A home security system protects your property but what should set bells ringing when it comes to hiring an alarm installer? We asked an expert, Vince Hillis from Hillis Security Systems in Upminster, Essex about how to hire a trustworthy local alarm and security system contractor.

Finding the right alarm installer

When it comes to finding the best alarm installer, you need to consider both the installation itself and the ongoing maintenance of the system afterwards.

Use Which? Trusted Traders to find alarm and security equipment installers in your area and check the business descriptions and customer reviews in order to compile a shortlist of businesses that offer the services you need.

Look out for a business that is a member of a trade organisation, either the Security System Inspection Board (SSAIB) or the National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Avoid organisations that post leaflets through your letterbox or ring the doorbell unexpectedly.

Organising a security survey

An alarm installer should always visit your property, irrespective of the size and nature of the work. Security system design and maintenance should take into account both the type of property and customer’s lifestyle. You should expect the installer to have a thorough look around your home and garden and to ask plenty of questions.

'You need to have a good understanding of the difference between detection devices before making a choice of system,’ says Vince. ‘An engineer providing a free survey at your home should explain these to you clearly, in jargon-free language.’

It’s a good idea to set up visits from at least three security or fire system installers. Read more about avoiding cowboy traders.

The outcome of the visit should include:

• a full system design proposal
• a written quotation
• a ‘Notice of the Right to Cancel’ document.

Make sure you understand every element of the written quotation and find out how long it is valid for – sometimes quotes expire after a month, or similar.

Five things to consider

1. Are you buying or leasing the security or fire system?
2. What is the guarantee? Are parts and labour included?
3. What repair or call-out cover is provided? How much does this cost?
4. How often will the system need maintenance? Is this a condition of insurance cover?
5. Will you be issued with a Certificate of Conformity for the system? This confirms that the system has been installed in accordance with relevant standards.

Monitoring of your alarm system

 'There is a lot of confusion about how monitoring works,’ said Vince. ‘Some companies will charge an annual fee for receiving a call from the alarm system they have supplied, when the system can call a customer directly anyway. They will call this service a monitored system. But this is not the same as a system that is monitored for police response.

If you want a monitored system for police response, the alarm company and the alarm receiving centre will both need to be approved and accredited by either the Security System Inspection Board (SSAIB) or the National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Look for an approved alarm company with SSAIB or NSI accreditation when using the Which? Trusted Traders website if you require a professionally audited company.'

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