The Best Home Security Systems
How We Found the Best Home Security Systems
5 traits considered
4 levels of protection evaluated
The Best Home Security Systems
We evaluated the 10 best home security systems' intrusion sensors, surveillance videos, and safety monitoring capabilities. Frontpoint, Vivint, SimpliSafe, ADT, Ring, Abode, Scout, and Nest all offer cutting-edge safety tech, user-friendly monitoring equipment, and helpful customer service.
The 10 Best Home Security Systems in 2019
- Frontpoint - Best DIY Security System
- Vivint - Best Smart Home Automation
- SimpliSafe - Most Plan Flexibility
- ADT - Best Brand Recognition
- Ring Alarm - Best Local Crime Monitoring
- Abode Connected Home Security - Best Third-Party Integrations
- Scout Alarm - Best Basic System
- Nest Secure - Sleekest Design
- Brinks Home Security - Great Customer Service
- Protect America - Free Equipment
The Best Home Security Systems: Summed Up
Frontpoint Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Frontpoint’s commitment to customer satisfaction was clear at every stage, starting with our initial phone call. We were impressed with the sales rep’s attention to detail. She asked our tester to describe the layout of each room in her home, listened to her safety concerns, and answered questions about all kinds of package options. When our tester told her she needed more time to shop around, the rep was understanding and didn’t press the issue.
We’re not the only fans of Frontpoint’s service, either. The company currently boasts an “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau, with four out of five stars based on 199 customer reviews.
Easy DIY installation
Frontpoint’s DIY installation process was surprisingly user-friendly. Because it’s a wireless security system, there’s no drilling required to run a phone line, making the process less invasive. A personalized mobile website walks you through how to get the control panel connected and online, how and where to place your door sensors, and what to do if you get stuck.
If you stop halfway through installation and come back to it later, the site remembers where you left off. If you’re stalled at a particular stage for longer than you should be, a help window pops up on your device with a phone number to call. When you’re ready to activate the system, you call the customer service line, and a rep confirms that your system is online and fully functional. The entire process takes about 30 minutes.
Upfront pricing and online ordering
The home security business is notorious for masking prices and pushing sales calls. Typically, you’ll have to call a sales agent for a quote, even if you’re just comparing systems and aren’t ready to purchase.
The Frontpoint website, in contrast, clearly lists its monitoring and equipment pricing, as well as add-on options and contract lengths. If those prices work for your budget, you can simply purchase your system online. While this method lacks the advantage of a knowledgeable expert to help build your system, those averse to sales calls can conveniently click their way to a security system.
Points to consider
A few minutes into the DIY installation, our tester got stuck getting her control panel up and online — it just wouldn’t connect. A help window popped up with a number to call, and a Frontpoint rep helped her troubleshoot the connection. After about 10 minutes, he could tell there was an issue with the circuit board. Certainly not ideal — but the rep apologized and shipped her replacement control panel overnight.
Because you won’t have an on-site professional to install the system, any faulty equipment could turn into a frustrating delay. We’re confident that Frontpoint will resolve any issues swiftly, but anyone who is particularly prone to technical difficulty may want to choose an alarm company with professional installation (like ADT or Vivint).
Only one package comes with live video streaming
Frontpoint offers three monitoring plans: Protection, Interactive, and Ultimate. Our tester opted for the Interactive plan but ended up dissatisfied with its lack of live video surveillance. When she received an alarm notification while on vacation, she had no way of gauging whether her home had been broken into or if her cat had managed to trip the sensor. It turned out to be a false alarm — one she paid the local authorities $150 for.
To unlock video surveillance and advanced smart tech features, you’ll need its $50-per-month Ultimate plan. That’s a high price for home automation when compared to competitors like Vivint, which lets you add those features at every tier (starting at $40 per month). If you opt for a package that doesn’t include live video surveillance, consider purchasing a standalone security camera. The best home security cameras on the market range in price, but average around $200.
Why we chose it
Advanced home automation features
Vivint has been around since 1999 and is known for its cutting-edge technology. We like the company’s automation features in particular. All of the systems we considered offer some basic features, but Vivint’s were the easiest to use. With the SkyControl panel, Glance display, or mobile app, you can change the temperature on your thermostat, turn your lights on or off, and even have two-way conversations through your security cameras.
Voice assistant compatibility is only becoming more standard in the smart home industry. Not only does Vivint offer Alexa compatibilities, it also partnered with Google to provide Google Assistant voice control. Every new smart home system includes two Google Home Minis. This means that customers can adjust the smart thermostat, lock doors, and arm the system via voice commands. Using a Google Home Mini as the smart hub in your home also ensures that even non-Vivint smart devices are manageable on a single platform.
Solar panel option
And for those committed to building the ultimate smart home or upping eco-friendliness — there’s Vivint Solar. If you’re building a full smart home, solar panels can help offset that energy usage in an eco-friendly way. Vivint will handle outfitting and installing your roof, and you can monitor the panels with the Vivint app.
Full-featured mobile app
Vivint’s mobile app allows you to arm and disarm your system, view and record camera footage, and everything in between. Our tester praised Vivint’s mobile alerts, noting that they come in handy for anyone prone to absent-mindedness: “The notifications for the door sensors are nice in case I open my basement sliding door and leave it open. It continues to check in and provide a notification that the 'sliding door is still open.’”
When pairing your security system with smart features, the app enables a whole host of home control. You can alter home temperatures when the smart thermostat is too many stairs away or if you’re on vacation and want to monitor energy consumption. With smart locks, you can automate your doors to lock on a schedule and sync your alarm with your door’s entry pad (so when you enter the unlock pin, your alarm system will disarm, too).
Vivint outranked every other home security system in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction evaluation; it was the only company to earn five out of five Power Circles. According to the report, “Vivint Smart Home performs well in high-importance attributes: effectiveness of securing my home; ease of using the system; timeliness of resolving problem, question or request; and clarity of information provided for customer service.”
The rating rang true when we became Vivint customers ourselves. Our tester felt like the installation technician was a guest in his home — he even came prepared with protective shoe covers and asked to borrow the vacuum to clean up the drill debris. The Vivint tech was also upfront after he noticed that our tester had ordered more equipment than he needed. As our tester explained, “I originally asked for an outdoor surveillance camera, but after reviewing the house, the tech felt the doorbell camera was sufficient. Turns out, he was right.” That ended up lowering our tester’s expected price.
Points to consider
Upfront equipment costs for no-contract option
Vivint offers a month-to-month contract, but you’ll need to purchase all of your equipment upfront to open up that option. Like most home security companies, Vivint’s equipment can be costly, and paying at least $600 at the time of purchase might not fit into your budget. If you can swing it, however, month-to-month service is more flexible than a long-term contract — and helps you avoid potential termination fees.
Short trial, long contract
If you don’t buy the equipment outright, Vivint requires either a four- or five-year contract — a long time to commit, especially given that you only have three days from the date of install to cancel. Afterwards, you’ll have to pay out the remainder of your contract. If you may be moving in the near future, it’ll cost you $99 to take the system with you. You could alternatively renew your contract, but then you’d be locked in for even longer. Vivint will waive any cancellation fees for extenuating circumstances like death, military circumstances, bankruptcy, or a move to assisted living. Still, it’s best to be intentional if you decide on Vivint.
SimpliSafe Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Budget-friendly plan options
SimpliSafe features the lowest professional monitoring prices on our list. For $15 per month, SimpliSafe systems come with 24/7 live alarm and environmental monitoring. That’s half the price of other companies' monitoring fees.
What’s more, Simplisafe recently released sleeker, more advanced equipment — and gives you the option to purchase its original monitoring system at a discount or a refurbished system for 25% to 30% less than the newer model. If you’re interested in DIY monitoring, SimpliSafe lets you do so for free; all you need to do is purchase the equipment.
SimpliSafe’s wireless security system makes for a painless DIY installation. The keypad and sensors, for instance, are mounted with sticky pads, eliminating the need for drilling. Its step-by-step guide walks you through the entire process, making it relatively simple to follow along and get your system running in no time. And, if you get stuck during your installation, a customer service rep is only a phone call away.
Recently updated equipment
SimpliSafe recently updated its equipment in 2018 to enhance its already reliable features and to offer a streamlined design on par with security companies like Frontpoint. The new system has twice the range of the original and is “five times faster” in communicating with other equipment. SimpliSafe also reinforced the system’s back-up cellular connection so that it’s even more secure. Though we haven’t tested the new SimpliSafe equipment just yet, the advancements are promising and innovate on a system that was solid to begin with.
SimpliSafe’s new equipment also pairs with select smart home devices like the Nest Thermostat and August Locks, as well as voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa (this means you can arm and disarm your system with just your voice). However, it doesn’t play as well with other devices and products, like those with Z-Wave and Zigbee compatibility, and you can’t automate certain commands through IFTTT (If This Then That) yet. Just as with the redesigned equipment, this home automation update puts it in league with competitors — particularly those with DIY installation.
Like a few of our other DIY contenders in this lineup, SimpliSafe doesn’t require a lengthy contract. And with a 60-day free trial, you have ample time to decide whether you’re on board. After that, you can cancel at any time for free.
Points to consider
Limited third-party integrations
You can use a wireless connection to operate your SimpliSafe system, but it doesn’t support Z-Wave, Zigbee, or IFTTT, meaning you won’t be able to connect it directly to other third-party devices like smart locks or automate certain actions in the home. You can, however, use Alexa to arm or disarm the SimpliSafe system and connect it to your Nest Thermostat to save energy based on when you’re home or away. But these integrations aren’t quite as robust as the Abode or Ring systems.
Limited security camera options
While most providers give you the option to add both indoor and outdoor cameras to your security package, SimpliSafe’s selection is limited to one indoor surveillance camera. The camera includes features like free streamable HD video and audio, 30-day storage, and night vision, but it doesn’t take snapshots of activity and can’t pan or move — basic features found on most surveillance cameras.
Upfront cost for equipment
Regardless of if you choose a month-to-month professional monitoring plan or opt to self-monitor your home, SimpliSafe requires you to purchase its equipment upfront. Though it’s less expensive than our other picks, packages start at a couple hundred dollars and go up from there. On the plus side, purchasing your equipment upfront does give you the flexibility to move or cancel your system at any time.
ADT Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Trusted by millions
Founded in 1874, ADT has been around for decades longer than any other security company. It has over six million subscribers and is synonymous with home security — even its logo is a clear warning to would-be burglars.
When it comes to deterring potential break-ins, brand recognition has significant value. In fact, a study from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology found that a security sign was more of a deterrent to burglars than outdoor lighting and a neighborhood watch. An ADT sign in your front yard is a good bet if you want to know you’re protected (and want other people to know it, too).
Range of equipment options
We were impressed by ADT’s range of equipment options. For your system’s hub, you can choose a tablet-like touchscreen control panel or a classic keypad command center. ADT also offers sophisticated video tech, from cameras that begin recording as soon as a door is opened to live feeds that can be viewed remotely from your phone at any time.
If your alarm goes off, these features can help you can assess the situation remotely before deciding whether or not to cancel the alarm. When we checked back in with our testers, most of them stressed the importance of this feature.
Customizable home automation packages
Many of ADT’s higher-end home automation offerings are customizable (although this will affect your final price). There’s a vacation mode that arms the system, keeps a steady temperature, and turns lights on and off to suggest that someone’s home. You can also set up situational operations. For example, if the sensor detects a fire, you can automate doors to unlock and the air conditioner to shut off, slowing the circulation of smoke.
ADT is currently phasing out its ADT Pulse system to provide greater integrations to its new Command and Control system. This new Command system works with over 250 devices, offers robust encryption to reduce hacking, geofencing, and more.
Points to consider
ADT doesn’t have the strongest customer service reputation among the companies we considered, racking up more than 3,000 complaints on its Better Business Bureau page. While we chalked most of this up to the fact that ADT has several million more customers than its competitors, our tester began his call with low expectations. He was pleasantly surprised, saying, “My needs drove the conversation. And once I finally had the quote, he explained the purpose behind each device I was receiving and what the installation might entail. He took extra time to help me weigh whether I needed home automation or not — and I’m almost positive it wasn’t scripted.”
That said, it's hard to ignore the sheer number of user complaints and ADT's low score of one out of five stars. While our tester had a positive experience, the service you experience may be hit or miss.
Our experience with professional installation was mixed. Our tester said the technician provided solid customer service: “He dropped a few unnecessary window sensors from my bill after deciding that the motion detector was sufficient for the entire front half of my home.” However, there were some issues with connecting the command hub to our tester’s network.
The technician explained that ADT’s broadband systems have trouble connecting to Suddenlink routers, which our tester had, so he tried a different kind of command hub. After he left, our tester noticed he was charged $190 more than his original quote. The new equipment was significantly more expensive because it worked on cellular signals instead of WiFi. We wish we had known about that extra charge upfront.
As previously stated, we haven’t put these into our top picks yet, as we’re currently overhauling the page and broadening our scope of the home security industry. Here are just a few of the DIY companies we’ve analyzed that are disrupting the market and changing perceptions about home security. Depending on your needs, these are worth a look in your search for the best home security system for your life.
Ring Alarm Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Installing the Ring Alarm took less than twenty minutes and was a complete breeze. We didn’t encounter any issues with device connectivity or placement, because, frankly, Ring tells you exactly where to install everything and how to do it on the app. You’ll start by connecting your WiFi to the base station via the Ring app — from there, Ring instructs you to pull the plastic tabs off the backs of the contact sensors and motion detectors, which automatically activates the products for use. You can customize your settings for each device within the app, including how sensitive you want your motion detector to be and how often you want to receive alerts for every time someone opens or closes the door.
At $199 for the basic five-piece package, the Ring Alarm is one of the most affordable security systems on the market. Although there’s no option for professional installation, not only does Ring make things as easy as possible, this is just another cost you don’t have to worry about. Of course, you might want to think about purchasing a security camera or two to accompany your system, but going with the five-piece Ring Alarm set plus a Video Doorbell 2 is still less expensive than paying for Frontpoint’s most basic package (that doesn’t include a camera) without a three-year contract.
Ring’s professional monitoring plan is also one of the best deals out there. For a $10 minimum (or $100 for the whole year), you can receive custom motion alerts, live views from your Ring camera, video recording for up to 60 days, and professional monitoring.
Neighbors feature and local crime
In our time testing the Ring Alarm and Ring Stick Up Cam Wired, Ring asked us to enter our location. This helps the app tailor local crime alerts specific to your area and feed into a feature called Neighbors. You can check to see who’s dealt with package thieves and any other suspicious activity and post about your own experiences, too. While the feature builds a level of community support, if receiving constant crime alerts would spike your cortisol levels, be sure to adjust the amount of notifications you want to receive from Neighbors.
While this feature sounds helpful, it might come with some privacy risks. Ring has reportedly allowed certain employees to annotate video clips from its security cameras. In an effort to keep unwanted eyes from peering into your personal life, be sure you’re intentional about what you share on the Neighbors feature and are implementing mindful security habits when it comes to these devices.
Considerate of local law enforcement
If you’re not already aware by now, your jurisdiction may require you to obtain a permit in order to operate a professionally-monitored alarm system. Before we could even find the right spot to place the base station, Ring notified us that our area (Charlotte-Mecklenburg) required a permit for use. Ring gives you a seven day grace period to decide what type of monitoring you want and to receive a permit number. In some cases, police won’t respond to a call from a monitoring center without a permit number. Fines for false alarms could also be pretty hefty (they reach up to $500 in Charlotte, for example).
Check your area’s alarm system requirements to make sure you’ll receive the assistance you need and help cut back on drained resources from false alarms. Read all the details on our full review.
Points to consider
The plastic itself feels cheaper than its Nest competitor, but Ring claims the base station is “smash proof” (it’ll still call authorities in a beaten state). You can also receive alerts for any tampering to the contact or motion sensors. It can also feel a tad disjointed compared to the Nest Secure, considering the keypad and the base station are two separate units, and the Nest Guard seamlessly combines the two (and includes Google Assistant). If not placed somewhere discreet, the motion detectors are obtrusive and look like a child’s night light. The contact sensors also only detect for opening and closing doors and windows, whereas the Nest Detects detect for door and window openings but also include motion sensors.
Not as compatible with other third-party devices
It took a few months after Amazon acquired Ring for Ring to include Alexa capabilities into its Ring Alarm. So if you’re a Google Home user, you might want to rethink this system. Unlike Abode, the Ring Alarm doesn’t support IFTTT commands, either (although its video doorbell does).
Abode Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Good for home automation
Abode provides one of the most robust displays of third-party integrations in this lineup. The company offers a decent amount of its own proprietary devices, but you’re certainly not limited to Abode-specific products alone. An Abode system can communicate with a slew of Z-Wave- and Zigbee-compatible smart lights and locks, light switches and dimmers, Nest products, IFTTT commands, and, of course, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Put simply: If you want the freedom to lock/unlock your door or turn on/off the lights all in one place from the Abode app, this system is definitely worth a look.
Best no-cost plan
Another impressive feature about Abode is that its free plan includes more flexibility and user autonomy than some other companies. You get unlimited access to the app, including notifications, phone, and email support, as well as three-day media storage. Other contenders, like Frontpoint, Ring, and Nest, among others, require a payment for security camera video storage. So, you’ll at least have a three-day window to recoup any video of suspicious activity for evidence.
Abode eliminates two of the bulkiest (and sometimes most useless) features of a home security system: the keypad and hub. Instead, you have to control the entire system with your phone. Nest and Ring, for example, let you control the device from your phone but still include a base station/hub. The lack of a hub might actually make things easier for you, especially if you’re glued to your phone. The key fob also comes with three buttons you can use to adjust the security settings in your home, and if something trips the motion sensor, it’ll take a photo of the event.
Overall, the Abode system offers a great deal of convenience without sacrificing security.
Points to consider
Limited amount of products for the entry-level price
We did find one of Abode’s starter packages (the iota) to be expensive for the amount of equipment it offers. You’ll receive a hub (the iota) that comes with an HD camera, motion detection, and two-way talk, a key fob to arm/disarm your system, and one door/window sensor. Granted, the price isn’t that surprising, as iota itself is smarter than, say, the Ring Alarm base station. But you’re getting a broader scope of protection with the Ring, as it comes with a motion detector, contact sensor, and siren.
Scout Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Wide range of third-party integrations
Similar to Abode, Scout plays well with many other products fit for seamless home automation. With Scout, you can do things like program your Philips Hue lights to blink if a motion detector senses motion and even tell Scout to call your personal phone if an alarm goes off in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping.
Scout Alarm ties with Ring for the most cost-effective monitoring plan starting at $10. You can get all the basics like email, push, and SMS alerts, as well as 4G LTE cellular backup and battery for Scout’s cheapest, “Always On” plan. However, you will have to pay for additional $2.99 cloud camera storage (per camera) per month, and this doesn’t come with professional monitoring. This extra cost isn’t ideal, but when compared to the Frontpoint and Vivint $35-and $45- respective minimum prices per month for monitoring, Scout Alarm is a steal.
Points to consider
Self-monitoring isn’t free
Although its self-monitoring plan is pretty cheap, Scout Alarm is one of the only DIY companies that actually charges you to self-monitor (SimpliSafe requires professional monitoring). Nest, Ring, and Abode won’t charge you a thing for leaving monitoring in the hands of their call centers.
Underwhelming amount of products
We mean this in the nicest way possible. Scout’s proprietary offerings don’t overwhelm — whereas some DIY companies several different gadgets that leave you wondering what you really need. You can choose a package or build your system with the “Core” sensors, one indoor camera, smoke/CO detector, water sensor, and a Scout door lock. While the lack of variety certainly isn’t ideal, you can focus on what Scout considers to be necessary and spend time researching what third-party devices can integrate with your system.
For example, Scout only offers one security camera (and it’s for indoor use only). If you want a few more sets of eyes on your property, though, Scout Alarm integrates with Nest Cams, which can send motion notifications to your Scout app.
Nest Secure Home Security System Review
Why we chose it
Sleek, low-maintenance design
The basic Nest Secure package comes with a hub — the Guard — two key fobs (Nest Tags) that allow you to check in and out of your system, and two sets of motion-detecting sensors you can attach to doors or windows (Nest Detects). At 3.7 inches in diameter and 2.1 inches high with a matte-white finish, the hub makes an unobtrusive addition to any side table, while the Detects are discreet and responsive for up to 15 ft. The Guard also comes with a Google Assistant built-in, so you can use voice commands to arm the system (but not disarm), play music, or even request a temperature change, if you have a Nest thermostat.
It’s also important to note that Nest isn’t quite up to speed with glass-break sensors. However, the company claims to be “working on bringing glass break detection to the Nest Guard.”
Solid Nest integrations
If you’re interested in the Nest Secure, you’ll have the most success in the way of a neatly-integrated home security ecosystem by sticking with Nest products. Some of Nest’s cameras do offer facial recognition, but they can’t trip alarms (based on whether they recognize someone or otherwise). You can, however, place the Detects on a window or door near one of your cameras — if an intruder enters and trips one of the sensors, your cameras will automatically turn on and snag footage of the incident (even if they’re off at the time).
Read more about Nest communication with Nest and other products in our review.
Trusted professional monitoring
Nest partners with Brinks Home Security, a system ranked number one in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power. The partnership also allows you to choose whether you want the added security of professional monitoring (for up to $29.99), but there’s no monthly cost for not having the feature. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can be the sole gatekeeper of your home’s security.
Points to consider
The basic package — which comes with an underwhelming amount of equipment — starts at $399. In order to outfit your home with a stronger lineup of security products, you might or might not feel the need to add cameras. Home security is notoriously expensive, and some companies even require you to pay for installation (like ADT). While you do have the option to consult a pro installer to ensure you’re putting everything in the right place, Nest affords you the option to install products on your own.
You’ll have to purchase a Nest Aware subscription in order to save video footage. You can choose between rolling five, ten, and 30-day storage options, but you can’t select one rate to cover all cameras. Nest Aware subscriptions are priced per camera, and if you want to opt out of paying for storage altogether, Nest only gives you up to three hours worth of recordings.
Others to Consider
A few contenders we haven’t tested but might be worth a look.
Brinks Home Security
Why we chose it
Brinks is a trusted name in the home security industry and is ranked number one in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power, a clear sign that the majority of Brinks users are pleased with the service, as the study homes in on a holistic view of factors like billing and payment, customer service, and overall usage.
Good for home automation
Though we haven’t tested Brinks’ equipment ourselves, its sleek touchscreen control panels, wireless sensors, and streamlined app seem promising. Brinks also offers home automation, which allows you to use your system as a hub for other smart devices, like automated locks and voice assistants. Brinks offers a variety of third-party integrations to use with your home security system including Nest.
Compared to other professionally-monitored and installed home security systems, Brinks is a pretty affordable, with plans starting at $29 per month.
Points to consider
Unclear installation costs
Upfront costs for equipment can run high, and its website isn’t clear about additional fees if you choose to have a professional install your security system. But with both professional and DIY installation available, and a sky-high customer satisfaction rating, Brinks is certainly worth considering.
Contract cancellation fee
You can either pay on a month-to-month basis with Brinks or a tad less per month for a three-year contract. This isn’t the most limiting we’ve seen in a home security contract, but it certainly doesn’t give you as many options. Plus, if you want to opt out of the contract, you’ll have to pay 70% of the remaining months of the contract term.
One of the most cost-effective security companies in the industry, Protect America makes fitting home security into your monthly budget straightforward. Equipment is included with any monitoring plan, meaning you don’t have to pay an upfront cost — usually a few hundred dollars — to start protecting your home. Plus, because it’s a DIY installation, you won’t have to worry about any additional fees to get your system up and running.
That said, if you choose to cancel after its 15-day trial period you will have to pay 100% of your three-year contract. But if you like Protect America’s service, this won’t affect you. While we haven’t had an opportunity to test Protect America’s equipment for ourselves yet, we’re impressed with its DIY installation, variety of affordable plans, and free equipment.
How We Chose the Best Home Security Systems
Robust security options
In order to really outfit your home with the level of security in which you feel most comfortable, you shouldn’t have to make sacrifices. Your home security system shouldn’t stop at basic motion sensors and an ear-piercing alarm to target intrusions only. In some way, you should be able to integrate protection outside of the home and for other hazards, like fires and carbon monoxide leaks. This is why we evaluated each provider’s standard and supplemental security options, which, in our experience testing, should include a healthy combination of these features:
- Intrusion: door, window, and glass-break sensors
- Environmental: carbon monoxide, fire, and flood sensors
- Surveillance: indoor, outdoor, and doorbell cameras
- Safety: life alert and panic buttons
Smart home integration
During our tests, we strongly considered home automation options, which allow you to remotely control features of your home, such as lights and door locks. But we wanted to figure out what these differences meant on a day-to-day basis: Which features were necessary for improved peace of mind? Which would be easiest to integrate into our daily routines? Needless to say, the market is increasingly shifting toward DIY home security, as people look for options that work seamlessly with their existing smart homes. Technology may not be at the point where an alarm will sound if your security camera detects an unfamiliar face or burglar — but it’s certainly not very far.
On the other hand, the more we automate and become intertwined with the Cloud, the more vulnerable our personal data becomes to hacking. The demand for greater smart home automation also paves the way for voice assistant compatibility, which is helpful but also opens another window of opportunity for hacking or data leaks. However, big names — like the ones in this lineup — either tend to move quickly in the event of a data breach and/or constantly update security features to make sure your information isn’t leaked into the wrong hands. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful and keep tabs on your network’s security, enable two-factor authentication, and constantly update your system’s software.
Broad incorporation of wireless protocols
At the very crux of integration lies the wireless protocols that actually enable device communication. Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, and WiFi are among the biggest names in the home automation industry, so we took special note of those that offered at least one of the above.
A home security system should be easy to navigate, and the system’s design should make sense in your home. Most of our testers had positive things to say about living with their home security systems. They reported that their systems improved their overall peace of mind. If you’re prone to fretting late at night or while away on vacation, home security systems deliver on their promise of reassurance. That’s not to say there weren’t annoyances — which can become major sore points if you’re interacting with your system every time you leave the house. LiveWatch’s piercing, impossible-to-mute beeps drew complaints from one tester, as did Link Interactive’s inaccurate digital display. Others, like Vivint and ADT, were easier to incorporate unobtrusively into our daily routines.
The majority of home security companies recommend or require you to call when ordering your service. We recommend this as well, because regardless of whether calling beforehand is required, having an attentive lineup of customer service comes in handy, especially when self- installing or encountering difficulty with the system. You can often get a lower price by discussing your quote with a salesperson. Sometimes home security systems require an installation fee, equipment fees, or an activation fee. It’s quite common that special deals can waive or lower those. In fact, sales reps from eight of the nine security companies we considered offered us a discount over the phone — we didn’t even have to ask.
Often, those sales reps can provide valuable information about customizing your system. Most of our testers were pleasantly surprised. The phone calls felt informative but casual — more of a conversation than a sales pitch. Our Vivint tester even went so far as to describe the sales rep he spoke to as “a friend looking out for my needs.”
Guide to Getting the Best Home Security
How to find the best home security for you
Research plans before you call
We recommend you get a good idea of what features and packages you want before calling to purchase, but be open to the advice from the sales rep. Our Frontpoint tester called on two separate occasions. The first time, she had a good idea of what she wanted system-wise but said she was still shopping around for a provider. The second time, she pretended to be an easy sell who just wanted a system but hadn’t done any research.
Her initial call was much more informative and detailed. The sales rep walked her through each room in her house, asking her to describe where the windows and doors were in each room, recommending the right pieces of equipment for each space — likely because they knew she had done her research and was hungry for details.
Explore DIY vs. professional installation
A few of our favorite providers allow you to DIY your alarm system installation, while others send a professional to do the task. Professional installation allows for a home security expert to evaluate your home’s security needs and educate you on how to best utilize your system. The drawback is that professional installation often involves an additional fee. When you opt to DIY, the process is typically quicker and you can avoid any appointment-scheduling acrobatics.
Understand your home automation needs
Home automation may not be something you’ve considered, but many home security providers offer it with higher-tier packages. Not everyone needs complete control over their lights, locks, and robovac, but home automation comes in handy if you travel frequently or desire complete convenience. Before choosing a home security package, think about your smart home needs and if this technology may be something you’ll want in the future.
Look at home automation protocols
If you decide that home automation is an important part of your home security, it’s a good idea to research home automation protocols to learn which one will work best for you. As we touched on above, a protocol is the language smart devices use to communicate with each other, and it serves as the foundation on which a home automation system is built. Not all protocols are the same, with some supporting more devices or using less power. Before committing to any home automation devices, look into which protocol works best for your home and if it supports the devices you wish to incorporate into your home automation system.
Consider home security cameras
The best home security cameras offer features like night vision and a large field of view. The right location for your cameras depends on the exact layout of your home. We spoke with four industry professionals — a former FBI agent with experience testing home security systems, a criminal defense attorney, an ADT spokesman, and the president of a home security company — about video camera placement, and they offered a few general tips:
First priority: Entryways
Our experts all agreed that having cameras record the space in front of your house or leading to your door is a smart option. Joe Liu, president of Home8alarm, advised having a camera that can cover the entire approach to your home and told us that “you want two cameras to cover a long driveway.”
Back doors are another common target. After all, the less attention an intruder draws, the better. Having a camera film any back entrances (or side doors and windows if you lack a back door) will help to verify whether someone has broken in. As for placement, somewhere up high where wires can’t be clipped — or by the doorbell, where burglars won’t want to do anything suspicious — is our experts’ advice.
Second priority: Master bedroom
Glenn Kurtzrock, a criminal defense attorney and former homicide prosecutor, told us that based on his experience, most burglars “go for the master bedroom and won’t waste time in rooms like a kid’s room.” He explained that “burglars don’t like to spend a lot of time in a house regardless of whether there’s a security system” so will prioritize the rooms most likely to have cash, jewelry, or small electronics. Having a video camera that films the entrance to your master bedroom can help provide video evidence for the police should a crime occur.
Third priority: Other high-traffic areas
After that, the best areas for placement are any high-traffic rooms, such as a living area or main hallway, that a burglar is likely to pass through multiple times on their way in or out. This helps you track where the intruder has been and increases your likelihood of capturing images that can be used as evidence for the authorities.