For centuries, the wealthiest homeowners relied on alert and trusted watchman to guard their families and property. Today, the equivalent of such protection is available to virtually all homeowners with an alarm system. Like the watchman, the electronic eyes and ears of an alarm system are constantly scanning for any sign of an intruder. And, if an intruder is detected, the electronic watchman "shouts" an alarm to frighten off the intruder, warn the home's occupants, and summon assistance. Unlike its human counterpart, the modern alarm system often is relatively inexpensive, never falls asleep, can't be bribed, and is unintimidated by even the most fearsome of intruders.

    Electronic alarm systems are powerful deterrents. According to the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, homes equipped with electronic alarm systems are roughly three times less likely to be broken into than those without. Many insurance companies, noting that fewer break-ins mean fewer claims, offer discounts from 5 to 15 percent on homeowners' insurance premiums for homes with alarm systems.

    Is an alarm system right for you? With systems for as little as $100, and portable alarms for even less, most people who want alarms can find something that will work for them. Remember that these systems are only a part of good home security. Solid doors and locks and the rest of the basics of home security, are still important. And just like locks, electronic alarm systems have to be used properly to be effective. Choose a system that fits your budget and your lifestyle.