Looking for the best alarm system in the country? There’s a number of national home security companies which offer systems, installation, and monitoring, and it can be difficult to know which one is tops. Realistically, however, the “best alarm system in the country” isn’t a single entity, but rather choosing the one that’s right for your needs. As you search through national home security products, keep the items outlined here in mind to make sure your family has the level of service you require.

How to Find the Best Alarm System in the Country

1) If it’s a national home security company, see if it’s licensed in your state.

National home security laws are fairly lax, leaving it up to the individual states to determine which laws to enact and enforce. Most have their own requirements for companies that handle installations and monitoring, plus you may need a special license from your city or municipality to have one.

2) Decide if you can handle a wireless install on your own.

If you’re hoping to save cash, a D.I.Y kit is best. Older wired systems required that an installer was essentially an electrician and a drywaller because each component was linked together through a series of wires dropped behind the house’s walls. Newer wireless setups can be popped into place without using tools and anyone who can use a smartphone or computer can program them. By handling the install on your own, you could save hundreds or thousands on the setup.

3) Determine if you want monitored or un-monitored.

The un-monitored variety usually emits a loud alarm and does nothing more. The hope is that an intruder will be scared off by the alarm alone. Others are silent, but let you know something’s amiss. Most people want a professionally-monitored system, so that the authorities or emergency services will be called if there’s an event.

4) Compare prices over the lifespan of your setup.

While Life Shield aims to keep setup and monitoring costs reasonable, some companies will attempt to lure you in with either a low-cost or free setup, which is then paired with a lengthy contract and expensive monthly fees or will upcharge on the equipment and provide shoddy service under a contract. Of course, pricing scheme aside, you’ll find quality and low-quality companies on both sides of the spectrum too. In any case, do the math. Find out what you’ll pay after one year, five years, and so on, to determine if you really are getting a good deal.

5) Check out the kits and add-ons.

Again, the best alarm system in the country will be different for each person. One may have dozens of windows that need sensors while another may have a studio apartment with a single door and window. It can be helpful to begin with a starter kit, learn what each of the components does, and then decide if it’s adequate for your space or if you could benefit from additional components.

If you’re opting for a professional install, talk with the rep about his or her logic and see if their plan really makes sense to you. If you question it, get a second opinion. If you’re doing a DIY install, you can also place a call to the company to see what they recommend or sketch out a map of your home and highlight entry points.

6) Find out if fire and carbon monoxide detectors are available.

Most national home security companies offer fire and carbon monoxide detectors that work alongside your existing equipment or can replace it. Because fires and carbon monoxide poisoning claim the lives of thousands of people each year and housefires result in billions of dollars of damage annually, adding these sensors onto your plan could not only save you money in the long run, but save the lives of you and your family members.

7) Watch out for contracts.

Contracts aren’t always a bad thing, but they can be if you’re locked into unfavorable terms. A handful of companies, like Life Shield, don’t do this. They earn your business each month by providing quality service. If you don’t have to sign a contract or you’re not sure about the terms or the company itself, choose one with a month-to-month option.

8) See if newer technology is leveraged.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to make use of the latest tech. There are reasonably-priced systems that let you view your security cameras from your phone and will send you custom alerts. For example, you could get a message when a specific door opens, so you’ll always know who’s coming and going- even in a busy home.