Learn About Your Options Before Making a Decision
Everybody wants to keep their home and their family safe and secure, but choosing a security system for your home can be a daunting task. Understanding more about the different systems, their features and installation requirements, as well as the different purchase or rental options can help you make an informed choice when it comes to selecting a security system. Not to mention, it could save you a lot of money and hassle. We've produced this guide to help bring you up to speed on what is available in the market today and what things you should think about when considering which home security system is right for you. We not only cover features and accessories, but also payment options and many other factors that you might not have thought about. Read on to learn how to do your own research so you can find the best system for your needs.
The first thing to take into consideration is your personal situation and whether you own the home you are living in or are just renting as this can dictate the type of system you choose and the money you are prepared to spend.
When you own a home, you may have different considerations when choosing a security system over someone who rents. Homeowners typically stay in place for longer than renters so can choose a system with longevity in mind and can spread the costs over a longer period of time. Also homeowners have the authority to make changes to the home so this might influence their chosen system. Renters, on the other hand, may need to seek a landlord’s permission to make changes to the home and also they may be reticent about spending a lot of money to purchase a system that they may not be able to take away with them when they move or of locking themselves in to a rental contract that they might not be able to get out of. So renters need to consider contract lengths for rental or purchase/rental options that would allow them to keep the system and take it with them when they move.
If you’re renting your property, consider how long you plan to stay at your current location. If it’s only for a couple of years or less, then you’ll most likely want to buy a security system with DIY (Do-It-Yourself) installation and purchased equipment, rather than something that's leased. This might seem counterintuitive, but the reason is that most major security companies that lease their equipment require a minimum three-year contract and professional installation, which can be a big commitment. The good news is that if you move before the agreed minimum period and you have a DIY installed system, you can easily move your system to a new location and be up and running in a matter of hours.
If you’re living somewhere long-term and you own the house, you may want to choose a permanent solution with a lower upfront cost but longer contractual obligations. If you're renting (or are a home owner but plan to move in the future) pick from companies that have a higher upfront cost, but that give you ownership of the equipment. Then you'll see lower monthly costs and the benefit of being able to take the equipment with you when you move. When you own the equipment, you can also benefit from being able to source extra sensors or other options from commercial sources rather than having to buy direct from the leasing company who may charge a premium, so this can save you money.
If you prefer to lease equipment rather than purchase, the upfront cost will definitely be better, but in reality you're still paying for that equipment over time, most likely in your monthly service fees, so consider the overall cost, not just the initial cost. Additionally, if you want extra sensors or other things, the cost of that monthly subscription may rise. Or you may simply be told no, because the company you use doesn't have what you're looking for, doesn't offer it to customers in your area, or has compatibility issues that have to be considered, so you need to consider scalability of the system you sign up for if you might want to make changes later.
It’s important that your monitoring system is compatible with your home; overly sensitive alarms leading to false alarms can cause a nuisance, while on the other hand, you don’t want an alarm that doesn’t go off when it should. Also, be careful with what you're buying or you could end up with expensive equipment you don’t really need.
Note that some types of systems are better for certain types of areas, e.g., some are well suited to use in more rural areas, while others can basically be used anywhere. Basically, there are three monitoring options you have and these are based on:
Nowadays, most modern security systems rely on broadband, which means they need a WI-FI connection to fully function. This method is best for home automation systems. Although broadband connectivity has increased massively in recent years, not every house has broadband connection, especially in rural areas, or such areas may have Wi-Fi but with poor or unreliable coverage, which is not suitable for your security system as you need reliable 24-hour service for peace of mind.
If broadband or Wi-Fi is an issue, you may want to consider a security system that utilizes a landline. Landline monitoring is the least expensive option, but it's not always the most secure: someone who wants access to your home could easily cut the wires to disable the entire system. That's a concern, but it's also not that common, although it remains a possibility.
Cellular is the option least susceptible to tampering, but it's also tends to be the most expensive choice. If you select this choice, you want to be sure your area has good cellular coverage, otherwise you won’t be able to reliably access your security system remotely to check on any alerts or to view the live feed from the security cameras. You also need good coverage to enable your security equipment to communicate with the monitoring company and to work with compatible devices and sensors. Think of it in the same way your computer wirelessly connects to your printer and interacts over the same network. If you have a security system with remote sensors and a smartphone app, all of that technology needs proper interaction in order to make everything truly safe and secure.
Increasingly, people are looking to fully automate their homes, especially with the growth in the availability of smart devices. Many people want increased automation because it's easier and more convenient, and also because it's novel and interesting. Also, being able to control so many aspects of your home with your voice or an app is an excellent way to relax and still get things done.
Some security systems today are already compatible with smart home automation devices, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. So, if you're looking for a security system that's compatible with features like unlocking your door from your phone, controlling the AC, activating lights with your voice, then you need to be sure the system you choose is compatible with other devices.
You will find that some equipment is compatible with almost everything, while some are only compatible with very specific systems or possibly even devices from the same company/brand and won’t work with other systems; for instance, a lot of the current smart thermostats won't work with voice controlled options such as Amazon Echo. Additionally, getting each and every device in a home to work together, and to stay working that way, can be frustrating and difficult. However, the more compatible a security system is with other smart technology in the home, the less chance you'll have of problems with the system or its components.
While finding the right home security system to fit your needs is likely your main focus, the cost will still likely be a major consideration. When assessing costs, it’s important to determine how much you'll really be paying, not just what the company is advertising. Many security companies like to offer monitoring services “starting at” a particular price. They may also say “as low as,” but those aren't the actual tallies when you get a monitoring system. There's more to the total cost than the initial, starting price.
When searching for a security system, usually the only price you’ll see upfront is the monthly fee. However, most security systems also have installation fees, activation fees, and sometimes even equipment fees, as well as taxes and surcharges to add on. You’ll want to compare the upfront costs to the long-term costs of each security system. You might find your $20 a month advertised bargain monitoring contract ending up costing you say $45 a month by the time you're added on all the fees and other charges.
When looking at the overall costs of different systems and options, add up the overall costs, and compare the costs between the various security companies you’re considering. Remember, a company advertising free installation and activation may have a higher monthly fee, actually making it more costly than a system that has a fee for installation. Equipment may often rented out by a company too, with the cost of that rental built into a higher monthly fee or you may be required to buy the equipment upfront, but then will have a lower monthly fee, and here an option that seemed too expensive based on upfront fees may actually be very affordable when you take a look at how much you'll be paying every month and could average out to be a lot better deal. On the other hand, it could end up costing you more than if you had rented the equipment and paid a higher monthly fee but with a much lower upfront price. This shows the importance of looking at the overall costs.
Here's a side-by-side cost comparison of some of our top rated security systems:
|Home Security Costs||Frontpoint||Vivint||ADT||SimpliSafe|
|Installation Cost||$0||Starts at $49.99||Starts at $0||$0|
|Activation Cost||$0||$0||Starts at $25||$0|
|Equipment Cost||Starts at $199.95||Starts at $549.99||Starts at $125||Starts at $229.96|
|Monthly Monitoring Price||$34.99 – $49.99||$39.99 – $49.99||$28.95 – $52.99||$0 – $24.99|
For many, the features of a home security system are the most important aspect to think about. There needs to be a good balance though between the features you want and how much you want to pay for those features, and at the same time, you don’t want to pay for a lot of features you don’t need and won’t use, which may be the case if you are purchasing standard home security bundles. You can thus save money by choosing a system that meets your needs perfectly and only paying for what you are going to use, e.g., why pay for a bundle with ten window sensors when you only have eight windows. On the other hand, the bundle you’re looking at may not have all the sensors you need to properly secure your home. So write down what you want monitored in your house, and make sure the systems you’re considering have all the devices necessary to meet your needs. However, on the flipside, it's generally better to have features you don't use, instead of later wishing you had features that don't come with your chosen system, so do your homework first. It’s important to note that almost all major security companies will customize a system specifically for your home and budget.
Here's a comparison of some of the most common features available from a few of the top rated security companies:
|Home Security Features||Frontpoint||Vivint||ADT||SimpliSafe|
|Customer Support Score||5-stars||3.5-stars||3-stars||4-stars|
Here are some of the most common options and features to consider when shopping for a security system:
Installing a security system can be a daunting task, so perhaps its best left to the professionals, especially if you’re not much of a DIY person to begin with. However, there are some systems that can be installed by homeowner relatively easily themselves; this can save a lot of money
Professional vs DIY Installation
Professional installations can ensure that everything is working properly, and the installer can give you a walkthrough of all the features so you can quickly become familiar with all the features and how to use them. This is best for people who are sure they’ll be living in their current place for a long time, since it’s a one-off cost, albeit it can be expensive, and you will have peace of mind knowing that the system has been properly installed. However, if you think you're going to move relatively soon, then a system with a DIY installation option may be the best choice for you as this would save you money, and would also serve you in good stead as experience to install the system elsewhere when you move.
But first, it also depends what type of person you are. Professional installations may be best for busy families and non-tech-savvy people or people who aren’t good with tools. The elderly and busy families may also benefit from getting a professional installation, rather than over-burdening themselves with a DIY option. But if you have the time and the skills, a DIY installation can be a good choice and can save you potentially lots of money, especially DIY enthusiasts and tech-savvy individuals. Many companies that allow for DIY installation have very comprehensive manuals on how to set everything up, and even apps that can guide you through the connectivity between devices and the control panel.
The main issue with DIY installations is if any problems do arise, you may not be clear on how to fix them. What seemed like a quick setup could turn into hours of troubleshooting or even back-and-forth dialog with customer support (if you go with the wrong company), being put on hold, and having to redo installations over, and over, and over again. That can become a huge source of frustration, and no one wants to deal with that. These kinds of problems are generally not the norm, but they can happen in some cases.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that wireless systems usually do not need a professional installation. These usually involve relatively a simple installation as such systems are nearly plug-and-play with no wires to run through walls and usually very user-friendly connectivity processes, so you should be able to install the devices yourself with some basic tools.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of both types of installations:
Here are many of the top companies currently offering security solutions for the home.
Choosing a home security system can seem intimidating; especially when you're trying to decide which one best fits your lifestyle and living arrangements. It can be time consuming to go through each and every offering. But the more understanding you have of home security systems, the better off you'll be when it comes to finding the one that will work best for you. Hopefully, this guide helped you narrow down your options and make the right choice. Next, check out our most popular list of best home security systems.