What Is the Difference Between Monitored and Unmonitored Security Systems?

Written by | Updated May 9, 2019

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.

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 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.

SafeWise’s Best Home Security Systems

The SafeWise team has researched and reviewed security companies from around the nation. Each year we release our annual rankings. Check out our picks below! To read more, including reviews and packages, you can visit our Top Home Security Systems.

Lowest Price
Best Overall
Best Monitoring
Best Service
Best Budget Option
Best No Contract
logo of vivint home security ADT logo logo of frontpoint home security ProtectAmerica logo logo of simplisafe home security
$29.99 $27.99 $34.99 $19.99 $14.99
DIY Professional DIY DIY/Professional DIY
High-end smart home tech
Customizable plans
Month-to-month contracts
Fast response times
Outstanding guarantees
140+ years of experience
Risk-free trial
DIY installation
Great customer service
Lifetime warranty
Locked-in rates
Many package options
Cheap monthly monitoring
Money-back guarantee
No fancy extras
855-374-4999 855-374-4999 855-374-4999 855-374-4999 N/A
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