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How We Rank and Review

Written by | Updated January 2, 2020

How We Keep the Lights On

Disclaimer: SafeWise is supported by readers like you. That means we might make money when you click on one of our recommendations.

We can provide our reviews, insights, and tips on living a safer life for free because we pay the bills with affiliate commissions from some (but not all) of the retailers and brands we recommend.

Those commissions may influence when we review products, but they never interfere with our recommendations or the content of our reviews. In fact, we’ll be brutally honest about our partners if their product or service falls short.

Our writers and editors rank products and services based on their expert opinions about which ones will best serve the needs of our readers.

How We Pick the Products and Services We Recommend

SafeWise reviews, compares, and ranks products and services after considering (at a minimum) these standard criteria.

  • Price: What is your initial investment and what other costs will you incur over time?
  • Overall Value: We compare the initial cost of a product or service against the features and benefits provided with short- and long-term use (e.g. energy savings, home insurance discounts). We also look for any hidden costs you might accrue over time (higher internet speeds, data charges, etc.).
  • Availability: Who can take advantage of this product or service? Is it accessible for most people or designed to serve niche groups?
  • Customer Experience: We evaluate customer reviews, company policies, and the availability of customer support.
  • Reputation: How established is the brand? Has the brand or service attracted significant positive or negative coverage? How is the company rated by customers, experts, and third-party industry evaluators (e.g. J.D. Power, etc.)
  • Compatibility: Does the brand or service stand alone or does it integrate with other brands, services, or products to make your home/life/community safer or more convenient?
  • Quality: We assess materials, construction, how the item or service meets industry standards or ratings (UL, IP, etc.), durability, etc.
  • Features: We take an inventory of what features are included, how well they work, and how they stand up to competitors. We also consider things like whether or not the company throws in all the features at the base price or requires upgrades to use the coolest ones.
  • Ease of Use: How easy is it to set up the product or service and use it? We examine installation, setup guides, online and phone support, mobile apps, and anything else that impacts how you use the product or service.

How We Test Products and Services

Hands-on Tests

We put products and services to work in homes and other real-life situations. During tests we evaluate all of the following, as applicable:

  • Installation (is setup easy, how long does it take, is it easy to get help?)
  • Function (does the product or service deliver what it promised?)
  • Features
  • Compatibility
  • Mobile app
  • Image quality, video streaming, etc.
  • Alerts/notifications

Customer Service

We reach out to customer service to find out how responsive, friendly, and helpful it is. We also seek answers and clarification as needed.

Comparison Tests

We try out multiple brands of the same product or service to compare their performance head-to-head.

How We Research Products and Services

Customer Reports

We interview users of the product or service about their experience with the following, as applicable:

  • Installation (is set up easy, how long does it take, is it easy to get help?)
  • Function (does the product or service deliver what it promised?)
  • Features
  • Compatibility
  • Mobile app
  • Image quality, video streaming, etc.
  • Alerts/notifications

Surveys

We conduct surveys of real people to find out what features they want, what they love about a product, and what they would change. We also ask if they’d buy a product or service again and whether or not they’d recommend it to someone.

Industry Standards

We look at regulations and regulatory bodies for products and services to find out if there are standards that need to be met. Then we see how each product or service either meets those standards or falls short.

Industry Experts

We interview other experts with specialized knowledge about certain product or service types, safety or security practices, home and community initiatives, etc.

Product and Service Representatives

We foster direct relationships with the people who make and distribute the products and services we review.

  • Home Security Week: At least once per year, SafeWise invites home security, safety, and smart home companies to participate in a week of presentations, demonstrations, and question-and-answer sessions. We learn about products and services from the insiders who are most knowledgeable and passionate about them.
  • Site Visits: Our experts visit home security, safety, and smart home companies for on-site tours and demonstrations—and to get the inside scoop about products and services.
  • Interviews: We put in facetime with company employees. We talk to everyone from CEOs to the folks who answer tech support calls and work in manufacturing.
  • Industry Conventions and Workshops: Our experts attend safety, security, and smart home trade shows, workshops, conventions, and trainings. This helps us keep up with industry trends so we can recommend the latest and greatest products and services to our readers.

Online Research

We scour industry standards, other expert reviews and best-of lists, customer reviews and ratings, online forums, user manuals, product specs, service contracts, etc.