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Active Member
$25/month * 36 months = $900 is a good deal for a basic alarm system with monitoring.
You might want to ask who's doing the monitoring.
You might want to ask what the fee is going to be after 3 years.
I seriously doubt you're going to get remote control for that price.
How long are you planning on staying in this house? 
OTOH the Elk is really easy to program (with a PC), expand, manage, and tinker with.   The extra money is well worth it.   Its yours and you're in control.
pbc, you mention wanting a smartphone app for alerts and manipulating the system. Here's a general observation regarding any kind of self-operated remote capabilities among the alarm panel vendors:
it sucks, big time.
The only vendor that I've found which offered something decent in this department is Visonic. We have a Powermax from them. When an alarm is triggered, it will call phone numbers in turn until someone acknowledges the alarm. When you pick up, it identifies the location of the alarm system (e.g. "Bob's Home") and reports the zones which are tripped. It then waits for your command. Acknowledging the alarm means using a command. If you just hang up, it will continue calling. You can also call into the alarm system to issue commands. It is set up to call me, my wife, and her children (who are adults and live close by). This has worked great for 5 years.
We're moving into a bigger house for which the Powermax won't do. Visonic has a PowerG line which would be more appropriate for us but even this line has limitations that put it out of the running. I've been spending over a month researching alarm systems and found that there is no other manufacturer that offers built into the system anything like the capability I've mentioned above. Not even the Elk. :( I'm not saying it is always impossible to get something like what Visonic offers but either it is not built into the system (and thus you have to shell more and more money to get there) or you have to accept that you will be dependent on a 3rd party.
Overwhelmingly, the vendors orient their offerings so that you depend on a monitoring company or a third-party service of some sort. I presume what happens is that > 90% of customers want exactly this and so that's what the vendors prioritize. So the capabilities for self-monitoring are primitive, missing, broken, expensive or they are not really self-monitoring.
I'm probably going to end up with an Elk but:
1. Its voice dialing capability appears primitive to the point of quasi-uselessness. Reading the forums I found one user who discovered that if the Elk hits your voicemail, it will leave a message and consider its job done. (Compare with the Visonic above where someone has to explicitly acknowledge the alert before the panel considers the job done.) It moreover does not seem to be able to accept commands when it calls out to report a problem. I say it is quasi-useless because it is possible to mitigate its primitiveness by having it dial into a Google Voice number which will then forward the alert.
2. As far as reporting alarms through emails go, it is limited to 16 possible hardcoded messages. It is not possible to write a generic message that says "Zone [zone name] was tripped." with "[zone name]" be replaced with the actual name of the zone. One way to fix this lack of flexibility is, for instance, to use an ISY (a specific home automation system that integrates well with the Elk) to generate the emails but that's more $$$ to shell out.
3. The most promising Android app for controlling it remotely costs $40 a pop and is not made by the manufacturer of the Elk. So who knows for how long it will be supported. Concerns about ongoing support are not just hypothetical: there's another app that people used to recommend that seems to have gone down the drain.
Don't get me wrong. I like the Elk. And I would sure like to be proved wrong about any of the limitations I mention above. I've read the manuals, I've listened to the recorded webinars, and I've read quite a few discussions on this forum and elsewhere, but I grant that maybe I missed something.


Senior Member
FWIW, you can get network monitoring from AlarmRelay for $8.95/mo. If the Elk alarms, they will call you and they can report to you what zone set off the alarm.


Senior Member
sda said:
$25/month * 36 months = $900 is a good deal for a basic alarm system with monitoring.
You might want to ask who's doing the monitoring.
You might want to ask what the fee is going to be after 3 years.
I seriously doubt you're going to get remote control for that price.
Also, the term "basic alarm system" has a quite wide range of interpretation. One motion sensor, one console, a small panel and a Sonalert in your attic could be called a "basic alarm system."