What Is the Difference Between Monitored and Unmonitored Security Systems?

While unmonitored security systems are less expensive than monitored systems, only monitored systems have professionals to help look out for your home and respond to emergencies 24/7.

Protect your property
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get the latest deals, home security tips, and in-depth reviews.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Monitored systems

Monitored security systems are systems that are actively monitored by a professional home security company. When the system detects a break-in, fire, or other emergency, it notifies the security team and, in some cases, emergency responders.

Monitoring is convenient

One of the biggest advantages of a monitored system is you don’t have the burden of monitoring the system when you’re away from home. Leaving the monitoring to the professionals may give you additional peace of mind.

Another advantage to monitored systems is if you purchase a monitored security plan, the same company that monitors the system will install it for you. If you’re not mechanically inclined, having a professional set up the system may give you more confidence than if you did the work yourself.

Monitoring is comprehensive

In many cases, signing an agreement for monitored service means the security provider will supply security equipment free of charge. And the system you get is often more comprehensive than one you’d purchase and install on your own, unless you spend a significant amount of money at the outset. Frontpoint, for example, offers home automation services, giving you control over your thermostat and electronic locks, and light control as part of their Ultimate Monitoring system.

The disadvantage to monitored systems is the cost. You pay for the convenience of having someone else keep an eye on your home security and, while many monitoring plans are affordable, even a modest fee is more than unmonitored systems that charge no monthly fee.

Unmonitored systems

Unmonitored (or self-monitored) security systems consist of equipment you can have a professional install or install yourself. Equipment can vary greatly between systems, but typical items include a control panel, motion sensors, door and window sensors, glass-break sensors, smoke detectors, and sirens. Some systems are smartphone compatible, meaning that you can monitor the system remotely, even when no one else is.

Unmonitored is economical

The primary advantage of unmonitored security systems is cost. Even if you pay a professional to install your system, it will still be less expensive than a monitored system because most of the cost is in the monitoring service, rather than the equipment.

If you install it yourself, you’ll save even more, and you won’t have to coordinate your schedule to meet the installer at your home.

Though unmonitored systems ultimately prove less expensive than monitored systems, to get the same amount of functionality, your up-front costs may actually be higher. For example, a Nest programmable thermostat costs $250 up front.

Unmonitored systems won’t provide the same level of protection for your home, either. Even if your system links to your smartphone, there are times when you may not be in a position to do anything about an alarm going off, like when you’re on a plane, in an important meeting, or in an area without phone reception.

What are you looking for in a home security system?

If you’re looking for the most peace of mind and convenience you can get, and you can afford to spend a little more, a monitored security system is probably right for you. But if saving money is more important, and you don’t mind the extra responsibility of watching over your system, then an unmonitored security system may be your best bet.

Compare the best home security systems

Brand
Lowest monitoring price
Starter equipment price
Contract required
Installation
Smart home compatibilityIcon Tooltip  Dark
Learn more
Read review
Top pick
VivintVivint
$599.00
Icon Yes  LightNo *
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
Reader favorite
SimpliSafeSimpliSafe
$229.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google
Whole-property pick
FrontpointFrontpoint
$99.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
Pro monitoring pick
ADTADT
$0.00
Icon No  LightYes
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
No-contract DIY pick
Blue by ADTBlue by ADT
$199.15
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave

Info current as of 04/12/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*$0 due up-front with consumer financing.
†No-contract options available with outright equipment purchase.
‡Landline monitoring only. Some restrictions apply. (Full disclaimer)
**With $99 installation charge and new monitoring agreement. Early termination fee applies. See full disclaimer for full offer details, terms, and conditions.

Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help people find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She continues to report on local news as a volunteer with the community paper. For the last six years, she’s led a Girl Scout troop, teaching girls about safety and preparing for whatever life throws their way.

Recent Articles

Large craftsman style house at twilight with lights on
Best Home Security Systems of 2021
After hundreds of hours of tests and research, plus a combined 50+ years of experience,...
beautiful mountain river scene at sunrise bc canada
The Best Home Security Systems in Canada
Find the best home alarm system to protect your house. We looked at price, features,...
watching camera feed on tablet
Best Wireless Security Systems
Wireless home security systems are more popular than ever. They’re easy to install and hard...
man pointing at smart home control app on a tablet
The Best Smart Home Security Systems
We’ve tested and researched smart home security systems to help you find the right DIY...