Choosing the Best Home Security System
In recent years, the demand for home security systems has increased as concerns about safety and crime continue to rise. With statistics indicating that homes are 300 times more likely to be broken into if they don’t have an alarm or security system, it’s clear that investing in a top-notch home security system is worthwhile.
However, with such a variety of services available, it can be difficult to choose one that’s going to work for your home/business and you. But thankfully, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve explored all of the different factors involved in choosing a home security system, including monitored devices, wireless connections, security features, and top-rated companies.
Table of Contents
- 1 Choosing the Best Home Security System
- 1.1 Is Your Home at Risk of Being Burglarized?
- 1.2 Home Security System Companies reviews
- 1.3 Should You Opt for Monitored or Unmonitored Security?
- 1.4 Monitored Security Systems – The Facts
- 1.5 Unmonitored Security Systems – The Facts
- 1.6 Should You Choose a Wired or Wireless System?
- 1.7 Which Security System Options Should You Look Out For?
- 1.8 What Do You Need to Know When Shopping for an Alarm System?
- 1.9 Home Security Company Reviews
- 1.10 ADT
- 1.11 Vivint
- 1.12 Protect America
- 1.13 Frontpoint
- 1.14 Link Interactive
- 1.15 So, Who’s the Best?
Is Your Home at Risk of Being Burglarized?
There are a number of reasons why a burglar may attempt to break into your home, but one of the primary reasons is because they need money. That’s why burglars will often target a home that’s known to contain:
- TV sets
- Electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops
- Firearms and guns
- Prescription drugs
- Personal papers – to steal someone’s identity
Your home may be at risk if it’s:
- Not got a security system installed
- Is within a high-crime area
- A new home you’ve just moved into
- Vacant for extended periods
- Got plenty of cover for thieves, e.g. overgrown bushes and trees, walls, or fences
- Isolated with no nearby neighbors
- Is poorly lit on the outside
- Has an easy escape route down alleyways
- Has weak entry points, e.g. decaying doors and windows, old locks, etc.
- Has unlocked windows or doors
- Hasn’t got any security devices, e.g. outside lighting, window locks, or deadbolts
- Has valuables on show – e.g. TVs can be easily seen through the window
- Has no dogs
Additional precautionary measures you can take include:
- Reporting any suspicious behavior to the police straight away by dialing 911
- Having a home security system
- Not advertising your vacation plans on social media, as this can alert potential burglars that your house will be empty
- Making sure your home always looks as though someone’s at home – lighting coming on and off, vehicles in the driveway, and so on
- Being vigilant after any new people have been to your home – e.g. contractors or delivery personnel
- Keeping your lawn/front yard maintained – one that isn’t could give the impression that no one’s been there for a while
- Checking your mail, removing flyers, and taking in your newspapers so they know you’re at home. (Ask a neighbor to do this for you while you’re away)
- Keeping bushes and trees trim so you don’t give burglars areas to hide in
- Not leaving ladders or tools outside that burglars could use
- Adding motion-activated lights near to entry points
- Upgrading locks and doors
- Not leaving keys for your home and/or garage in your vehicle
- Locking windows and doors at all times, even when it’s warm outside
- Changing your locks if you lose your keys
- Locking gates
- Concealing any valuables that you have inside your property so burglars can’t see these through the window
- Installing burglar bars, especially if your neighborhood is deemed “high risk”
- Adding security film to your windows to prevent them from shattering if they’re broken
- Covering any additional openings, e.g. skylights, dog doors, cat flaps, and window air conditioners
- Never leaving your keys in an obvious place, e.g. under the doormat
- Adding frosting to garage windows so burglars can’t see what’s inside
- Never leaving a note to say that a parcel needs leaving with a neighbor because you’re out
Home Security System Companies reviews
We’ve reviewed many of the popular alarm companies, as well as their current offering and prices. If you want to read about each company, read their in depth reviews by following the links below:
- ADT Home Security
- Vivint Review
- Frontpoint Security Review
- Simplisafe Review
- Link Interactive Review
- Protection 1 Review
- LiveWatch Review
- Scout Review
- AT&T Digital Life Review
Should You Opt for Monitored or Unmonitored Security?
Security systems are available as monitored devices, which are linked to a central office that constantly oversees the footage; or unmonitored, whereby it’s linked to an alarm system that’s installed in your house.
Monitored Security Systems – The Facts
When you select a monitored alarm system, you’ll be charged a monthly fee alongside the standard installation fee. This monthly fee will be determined by the length of contract and options you’ve selected.
Even though they tend to be more expensive than unmonitored systems, they do give you peace of mind. That’s because when your system is tripped, a signal will be sent to the company via your phone line, alerting them that there’s an intruder in your house. Within approximately 10 seconds you’ll receive a phone call from the security company (via the intercom system or your telephone), where you’ll be asked to verify who you are by using an authorization code. If you’re unable to do this, the police will be sent straight to your home.
Another benefit to these systems is the inclusion of primary, secondary, and tertiary contacts who will be notified if you’re unavailable and cannot be contacted.
One thing to look out for if you’re choosing a smaller company is whether or not they use third-party monitoring stations. Even though these options can be cheaper than others, the standards they have to adhere to aren’t as rigorous as the ones larger companies have to commit to.
A larger security company that continually monitors your home will have a designated station that watches thousands of homes and businesses at once. They cost more because they have to go through verification with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent, non-profit organization that specializes in testing services and products to ensure maximum reliability and safety.
These companies must also have a backup system that can be relied on for 10 to 15 days – if there was a power outage, for example. They also need to contact authorities in under 45 seconds.
Unmonitored Security Systems – The Facts
This is a much cheaper alternative as it isn’t linked to a central station. However, the police can still be connected to it and will be alerted if an intruder is detected in your home. Those that aren’t connected to the authorities will trigger a noise and/or flashing lights to the exterior of your property if an intruder is detected.
Downsides to these types of security systems include:
- Potential fines if the police are called out unnecessarily
- No guarantee that the police will respond at all
- The inability to rely on neighbors responding when your alarm sounds, particularly if you’re in a rural area or its out of business hours
Should You Choose a Wired or Wireless System?
Both of these security systems include the installation of sensors in various parts of your home which will communicate with the central control panel. This, in turn, is connected to your alarm, and, in monitored cases, can be linked to an external company via an Internet or telephone connection.
Wired Security Systems: Low-voltage wires are used to connect the system around your home. To make sure these are as discreet as possible, installation is normally carried out by an alarm company, however, some DIY options are available.
Wireless Security Systems: Instead of using wires to connect the sensor and central control panel, these are connected by tiny radio transmitters. Because no hard wires need to be installed, they are an easy option – but this comes with slightly less reliability, too.
Both types of systems do have batteries which will be activated if some of the wires are cut or your power fails. Sometimes, these batteries recharge when your home is connected to mains power.
Which Security System Options Should You Look Out For?
A lot of the home security systems available will come with all or some of the following:
Hidden Control Panel: This is standard for all types of alarm systems and is the hub of your entire system. Connected to all the sensors, it can also be attached to a phone line / Internet connection to transmit signals to an outside company.
Security Keypad: Another standard component, the security keypad is designed to allow you to disarm or arm your alarm system. It’ll also tell you whether you’ve set your alarm correctly, and you can choose to have more than one of these installed if required.
Motion Detectors: Also referred to as Passive Infrared Detectors, these detect any changes in motion or heat in their designated area. They’re often installed high up on a wall, or can be placed above windows or doors.
Top tip: Always check that the sensors provided by the alarm company are in keeping with SIAC and American National Standards Institute guidelines.
Window and Door Sensors: These devices (often magnetic) are placed along window frames and door jambs to activate the alarm if a window or door is opened. Some systems will also feature a chime that’s activated every time you open a window or door – perfect if you’ve got young children you need to keep an eye on!
Glass Break Detectors: Also known as audio discriminators, these handy sensors will react when they hear the sound of glass breaking, triggering your alarm system.
Sirens: These come in a range of different sounds, from bells to horns, and may also feature strobe lighting. They tend to be installed outside but can also be installed on the inside of the property (in the attic), alerting your neighbors to intruders.
Alarm Signs: Often included as part of your security system package, these stickers and signs can be placed around your home as a deterrent to burglars. Knowing the home is protected can be enough to put off would-be thieves.
Backup System: If your power goes down or your phone line is cut, this backup system will kick in. Alarm systems also come with a backup system, which can keep your alarm going for up to 72 hours by using battery power. If your home uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system, backup systems are crucial because a lot of alarm systems aren’t compatible with this. Alternatively, if you provide cell phone backup, this will allow the monitoring company to get in touch with you via this.
Intercom Keypads: Some keypads provide two-way intercoms between your home and the security monitoring company. Therefore, instead of calling your landline to verify an alarm signal, they speak to you directly through the keypad using an intercom system.
Remote Control: Instead of using the keypad to deactivate your alarm, some systems do come complete with a remote control. There are some disadvantages to these, however, including the inability to see if your alarm is activated (adding to the risk of you tripping the system), and if the remote is stolen, it provides thieves with an easy way of deactivating your alarm.
Smoke, Fire, Carbon Monoxide, and Flood Detectors: Even though these aren’t related to intruders per se, they do offer another handy feature that can help you protect your home. Integrating these detectors within your alarm system allows it to quickly notify the alarm company and fire department of an issue within your property.
Pet-Friendly Alarm Systems: If you have pets you may be wondering what alarm system is going to work with these, especially if they’re free to roam around while you’re asleep or away from the property. However, there are some options available.
First, you can choose a dual-element sensor that can tell the difference between a pet (weighing up to 100 pounds) and a human. This requires two beams to be triggered at the same time in order to sound the alarm, which is difficult for your pet to do unless you have more than one and they’re prone to fighting or playing. Alternatively, you could choose to place beams high enough above the floor so as to avoid detecting your pets – creating “pet alleys.”
Security Camera Surveillance: You can choose to add a video camera and monitor to your system so you can catch thieves in the act if they do choose to break into your home. Or, you may want to up the ante by installing a complex closed circuit television (CCTV) which features digital recorders, multiple operators, and several cameras. Some systems will also alert you by text if they detect anything, allowing you to log in on your smartphone to view the footage.
Automated Appliance Control: Utilizing automated appliance controls within your system allows you to turn various appliances and lamps on to give intruders the impression that someone’s at home. This is a much safer option than timed devices, as, over a period of time, potential thieves can become wise to this.
Night Vision: This is a feature that’s often overlooked but is incredibly important when monitoring your home during the night. The best systems will come with infrared LEDs, providing a high-quality picture even when it’s pitch black outside.
Indoor and Outdoor Coverage: To keep your home as safe as possible, having full coverage of every inch of your home is a must. Look for devices that offer high-quality zooms and panoramic views so you can access all areas in high definition. Also check with your provider that they’re installing cameras in key areas, especially exits and entryways.
Digital Security: Even though your primary concern is protecting your property, it’s also crucial you’re protecting your personal data, too. In an increasingly connected world, you need to make sure all of the images and videos created by your security system are protected from hackers. Look out for systems that boast password and encryption capabilities.
On-the-Go Access: Thanks to advancements in technology, monitoring your home while you’re away for extended periods has never been easier. Logging into your account online or through an app on your smartphone, you’re able to keep tabs on the comings and goings at your property even if you’re thousands of miles away. This is a huge plus for business owners too as they can monitor employees, day-to-day operations, out-of-hours deliveries, and so on while they’re on the move.
What Do You Need to Know When Shopping for an Alarm System?
As you start looking for a house alarm company, there are a number of things you need to look out for. Proceed with caution when you’re dealing with companies who install proprietary systems and claim that they only work with their licensed monitoring systems. You should also watch out for organizations who won’t let you alter your passcode or switch to another company even after your contract has finished. To be sure, opt for a company that gives you full access to your programming and code features and uses non-proprietary components.
Your contract should also come with a standard warranty and a guarantee on labor and parts. Some companies will allow you to extend your warranty for $100-200, which will cover any repair or maintenance that needs carrying out, removing any costs associated with parts or labor.
Length of Contract
Check to see how long you’re signing the contract for – these tend to be three- or five-year periods. Also take some time to understand whether there are any penalties if you want to leave the contract sooner and if the fees can rise during the contract time frame. Be sure to check what equipment you’re allowed to keep once the contract has expired.
To make sure you’re getting the best-value system for your money get quotes from up to 5 companies first. Ask each of them to do a risk assessment on your property to see what areas of security need addressing and why. This on-site inspection should be free of charge. Never accept a company who says they don’t need to visit your property to do an inspection.
Ask for References
One of the best ways to determine whether a company is going to be right for you or not is to speak to previous clients. Ask for some references and speak to these people about their experiences with the company – was everything completed on time and to a high standard? Are the police contacted straight away if there’s an intrusion? Have they come across any problems during their time with the company? You might also be able to find out this information (unbiased) through online reviews.
Get Quotes in Writing
Ask for a written quotation so you can check the following is included:
- Monthly monitoring fees (if applicable)
- Set-up fees
On average, a basic installation will cost up to $2 per square foot of your property. Monitoring charges are between $25 and $40 per month, with around $10 extra for intercom communication. For pet-friendly devices, an extra $50 to $300 may need adding on, while fire protection features tend to be $5 extra a month. For a remote control, you’ll probably have to pay a one-off fee of up to $100. Fees shouldn’t be charged to connect you with the central monitoring station – this should be included as standard.
Home Security Company Reviews
It’s important to do thorough research to find the best home security unit for your needs. Of course, the great news is, you’re not alone. You can learn a lot about home security systems based on other buyer’s experiences with several leading brand names. What’s right for some buyers may not be the best fit for others whose homes and businesses pose unique challenges and possibilities. Therefore, it’s important to pay close attention to the pros and cons which most closely affect your lifestyle, financial situation, time limits, etc.
Here are the profile highlights of some of the leading home security systems, complete with pros and cons to consider before you make the plunge and invest in this important purchase:
ADT (Authorized Premier Protector), specializes in home security and automation resources. ADT Pulse products are available to customers who want to learn more about the specialized services the company offers.
- ADT boasts over 140 years in the security business
- It’s among the most popular home security systems in the United States, with over 6 million customers
- ADT is a leader in remote control usage of home security units, meaning residents can have peace of mind wherever they are in the world that their home is in good hands
- ADT offers some of the best response times – after an intrusion or home fire, for example
- ADT has fully embraced new technological capabilities including non-invasive wireless coverage
- Recent development of the ADT Pulse Voice App comes with special features, such as control lights and appliances, easily adjustable thermostats, live streaming videos, and effective alarms
- Installation with ADT is quick, including same-day options in many regions
- Some critics of the system noted that the equipment was bulky and out of style
Vivint’s special features, such as doorbell cameras, SkyControl panel, 24/7 video recording, smart locks, Element Thermostat, Ping Camera, and Amazon Echo makes it a force to be reckoned with. And essentially, that has become Vivint’s primary focus — being dedicated to security and surveillance, smart home control, and 24/7 monitoring.
- Customers love the chic, top-of-the-line aesthetic of the Vivint home security equipment as well as opportunities to receive free equipment offers
- Divided into monthly packages, Vivint customers can be assured they know where individual charges are coming from
- Vivint is committed to protecting the environment through things like monitoring your thermostat, which can help you conserve energy and cut down on high electricity bills
- Customers enjoy the fact that Vivint technology features are easy to use, including an LCD touchscreen with mobile access, energy efficiency, and home automation
- Some customers felt the costs for initial professional installation were high
Since its founding in 1992, Protect America’s home security services have reached 500,000 homes and families. Their top commitments are to 24/7 security monitoring, no installation fees, and under-an-hour setup, as well as lowest price guarantees.
- Protect America includes specialized features, such as GPS Vehicle Tracking and Z-Wave equipment
- DIY installations mean customers are in control of a speedy set up within the convenience of their own schedule limits
- Protect America gives its customers the option of three monitoring systems: broadband internet connection, cellular uplink, or a landline phone
- According to a Protect America guarantee, equipment replacement is promised
- Customers also appreciate consistent and thorough customer care and the option of professional installation if needed
- Any doubts about the product were focused on a limited 7-day money-back guarantee
Frontpoint’s customers have routinely given positive feedback: the company proudly boasts that 96% of customers would recommend Frontpoint to a friend. Above all, Frontpoint stands out because of its remote access and control capabilities, doorbell cameras, as well as environmental protection and 24/7 professional monitoring.
- On the top of highlights is its 30-day trial period as well as DIY installation, saving customers time and money
- An installer technician is also available by phone should there be any setbacks during the installation period
- Since customers own their security equipment outright, initial setup costs are significantly reduced
- Customers of Frontpoint rave about top-of-the-line customer service and accommodating contracts on a 12-, 24-, or 36-month basis
- Customers receive quick alerts from a range of potential emergency situations, including carbon monoxide leaks, freezing, or flooding
- Customers with reservations noted that the company is fairly new, with only 8 years of experience
Link Interactive leads with the slogan, “Protect What Matters Most”. And in an effort to do so, Link Interactive boasts cost-efficient, user-friendly security that the whole family will appreciate. According to its DIY policy, customers are able to build a specialized home security systems package that best suits their individual needs. In addition, Link Interactive offers up notifications in the case of power outages, a central monitoring station, and a reliable cellular system.
- Link Interactive home security leads in customer care
- It provides free installation services and after-installation support
- Products are highly customized and come at a price that customers can afford, while still getting outfitted with top-quality products
- Among its specials, Link Interactive offers unique packages for video monitoring that is only $5 above the base cost of service
- Videos can capture images from up to 40 feet away, and can also record around the clock
- Considering the climate your home or business is located in, temperature sensors are of the utmost importance. This advanced technology can help detect smoke heat and freezing pipes, before disaster strikes
- Link Interactive relies on a cellular network to connect users to their systems, rather than WiFi or the use of a landline, one of the most advanced methods available
- Users who were less than 100% satisfied noted that the individual purchasing of special product features increased overall cost significantly
So, Who’s the Best?
While each home security system has unique attributes suited for a range of customers, Link Interactive has set itself apart from all others in the industry. Customers are met with top care, affordability, and highly-specialized products.
Link Interactive is a company that has fully embraced new technologies in order to deliver its customer base the best services available, every time, without fail. While an à la carte system of purchase may at first seem daunting to new customers, ultimately, buyers are given total control of the services they receive, which allows for the best-customized care possible. Link Interactive puts customers first and keeps striving for the next big break in innovation at the highest level.
One of the most rewarding things about installing a home security system in your home is the sense of relief it brings. Furthermore, as technology advances, these systems are becoming even more user-friendly, providing you, your family, and your business with a way of staying safe at all times, regardless of where you are or what your security needs are.
As a final note – once you’ve had the system installed, make sure your family members, friends, and/or colleagues are up to speed with how things work. This will make sure everyone’s making the most of the state-of-the-art security system you’ve installed.