Great question. There are several reliable UL-listed equipment providers (GE, Honeywell, DSC), but they do not sell directly. With equipment made by one of these companies you will have some choice monitoring - although many companies are reluctant to monitor something they did not install. With upfront discounting, equipment may cost less from a company that provides monitoring. Beware the on-line "warehouse" companies as weaker on support and usually not licensed - though they should be, if selling equipment that it to be monitored, and licensing varies by state.
You may want a separate system for each unit - otherwise you are going to run into usage conflicts if both units are on one system. I would get a sample system for the smaller unit first, and if you like it, use the same equipment and provider for the larger unit. As for the windows, here is the issue: you can arm most systems in the "stay" or "away" mode. In the stay mode, which assumes you are home, the motion sensors are not active. In the away mode, they are - that means if you are only arming the system when away, you could protect only the doors and use a few motion sensors to protect the interior spaces, and forget the windows (or just protect a few obvious tempting targets). If arming in the stay mode and you want to protect windows, a common solution is to use a wall-mounted glassbreak sensor - an acoustic device that "hears" breaking glass. Each has a range of 20' in any direction with line of site, so one sensor can protect lots of glass. Between motions and glassbreak options, very few people arm every window.
You clearly want a 100% wireless system, but first you need to identify what is meant by "wireless" - because it has two meanings!
Wireless Sensors - When most companies say “wireless security system,” they are referring to how the sensors talk to the control panel. Are these systems better than hard-wired systems? Yes, and for many reasons. Does FrontPoint (my company) like and use them? You bet! In fact, most of the home alarm systems being installed today use wireless sensors. Here is a short list of benefits provided by this technology:
1. Easier to install. No drilling, no mess, quicker, and less chance of damage to your home.
2. Each sensor creates its own reporting “zone” – no confusion about which door or window is open.
3. Easier to troubleshoot – no tracing wires, searching for the cut or shorted wire, or opening walls to re-run wires.
4. Easier to reposition, remove, or add more sensors later.
5. Easier to move the entire system with you, especially if a DIY system (see more here).
6. No more prone to false alarms.
Wireless Monitoring - This meaning refers to how the alarm system communicates to the monitoring center. The problem is that 90% of the systems in use today still depend on a vulnerable phone line (or Internet connection) to reach the monitoring center. It’s easy for a burglar to cut that link, and they do so regularly, rendering these “old-school” system useless. That is where cellular monitoring comes in. There is no phone line required – the alarm system has its own built-in cellular device, so that alarm communication is independent, and far more reliable. The benefits:
1. No phone line required – many homes are cell-only, or VOIP, and most alarm systems don’t like VOIP.
2. Peace of mind – no phone line or Internet connection to be cut with a $5 pair of wire cutters (see here for more detail).
3. Some homes keep a “traditional” phone line just for the alarm system – cancel that phone line, and it may pay for your monthly monitoring fee!
4. Easier installation – no need for complex “line seizure” wiring that allows the alarm system to control the phone line. Great for DIY systems.
5. Easier to move with you – wireless sensors and cellular monitoring create a truly portable system. You own the equipment: why not take it to your next home?
FrontPoint is the only alarm company in the US that includes cellular monitoring with every system we sell – that’s why we say we are “100% wireless.” So when an alarm company advertises a “wireless security system” – you know the right question to ask: which wireless do you mean? The best systems are both!
I have not touched on interactive services yet. The best systems have the following, and this should not cost you a lot:
1) 100% cellular monitoring - no phone line required, and none to cut!
2) Remote arm/disarm capability
3) Special apps for iPhone, Blackberry, Android
4) Email & text notifications on anything happening at home: doors opening, etc.
5) Video services - live viewing from any web connection (including phone) and motion-activated clips
6) Smart home - remote light and thermostat control
So shop hard, read all the company reviews you can find, and good luck. You may want to check our blog (see the "Buzz" section on our home page) for some additional helpful advice.
With over 20 years in the alarm industry, I work for FrontPoint Security (www.frontpointsecurity.com), a leading nationwide wireless home security provider. Our company offers cellular monitoring and next generation features the “big boy” traditional companies have not figured out yet. I am offering this advice to increase awareness of what alarm systems can (and should!) do. The more we all know, the better!