How We Test and Review

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review

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 tests products and services after considering (at a minimum) these standard criteria.


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.).


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.


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.).
  • We value third-party ratings like the Better Business Bureau. But we rely on our own expertise, testing, and research for product scores and rankings.


We consider known breaches, response to breaches, and security requirements like two-factor authentication to determine how much we can trust a product or service.


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?


We assess materials, construction, how the item or service meets industry standards or ratings (UL, IP, etc.), durability, etc.


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


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.


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.

A closer look at how we evaluate home security systems

While we test and research, we look at five primary factors that matter most for protecting your home and family:

  1. Costs and contracts. How much will it cost you upfront and over time? We look at how monitoring fees compare from brand to brand and in contrast with the national average of $31.83/month. We also consider the pros and cons of long-term contracts, how flexible companies are, and what kinds of penalties you get if you cancel.
  2. Response time and monitoring options. Because we believe the best home security includes professional monitoring, we pay close attention to what each security company offers and if they do anything extra to get customers help faster. Because we don't want to get fined for calling emergency services as a test, we evaluate response times based on customer input, and how quickly the monitoring center responds when we trigger an alarm.
  3. Security features and smart home integration. All security systems come with the same basics—a base, a motion sensor, and couple entry sensors. We look to see what security systems offer beyond that, and we love to see innovation that aims to stop criminals before they break in. And because we're obsessed, we also check out which other smart gadgets out there will work with each system (especially voice control).
  4. Customer service and reputation. Even though home security is one of the most vital and personal services you'll ever invest in, the industry hasn't always had the best reputation. We grill brands about how they treat their customers and then we check with real customers and examine customer reviews to see if the company line holds water. We examine policies to see if they're customer-first or if you need to watch out. And we keep an eye on how each security company is doing in the headlines, the courts, and customer reviews.
  5. Ease of installation and use. We like to have multiple people install and test the same system so we can find out where all the pitfalls are. We want to save you from our mistakes. We look at everything from how easily we can unbox the system to how intuitive the app and other controls are. Then we put it to the test with triggers, arming, disarming, video capture, and more.

Learn more about individual security system testing in our best home security system reviews.