ADT is one of the oldest and largest security companies in North America, but don’t think that means they take an old school approach to protecting their customers. They’ve fully embraced smart security and home automation, and ADT has our vote for the best professionally installed system of the year.
ADT’s home automation features allow you to control your home remotely with automated equipment that pairs with the ADT system. Home automation flows through the ADT Pulse app, which lets you watch live video, check your system’s status, and arm or disarm your system from anywhere. You can also access and control your security, lighting, smart locks, thermostat, cameras, and more. Additionally, smart switches and plugs can automate almost all of your appliances or electronics when you use the Pulse app to interact with these devices. A neat feature includes the ability to dim lighting, even for lamps that don’t have a dimmer.
The automated system through ADT uses Z-Wave technology, which allows products in the same system to become signal repeaters. The more products with Z-Wave technology that you include in your home security, the stronger your system will be. ADT offers more products for home automation than any other security company on our list. You can get the following automated equipment integrated into your security system: lights, thermostats, garage doors, doorbell cameras, smart plugs and switches, cameras, doors, locks, carbon monoxide and fire sensors, flood sensors, window sensors, and door sensors. You can control your automated ADT system from the control panel on your wall, the ADT app, or the Echo.
ADT makes our top lists time and again for their variety of choices. They install and monitor a wide range of home security devices from brands, such as GE, Honeywell, Samsung, and others. You can choose between wireless or wired security equipment. ADT can monitor another company’s security system, or you can pick from their three bundled home security packages. The Control Package includes home automation and the ADT Pulse app. The Video Package offers everything in the Control Package plus security cameras with secure, remote access. Whatever level of home security you need, ADT has you covered. Get all the details on costs in our ADT price page, and visit our ADT review for the full experience.
Vivint takes a technological approach to everything they do, which means they’re constantly thinking about how to streamline home automation with every device in their suite of products. But they’re not all high-tech flash and no substance. Vivint is one of the best home security systems overall, and Vivint’s monitoring gets high marks for their speedy response times.
Vivint says they provide “smart home solutions for real people.” They offer a full line of smart equipment to automate your home without gaps in coverage. Products include Vivint doorbell camera, Ping indoor camera, Vivint outdoor camera, Element thermostat, Kwikset smart locks, and Linear garage door control. Home automation with Vivint gives you control, comfort, and convenience. You can control your smart home from the control panel on your wall, from the Amazon Echo, or from your mobile app when you’re away from home. The Vivint Smart Hub moderates communication with all automated devices in your system. It includes a two-way talk feature that connects you directly to Vivint’s professional monitoring center. The Amazon Echo allows you to adjust your thermostat, lighting, appliances, and security system with only your voice. With the Vivint app, you have full access and control of your home security system.
The home automation features from Vivint are a step above the rest. The critically acclaimed mobile app uses a built-in AI assistant that tracks input from sensors to automate and manage your smart home. This machine-learning feature allows Vivint to make decisions for your home based on history, geolocation, and sensors. The Element thermostat learns your preferred temperature settings to auto-adjust when you arrive home. Then the thermostat readjusts to conserve energy when no one is at home.
Vivint also allows you to create customized user accounts. You can create permissions and build in limits so that each user has different access and control of the system. For example, kids can have user accounts where they can’t change the thermostat, notification settings, or rules. Vivint makes automated homes that truly are smart.
Frontpoint allows you to access and control your home security system from anywhere. All of their products for home automation communicate to one another with Z-Wave technology, which allows interconnected products to become signal repeaters. This means that the more devices installed in your home system, the stronger your network becomes. Z-Wave signals can pass through walls, and devices are energy efficient.
Frontpoint offers wireless light control that allows you to remotely control any lights plugged into the Z-Wave light sensor. You can schedule when to turn lights on or off in the Frontpoint app, or you can control them in real time. You can also add event-triggered automation so that lights turn off when you activate the alarm and turn on when you disable the alarm or unlock the door.
Automated door locks from Frontpoint use a keypad and code instead of the traditional lock and key. You can remotely lock and unlock the door, and you can access a log of who has used the lock in your Frontpoint app or online. The automated thermostat allows you to change your home’s temperature remotely, and you can set up temperature adjustments based on your location through geolocation on your phone.
When you contact Frontpoint for a free quote, they will provide you with personalized equipment recommendations for your specific home based on whether you rent or own and your home’s size. They will also go over monitoring features, costs, and any current exclusive offers.
The system arrives ready to install, and installation takes less than 30 minutes. After you place sensors around your home, simply call customer service to activate your system and to perform a system check. Frontpoint also offers an online trove of knowledge for any questions you may have about your system, specific equipment, or general home security. Our in-depth Frontpoint review covered the ins and outs of this system, if you’re interested.
And remember, Frontpoint’s costs aren’t the lowest on the market, but by calling the company directly, you can get personalized equipment recommendations so you’ll only get what you need, and nothing you don’t.
Link Interactive makes it easy to control your home automation. Their automated equipment includes door locks, thermostats, lighting, doorbell cameras, and garage doors, which use Z-Wave Technology to form an integrated system. They use a dedicated and secure cellular communication to provide reliable protection that won’t be interrupted, even if the internet, phone, or broadband is down. If your power goes out, your security system will continue working on backup battery power for 24 hours. You don’t need a landline, and their cellular communication is fast.
Link Interactive products are tamper-resistant. Crash & Smash technology makes sure that your system will continue to work even if the control panel is damaged or the phone line is cut. The Alarm.com app allows you to control and access your system anytime from anywhere. You can create unique user codes for members of your family or for visitors, so you know who comes and goes and who arms or disarms the system. The app allows you to review system history. It’s this and many other features that place Link Interactive among the top security systems for rural areas, as well as one of the industry’s best DIY security systems.
Security through Link Interactive is customized for your specific needs and budget, so you won’t pay for equipment that you won’t use. You can pick and choose products for home security, environmental protection, home automation, and cameras. All security equipment is DIY installation and typically takes 30 to 45 minutes to install.
Shoppers choose security services with home automation for various reasons. Some choose it primarily for enhanced safety. Others get home automation mainly for its energy-saving potential or another benefit. Here are details about some key advantages.
Remember when you used to have to open and close your garage door manually?
With your bare hands and everything?
We’ve come quite a long way since then. Now, we can simultaneously control our home’s lighting, air temperature, security cameras, garage door, and more, from one central source. That’s all thanks to home automation, which works essentially like a chain reaction: When A does this, B will do this. Rinse and repeat as needed.
FYI: In our case, we usually use our phone as the command center for our smart home; but it can also be a smart assistant like a Google Nest Hub or Amazon Echo if we choose.
The two biggest advantages of an automated home, for us at least, are efficiency and convenience. For example, before leaving for a family vacation recently, we checked the 5-day forecast to see how things would look at home. We noticed it was going to get severely, dangerously cold in the next two days, which is a common occurrence for January in Ohio. While we certainly weren’t sorry to miss that, it did remind us to set up an automation, which we completed through the Alexa app on our phone: When we set the smart locks on our front door, our Nest thermostat will then lower the temperature in our home 10 degrees. Neat, right?
This way, we’re not running up our heating bill unnecessarily while we’re away. And for the return trip, we set the opposite automation: The thermostat returned to its normal setting 30 minutes before we pulled into our driveway, so we’d walk into a warm house.
Did You Know: With smart home automation features, you can basically automate everyday tasks for an all-around more convenient life. Smart equipment and automations include everything from smart lights to thermostats, garage door controllers, smart locks, smart cameras, and the list goes on.
From a home security perspective, the main benefit of home automation is enhanced control over your alarm system: Get centralized and remote control and monitoring of your security system’s door locks, window entry sensors, and other components. And thanks to a huge selection of home security cameras to choose from, you use voice control to pull up video footage on smart speakers or on your smartphone app. A second big benefit of home automation is automated and remote control over lighting and window coverings. Automate lights and blinds when you’re on vacation, for example, and program lights to turn on if the security system is triggered. Third, home automation with voice recognition can make security especially easy. For instance, say “I’m going to sleep” to automatically lock doors and activate your alarm.
Home automation can help homes keep safe while reducing utility costs and saving time. From a safety standpoint, it enables remote control and monitoring of wireless security systems, plus it can remotely control lighting and window coverings for a “We’re home!” appearance. Home automation can also monitor smoke detectors and other environmental safety devices. From an energy-efficiency standpoint, it’s useful for automating lights and making it easy to use thermostats wisely. Most exciting perhaps is the biometric voice control supported by leading security companies. Just speak to activate your alarm, turn on music, adjust lighting, and more. Home automation even lets you set up macros; one command by voice or touchscreen accomplishes many tasks.
Home security systems vary in complexity and size, but all systems must be installed. Professional installation is easier, but DIY installation is cheaper.
With professional installation, a trained technician from the company of your choice installs the system into your home while you relax. Some companies offer free professional installation, and others require you to pay for it. Professionals by their very name know what they’re doing, so you benefit from their experience. The technician who installs your system can ensure that the system is properly set up and teach you about the system specifics and about home security. Companies with professional installation include Vivint, ADT, and Protect America.
Do-it-yourself installation offers you more control about when, where, and how your home security system is installed, and it’s usually free. DIY systems are easy to install, and many are as simple as plug-and-play. DIY systems are also exclusively wireless, so you won’t need any tools. Because customers set up the systems, companies with DIY installation tend to offer better-than-average customer service to walk you through the process. A positive and negative for these systems is that no one comes to your home. On the plus side, you won’t have to invite a stranger into your home, but at the same time, a technician can teach you about areas of your home that might need more attention to security than others. DIY systems may not qualify for some home discounts that require a certification stating that your system was installed correctly. Companies with DIY installation include Frontpoint, Protect America, and Link Interactive.
Smart home equipment allows you to automate your home. You can control doors, windows, and appliances around the home with a simple command to either a control panel on the wall, to an app, or to a hand-free voice-controlled device like the Amazon Echo.
Smart locks integrate into your automated system to allow for keyless entry and are one of the most important parts of an automated system. Smart locks are easy to install, and they allow you to control and monitor who accesses your home. They range in price from $100 to $300. Some look like standard locks and others include keypads. You can even link some smart locks with your doorbell camera. And if you haven’t added smart locks yet, check with our list of the best smart locks of the year to help make your choice. Some of the top doorbell cameras in the market can be paired with home security systems and smart locks, too. If someone suspicious comes to your door while you’re home, for example, you can trigger the doorbell camera to lock the door. Learn more about this and other features in our doorbell camera buyers guide.
You can connect lights to smart switches and plugs that give you remote control of the appliance it is connected to. If you want truly smart lighting, smart light bulbs let you control the intensity and color of the light. Smart lighting works with most home automation systems.
Smart thermostats let you control your home’s temperature whether you’re across the world or across the room. Many smart thermostats include proximity sensors and machine-learning to customize your home’s temperature by learning your preferences.
Smart speakers are the newest additions to home automation systems that allow you to control your home using only the sound of your voice. They can set timers, lock and unlock windows or doors, play music, and answer questions. While smart speakers can make your life easier, you will have to choose which voice-assistance platform you want. Only smart speakers on the same platform will communicate with one another, and they will only work with specific devices. In the top tier of voice assistants are Google Home and the Amazon Echo.
Google’s voice-assistance platform is Home, and the voice assistant is called Google Assistant. This platform includes Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max. Google Home is fully voice-controlled, so there is no screen. If you’d like to control it with a screen, then you can use your phone or a connected TV. Google Home is an audio device that allows you to connect it to other speakers for a higher-quality sound that can be placed in multiple rooms.
Amazon’s voice-assistance platform is Echo, and the voice assistant is called Alexa. This platform includes the Amazon Echo, the Echo Plus, the Echo Spot, the Echo Dot, and the Echo Show. Some of the Echo products (Spot and Show) have screens, while the others are fully voice-controlled. Amazon Echo is an audio device that allows you to connect it to voice-enabled speakers for better sound quality that can be played in multiple rooms. Vivint, ADT, and Protect America all use the Echo platform to control their automated systems. Beyond that, if you’re an Alexa superfan, consider securing your home with Ring. We found that Ring’s home automation is pre-programmed to pair with Alexa devices, since it, too, is owned by Amazon. Learn more in our full review of Ring Alarm.
Generally, smart LED lighting pays for itself over time, because the bulbs last much longer than standard light bulbs. But beyond the individual bulbs, we also consider the long-term cost advantages of controlling our lighting remotely.
In almost all cases, you should expect to pay more per bulb than traditional light bulbs. For instance, we can add a few $10 Philips Dimmable A19 bulbs to our home and control them with our Amazon Echo Show, or Phillips’ own smartphone app. We’d consider this a low-cost option, but again, if you’re needing 20 of these trusty bulbs … we’ll let you do the math there.
On the flip side, if you’re planning a lighting switch-out throughout your home, we’ll warn you: It won’t be a cheap endeavor. A smart lighting package from Insteon that contains five bulbs and a remote control dimmer switch fetches around $260. (A switch by itself costs only $50, just FYI.) We’d consider that on the lower end pricing-wise and a solid pick for entry-level homeowners.
In breaking down the technology behind our smart home, it’s important to remember that these are more than light bulbs; they are smart home devices in and of themselves. Like our cameras and our smart locks, our smart light bulbs can be connected to one of many digital assistants: Amazon, Google, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, and more.
Did You Know: Each smart light bulb has built-in software that allows it to pair with a multitude of devices. From the hub of our choice (an Echo Show, in our case), we can automate the ordinary goings-on of our day, or intervene at any point to make real-time adjustments.
We’re not going to sit here and tell you that installing a smart light switch is easy for everyone. It’s not; especially if you don’t have electrical skills.
In typical smart light switches we’ve worked with, the first thing we do before we even get the thing set up is to cut the power to the electrical circuit our lights belong to. We never want to be installing electrical equipment while the power is on; this is a major safety hazard and could cause electrocution.
Electrocution? OK, let’s pause for a moment. If all of this sounds way too complex (and potentially dangerous) for you, do not hesitate to hire an electrician! Trust us: We’ve had enough installation mishaps to tell you that it’s OK to admit when you’re in over your head. We won’t judge.
No matter how sophisticated your technology is, the cold, hard truth about home security systems is that if they’re connected to the Internet, they’re vulnerable to hacking.
You might have heard about one relatively recent high-profile case involving hackers speaking to homeowners through their Ring security camera’s two-way talk feature. Indeed, this was not the most reassuring news for us; while the brand investigated the issue and determined it was user error, the breach still laid bare the many vulnerabilities of wireless technology.
As users, we do have some control over how “secure” our security equipment will be. For one, we always use our own microSD cards to store our security cameras’ footage. This way, we’re not storing our videos to the cloud, where hackers could potentially attempt to access them.
Brand reputation matters here, too; we recommend sticking with major brands you’ve heard of, as they tend to update their firmware more frequently and add better safeguards. And — we can’t stress this enough — always use strong account passwords. For more tips and advice, visit our full guide to securing and protecting your home.
How will you automate your home? Here are basics about home automation for wireless home security and other home systems.
The best home automation security systems come stacked with a sleek Control Panel. Consider this your motherboard or command center, where you interface and take control of your smart home and security commands. Control panels are typically wall-mounted, and many top options have touchscreen panels featuring additional smart apps. You can also control your system remotely with a smart device.
Is it even home automation if it doesn’t have Remote Access? We say no. Remote access is a key feature that allows you to, well, remotely access your home automation security system. All you need is a smart device and the companion app. Arm and disarm your system, dim the lights, set the temps, close your garage, let the dog-walker in, and more.
Biometric Voice Recognition. It sounds like science-fiction, but it’s a real-life smart home automation feature that makes your life a whole lot easier. Use your voice to control the lights, thermostat, front door and garage door, and other smart appliances. Certain systems even support Bluetooth music devices. The best part about voice recognition? Your smart home never talks back.
Forgot to arm your system before heading off to work? No problem. Simply pop into the companion app and control your system to your heart’s content. Arm and disarm the system remotely, from anywhere, anytime. That’s the beauty of home automation systems. Welcome to yet another great feature that comes standard with smart home security systems.
Some home automation features stand out as especially helpful. Remote Control Door Locks is one of them. This option lets you grant entry access to anyone, no matter where you are. Whether it’s the pet-sitter, the cleaners, a contractor — or, gasp, the in-laws! — you can remotely lock and unlock your door using the nifty mobile app. The future is now.
Few things are worse than accidentally leaving your garage door open. It’s like handing out VIP, all-access passes to wander into your home and take your belongings. Not to worry. The best home automation security systems now offer remote Garage Door monitoring. This mobile feature lets you open and close your garage, and even give out permissions to trustworthy friends and fam.
Whether you like it hot, cold, or somewhere in-between — Heat/AC is ideal for those who care about climate control. This home automation feature puts your thermostat on your smartphone. That’s right, you can remotely dial in the perfect temps so your home is ready when you return. And as a bonus, you’ll save on energy costs while at work or on vacation.
Home automation doesn’t stop at Heat/AC and home security. You can outfit your home with a variety of smart, automated home appliances and devices. We’re talking music players, coffeemakers, heated towel racks, and the list goes on. Look for a home security system that supports third-party home automation platforms. You’ll be glad you did.
Adjust a room-full of lights to fit the mood, from the convenience of your smartphone. That’s the power of home automation. Smart lights let you automate your lighting for specific occasions and vibes, if you catch our drift. Or use it for family-friendly purposes like signaling bedtime for the kiddos. Get creative with your lighting and save on electricity while you’re at it.
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.