Alder isn’t the most popular home security system out there, but I’ve heard good things about it and wanted to take it for a spin. So, after several hours of research and several days of in-home testing, I’m excited to share my findings with you — the good, the bad, and the unexpected.
Though Alder is a DIY security system, their prices are a bit higher than some other popular DIY options. (Ring Alarm pricing is a bit lower, as are SimpliSafe costs.) But with Alder, you do get a slick 7-inch touch-screen control panel that’s pretty fun to use.
Like a true tech geek, I like my gizmos and gadgets. But I also like to keep things simple and streamlined when possible. With that in mind, I was looking for a user-friendly security system with a modern twist. Something like Vivint Home Security System (a fave), only more affordable. I figured Alder might do the trick to keep burglars at bay and keep my family safe.
After testing the system for nearly 60 hours, I found that Alder is a solid perimeter alarm system with reliable 24/7 monitoring. It works fine for basic intruder protection; but if you just get the basic system, you’ll be missing out on things like video and smart home features. And if you’re looking for a streamlined user experience, there may be better systems out there. With that said, let’s dive in and see how Alder did.
The Alder kit came with a handful of sensors and the handsome 7-inch touch-screen panel you see below. Now take a closer look … see something missing? Alder doesn’t include a base station, which is a critical component with most systems. Instead, the touch-screen panel works double duty as your control center and smart hub, which is very cool.
My kit cost $450 and included the following equipment:
You’ll have to call Alder to order, as they don’t list products or prices on their website. I don’t really care for this approach; having to order by phone is like a time-warp to the ’90s, especially for a DIY system. Then again, it was nice speaking with a rep and getting a rundown on their equipment and options.
Pro Tip: Alder requires a phone consultation before you buy, which is a great opportunity to flex your negotiation skills. Don’t want to sign a contract or pay the $49 activation fee? It never hurts to ask!
Alder scores major points on first impressions. Their sensors sport a slim profile, and the touch-screen control panel is extremely well made. The device feels heavy in your hands and weighs about as much as a small watermelon. This speaks to the build quality. (Like a Rolex, sometimes the heavier the better!) Also, the packaging is on-brand, right down to the user manual. So Alder makes a good first impression. Now, let’s see how it performs.
Alder claims that setup only takes 10 minutes, but I beg to differ. It’s definitely do-it-yourself easy, but it still took me about 35 minutes to install. Thankfully, once you plug in the touch-screen panel, the install wizard walks you step by step through the process. You’ll want to get cozy with the control panel, as you’ll be using it A LOT with Alder.
The install wizard will have you pair each of your sensors to the control panel, and then mount the sensors around your home, one by one.
Each entry sensor and motion sensor has double-sided tape for easy install. But here’s a better way: Use some adhesive Velcro instead ($3 at Walmart). This little trick will allow you to take down your sensors to change batteries without peeling the paint off your walls. Highly recommended!
The sensors are similar in size to Ring Alarm’s streamlined 2nd Gen sensors, though Ring sensors are a bit better looking. Check out the snapshot below, with Alder sensors on top and Ring sensors on the bottom.
Not bad, right? I actually appreciate Alder’s unbranded approach. It helps the sensors blend in better with the wall.
After installing the sensors, I had some difficulty setting up the 24/7 monitoring. When I called Alder customer service for help, I was put on hold for a full 30 minutes (not good!). Thankfully, a fellow named Geno from tech support came on the line and got me back on track.
I came across some eye-opening things during my hands-on experiment with Alder — some good stuff, and some not-so-good stuff. Let’s start with the controls. I accessed and controlled my Alder system using primarily the touch-screen panel, though there are a couple of other options.
Alder’s controls include:
FYI: Most DIY home security systems are controlled primarily with the app. But with Alder, I mainly used the control panel and key fob, as Alder’s mobile app left a lot to be desired. Needless to say, Alder isn’t the best fit if you like doing everything from your smartphone.
The 7-inch touch-screen control panel is the crowning jewel of the Alder system. But Alder’s panel doesn’t really measure up to the Command touch-screen panel you get with ADT Control; nor is it as impressive as Vivint’s Smart Hub. (Read about that powerhouse in our guide to Vivint home automation.) The ADT and Vivint devices are like full-on tablets, whereas the Alder panel is more limited in functionality. It’s kind of like the difference between a modern iPad and an early-2000s PalmPilot. Remember those?
Another thing to note: Alder’s control panels require constant power, so you have to mount them near a standard outlet. That doesn’t mean you’ll be left unprotected during power interruptions, though, as the control panels have 24-hour battery backup.
Alder’s smart hub sure beats the standard push-button keypads you get with other DIY brands. (Even Ring’s 2nd Gen system still comes with a push-button keypad!) With Alder, you’ll enjoy countdown arming and disarming timers, as well as entry announcements directly from the panel. So when someone comes in the front door, Alder will announce “Front door open.” With cheaper systems, all you get is a simple chime.
So let’s say you’re eating dinner at night and hear “Bedroom window open.” You can get your wits about you, flee the house, and call the police with the exact location of your tripped sensor. Very helpful! You can also select whether you want the voice to be female or male, which is a nice little feature.
Pro Tip: There’s a nifty “envelope” icon in the top right corner of the home screen. This displays your 200 most recent activities (doors and windows being open and closed, alarm triggers, arms and disarms, panel tampers, etc.). You can customize your activity log in “settings.”
As with any touch-screen panel, you’ll have to deal with grubby fingerprints and smudge marks from time to time. But Alder has a solution for this. The panel has a “screen cleaning” mode that turns off all controls for 30 seconds, allowing you to wipe it down without triggering any functions. (It’s the little things … )
I did find some kinks in Alder’s software, especially with their app. Alder used to be on the SecureNet network,1 but they’ve now developed their own mobile app so you can control your system using your smartphone.
The Alder app only gets two stars in the app store, but I’d hesitate to give it even that. It’s important to recognize that Alder is somewhat new to the app game, so hopefully they’ll fix the bugs in the months to come. That said, their app score has actually gone down a star over the last year.
Unlike some other home security apps we’ve tried, Alder’s app doesn’t offer super advanced features. You’ll be able to view your video stream, arm and disarm your system, customize your sensors, and check your activity log. That’s about it.
The design isn’t so hot either. Alder went with a red and yellow interface, which really doesn’t work with their blue and white branding. It gives off some serious Ronald McDonald vibes. See the image below.
One thing you may find annoying is that you have to input your four-digit PIN every time you want to open the app. I actually thought this was a tech issue, and I called in, only to be told that that’s how it was designed. So whenever you have a false alarm, it’ll take you an extra five to 10 seconds to input your PIN and wait for the app to load. (At times, I wasn’t able to access the app at all; I’d just get a “timed out” message.)
FYI: You have several ways to control your Alder system: touch-screen panel, mobile app, and key fob. So if one doesn’t work, at least there’s a backup!
I wish I had better news to report on Alder’s app. After all, smartphone controls are great. It’s how I prefer to manage my home security and smart home equipment. Any new software is bound to have its bugs, but it does seem to be taking Alder some time to iron things out.
When not using the touch-screen panel, I mostly controlled my Alder system with the key fob. It’s fast and easy, just like a car alarm remote. But there are a couple of things to note here. You have to be within 100 feet of your house, and you have to press the button for a full second (one Mississippi) to arm or disarm your system. Once, when returning from the park with my pup, I thought I’d pressed the button long enough to disarm the system, but the blaring siren upon entry told me otherwise. Oops.
You might be wondering if Alder has what it takes to scare away intruders. Well, you’ll find that the siren is louder than loud. It’s only rated around 85 decibels. (You normally want to see 110 to 120 decibels.) But the pitch of the Alder alarm is absolutely ear-piercing. It’s definitely loud enough to make the bad guys get out of Dodge.
Did You Know: Alder’s siren is loud, but the other system functions don’t have to be. The “Silent Exit” feature will let you arm your system announcement-free. This keeps the control panel quiet as you leave the house. It’s a great feature, especially if you have little ones at home, or if you or your spouse leave for work early in the morning.
One thing you’ll like about Alder is their responsive monitoring. If someone tries to break into your home, your sensors will send a signal to the monitoring center, and Alder will reach out. And if there’s a need to call first responders, they’ll do so on your behalf, and quickly, I might add.
How fast? Well, not as lighting-fast as they say. Alder claims that in 2017, their response times averaged at 3.4 seconds, which is in fact, 10 times faster than the industry average. But in my experience, the response times were closer to 30 seconds. Again, that’s the industry average, so not bad, but I wouldn’t count on the 3.4-second average response times posted on their website.
When my alarm went off, Alder contacted me using either two-way talk, which is built into the control panel, or by calling my cell phone. During one of my tests, it took their agents a full 45 seconds to reach out. A responder came through using the two-way voice and asked, “Is there an active emergency?” I told her no, and then she asked for my “safe word” and my name. All fairly standard … at that point, at least.
Then the strangest thing happened. When she said goodbye, I could still hear her fiddling at her desk for another 10 to 15 seconds before she finally hung up! So she could certainly hear anything that was spoken in my home during that time, which makes my spidey senses go off for privacy reasons. Then, when she finally hung up, the siren started blaring again. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best experience.
Despite that isolated issue, I was pretty happy with Alder’s 24/7 professional monitoring service. Most of the time, the agents contacted me via phone, and the interactions were flawless. And since Alder is 100 percent cellular-based — using 4G LTE cellular monitoring2 — I felt that our signal was reliable, and our system was always connected.
Alder does not make its own cameras … yet. They currently sell the outdoor Kami camera and the indoor YI cam, both made by YI Technologies. Both devices are solid, with features like 1080p HD resolution, night vision, smartphone controls, and two-way talk. The Kami cam even has AI-powered facial recognition, a feature you typically only see in high-end cameras like the Vivint Outdoor Pro or the Google Nest IQ. (Learn about that one in our Nest IQ camera review.)
The cameras offered by Alder have some impressive features, but when I tested them, they didn’t integrate into Alder’s app. That means I couldn’t view live footage from my cameras in the same app where I controlled my security system. Instead, I had to download the YI Home and Kami Home apps, which was disappointing.
Alder has since integrated the YI cameras into the Alder app, which is a step in the right direction. However, given that Alder’s app score has actually gone down a star since I tried them out in my home, it’s unclear how well these camera integrations are working.
When it comes to camera integrations, it’s worth noting that you can’t view a live video feed on the Alder touch-screen control panel like you can with the best home security systems like ADT and Vivint. I like having access to all of my home security devices in one place — as I think most people would. So I have to dock Alder some points here. Otherwise, the security cameras performed well during my hands-on testing.
Alder offers a whole lineup of environmental sensors. Their “Life Safety” products include smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, along with freeze and flood sensors. They also have a medical alert pendant, which is not something you typically see from home security companies.
We do loads of research and testing of medical alert systems, and they can be lifesavers, especially for seniors who are at increased risk of injury from falling.3 (Check out our roundup of the best medical alert systems.)
Alder’s medical alert pendant is an unsightly little thing, but it certainly gets the job done. Just hold the help button for two seconds, and it’ll signal the monitoring center. I experienced 20-second response times on average. Kudos to Alder for even offering this service, as most home security brands don’t have any medical alert options.
Alder doesn’t list their equipment or monitoring prices on their website. I had to call in to get a rundown of their costs, so I can’t quote exact figures here.
With that said, Alder does require a one-time activation fee of $49, plus your first month’s bill for monitoring and equipment financing. This worked out to $44.99 per month for the monitoring package I purchased, but prices may vary. Alder does offer a plan for as low as $40 per month, which doesn’t quite land it among the most affordable home security systems, but it’s still in line with industry standards. Check out our latest breakdown of Alder home security pricing.
One important caveat with Alder: Be ready to sign a contract if you don’t purchase your equipment up front. The contract term may vary. When I recently tested the system, the contract term was 42 months, but just a few days ago I called Alder and was quoted a 60-month term. Though long-term contracts are somewhat common for professionally installed security systems like Vivint and ADT, they’re a bit unusual for DIY systems. But if you plan to have your system for a few years, as most people do, a contract shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker. Also, Alder has a 30-day, risk-free trial, giving you an “out” if you end up not liking them.
Alder offers reliable home security without a lot of frills. It’s not a perfect system. There’s really no such thing. For instance, I don’t like the limited camera options and smart home features. (If you want a smart home system, check out our guide to the best home automation security systems.) And if I’m being honest, the Alder app doesn’t deliver the best user experience.
On the other hand, I felt very secure in my home, knowing that Alder’s reliable 4G LTE cellular monitoring was always there for me, and that goes a long way. Also, everything was simple to set up and get started, and I really enjoyed using the touch-screen control panel. So even if you’re new to home security systems, I think you’ll find Alder to be a good perimeter system for burglar detection.
Even though I’m not completely impressed by everything Alder has to offer, the system still checks most of the boxes for quality home security. So if you’re considering a DIY system, it might be worth hopping on a call with one of Alder’s sales reps. All things considered, it’s not a bad solution for home security.
Yes, Alder does require professional monitoring. They don’t offer a self-monitoring option.
Yes, Alder offers two security cameras — an indoor and an outdoor model, manufactured by YI Technologies.
No, if you buy your equipment up front, then you don’t have to sign a contract with Alder. However, it may be more affordable to pay for your equipment over time, in which case you’ll have to sign a 42-month contract for equipment financing.
Yes, but Alder’s mobile app is somewhat buggy; it’s rated 2.2 stars in the app store and 3.3 stars on Google Play. It’s still a relatively new app, so hopefully the kinks will be worked out in time.
Yes! You’ll really enjoy Alder’s 7-inch touch-screen control panel. It’s very well made and offers lots of helpful features.
SecureNet. (2020). Security Dealers.
Klein, M. (2016, October 7). What is 4G LTE?
National Council on Aging. (2021). Get the Facts on Falls Prevention.
As Managing Editor for SafeHome.org, Rob Gabriele has written and edited over 1,000 articles in home security. His expertise is in smart home automation and home protection with thousands of hours of testing and research under his belt. Formerly a reporter and producer for the USAToday network, Rob has been a writer and editor for over 10 years. He holds a Master’s of Science with an emphasis on writing from the University of Montana, and he currently lives in the Reno/Tahoe area of Nevada.