Figuring out which home security system is right for you doesn’t have to be stressful.
Number of systems tested
Length of testing
Available DIY installation
Available cellular backup
At Security.org, we tested all the best options 2022 home security had to offer. These included a variety of choices such as DIY security, professionally installed and monitored systems, integrations with Alexa or Google Assistant, and plain old local alarms for more tech-averse people. We found lots of scalable options to choose from for homes and businesses of all sizes. We tested out each security system personally to make sure they were reliable and compared home security systems to each other.
We determined our favorites based on each system’s reliability, flexibility, smart home integrations, and, of course, affordability. Our top picks included newer brands like SimpliSafe and abode, as well as products from more established security companies like ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint.
Back in the days of telegraphed security alerts, ADT was already a solid company. Since it’s founding, ADT has guarded more than six million homes and businesses with hardwired and wire-free alarm systems, all professionally installed.
Their home automation platform was called ADT Control. We appreciated that ADT Control enabled the use of voice commands with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. It was something we’d gotten used to with our smartphones.
We also thought it was extremely convenient that we could use the system’s high-end control panels via the ADT Control app. Systems guarded against burglaries, gave environmental alerts, and automated our home. Additionally, we also liked ADT-monitored medical alert devices. This was good to know in case one of our parents needed to move in with us for a while. Read on for more details about why ADT was so popular.
What We Like
145+ years of security innovation
Reliable monitoring with multiple centers
What We Don’t Like
Professional monitoring is more expensive than others
Customer service is hit-or-miss
Requires long-term contracts
Installation Technician must visit your home
Many new security companies design products for DIY installation only. We definitely saw that there were advantages that resulted from ADT staying old-fashioned and setting up each security system themselves. One advantage we noted with professional set up was that we could be almost certain everything was installed 100% correctly. This gave us the peace of mind that all access points were guarded. We also found professional installation was also especially helpful in large homes, which made for stressful DIY installations.
For us, the best part about ADT or ADT Control installation was that it was essentially free. We learned from the salesperson that we’d only have to pay between $99 and $199, depending on our home layout, and ADT offered us a $100 VISA Reward Card as a rebate. We’ve also seen ADT offer same-day installation if you order by 2 p.m., which is great if you’re in a hurry to get started.
We learned that once installed, the ADT system was valued at $850 or more retail. It was very helpful for us that we weren’t required to buy any equipment upfront. Instead, our charges came with our monthly monitoring bills, which you can dive deeper into on our page on ADT’s costs.
Hardwired, Wireless & Hybrid Security
Many of the best home security companies we discussed focused exclusively on wireless communication among components. ADT was an exception. For decades, they installed and monitored hardwired security systems, and we liked that these were still available. We also noticed that ADT was among the minority of modern security companies that supported landlines. We figured this was one of the reasons they were a popular choice in remote regions that lacked cellular coverage.
We also discovered that ADT monitored medical alerts. Our options included a variety of bracelets and neck pendants capable of sending emergency signals. Three plans were available:
$29.99/month – Home-based medical alert
$34.99/month – Home-based medical alert, plus fall detection
$39.99/month – Fall detection included, Medical alert wearables had GPS tracking for emergency medical support at home or away
While we felt pricing for ADT medical alerts was clear, we recognized that costs for ADT home security were more complex and varied from home to home.
One way that we saved money with Cove was by installing the system ourselves. Cove pre-programmed the system even before it shipped to us. Once it arrived, we stuck our sensors on our walls via their 3M-backed adhesives. We called Cove’s customer support to ensure each sensor worked correctly, which made our installation take a little longer. However, you can set a Cove system up in under half an hour if you don’t need that extra confirmation. The average Cove customer installs their system in 27 minutes. This is definitely a system that’s easy to install and best of all, free to install.
What We Like
Integrations with Google Assistant and Alexa
No long-term contracts
Can choose to pay nothing upfront
What We Don’t Like
Professional monitoring required
Monthly fees required
Relatively new company
Doesn’t sell home automation equipment
24/7 Professional Monitoring
Being a newer company, we were surprised that all of Cove’s systems require 24/7 professional monitoring for either $14.99 or $24.99 a month. That extra $10 a month got us remote control, Alexa and Google Assistant integrations, a lifetime lock on our monthly rate, plus $5 a month for extra equipment. We think that’s worth it for the remote control and smart home integrations alone!
Text Communications with Cove Plus
We loved that during emergencies, Cove’s team could text us, which could be really helpful if, god forbid, we’re ever in a hostage situation. That’s one of the reasons why Cove’s response rate is three to four times faster than its competitors. Even if you’re part of a family, Cove can text the whole group at once!
Plus, Cove frequently offers markdowns on some or all of its equipment, helping you save even more cash on an already affordable brand. Currently, you can get up to 60-percent off Cove equipment plus a free security camera as part of their Early Access Holiday sale.
Vivint installed and monitored our wire-free home security system. We got to choose from Vivint for basic security and environmental protection, but home automation with voice commands made this company stand out to us.
Vivint worked with some of the major smart home assistants such as Google Home and Alexa to develop a fully autonomous home. In our research, we found that most Vivint customers were homeowners with long-term security contracts and the majority gave Vivint excellent reviews. And if you’re on the lookout for bargains on Vivint, don’t miss their fall sale, which includes free professional installation and a $50 gift card with any new system purchase. But even without that deal, read on for three reasons Vivint was one of our favorites:
What We Like
Best smart home automation features available
Well-designed, modern equipment
Lifetime warranty on equipment/devices
Free professional installation
What We Don’t Like
Long-term contract is required
Equipment and service is more expensive than most
Costly to move equipment to a different home
Equipment pricing can be confusing
Vivint partnered with Amazon Echo to offer voice control of home systems. Some of the possible commands were:
Arm the security system “away”
Close our garage door
Dim our lights
Turn on our lights
Turn the heat up three degrees
When we started feeling old-fashioned, we controlled our Vivint security with a key chain remote, a mobile app, or the main control panel.
Home Security with AI
We could definitely tell the Vivint security control panel, Vivint Sky, had artificial intelligence. With our permission, it adapted automatically to our routine.
The benefits of AI have cost savings and convenience. One example was smart energy management:
If our security system detected that nobody was home, it could set our thermostat to conserve energy.
If it learned that we usually returned home at a certain time, it would reset the temperature in time for our arrival.
Vivint reported that intelligent energy management saved customers about 10 to 15% on home heating and cooling.
We could control Vivint Sky’s adaptation. Under our direction, our security system gradually transitioned along a three-point continuum:
Only taking orders
Making suggestions based on our previous interactions
Taking actions on its own
Vivint made cutting-edge security cameras for our indoor and outdoor use. We could record video anytime with cloud storage and remotely adjust each camera’s settings.
We were most impressed by the newest Vivint security camera, the Outdoor Camera Pro with night vision. It provided 24/7 “lurker detection,” thanks to artificial intelligence.
A doorbell camera, the Vivint Pan-and-Tilt camera, and an indoor ping camera were also in our Vivint home security lineup.
Frontpoint sold home security systems with do-it-yourself setup and professional monitoring that we found very impressive. We liked that each DIY system supported burglary prevention, environmental protection, and/or home automation.
We could order online or by phone, and the Frontpoint sales agents were refreshingly low pressure. They told us the cheapest security system was priced at just $99. All our equipment was wire-free and portable for renters’ convenience. Read on for three great reasons why we recommended Frontpoint.
What We Like
Full home security and automation solution
Easy DIY installation takes only minutes
Impressive smart home features and capabilities
What We Don’t Like
Requires a long-contract
Can be prone to false alarms
Requires a credit check if you finance your system
No other monitoring option besides the $49.99 a month plan
Rapid Response Emergency Monitoring
As Frontpoint customers, we installed the equipment ourselves but enrolled in a professional monitoring plan.
Frontpoint’s salespeople explained to us that the company partnered with Rapid Response Monitoring Service to dispatch emergency personnel. We were told this was a top-notch service with robust backup plans in case of power blackouts and national crises. As we learned more about Rapid Response, we also found out they played a big part in helping Frontpoint maintain a great reputation among customers and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
With Frontpoint, there’s only one monitoring plan available, which costs $49.99 a month. While that’s a downside for those who are looking for a simple and affordable security system, it’s an upside if you want flexibility and scalability. The $49.99 plan includes everything Frontpoint has to offer, including home automation and video monitoring. If you want to add more devices to your system down the line, it’ll be easy to do so thanks to Frontpoint’s single-tier monitoring approach and DIY installation.
Many Features Were Available
Frontpoint sold basic and advanced systems, plus we could choose custom combinations of equipment.
We liked the variety that the cheapest bundle combined. It included protections against burglary and environmental factors our home might face. We listed its components below.
A touchpad control panel
Remote control keyfob
Three entry sensors
A motion sensor
Detectors for fire, smoke, water leaks, and carbon monoxide
We could add features such as:
Glass break sensors
A doorbell camera
Wireless indoor cameras
Automated door locks
We were very interested in the newest Frontpoint control panel, which separates the keypad from the main hub. That way, we could hide our hub so even if an intruder smashes the keypad, our system would remain active. Even if the intruder finds the hub, though, it had Crash & Smash protection, which meant that Frontpoint would notify police if someone tampered with it.
Every Alder system, including ours, came with 24/7 professional monitoring, but Alder did things a little differently than some other systems we tested. Their response times were up to ten times faster than competitors we looked at, with an average of 3.4 seconds in 2017. In home invasions or even hostage situations, every second matters, so we felt super safe knowing that help was only a few seconds away.
What We Like
30-day trial period
User-friendly mobile app
What We Don’t Like
Not many equipment options
Pricing isn’t listed on website
Expensive monthly fees
When we signed up for Alder, we were shocked to find out that our only option was to agree to a three-year period. Since we’re single and living in New York City, three years could feel like a lifetime. We had no idea what city we’d be living in by then? Fortunately, our Alder salesperson told us we could try our system out for 30 days. Of course, we only returned our systems once we were done testing them thoroughly over about a year, so we couldn’t make this 30 day time period. However, if we had returned our system within 30 days of purchasing it, we would’ve gotten a complete refund, except for return shipping, which seemed pretty fair.
We were deep into the Amazon smart home ecosystem, so we had fun controlling our Alder system with Alexa, arming it, checking its status, and with the GC2 touchscreen control panel, controlling our smart thermostats.
Note: Alder’s newer control panel didn’t work with smart thermostats that connected over Z-Wave, unlike the older systems with GC2 panels.
It literally took us less than 15 minutes to install our Alder security system. All we had to do was plug in the control panel and set it up on the screen, stick the sensors on our walls, doors, and windows, and download the Alder Security app to our iPhones and Androids. Alder also offered us professional installation on the house!
SimpliSafe made it easy and affordable to install a home alarm system ourselves. We were able to set up security and environmental protection in an hour or less.
Our full price for the cheapest SimpliSafe system was $244. Professional monitoring was optional and started at $17.99 per month. DIY monitoring was always available with the free SimpliSafe mobile app. In general, the costs of SimpliSafe are much lower than companies like ADT.
Read on for our reasons why SimpliSafe was best for no-contract home security.
What We Like
No long-term contracts to sign
Easiest installation of any system
Incredibly affordable monitoring plans
Award-winning professional monitoring
What We Don’t Like
Pricey up-front equipment costs
Limited home automation capabilities
No outdoor security camera options
May be too simple for some homes
Low Prices for Equipment & Monitoring
SimpliSafe was our favorite lower-budget home security solution. We paid for a system upfront but the expense was relatively low. Right now, SimpliSafe just launched its Black Friday Early Access sale, which offers 50-percent off all new systems plus a free indoor camera. This security company had frequent specials, plus they offered us refurbished security equipment for less. Right now, SimpliSafe just launched its Black Friday Early Access sale, which offers 50-percent off all new systems plus a free indoor camera.
Along with yard signs and stickers, our SimpliSafe starter set included:
A base station
A wireless keypad
A keyring remote
One motion sensor
Two entry sensors
We were excited that the deal also included a SimpliCam, a high-definition video security camera with a motion sensor and that could send alerts.
A free SimpliSafe mobile app helped us monitor the system. With SimpliSafe our professional monitoring cost $14.99 or $24.99 month-to-month. The $24.99 plan gave us mobile control of the system in addition to text alerts.
Although SimpliSafe security systems were inexpensive, they weren’t shoddy. Our equipment was low-priced mainly because SimpliSafe manufactured it themselves. Meanwhile, their competitors included middlemen who passed along big markups.
One example of SimpliSafe’s high quality was their SmashSafe backup against tampering: If someone tried to disable our system, the monitoring service alerted police. Another example was the Heartbeat feature, which continuously checked that the security system was working as intended.
In terms of SimpliSafe’s cameras, the brand just added a wire-free outdoor camera to their lineup. The SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera is $169, the same price as SimpliSafe’s video doorbell and about $70 more than the original SimpliCam. It’s IP65-rated for weather protection and records in up to 1080p, the industry standard for security camera video quality. Though the camera has its limitations – it only works when it’s paired with a SimpliSafe system, for one – we’re glad to see SimpliSafe finally offer an outdoor camera.
FYI: Due to a global computer chip shortage, the SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera is in limited supply. For now, you can buy it with a SimpliSafe system, but not individually.
Simple to Install and Move
Setting up our SimpliSafe system was easy. From our understanding, most customers set up the equipment on their own and only about three percent order help. We installed our system in about 20 minutes and estimated it would take someone inexperienced about 30 minutes to manage. All equipment was freestanding or attached to surfaces with removable adhesive. We could easily move a SimpliSafe security system to a different home. The portability combined with no contracts helped make SimpliSafe a favorite for both renters and homeowners.
Not only do we love DIY installation because it’s free, but with Brinks, we got help over the phone anyway, without having to pay. Plus, if we had signed up for the Smart Security Ultimate Package, we could’ve gotten professional installation for free! But we digress.
When we set up our Brinks security system, we talked on the phone with an installation expert who helped us every step of the way. After we set the system up, we did a test medical alarm call (with the guidance of the support agent we were on the phone with) and talked more about how the system worked. The entire process took us 35 minutes and was actually, dare we say, pleasant, as far as home security installation goes.
What We Like
DIY installation with free phone support
Google Assistant and Alexa integrations
Optional professional monitoring
Easy-to-use Alarm.com app
What We Don’t Like
No proprietary Google Assistant action
Pricey professional monitoring
No proprietary app
Smart Home Integrations
We controlled our Brinks system using Alexa and Google Assistant, because who doesn’t love a good voice command? After figuring out that Brinks only works with the Alarm.com Google Assistant action, we used Google to:
Arm our system
Control IoT devices
Ask if our system was armed
Alexa had one more capability, disarming the system as well. We had fun telling our voice assistants to play our live footage on the big screen, as Brinks works well with Echo Shows, Fire TV Sticks, Nest Hubs, Apple TV, Chromecast, etc. In fact, Brinks systems can act as a hub for up to 119 smart home devices.
While Brinks has professional monitoring as an option, we could also choose to self-monitor our system on our own, if we wanted. Regardless, Brinks has three packages to choose from, all with different monthly monitoring costs.
Cost per month
Smart Security Essential
Smart Security Complete
Smart Security Ultimate
While these aren’t the lowest prices for monitoring we’ve ever seen, they’re also not the most expensive, and for 24/7 protection, we felt that the monitoring plans are worthwhile. Plus, the plans include cellular backup, which kept us connected to the monitoring center evcen during a neighborhood blackout.
Abode was one of the best security companies that allowed us to monitor activity for free; we loved that we could access all features of their mobile app without paid service. We had the options for long-term and very short-term contracts, too. If we were away for a long weekend, for example, we could order three days of professional monitoring.
Pro Tip: It’s always rewarding to shop abode systems around special days, like Black Friday, Christmas, and New Years. Abode offers huge discounts around the holidays, sometimes up to 50-percent.
We bought our equipment through the Abode website, the only place it was available. We built a high-quality Abode system for security alerts, environmental monitoring, and home automation. Additionally, we used the option for voice commands with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Read on for details about why Abode security was one of our favorites.
What We Like
No contracts, with flexible monitoring options
All-in-one CUE smart home automation platform
Compatible with both Zigbee and Z-Wave
Extensive equipment and device offerings
What We Don’t Like
Requires up-front equipment purchase
Add-ons and equipment upgrades get pricey
No outdoor security camera options
Limited support with base security plan
DIY Monitoring and Control
For DIY monitoring our Abode security system connected to a mobile app. Without paid service, we could arm our system, watch live video surveillance, adjust lighting and temperature, and use all other app features.
For three days, the Abode app stored our system activity for free. Longer storage was available to us with paid contracts.
We could select professional monitoring by Abode, which added emergency dispatch service and kept a 90-day log of our system’s activity.
We could easily switch from one monitoring plan to another within the billing section of our app. The best Abode monitoring deal we found required one year of prepaid service.
Abode’s high-quality sensors detected movement and environmental threats in and around our home. For the ultimate simplicity, we could have chosen an all-in-one security tower with a video camera. We chose the following components as part of our Abode set:
Motion sensors that take pictures
Glass vibration sensors
Acoustic glass break sensors
Wide-angle video cameras
One of our favorite aspects about Abode, was the Abode home security app also integrated automation devices from third parties. Hue lights, Kwikset locks, and Nest thermostats were some of the options we had.
We could use voice control integrations with both Amazon and Google through Abode. These let us get hands-free help around the home. All we had to do to adjust our home’s lighting, blinds, temperature, and more, was talk.
While other security cameras can simply distinguish people, pets, vehicles and packages from other moving objects, Deep Sentinel is designed to detect suspicious behaviors. That includes attempted robberies, vandalism, car theft and burglary, making your notifications matter more.
What We Like
24/7 professional monitoring
What We Don’t Like
Expensive professional monitoring
No self-monitoring only option
No smart platform integrations
After we watched the instructional video, setting up our Deep Sentinel system took about half an hour. All we had to do was plug the cameras in and sync them with our mobile app and the hub. Of course, we had to mount the cameras as well, but we loved the fact that Deep Sentinel gave us a screwdriver plus step-by-step instructions in the app.
Fast Response Times
In 30 seconds, we would have gotten alerted of any robbery attempts, break-ins involving our doors or windows, violent behavior, package theft attempts and more. Within 60 seconds, we would’ve gotten confirmations of packages deliveries, notifications that someone was standing at our front door or that police were on our property. Leveraging advanced AI capabilities with 24/7 professional monitoring, Deep Sentinel has some of the fastest response times in the business, next to Alder of course.
Live Guard Monitoring
All Deep Sentinel systems come with 24/7 professional monitoring, which the company calls Live Guards. But unlike with other systems, we could actually see the exact guards who were on duty and when, ensuring us that yes, we were protected by real humans.
We were obsessed with our Alexa, so we were thrilled to test out Ring, which is owned by Amazon and was compatible with Alexa. When we did our shopping, we found out Ring also sold high-decibel alarm systems compatible with video cameras, environmental monitoring, home automation, and voice control.
This system allowed us to self-monitor or pay for an affordable month-to-month monitoring service. Note that Ring now has the Ring Alarm Pro system available, which is a security system with a built-in router with extra features built for digital safety.
What We Like
Highly-affordable professional monitoring at $20 per month.
Advanced home automation features and Alexa integrations
No contract required on Ring Alarm systems
Simple DIY setup takes only minutes to install
What We Don’t Like
Requires up-front equipment purchase
Premium cameras are expensive
Ring Alarm is a relatively new product offering
System is not as comprehensive as professional offerings
Low-Cost & Free Features
Our most affordable option was Ring’s simplest home security package, which cost $179 retail. Optional monitoring started at just $20, and we could cancel anytime without penalty. Another option is to self-monitor for free, but if you have Ring cameras as well, we recommend paying for cloud storage, at least, which starts at $3 a month for one camera or $10 for unlimited cameras. Exclusive Ring security discounts were available to teachers, military members, and first responders.
We were able to self-monitor our home with Ring’s free mobile app. Ring also developed a free Crimewatch app, Neighbors App that we could choose to join or not join. In our area, it added community power to home security with safety alerts from neighbors, police, and Ring.
Video Security with Low Bandwidth Demand
Our Ring video security cameras were high definition, but they were set to record only when motion was detected. This put less demand on our home Wi-Fi service compared with popular competitors systems which recorded constantly. This would have mattered a lot to us if we didn’t have an unlimited Wi-Fi data plan or were concerned our home security would slow down our other online activity.
Ring was so easy for us to use because its security hub was compatible with devices from so many brands. Some examples included:
First Alert smoke/carbon monoxide detector
GE light dimmers
Schlage smart deadbolts
However, not all our third-party gadgets could be monitored by emergency dispatchers. To save us time, we found a list of certified products that were available on the Ring security website.
Our Video Review of Home Alarm Systems
We’ve tested out the year’s best security systems, and these ones went above and beyond. From self monitoring to professional monitoring, from DIY installation to professional installation, we have the best pick no matter what you’re looking for.
How We Determined Which Security System is The Best
Buying a home security system required us to consider a ton of factors, from the costs of equipment to the quality of the devices. How did we decide which security system was right for our home? Below, we included info about how to choose a fitting security system and a methodology section, where we detailed how we tested and reviewed our systems.
Why Buy a Home Security System?
The first question we asked ourselves was whether or not we actually needed a home security system at all.
We wanted to know exactly how common home burglaries were and if home security systems could really decrease the likelihood that we’d be robbed? To answer these questions, we turned to the hard statistics on burglaries in the United States; here’s what we found.
Burglary Facts and Figures
A news station asked 86 convicted burglars (inmates at a prison in Oregon) exactly how they committed robberies1. They determined that the majority of burglars entered homes through unlocked doors or windows. Most of the intruders said that if an alarm went off, they would have left immediately.
In the same study, most of the inmates said they would first knock on the door of a home before invading it. If someone answered, they would leave. Some inmates said even just having visible cameras would deter them from choosing that home as a target.
Knowing that most security systems offered contact sensors for doors and windows as well as motion and glass break sensors, we thought having these simple sensors may have stopped these convict’s robberies before they started. Video doorbells, a part of some smart security systems, allowed homeowners and renters to see and speak to whoever was at their front door from a mobile application. We realized if the victims had these, they would have always been able to respond to the door, whether or not they were at home. We liked the idea that at our home we could seem like we were there when we were away.
Another report from Arizona State University’s Center for Problem-Oriented Policing2 found that burglary was the second most common crime in the United States and was responsible for up 18% of all serious crimes. Unfortunately, a whopping 65% of burglaries had no evidence or useful information for the police to investigate.
We believed security cameras could have made a big difference in the amount of evidence available from these robberies. Besides material losses, burglaries caused psychological harm to victims. In sum, we concluded that every family, including our own, could benefit from a home security system’s ability to help prevent crime or stop one midway.
Top Three Advantages of Home Security Systems
After testing out dozens of systems, we firmly understood and agreed with their advantages:
Increased safety: It was no secret that simply having a security system could reduce our chances of being burgled, from visible cameras to video doorbells that let us answer our door wherever. Even if a burglar managed to enter our home through a door or window, we’d be notified immediately via our phones. Plus, video evidence made catching and convicting anyone who entered our much more likely.
Protection from material and emotional damages: Having a security system prevented the loss of our physical items as well as the negative feelings that follow a home burglary. According to Colonial Behavioral Health in Williamsburg, Virginia3, property crime had a huge effect on victims. They felt feeling violated and unsafe. We imagined we would likely have felt the same way. Having a security system in place gave our family the peace of mind that we probably would never have to go through that kind of trauma.
Home insurance discounts: Our homeowner’s insurance policy, and many others we looked at, gave us a discount of up to about 15% for installing a security system in our home.
Tip: To save up to 15% on your homeowner’s insurance, get a security system to protect your home from burglaries.
Home Security System Buyer’s Guide
We recommended considering the following factors before buying a security system:
Homeowner vs. renter: We felt all right about drilling or hardwiring a security system into our home because we owned it. However, we wouldn’t have had the same perspective if we were renters with a security deposit in jeopardy. For renters, we recommended looking for a wireless home security system, as most components were peel and stick and did not require any holes. Our other recommendation for renters was to look for systems with monthly contracting and easy portability, which was the case for most DIY systems.
Apartment vs. house: Since we lived in a single-family home, we also invested in an outdoor system to protect our front and backyard. We recommended that our friends who lived in an apartment choose a video doorbell that fit their peephole, like the Ring Peephole Cam.
Size of home: Of course, the size of our home determined what equipment we selected. We knew that the larger a home or family, the more sensors, cameras, and video doorbells we might need. However, we also considered that many families that live in smaller homes, like us, may be able to get away with just a few sensors, like the motion and contact sensor from the $20 Wyze Sense Starter Kit. Learn more about the best security systems for large homes.
City, suburbs, or rural areas: For surveillance of outdoor spaces, we remembered that different areas have different laws on recording footage, so we recommended anyone who planned to set up outdoor recording check out local regulations first, especially if it covered property other than their own. Another area-related consideration we mentioned was traffic, both foot and car-related. For example, because we were in the city, we wanted cameras that ignored motion from cars and only alerted us if people were on our property. We also looked for cameras with activity or motion zones, meaning we could tell them what areas to focus on and what areas to ignore, like the street and sidewalk in front of our brownstone. For those who lived on busy streets, like us, we stressed person detection and activity zones were a must. However, we recognized that someone in rural areas may not have shared our need for any AI features, as motion events might be more rare, resulting in fewer notifications.
Outdoor space: We learned that securing outdoor space was more challenging than indoor space. For example, power was a huge factor; we didn’t have any well-placed outdoor outlets, so we had to look for outdoor, wireless cameras. There was also the issue of connectivity; we were solid with cellular backup or Wi-Fi but recommended that those who weren’t found a camera that didn’t require Wi-Fi like the Reolink GO.
Garage: We faced similar issues with our garage and our outdoor spaces. For this issue, we looked into companies that sold entry sensors for garage doors specifically, like Vivint.
Small businesses: We suggested our neighbor’s, who owned a nearby small business, invest in security cameras with 24/7 continuous recording, like the Nest Cams under the Nest Aware subscription. We thought these cameras might both deter criminals and come in handy for more everyday tasks, like keeping an eye on employees or customers in the store.
Vacation homes: Our family’s vacation home was unoccupied most of the year, so, naturally, we wanted a way to monitor it. Ultimately, we decided to invest in a plug-in system or one with long battery life, like the Blink cameras. We also recommended that others looking for a vacation home system consider 24/7 professional monitoring, which really took the work out of monitoring our second home.
How To Buy
Taking these five steps before we decided on a security system made an enormous difference for us, and we recommended others do the same.
Before we selected our system, we:
Assessed our security needs: Every home has different security needs, so the crucial first step before buying a security system is assessing what you need. To help you do that, we developed a Security Score tool that can tell you how secure you are based on a number of factors, and then recommend steps on how you can improve your security score. We suggest using the tool to determine which areas you’ll need to improve security-wise.
Checked for homeowner’s insurance discount: We were awarded a 15-percent discount on our homeowner’s insurance because we used one of their choice security systems. We even learned some other homeowner’s insurance companies offered savings of up to $156 for adding a security system.
Made a list of the equipment we wanted: We went in knowing exactly what components we wanted, and it saved us from being swayed by aggressive salespeople or sleek websites pushing more and more add-ons for products we didn’t really need.
Set a pre-determined budget: Finally, we laid down a budget for everything, from equipment to any additional costs, like activation fees, installation fees, monitoring fees, and storage fees. Then we agreed to stick to that budget as we shopped for a system.
There were dozens of factors we considered when reviewing home security systems, from how well they worked in our testing to costs. While this list was by no means comprehensive, it provided us with a general overview of what to consider when deciding which home security system was right for us.
First, we looked at the equipment that was available on a company’s website, which usually included some combination of the items on this list:
Glass break sensors
Garage door sensors
Key fob remote
We preferred companies that offered a wide range of devices, so could create a kit customized to our home. Of course, we also cared a lot about the quality and features of the devices, such as:
Wired vs. wireless: With wireless components, we cared about battery life. We also appreciated solar-powered by devices, like the Ring Stick Up Solar. Ideally, if cameras were wireless, their batteries were rechargeable with an easy-to-change magnetic charger.
Camera features: We discussed camera features much more in-depth in our security camera necessary features guide. For cameras, in particular, we looked for features like 1080p HD video, infrared night vision, two-way audio, cloud, and local storage, smart platform integrations, and person detection.
Durability: We only chose outdoor components that had large temperature ranges and IP ratings of 65 and up, meaning they were dust-tight and protected from water jets.
We also liked companies that offered packages, discounts, and scalability, meaning we could add more components as we went along. Flexibility was key.
Both DIY and professionally-installed security systems had their advantages and disadvantages. Overall, we recommended DIY installation for those that wanted to save some money and didn’t mind spending a bit of time setting up a system. For those willing to spend a buck for convenience, we recommended professional installation.
What We Like
Typically didn’t require any drilling or special tools
Easily moved during a change of residence
What We Don’t Like
Some systems were easier to install than others
Less reliable than professionally installed systems
What We Like
No work from the user required
What We Don’t Like
Costs ran as high as up $150, although some companies offerer free professional installation
Sometimes needed to schedule the installation way in advance, which delayed home security
Most systems had two options for monitoring: self-monitoring, meaning we looked after our own system via live streaming, notifications, and remote control, or 24/7 professional monitoring. With the latter, not only did we have access to our system, we also had a team of people available at all hours to respond to any alarm going off. If we weren’t able to respond for whatever reason, be it work or a vacation, the monitoring team was able to verify the emergency and call the police for us, if needed. We always recommended getting professional monitoring, although it usually required a monthly fee.
We also preferred companies that offered month-to-month contracting as opposed to long-term contracting. While long-term contracts often meant a locked-in rate, we were more worried about avoiding cancellation fees. Fortunately, we witnessed monthly contracting become more of a norm with smart security systems.
Smart Home Integrations
Whether it was our Alexa and Google voice assistants or other IoT devices like smart lights, smart locks, or smart thermostats, we liked security systems that allowed for voice commands and home automation.
Here, we broke down the costs we suggested anyone buying a security system consider:
Activation cost: In our research, we determined most companies don’t make customers pay any activation fees to get started; this was more common in the early 2000s and was largely phased out. However, we also found that some companies still required activation fees. Abode, for example, charged $25 to get their systems started. Rats!
Equipment costs: Depending on the home size of our amount of security requested, we discovered we could expect to pay anywhere from $20 to more than $900 on our home security system. The good thing was that most companies offered scalable systems. Typically, users, like us, chose a package but also had the opportunity to add on more components down the line, if needed. Many companies also said we could customize our systems, which made it easier to keep our budget in check.
Installation cost: Most companies we researched did not charge a required installation fee. In fact, the majority of systems offered DIY installation that didn’t require drilling or hardwiring. However, some companies like Vivint and ADT required professional installation, which ranged from around $80 all the way up to $150. Our recommendation was that those on a budget opt for a DIY system with self-installation.
Monthly costs: While some systems didn’t come attached to any monthly fees whatsoever, other companies we spoke to offered or required paid subscriptions for 24/7 professional monitoring, cellular backup, and/or storage. Typically, we found monthly or yearly contracts included monthly fees that ranged anywhere from $10 with Ring Alarm all the way up to $60 with more traditional companies like ADT. We liked that storage was often included in that fee and were usually less impressed when it was separate. We suggested anyone not looking to pay any costs aside from equipment either self-monitor their system through its mobile application or use a local alarm system only, like with SimpliSafe. Different companies we researched allowed different actions, like livestreaming footage and receiving motion-activated notifications, based on whether we paid a monthly fee or not. That’s definitely something we encouraged potential buyers to keep in mind.
Alternatives to home security systems: If we felt the costs of a home security system were just too high, we identified a few alternatives that still allowed us to feel protected in our home. We used a simple indoor security camera, outdoor security camera, and video doorbell to notify us when it detected either movement or people, depending on its artificial intelligence capabilities. While we thought additional sensors and panic buttons certainly had their value in home security, we were grateful for other options those of us on a budget could turn to. We even learned that something as low-maintenance as a security sign could help!
During our testing, smart security required a connection between all of the system’s components, its base station or hub, and its mobile application. Typically, this came in the form of Wi-Fi, but some companies we explored also offered cellular or landline backup in case our power went out. Also some devices we tried needed to connect over ZigBee or Z-Wave protocols, which sometimes required an additional hub. We looked for systems with cellular backup, ideally included for free, although it was usually part of the monitoring cost.
We asked that question everyone wanted to: Could our home security system be hacked? Unfortunately, the answer was yes. All smart security systems could potentially be hacked. But the truth, which we thought was quite eye-opening, was that anything that used the Internet was potentially hackable. As a result of this information, we committed to adhering to the best digital security practices. That was why we looked for companies that offered two and multi-factor authentication for us to sign in to our security accounts. We also investigated each company’s history of security breaches, as we wanted to keep our private footage private.
When it came to a security system’s mobile application, we wanted something that let us easily livestream footage, control our system remotely, and get notified whenever alarms went off. One step we took to find this was we made sure the app had a high rating on either the Apple or Google Play store.
We also looked for companies with free trial periods, flexible cancellation policies, flexible return policies, and extended warranties.
Company Background and Customer Reviews
Finally, we took into consideration how long the business had been around and what other customers thought of their systems on Amazon and Google. However, our reviews were completely our own and based on our own testing experiences.
Our Security Experts
Security.org’s Chief Editor Gabe Turner and Senior Staff Writer Aliza Vigderman did all of the research and testing necessary to make the most comprehensive security reviews online. Here’s a little bit of background information on each of them.
Gabe Turner is a home security and digital security expert based in Brooklyn, New York. A former attorney, Gabe spent years testing out everything from home security systems and cameras to digital security products like VPNs and identity monitoring services. Watch him test products on Security.org’s Youtube channel with 30,000 subscribers.
Aliza Vigderman is a technology journalist also based in Brooklyn. Previously, she wrote for outlets like the Huffington Post, Degreed.com, and SquareFoot. She was also a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism in Waltham, Massachusetts. At Security.org and its predecessor Security Baron, Aliza wrote about home security, digital security, and smart home technology exclusively for about two years.
The best and most affordable security system we tested was Ring Alarm. With many security cameras, video doorbells, and sensors to choose from, we loved that Ring let us livestream footage, receive notifications, and control our system remotely for free. Beyond that, upgrading to 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup only cost us $20 a month or $200 a year, which was one of the lowest prices we saw.
The best smart home security system was Vivint. Vivint worked with Alexa and Google Assistant as well as IoT devices from other companies researched. That included everything from Kwikset smart locks and Nest thermostats to smart lamps and bulbs from Philips Hue. We created automated triggers and controlled everything from the Vivint Smart Home app.