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Affordable, feature-rich home security systems with 24/7 monitoring that really (really) work
Cue the “Cops” theme song! There was big trouble brewing when I tested the Cove home security system. Yes, that’s a police officer on my doorstep. He’s a testament to Cove’s effectiveness, and I’ll unpack it all right here in an in-depth look at this popular home security system.
Cove is new to the market (circa 2018), but that hasn’t stopped the company from gobbling up quite the market share and making big claims. They aim to change the way home security is done. But do they really have what it takes to compete with the established home security systems out there? Spoiler alert: They sure do.
This fast-growing home security company has a few things going for them. First off, Cove rivals SimpliSafe when it comes to easy installation. (It only took 10 minutes to set up.) Second, the sleek touch-screen control panel makes arming/disarming fast and simple. And finally, starting at only $17.99 per month, Cove has some of the cheapest month-to-month monitoring in the business.
Cove does have a few weaknesses to share, but honestly, they’re all fairly minor. So come along for the ride as I unbox Cove and test it for almost 100 hours in my home.
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One of the things that makes Cove attractive is the affordable price tag. I picked up a full system for about $250, and they threw in a free security camera. Depending on the equipment you purchase, you can get out the door for under $200, or you could spend as much as $400. Cove prices are right in line with — maybe even slightly cheaper than — Ring Alarm prices. You can read our full guide to Cove home security plans and costs, but here’s a quick snapshot of how much their equipment will run you.
|Product Type||Normal Price||Current Price|
|Cove Touch Alarm Panel||Touch-screen Control||$249.00||$124.50|
|Door/Window Sensor||Entry Sensor||$15.00||$7.50|
|Glass Break Detector||Sensor||$35.00||$17.50|
|Indoor Camera||Security Camera||$99.00||$49.50|
|Outdoor Camera||Security Camera||$199.00||$99.50|
|SkyBell Doorbell Camera||Video Doorbell||$189.00||$189.00|
|Kami Doorbell Camera||Video Doorbell||$99.00||$99.00|
|Smoke and CO Detector||Environmental Sensor||$55.00||$27.50|
|Flood Sensor||Environmental Sensor||$20.00||$10.00|
|Security Key Remote||Control||$25.00||$12.50|
|Panic/Medical Button||Help Button||$20.00||$10.00|
Now, Cove doesn’t offer self-monitoring like some other companies, so you’ll have to pay for their professional monitoring service. But don’t worry, it’s cheap, and it works like a charm. If someone breaks into your house, Cove will send the help you need (as evidenced by that cop on my doorstep).
Prices start at $17.99 per month, which is much cheaper than the industry average of $39.99. Cove has two monitoring plans: Basic and Plus. We’ll talk more about monitoring plans later, but here’s a look at what they include.
|Cove Basic||Cove Plus|
|24/7 Professional Monitoring||Yes||Yes|
|4G LTE Connection||Yes||Yes|
|Works with Alexa and Google Assistant||No||Yes|
|Equipment Warranty||1-Year Warranty||Lifetime Warranty|
You can expect your Cove equipment to arrive on your doorstep about two to three days after you order it. When you open your package, you might be surprised by how organized everything is. The equipment boxes each have a number indicating the exact order in which to open them. And personally, I find the turquoise branding to be slick. Good design inspires confidence.
The equipment is sturdy, especially the control panel. In fact, on day three of testing, my toddler knocked the control panel onto the hardwood floor (oops!), and it took the beating like a champ. You can leave the control panel freestanding, or you can mount it to the wall. Either way, it does need to be plugged into an outlet.
As for Cove’s sensors, they’re a little on the large side. They’re not obnoxiously big, but I’d prefer a slimmer profile. The more discreet, the better, right? Though when mounted above our old Vivint sensors, the Cove sensors weren’t too far off in size. Here, have a look…
This brings us to Cove’s motion sensor, which is one of the smallest motion sensors out there. It’s about the size of a lemon, so I was able to tuck it discreetly into the corner of my living room, where it could cover a large swath of the living area.
Overall, Cove makes a positive first impression. Next up: Installing the system and really getting acquainted.
In the box, you’ll find a tiny booklet titled “Start Here.” In it are four easy steps for do-it-yourself installation. Now, you’re right to be skeptical of a four-step setup for something as complex as a home security system. DIY systems can often take an hour or more to set up, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself on hold with tech support to get past hiccups. But — not so with Cove! The setup took only 10-12 minutes from start to finish.
FYI: When installing Cove, be sure to plug the control panel into an outlet that is not controlled by a switch. You don’t want to risk rebooting your system every time you flip the switch.
When you plug in the control panel, the screen will turn blue while the panel configures its factory settings. (Mine took about two minutes.) When that’s done, it’ll display a greeting: “Hi, welcome to Cove.”
Next, you’ll set your four-digit master code, which you’ll use daily to access your system in the app or from the control panel. (Once you’re all set up, you’ll be able to add additional users, so everyone in the house can use the system.)
Then, you’ll need to mount the sensors. The equipment package includes instructions for doing that. Here’s that unassuming motion sensor installed on my wall. It’s barely noticeable.
The sensor-mounting instructions are straightforward. Like all of the best DIY home security systems, Cove includes peel-and-stick adhesive on the back of their sensors. So you can just stick ’em up and move on to the next step. But here’s a pro tip: Mount your door/window sensors using Velcro strips so they’re ultra-easy to take down when it comes time to change batteries or move.
Given the substantial size of Cove’s sensors, they can be a bit difficult to fit in tight spaces. For instance, I used every centimeter available to mount a sensor on my sliding glass door. It almost didn’t fit! It would definitely be great to see Cove move toward smaller entry sensors.
FYI: Cove also sells glass-break sensors. You’ll want to purchase one (or several) if you have a large room with lots of windows. That way, if someone shatters a window while trying to break in, the sensor will detect the sound and trigger the alarm.1 Glass break sensors have a 15-foot range and are simple to install.
If you spring for environmental sensors like a smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, the setup wizard will ask you to “test” these as you install them. Brace yourself for a burst of loud, high-pitched beeps at close range. It’s enough to make you jump out of your skin if you’re not prepared for it. The wizard doesn’t warn you, but I learned the hard way and thought you should know.
Finally, Cove will have you go around your house and test the sensors by opening and closing your doors and windows. This is to ensure a connection with the monitoring station. Same thing with the keyfob and panic pendant. And just like that — your Cove system will be up and running.
When I reached this point in the process, I looked down at my watch and realized only 10 minutes had passed from the moment I opened the box. All things considered, this install was at least as fast as SimpliSafe’s installation, and maybe even faster. That’s a big deal. After all, SimpliSafe has built its reputation on fast DIY install and user-friendliness. This is definitely a feather in Cove’s cap.
Now … let’s look at how the system performs.
Whether you choose Cove Basic or Cove Plus, your system will have around-the-clock professional monitoring using the fastest, most reliable connection in the business — a cellular connection. What does that mean? Well, most other DIY home security systems use a Wi-Fi signal to connect to the monitoring center. While this is a good connection, cellular is simply more reliable because it won’t slow down or drop off due to a poor Wi-Fi signal.
It’s impressive that Cove offers cellular monitoring for only $17.99 per month. And in case you’re interested, Cove uses AT&T’s 4G LTE cellular network.
So … does it work?
Yes! Here’s the process: Let’s say someone tries to pick your lock, or climb in through a window. The sensors will trip and you’ll get an instant alert sent to your smartphone. When I tested this, my alert came through as a text message, but you can customize how you receive alerts if you have the Cove Plus plan.
In the meantime, your Cove panel will send a distress signal to the professional monitoring center. And within 30 seconds, you should have a response agent calling you.
Now here’s what really sets Cove apart from the competition: A little something called RapidSOS Ready. Cove uses the same technology that your smartphone uses to digitally transmit info to 911 dispatchers. Rather than having to verbally relay the information like every other home security company, your Cove signal transmits auto-magically (digitally and without error). This, Cove claims, dramatically speeds up dispatch times so you get help FAST.
RapidSOS ensures police, fire, or EMS arrive on scene within minutes, and come prepared to save lives. Again, Cove is an exclusive partner with RapidSOS. I haven’t seen this technology from any other home security company.
Did You Know: Both of Cove’s monitoring plans offer something called ‘RapidSOS Ready’. This technology is supposed to make the emergency dispatch process faster and more accurate with an electronic integration to 911 Centers.2 After verifying an alarm, Cove’s monitoring center can send the alarm information directly to 911, which can save three to four minutes in the dispatch process.
When my Cove alarm rang and sent the distress signal, the agent who called me was kind, and she asked for my “safe” code. Long story short, I forgot it in the heat of the moment, and I gave her the wrong code (big mistake). So 15 minutes later, the police were walking up my driveway.
Thankfully, I wasn’t a victim of burglary, but I had some explaining to do. I did what any respectful home security expert would do: Invited the policeman in for tea. He checked my ID, just to make sure I actually lived there. Then, I staged a mini photo shoot for posterity.
Did I feel safe with Cove? You bet I did. If this were a real burglary, the police would actually show up. With every other security company I’ve used, I’ve had to blindly assume that monitoring works. With Cove, I have firsthand experience that it works! It’s a trust thing. And it’s nice to know that a police officer will be there when you need them most.
One reason to choose Cove’s Plus plan is to unlock more features, like smartphone controls and smart home automation. If you go with the basic plan, you won’t have Alexa or Google Assistant compatibility, and you can only control your system using Cove’s touch-screen panel (no mobile app!). So I recommend spending the extra $10 per month for the premium plan. And since it’s month-to-month, you can always downgrade to basic at any time.
As a Cove Plus subscriber, I expected to use the smartphone app on a regular basis to arm and disarm the system, fiddle with features, etc. But honestly, I didn’t love Cove’s app interface and functionality; I found the touch-screen panel to be more my speed.
The control panel is the brains of any home security system. And as far as control panels go, Cove’s is right up there with the best of them. It’s similar to Frontpoint’s control panel (which you can read about in our Frontpoint review), and just a notch beneath Vivint’s Smart Hub panel (as discussed in our Vivint home security review).
You can arm and disarm Cove directly from the home screen. (A single tap “wakes” it.) It has a factory-set delay, which counts down from two minutes to give you time to enter or leave your home. Don’t worry, you can always change the default delay in Settings. I’m not a big fan of delays, so I always reduce mine as much as possible. But you can set yours however suits you best.
FYI: One gripe I have with Cove is that the siren isn’t as loud as some of the competition. Most home security sirens are rated around 100-110 dB, but Cove’s siren only puts out 85 dB. It’s enough to scare away a burglar, but when it comes to securing your home and family, I live by the mantra “the louder the better.”
Another neat Cove feature is “Nighttime Mode.” This stops all delay countdowns. Why is this important? Well, let’s say it’s 3 a.m. and you’re deep asleep when someone breaks in. If there’s a delay, it could give the intruder 30 seconds or more before sounding the alarm. That’s way too much of a head start! I want my siren to blare like a banshee the moment a door or window cracks open, and “Nighttime Mode” does just that. So look for this on the panel’s home screen.
Another thing to look for in Cove’s control panel is Sensor Settings. You can actually get pretty granular with each sensor. For instance, you can set your motion sensor to “Active in Stay Mode.” This way, even when you’re home, the motion sensor will protect an area of your house — like your basement or attic — that you rarely use. Keep in mind the motion sensors can also be dialed in to account for your furry friend. (They’re pet-sensitive!)
Did You Know: The Cove control panel has a little telephone icon that serves as your panic button. Once pressed, the screen will display: Police, Fire, or EMS. Note, when you make your selection, it won’t actually summon that agency. Instead, it’ll send a distress signal to the monitoring center, and an agent will answer through the panel to provide assistance. If needed, the agent will dispatch emergency responders and stay on the line until help arrives.
You’ll also have access to your activity log on Cove’s panel. You’ll find this in the Settings tab under “History.” It’ll keep a running record of when your system was armed or disarmed, which doors/windows were opened and at what time, and more. This is a pretty standard feature, but still, it’s nice to have.
Now, at this point, I was pretty happy with Cove’s functionality — especially considering how affordable the system is. On the other hand, I really didn’t discover any groundbreaking technology. So let’s have a look at the mobile app features to see if Cove can make up some ground there.
The Cove app unlocks features that you just won’t get on the basic plan. The obvious one is remote access and control, from virtually anywhere in the world. This is a big deal, especially if you want to arm or disarm your Cove system while away, check your activity log on-the-go, and generally have more control over your home security.
As far as design goes, the mobile app dashboard isn’t much to look at. Compared to other apps I’ve used, Cove’s app could use a facelift. Then again … this isn’t a beauty contest.
There is a really neat feature in the Cove app called Routines. This is like having a built-in IFTTT (If This, Then That), which really showcases Cove’s intelligence. Of course, I’ve seen this feature with other brands. (I wrote about it in my abode security review.). But you don’t often see this sort of customization with DIY systems as affordable as this one.
You’ll be able to set Routines — also called “recipes” or “rules” — to automate your home security system. For example, I scheduled one Routine that automatically armed my system at 10:30 p.m. every night. (No more forgetting to set the alarm before bed!) I set another routine to disarm at sunrise each morning, which translated to fewer false alarms when I let the dog out in the wee hours, before my morning coffee. And finally, I set one to send a push notification whenever my front door opened.
You’ll really like the customizations that you get here. But remember, you can only enjoy the Routines feature with the Cove Plus plan.
In Cove’s app, you’ll also be able to access a live video stream from your Cove indoor and outdoor cameras. This is common functionality with most brands, but until recently, Cove didn’t offer it. (Their previous camera model — the one I tested — was made by a third party, and you could only view video footage in the third-party app.) But more about cameras in just a bit.
Did You Know: Another helpful Cove feature is Cross Zoning. This requires multiple zones to be triggered before your system sounds the alarm. If you want to set it up, you’ll have to call Cove’s technical support and they’ll walk you through it.
Other than the Routines feature noted above, Cove is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free voice control. I have an Amazon Echo device, so a quick “Alexa, tell Cove to arm my system” is all it takes to lock up. And I don’t even have to get up from my cozy spot on the couch!
If you don’t already have one, it might even be worth going out to buy an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device just to enjoy these voice controls. But keep in mind, this feature is only supported by the Plus plan.
One thing lacking in Cove’s smart home arsenal is an integration with Z-Wave or another smart platform. Currently, the Cove system doesn’t support third-party devices like smart locks, lights, or thermostats. This is something they’ll hopefully add in the future.
Note: The folks at Cove are slated to release a Smart Home Hub sometime in 2021. This way, Cove customers with the Plus plan can add it to their system and control Z-Wave smart devices through the Cove app. We’ll keep you posted.
Cove has made three nice improvements to their camera offerings since I last tested the system: 1) They now offer an outdoor camera, 2) Both their indoor and outdoor cameras allow for easy viewing of footage right there in the Cove app, 3) They’ve added SkyBell and Kami doorbell compatibility.
By contrast, when I tested the system, they didn’t yet have an outdoor camera and video doorbells, and their indoor camera didn’t connect to the Cove app.
|Indoor Camera||Outdoor Camera|
|$99 Full Price / $49.50 Current Price||$199 Full Price / $99.50 Current Price|
|1080p HD Video||1080p HD Video|
|110-Degree Wide-Angle Lens||140-Degree Wide-Angle Lens|
|2-Way Communication||2-Way Communication|
|Enhanced Night Vision||Enhanced Night Vision|
|AI Detection||AI Detection|
|24 Hours of Unlimited Cloud Recording||24 Hours of Unlimited Cloud Recording|
|Ability to Add a Memory Card for Local Storage||Ability to Add a Memory Card for Local Storage|
|Upgrade to Cove Cloud+ for 30 Days of Cloud Storage: $2.99 Per Month, Per Camera||Upgrade to Cove Cloud+ for 30 Days of Cloud Storage: $2.99 Per Month, Per Camera|
When I tested the Yi indoor camera previously offered by Cove, it was quite impressive. As far as video quality, I was extremely happy with the 1080p HD resolution. That’s the same high resolution you’ll get with Cove’s current indoor and outdoor cameras. You can also expect two-way talk, night vision, livestream video, video recording, and 24/7 emergency response. (The last couple of features require an additional fee.)
These are strong, though fairly standard, features for indoor cameras in the $70-$100 range. We talked about these features in our SimpliSafe camera review and our Ring Indoor Cam review, too. So check those out if you want to do a comparison.
But here’s the icing on the cake with Cove: Their indoor camera only costs $49.50! Heck, you might even get it for free, as Cove often throws one in with the purchase of a home security system.
One more thing to note: When I tested the Yi camera, I wasn’t thrilled with the subscription fees required for recording. But Cove has made some nice changes with their current camera offerings. You now get seven days of unlimited cloud recording for free if you get the Cove Plus monitoring plan.
FYI: Looking for an affordable third-party camera? If so, read my Yi security camera review. It’s the same camera that Cove used to offer, and if you can look past the subscription fees, the camera itself is well worth the $26 it’ll set you back.
If you buy a Cove flood sensor, or a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, you can access and test those from the Cove control panel. And you can enjoy Cove’s environmental protection regardless of the monitoring plan you choose; it’s included in both tiers. Also, at about $20-$50 per device, the prices on these sensors are competitive.
InstaText — No, this isn’t the latest social media craze. This is Cove’s method of texting an instant alert that lets you deal with an emergency or alarm from right within your text messages.
LiveAssist — LiveAssist is another name for the control panel’s two-way talk feature. There’s a built-in microphone and speaker, so you can communicate with emergency response agents directly through the touch-screen panel.
RapidSOS — With RapidSOS Ready technology, the Cove monitoring center can speed up the dispatch process with an electronic integration to 911 centers. Once an alarm is verified, the Cove monitoring agents can send the alarm details directly to 911. According to Cove, this feature can save three to four minutes in the dispatch process.
In all of my interactions with Cove’s customer service team, I walked away feeling taken care of. And that isn’t always the case with home security companies. Sometimes the service can be a mixed bag.
But Cove was responsive to my needs, and the staff seemed to go out of their way to help. For instance, after speaking on the phone with tech support, the gentleman I spoke with sent a text message, just to follow up. Here’s how that went …
What can I say? Cove took me by surprise with their feature-rich systems that are simple to install, easy to use, and ultra-affordable. The system protected my home and family — and I have the photographic evidence of a policeman to prove it! But is Cove really “changing the way home security is done,” as their President Robert Shelley claims?3 Well, in some ways, they are.
You won’t typically see AT&T 4G LTE cellular monitoring from other low-cost DIY brands — especially not for $14.99 per month. And while other brands might offer Alexa compatibility, I like that Cove is “smart” enough to support custom automations, too.
Now, Cove isn’t the smartest home security system out there. (For that, check out our guide to the best home automation security systems.) But you really can’t beat Cove for the price. And I’m all about Cove’s 60-day, money-back guarantee; most companies only offer a 30-day trial.
All things considered, there’s lots to love about Cove. Just be sure to go with Cove’s Plus plan, as their basic plan is too bare-bones. I also recommend getting their indoor camera. It’s powerful for the price. And Cove’s camera game is even stronger now than when I tested them.
Yes, Cove is a 100 percent wireless home security system. This means there are no wires for burglars to cut, and it’s easy to take the system with you when you move.
No, Cove has one of the fastest and easiest installations in the business. It only took 10 minutes to install from start to finish.
Yes, Cove sells indoor and outdoor cameras that have 1080p HD resolution and lots of great features.
Cove’s professional monitoring works swimmingly. I accidentally set off the alarm and was unable to give the proper passcode, so the monitoring center sent the police to my house.
Cove is fairly limited in terms of smart home automations. It does work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control, but it currently doesn’t integrate with smart lights, thermostats, and other smart devices.
Installing Glass Break Sensors Can be Tricky. (2021). DGA Security Blog. https://blog.dga.com/installing-glass-break-sensors-can-be-tricky
PR Newswire. (2020, July 8). Cove and RapidSOS Partner to Bring Advanced Emergency Response System to Home Security Industry. Cision.
SDM. (2018, October 17). Startup Aims to Revolutionize Industry With DIY Home Security Systems. https://www.sdmmag.com/articles/95788-startup-aims-to-revolutionize-industry-with-diy-home-security-systems