ADT has been synonymous with home security for almost 150 years. Traditionally, that’s meant three things: hardwired equipment, professional installations, and 24/7 monitoring. Complete security, in other words, but not much personalization and no DIY.
Plenty of folks were happy with that for a long time. A top-of-the-line home security system with professional monitoring is no small feat. But times have changed, and today ADT isn’t just about best-in-class home security. There are things your ADT equipment can do to make your life not just safer but easier.
In this ADT home security guide, I’m going to share some tips for optimizing your existing ADT security system so you can get the most out of it. Some of these recommendations are universal. You can apply them no matter what ADT gear you have — a traditional hardwired system or the brand-new DIY ADT Self Setup. Others are geared for the DIY experience. Let’s start with the biggest shake-up in the ADT ecosystem: the arrival of ADT+.
Did You Know? ADT opened its doors in 1874, when Ulysses S. Grant was president. The story goes that ADT founder Edward Callahan heard about a break-in in the neighborhood and whipped up a telegraph network where residents could call for help if they had an emergency. That was ADT’s first monitoring plan1.
1. Download the ADT+ App
ADT has unleashed quite a few apps on us over the past few years. First, there was ADT Pulse, then ADT Control, and now — hot off the press — ADT+. It’s all a bit confusing, but we gather that ADT+ should be phasing out ADT Control in the next year or so. Once you’ve made the switch, you’ll be able to control your ADT security system and all the smart devices in your home with a single app, including Matter-enabled devices. We’ll dive deeper into what this means down below in the smart home automation section. Let’s just say we’re on board.
FYI: Matter (with a capital M) is a new, open-source standard that allows wireless devices to communicate with each other in our homes. Unlike Zigbee and Z-Wave, Matter works with all smart home platforms and operating systems. So it doesn’t matter if your kids have iPhones and you have an Android — you can all operate your smart devices. Ditto for whatever smart home hub you happen to have.
2. Subscribe to ADT SOSecure
Home security services traditionally extend as far as our front porches. They protect us if a thug tries to sneak in the door, not if we happen to encounter him in the driveway. ADT SOSecure is ADT’s answer to that problem. The idea is, you pay a monthly fee ($4.17 if you’re already an ADT customer) and you get 24/7 emergency assistance via chat, “panic slider,” or video, wherever you happen to be.
Honestly, I’m not going to recommend this service to everyone. ADT plans cost enough as it is. However, for families with vulnerable tweens that have mobile phones, SOSecure may be worth considering. Read our complete 2024 ADT security review for more on ADT’s key safety features.
3. Set Unique Codes for Your Security Keypad and Locks
Your home may not be LAX, but you probably have a few regular visitors. Maybe a babysitter or a house cleaner. You don’t want to leave your home unarmed just so the babysitter doesn’t trip the alarm if you’re not around. On the other hand, you might not feel comfortable sharing your own entry and alarm codes with people outside your family. I’m with you on that.
When I want to keep my home safe and allow visitors to get in the door and disarm my security system when I’m not there, I give them their own codes. It’s easy to do from within the ADT Control app or using the Command portal. (I’m assuming we’ll be able to do this on the new ADT+ app, but don’t hold me to it!)
Pro Tip: Don’t recycle PINs, no matter how secret you think they are, especially if your “secret code” is a combination you made from publicly available information like an old address or phone number.
4. Set Up Routines With Smart Home Automations
ADT has been taking tentative steps into smart home automation for a few years now. Its smart partner is Google, which means that ADT now installs wireless Nest cameras and a bunch of other smart gear, like Nest thermostats, light bulbs, and video doorbells, which are all controllable via ADT apps. You may have caught wind of this. But did you know that with a $99 Google Nest Hub, you can automate your entire daily routine, security included, with Google Assistant? (Amazon Alexa also works here.)
Just connect your ADT account to the Google Home app. You’ll need to find the ADT Smart Home integration under the “Works with Google” tab and sign in. Once you’ve given Google access to your account, hit the “Automations” tab. Now you should be able to create routines triggered by voice commands like “Hey Google, time for bed.” Here’s mine: Lock doors, turn off the kitchen lights, and arm the ground-floor motion sensors. This is what I meant above about making your life easier. Here’s a complete breakdown of ADT’s smart home integrations.
5. Add Smart Environmental Sensors
Carbon monoxide is deadly, and it’s 100 percent undetectable by humans. Smoke usually kills before fire. And if you’ve ever footed the bill for a flood in your basement, you know that environmental sensors aren’t items for your home security wish list. They’re vital protectors of life, limb, and pocketbook.
For all those reasons, I’d rather not phrase this as an ADT optimization tip. It’s really basic home security planning. The advantage of using ADT’s environmental, or life safety, sensors is that maintenance alerts come through your ADT app. And if there’s an emergency, your devices will communicate with ADT’s monitoring center, which usually guarantees faster response times. For a closer look at environmental sensors, here’s our complete guide to smoke detectors. And here’s what you should know about water leak sensors.
|ADT life safety sensors
|Combo smoke and carbon monoxide
|Cost with monitoring*
|$100 over 5 years
|$180 over 5 years
|$100 over 5 years
|Cost as one-off purchase**
* Prices are based on a 60-month plan.
** With Self Setup. Cost doesn’t include monthly monitoring fees.
Did You Know? Between 2016 and 2020, 343,000 fires broke out in U.S. homes, resulting in over 2,610 deaths and $7.6 billion in property damage.2
6. Turn Your ADT System Into Pool Security
Pools are lifesavers when you’ve got a house full of hot, bored kids with nowhere to go. But they can also be deadly. Read our summer safety report for the figures. Assuming you’re playing it safe and your pool has a fence with a kiddie latch, accidents still unfortunately happen.
Now that ADT is partnering with Google, you can add a wireless Google Nest Outdoor camera to your ADT system. Once you’ve got that Nest watching over the pool area, program it to send you an alert whenever it detects motion. This is not — NOT — a substitute for keeping an eye on your kids when they’re in the pool. This is just an extra level of security you can add to your ADT system to protect one of the most dangerous places in the whole house.
7. Foil Porch Pirates With Extra Security at the Front Door
Porch pirates will steal anything, as we found out researching our holiday porch piracy guide. While getting packages delivered to an Amazon hub is probably your safest option, it’s not convenient. Fortunately, if you’re an ADT-secure household, you have at least one other very good option: Wire a Google Nest Doorbell to your front door. ADT is giving them away with its video and smart home packages these days.
Nest Doorbells are smart, so they can identify packages and alert you of their arrival. And if a lowlife happens to skulk up to your door while you’re at work, you can use the Nest Doorbell’s two-way talk feature to shout them off your property. Even better, since Google and ADT have teamed up, Nest Aware subscriptions (normally $8 per month) are included in ADT plans. Just keep in mind that it’s only a basic Nest Aware plan that’s on the house, not Nest Aware Plus. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you get with each plan.
|Nest Aware Plus
|Price per month
|Free with ADT Plans
|24/7 video history
Pro Tip: If you’re considering a top-tier ADT Smart & Video plan, you may have noticed a $14 monthly “video security” fee in your quote. That fee covers equipment replacement, not cloud storage. Read our ADT buyer’s guide for more on ADT’s plans and pricing.
8. Cut Down on Costly False Alarms With Regular System Checks
False burglary/fire alarm fines vary by state and county. In Montgomery County, Maryland — to pick a name out of a hat — you get one free pass. The second false alarm costs $25; the tenth, $400. If you rack up anything above 14 duds, that’ll cost you $1,000 per police visit.3 Ouch! Forget the fact that if your alarm is berserking regularly, it might not perform properly when you actually need it.
There’s a simple solution to false alarm mayhem: regular system checks. Run your ADT system in Test Mode and check all your security components piece by piece. While you’re at it, also check the condition of your doors and windows. Too much sagging will knock the switches and magnets (the two components of your entry sensors) out of whack. Before long, you’re going to have a problem.
FYI: You should test your ADT equipment once every month or so. (ADT actually says once a month.) It’s not difficult, but there is a process you need to follow.
Today’s ADT isn’t your mother’s ADT. If you need any proof of that, just look at its partnership with Google. Or consider ADT Self Setup, with its optional monitoring and DIY installation. That’s a lot more flexibility than we’ve ever seen with ADT, and I like it a lot.
We’ve got more options for staying safe with ADT, both inside and outside the house. We’ve got Google cameras aplenty and a growing roster of smart home integrations that will only be getting better as tech manufacturers roll out more Matter-ready devices.
The only word of warning I’d give is this: Don’t neglect your old-school home security as you make the most out of your more modern ADT system. Take care with alarm codes, don’t put off buying that smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector, and — as much of a pain as it is — check your ADT system regularly. At the end of the day, security is the reason you invested in ADT, and your alarm can’t protect you if it isn’t fully functional.
ADT Advanced Performance FAQ
Does ADT have DIY options?
ADT now partners with Google and sells Nest cameras exclusively (indoor, outdoor, and doorbell), which you can integrate with your ADT security system.
Tough question. Roughly speaking, ADT’s hardwired packages start at around $600 and can climb above $1,000. Those prices don’t include monthly monitoring fees. ADT’s DIY Self Setup packages are substantially cheaper.
Yes! ADT plans now include Nest Aware subscriptions. If you want 24/7, continuous recording, however, you’ll need to subscribe to Nest Aware Plus for 15 bucks per month.
ADT’s hardwired equipment requires a monitoring plan. Its DIY security option, Self Setup, doesn’t — though we strongly recommend subscribing to one.