With home security and home automation features becoming more and more widespread and affordable, why wouldn't you want to buy something that could ultimately save your family's life? There is a wide range of products and services that are either wired or wireless and extremely easy to install.
ADT is a nationally known brand with a 140-year presence in the home security industry. They offer excellent service and reliability. They also have monitoring centers across the country providing redundant service, so if one call center ever loses power there will always be another one available to immediately take over so you’ll never be without service. And, unlike other security companies, ADT can offer their $500 theft protection guarantee that pays $500 towards your insurance deductible if a burglary occurs while your system is armed. Here is a quick summary of ADT’s pros and cons.
ADT offers a wide variety of features including security, video surveillance, activity alerts, and environmental sensors for fire, carbon monoxide, and flood, depending on the package you choose. Additionally, ADT also offers many home automation options that allow you to control your door locks, lights, garage door, thermostat, and more remotely using an app on your cell phone. Their equipment also includes a high-decibel siren and pet-sensitive motion sensors.
The ADT system is a little more expensive than other market options depending on the package and plan you choose, and you have to sign a 36-month monitoring contract. Additionally, an activation fee and service installation charges could apply and will vary depending on the system configuration, equipment, and services you selected; however, the scope and flexibility of this service make it worth every penny.
ADT’s service packages range from $27.99 per month to $58.99 per month and each come with their own set of equipment and contract requirements. However, with ADT you can also customize your home security system to fit your particular needs if you prefer.
Vivint is a top contender when it comes to stand-out home security and home automation systems. They offer top-quality equipment with packages that include everything you need along with free professional installation. That said, there is a small equipment fee for the outdoor and doorbell cameras.
With Vivint, you can choose from one of their packages, or, their Smart Home Pros can help you customize and install one that best suits your needs. Here is a quick summary of the Vivint pros and cons.
Vivint is a leading industry home technology provider with over one million customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. And they offer some of the most diverse equipment available. Their equipment includes a control panel, a wide range of home automation features including environmental disaster protection, fixed and pan/tilt cameras, door and window sensors, keyfobs, and more.
With Vivint, you can purchase all your equipment up front to get the no-contract billing. Or, you can pay for everything over a 42- or 60-month period using the Vivint Flex Pay Pricing option at 0% financing with approved credit. Alternatively, you can select one of their monthly monitoring plans starting at $39.99/mo. or their equipment packages starting at $53.99/mo. and as many add-ons as you’d like.
SimpliSafe is great for those who don’t want to sign a contract. The SimpliSafe system is a basic DIY installation that ‘s easy to use. You simply buy the equipment, set it up and you’re ready to go. This system is portable and affordable so it’s the ideal solution for renters or those who move a lot. And it costs less than most other home security systems with monitoring that are currently on the market.
Additionally, SimpliSafe has now added a version “3” to their lineup that can be integrated with Alexa and August Locks so you can control your system using voice commands and remotely lock and unlock your doors (if you have August Locks). Here is a quick summary of the SimpliSafe pros and cons.
SimpliSafe manufactures their own equipment so they can offer you the lowest prices possible because they eliminate the middleman. They have redesigned their equipment to be smaller, faster, and stronger so you have double the range with their cellular connection which is reinforced with Wi-Fi. They have six monitoring stations and they provide you with a 24-hour battery backup for power outages. And all signals from your system to theirs are encrypted. All their equipment is wireless so there’s no need for drilling, wiring, or tools of any kind. Additionally, the SimpliSafe motion sensors are designed to detect the heat signatures of humans, not pets so you’ll have fewer false alarms.
SimpliSafe’s monitoring plans start at $14.99 per month and you can control your system from anywhere and receive activity alerts when potential problems are detected. Alternatively, you can self-monitor your home with the SimpliCam HD camera.
The SimpliSafe equipment ranges from $99 to $698 or you can customize a system that best suits your needs. And they regularly offer discounts and other specials on select packages.
When it comes to high-quality DIY home security systems, Frontpoint is a standout because they provide so much value for your money, not to mention their exceptional customer service regardless of when you call. Here is a quick summary of the Frontpoint pros and cons.
Frontpoint is consistently rated one of the best home security/automation companies in the industry. They offer affordable pricing and customer service that is beyond reproach. The Frontpoint equipment is a DIY wireless installation that can be done in about 30 minutes. Additionally, Frontpoint has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
There are three equipment packages that range from $99.95 to $399.95 and three service plans that range from $34.99/mo. to $49.99/mo. That coupled with their great customer service team is what makes them so popular.
Frontpoint requires either a one-year or three-year security agreement, but to get the equipment package pricing, a 3-year agreement must be signed. These types of agreements are similar to those you would sign for your cable or mobile phone service.
Frontpoint also offers plenty of options such as window and door sensors, touch-screen control panels, customization features, mobile app, surveillance cameras, home automation features including door locks, lights, and thermostat. They also provide environmental protections, geo services, remote access and controls, night vision and more. All of which are extremely user-friendly and easy to install.
Like all DIY home security services, Cove toes the line between an out-of-the-box, wireless experience and serious protection from hazards and intrusions. Their products are definitely easy to use and afford. With Cove, you can walk away with a fully protected living space for under $300 (plus monthly monitoring fees). But we’ve found it’s Cove’s professional cellular monitoring service (with RapidSOS) that really makes the difference for households looking for a reliable safety net in emergencies.
While we consider Cove a low-maintenance approach to home security — no contract, no hardwiring, and absolutely no tech experience required — it is a monitored service. All home security services with monitoring are plan-based. Cove is no exception. Cove’s monitored security packages, which start at $14.99 per month, are comparatively cheap. Equipment is also on the cheap end. Rigging an entire home shouldn’t cost more than $400 max.
Equipment aside, the heart of your Cove plan is its monitoring service. This is the human voice on the other end of your sensors and camera when danger strikes. Here Cove stands out in two major ways.
One, all Cove’s products use 4G LTE cellular connections, so emergency communication isn’t dependent on Wi-Fi or even a landline, making it faster and more secure. Two, Cove is integrated with RapidSOS (a platform used by nearly 5,000 911 centers throughout the U.S.). This means that smart data is transmitted directly from your Cove products to first responders via Cove mission control. When the police arrive at your house, they’ll know which window the thief went in and exactly how long they’ve been inside.
It’s true that we’ve tested security products with richer feature sets, but Cove is one of the few companies we’ve reviewed that offers so much bang for buck in terms of monitoring. Read more about our experience with Cove’s monitoring service in our hands-on Cove security review.
When we bought our first security system many (many!) years ago, we admit, we didn’t know we needed a permit until our installer showed up to get our system online. Why, we wondered, would we need a permit to use our own equipment?
Well, in many cities and towns, false alarms from home security systems began clogging up emergency responders’ budgets and schedules. Though false alarms aren’t super common in modern-day systems like ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint thanks to smarter technology, we also know that no system is 100% foolproof.
False alarms still present a substantial nuisance to emergency services, so some municipalities began requiring alarm permits for 24/7 monitoring to recoup some of their losses. The permit price differs from area to area, but you may have to pay a registration fee of about $50 if you want professional monitoring. And if your area requires a permit, you can also expect to pay about $50 to $75 per false alarm that the police are dispatched to.
In mid-size cities like Columbus, Ohio — which happens to be where we live — we’re required to register our alarm system with the city. As residential homeowners under 70 years old, our initial fee was $45, with a $25 annual renewal fee.
FYI: If you happen to be “of a certain age,” we recommend looking at your city’s fee schedule to see if you qualify for a senior discount. Our city’s senior alarm fee is $25. Other municipalities don’t charge seniors at all.
Beyond the budgetary considerations, though, we do want to emphasize that without registering or obtaining a permit, you might be violating your city’s laws. We urge you to check with your city or police department before buying any alarm system.
If you’re on the fence as to whether or not to sign up with 24/7 professional alarm monitoring, this should help with your decision.
First, your system will be connected to a central monitoring center by a Wi-Fi, cellular, or landline connection. If and when your alarm goes off, your security system will automatically send a signal to the monitoring station, and an emergency response agent (not first responders) will reach out to you. If they can reach you, and you tell them it’s a false alarm, they will cancel the call. If, however, you are unreachable or in distress, they will dispatch 911 to your home.
This is how alarm monitoring works in a nutshell. In our opinion, it’s worth the $20 to $40 monthly fee for around-the-clock professional monitoring. It’s an added layer of security that you just don’t get from self-monitoring. But remember, be sure to have some money budgeted for false alarm fees!
The following are common features and benefits of securing your home with a monitored home security system:
Redundant Monitoring is essential when it comes to monitored home protection. Several backup systems serve as a fail-safe in the event one system goes down. This might include secondary signals, multiple monitoring centers, and the like. Because let’s face it, natural disasters, power outages, and other unforeseeable events happen. Get the backup protection you need with redundant monitoring.
The vast majority of monitored home security systems offer both Wireless and Hardwired connections. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. With that said, there’s a wireless revolution happening, as more people are opting for the easy setup and reliability that wireless offers. Hardwired systems are still an option, although they require drilling into walls, splicing circuitry, and other invasive installation methods.
The best monitored security systems can be armed and disarmed locally and remotely. In fact, most systems offer a mobile app that allows you to arm/disarm your security from anywhere in the world. When the system is armed, a security breach will alert the monitoring center, day or night. This allows emergency dispatchers to keep a hawk-eye on your home, 24/7.
Here’s another tech-forward feature offered by many professionally monitored home security systems. Specialized Alert Zones give you greater control over certain areas of your home. For instance, if you keep valuable items like art, jewelry, or firearms in one room — simply set up a specialized alert zone with cameras, motion detectors, the works. Rest assured you’ll be alerted at the first sign of activity.
Entryway Sensors serve as your first line of home defense. These magnetic sensors secure entryways like doors, windows, garages, etc. When the magnets separate, the alarm sounds, you receive a real-time alert, and the monitoring center is immediately notified. This feature is critical to any monitored home security system. Thankfully, every system comes with an assortment of entryway sensors.
A monitored home security system with Glass Break Sensors is the full package. Place these sound-sensitive devices near windows, and rest assured the distinct frequency of breaking glass will be detected. When triggered, the alarm sounds, you receive an alert, and emergency dispatchers are on the line to offer help. Although typically sold as an add-on, these sensors are fast-becoming a must-have component.
Maximize your home protection with Motion Detectors. This feature comes standard with professionally monitored security systems. The infrared detectors are mounted indoors — specifically in large rooms, entryways, and hallways — and keep a constant watch for motion. When triggered, the alarm will sound and both you and the monitoring center are alerted. The best motion detectors can even discern between people and pets.
From manual pushbutton-style, to super-modern digital touchscreen technology — such is the evolution of the Control Panel. The top monitored home security systems offer sleek touchscreens with impressive capabilities. Arm and disarm the alarm, view live-stream video, and take total control of your system with the control panel. Many monitored systems even offer two-way voice to speak with emergency personnel directly through the panel.
If you’re on the market for a wireless home security system with professional monitoring, you’ll love this feature. Cellular monitoring does not require a landline, and yet still offers reliable, around-the-clock home protection. Powered via cell towers, much like a cell phone, cellular monitored systems are unfazed by wire snippers (no wires to snip!), power outages, and other local hazards.
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.