More than one-fourth of American homes will be burglarized this year. Three-fifths of them will be dual-income households where no one is home during the day.

Most burglars are amateurs no older than 20. Their prime targets are the dining room and master bedroom. They're likely to pilfer jewelry, silver, firearms, money, credit cards, cameras, VCRs and stereo equipment. The average value of a haul is around $1,000.Homeowners insurance, with a rider for jewelry, covers most losses. To avoid the anger, frustration and aggravation of a burglary in the first place, however, the answer might be a home security system.

But what kind, asks a story by Pete Bishop, Scripps Howard News Service. Professionally installed or do-it-yourself?

And how elaborate? Door and windows sensors that "report" unauthorized openings to a master control panel that activates a horn, siren or bell are the heart of all systems.

From there, you can add motion detectors that send out sound waves or microwaves, infrared sensors that detect human temperature and motion, and shock sensors that detect glass breakage.

There are ear-busting outdoor alarms, lamp commands that flash lights on and off, remote control devices a la garage door openers, dialers that call you or your designee in an emergency, and monitoring - for a typical monthly fee of $15 to $25 - by real people.

And that's only a partial list.

It can be confusing. That's why do-it-yourself kits have become popular in the last two to three years. Everything's neatly packaged in a box for you. Just open it, read the directions and - bingo! - your home's "hot."

Manufacturers tout two selling points: ease of installaion and price.

Price depends on how much hardware is in the kit.

Of course, buying accessories not included in the kit can run up the price. That's one reason security firms pooh-pooh do-it-yourself systems.

Security firms usually are insured and guarantee their work. They have monitoring stations that are staffed all day every day and have backup generators. Most also have 24-hour service departments.

The pros make no bones about it - their devices aren't inexpensive. Basic systems start around $500, but most residential customers spend at least $1,000 and many go well over $2,000 and even $3,000.

Whatever system a homeowner chooses, though, and whether it's monitored or not, there's a potential problem - false alarms.

No system will work correctly if customers don't learn what to do and how to do it. And many don't.

Burglary is a crime of opportunity. Minimize the chances, the chances are likely you're not going to be victimized.