SafeWise believes in empowering consumers through research. For this reason, we have provided families with this holistic assessment of major home security system companies.
SafeWise security experts have pored over websites, customer reviews, products, and features from each company. We also have contacted companies to ask questions, visited their Facebook pages, and dug up any useful information we could, to arrive at a balanced assessment.
Many security companies don't showcase their pricing and bury important information deep in their website. To help you out, we've put together a list of factors you should consider when looking for the best security system for your home.
You'll want to note if the system is free with monitoring, or if you pay for the equipment. If you pay for the equipment, that usually means you own it, and you can do with it as you wish, including move it to a new home or reconfigure it. Many of the best home alarm systems can be bought at a reasonable price, so make sure to weigh all of the benefits to find the one that's right for you.
Though some customer service reviews may seem fishy, there are lots of reviews out there from unbiased sites—these can give you an idea of customers' overall experiences with a home security company. Customer service reviews vary from company to company—some have rave reviews while others have consistent complaints. We heavily weigh customer service reviews, and think you should too.
You'll need to decide if you want someone to install your system for you, or if you're comfortable setting it up yourself and saving some money.
Some companies don't offer cameras, and others offer different kinds: indoor fixed, indoor pan and tilt, and outdoor. An indoor fixed camera is stationary, while an indoor pan and tilt camera moves to look around a room. An outdoor camera can be placed outside to see potential trouble before it reaches your front door or to monitor a backyard or pool area. Most security camera companies allow you to remotely view live footage or recorded clips through a smartphone or other web-enabled device. Video surveillance monitoring is usually an additional monitoring fee, and it varies widely depending on how companies construct their packages.
Home automation will make you feel like you're on The Jetsons. With some security system companies, you can even control things like door locks, small appliances, lights, and a thermostat from your smartphone or other web-enabled device.
A listed monitoring fee is the monthly bill you will pay to your security company to have monitoring representatives ready to help you with an emergency at any time. Your security system will connect with a monitoring center through a cellular uplink, a broadband internet connection, or a landline phone. Usually, a cellular monitoring package is the most expensive, and the most secure; broadband monitoring is mid-range; and landline monitoring is the least expensive and also the least secure, as intruders could cut your landline to disable your system.
How important is it to be able to access your security system through your smartphone or other web-enabled device? Not all companies include this feature, and companies vary on the level of mobile access available. Many companies will simply let you remotely arm/disarm your system or receive alerts. More sophisticated (and more expensive) packages will allow you to also set custom alerts and control your thermostat, door locks, small appliances, and lighting. Some companies even allow you to remotely view a live camera feed. It all depends on how much mobile control you need to feel safe and comfortable.
It used to be that the only way your security system could contact a monitoring center was through a landline phone connection. Now, with new technologies, you have several different options.
With landline monitoring, your control panel uses your phone line to contact a monitoring center in the event of an emergency. If your phone line isn't easily accessible or exposed to the outside, then landline monitoring might be a good option. Although a landline connection may be more concrete than a cellular or broadband connection, savvy thieves know they can cut phone lines in order to shut down security systems, which is why many customers opt for the more sophisticated technologies.
With broadband monitoring, your control panel communicates with a monitoring center through a broadband internet connection, rather than a landline. Broadband is faster than a landline connection and less expensive than a cellular connection. The only drawback is that internet connections can sometimes be unreliable.
Across the industry, cellular monitoring is regarded as the most technologically advanced. With cellular monitoring, your control panel communicates with a monitoring center through a cellular uplink—no landline or internet connection necessary, and no wires for intruders to cut. However, if your home is located in a place where you can't get a cellular signal, this option may not be possible for you.
These days, home security companies offer all kinds of security-related options, from energy management to home automation to personal emergency response.
Every home security company provides security monitoring—at a minimum. A security package includes motion and entry sensors to help protect your home against intruders. If someone opens a door or window without permission, you'll know about it.
If you want to deck out your home with all the latest technology and conveniences, then home automation is for you. Home automation may include the ability to control your thermostat, lights, small appliances, and locks from any smartphone or web-enabled device. Welcome to the future.
Energy management services help you conserve energy and save money on your electricity bills. With energy management, you can control your thermostat, lighting, and small appliances from a remote location via your smartphone or other web-enabled device.
Personal response features function like emergency alert services. You get a pendant to wear around your neck or put in your pocket. In the event of a personal emergency, just press the panic button to get help. Personal response monitoring is ideal for senior citizens.
One important difference between home security companies is whether they require professional installation or let you install your system yourself.
If a security company requires professional installation, you can sit back and relax while they do the work for you. The installer may even be able to give you additional tips and safety suggestions for your home. He or she can show you how to use your security system and make sure everything works properly. Professional installation usually comes with an upfront cost, and though some installers respond the day you order your system, you may have to change your schedule to accommodate the installation date and time.
In the case of DIY installation, you'll usually have one of two support options: electronic prompts or verbal walkthroughs.
Electronic Prompts: With electronic prompts, your security system company will give you verbal guidance (in the form of a robotic voice) as you set up your system. It will also let you know how to ensure that all your sensors are connected and working.
Verbal Walkthrough: In contrast, with a verbal walkthrough, you'll call an installation professional who will guide you through the process over the phone and make sure your equipment is working properly.
The only drawback of DIY installation is that it takes time to set up your system (usually 30 to 40 minutes) and you might second-guess whether you've installed your equipment in the best way possible.
Mobile access can be a convenient solution to many of your home security concerns, but what "mobile access" entails varies from company to company.
At minimum, mobile access means that you can arm or disarm your system and get any text or email alerts through a smartphone, tablet, computer, or other web-enabled device. This means you should be alerted the moment a door or window is breached—even when you're not home. Some companies also give you the option of controlling your lights, thermostat, locks, and small appliances through a web-enabled device, so you're always in charge of your home, no matter your location.
Some companies include mobile access standard, and if you have a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, there's really no reason not to get it. Check up on your home by pressing a few buttons, and then breathe easier.
Modern security cameras are surprisingly versatile. You can use cameras to catch intruders, or simply check up on children or pets at home.
Security cameras give you an extra sense of security, enabling you to be a fly on the wall in your own home, no matter where you are. With most security companies, you can view live surveillance footage as well as motion-triggered clips from a smartphone or other web-enabled device.