Best Home Alarm Systems: Your Ultimate Guide to Home Security in 2023
In an increasingly uncertain world, home security has become more important than ever. A reliable and effective home alarm system can not only help to protect your property and possessions, but also give you peace of mind. But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the right system for your needs? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best home alarm systems of 2023, comparing their features, prices, and customer reviews to help you make an informed decision.
- SimpliSafe – A Comprehensive Solution for Home Security
- ADT – The Industry Leader for Trusted Protection
- Frontpoint – A User-Friendly, DIY Security System
- Vivint – The Smart Home Security Powerhouse
- Budget-friendly Pick: SimpliSafe Hearth Kit
- Best Pick for Professional Installation: ADT Complete Package
- Excellent Pick for Smart Homes: Vivant Smart Home
- Alarm System Basics
- Security Systems, the Internet, and Safety
- Wired vs. Wireless
- Professionally Monitored vs. Self Monitored
- DIY Installation vs. Professional Installation
- How Much Will a Good System Cost?
- Understanding Contracts and Plans
Home security systems available today provide integrated monitoring using sensors, cameras, and alarms, ensuring you receive notifications when unexpected individuals are present, windows are left open, or packages are delivered. This comprehensive guide simplifies the process and expedites your shopping experience.
Getting started with a security system can be as affordable as $50. The advancement of modern technology has revolutionized the security market, making it a practical choice for nearly everyone to invest in some form of alarm system.
Even if you’re a renter, you can have a robust security system without making alterations to the property or leaving behind any technology when you move out.
An alarm system essentially consists of interconnected sensors, such as cameras or motion sensors, that collaborate to detect potential threats. Once the system identifies a problem, it triggers the alarm, whether it’s notifying you directly, a monitoring service, or the appropriate authorities like the police or fire department.
Given that each home and situation is unique, the components of your system and their configuration will be tailored to your specific needs. Therefore, it’s beneficial to consider your objectives while shopping. These objectives will determine the type of equipment and services you should prioritize.
For instance, you may want to secure your ground floor doors and windows, but you might also be interested in features like remote access to live-stream video feeds from anywhere in the world or the ability to detect water leaks in the basement.
Modern smart home systems have integrated traditional alarm system functionalities with additional everyday conveniences. Among these supplementary features, one that we find particularly useful is the smart video doorbell. It intelligently informs us when a package has been delivered, distinguishing it from a general motion notification. Moreover, it incorporates unique entry codes, ensuring we receive alerts if someone like a parent, nanny, or dog-walker visits while we’re away.
It’s also worth considering whether you already possess technology that could be compatible with a security system. For instance, if you own a Google Home or Google Nest Hub, opting for the Google Nest security system would seamlessly integrate with your existing hardware.
- Over the past decade, security systems have undergone significant advancements, incorporating wireless technology and seamless integration with smart homes. The convenience of smartphone apps has made setup and usage easier than ever before.
- The mere presence of security systems, or even signs indicating their presence, acts as a strong deterrent to potential thieves. According to recent FBI data, homes lacking a security system are 300% more susceptible to break-ins.
- Renters tend to experience higher rates of burglary compared to homeowners due to reluctance in investing in security measures for a temporary residence. However, modern systems allow for easy portability, enabling renters to bring their equipment along when they move.
- The average expenditure on a security system typically ranges from $300 to $700, depending on the size of the home. The cost increases with additional cameras and if professional installation and monitoring are included.
- Considering that the average cost of theft amounts to approximately $2,700, investing in an alarm system proves to be worthwhile, not only for financial reasons but also for the peace of mind it offers.
- Purchasing a security system can also lead to reduced premiums on home or renter’s insurance.
- Companies offering professional installation services may provide a complimentary general security assessment.
- In comparison to professional services like ADT, Brinks, or Xfinity, DIY systems often entail higher upfront costs. This is because traditional services that handle everything for you initially incur a loss while aiming to generate more revenue from your subscription over time.
While we haven’t conducted head-to-head field testing for “scientific” evaluations, the recommendations provided are based on our personal experiences, extensive research, and consumer reviews.
1. SimpliSafe – A Comprehensive Solution for Home Security
SimpliSafe is a top choice for homeowners seeking a DIY alarm system with professional monitoring. Their versatile packages cater to a wide range of budgets and security needs, making it easy to customize your home protection. With easy installation, no contracts, and a 60-day money-back guarantee, SimpliSafe has become a popular choice for homeowners looking for a hassle-free security solution.
- Easy, tool-free installation
- 24/7 professional monitoring
- No contracts or hidden fees
- Wide range of customizable packages
Price: $159.99 – $359.99
2. ADT – The Industry Leader for Trusted Protection
ADT is a well-established name in the home security industry, with over 145 years of experience providing reliable protection for homes and businesses. Their professionally installed systems offer state-of-the-art security features, including smart home integrations and 24/7 monitoring services. While ADT does require a long-term contract, their reputation for excellence in customer service and protection make them a solid choice for homeowners.
- Professional installation and monitoring
- Smart home integration
- Customizable security packages
- Long-standing industry reputation
Price: starts at $18.49 per month
3. Frontpoint – A User-Friendly, DIY Security System
Frontpoint offers a DIY home security solution that is simple to install and use. Their systems come with a wide range of advanced security features, including smart home compatibility, 24/7 professional monitoring, and crash-and-smash protection. With a flexible month-to-month monitoring contract and exceptional customer support, Frontpoint is an excellent option for those looking for a user-friendly home security system.
- DIY installation
- 24/7 professional monitoring
- Smart home integration
- No long-term contracts
Price: $49.99 per month
4. Vivint – The Smart Home Security Powerhouse
Vivint is a leading provider of smart home security systems, offering a fully integrated solution for homeowners. Their professionally installed systems include advanced features such as smart locks, indoor and outdoor cameras, and remote access through a mobile app. While Vivint’s pricing can be higher than some competitors, their cutting-edge technology and exceptional customer service make them a top choice for those seeking a smart home security system.
- Professional installation and monitoring
- Full smart home integration
- High-quality cameras and equipment
- Flexible financing options
Price: $44.99 per month
Budget-friendly Pick: SimpliSafe Hearth Kit
The SimpliSafe “The Hearth” Kit occupies a favorable position within the home security system market, appealing to both renters and homeowners due to its portability and ease of relocation. The Hearth Kit distinguishes itself as a versatile system that can be easily expanded as needed.
Comprising essential components, The Hearth Kit includes a base station, a wireless keypad, and one key fob. Additionally, the kit provides three entry sensors suitable for front, back, and side doors, along with a motion sensor, a 105 dB siren, a smoke detector, and a complimentary HD camera. Compared to similar starter packs offered by other systems, this kit offers exceptional value for the price.
While the SimpliSafe system can be self-installed with relative ease, those who prefer professional installation can avail themselves of the option for a fee of $79. This feature sets SimpliSafe apart from many competitors who do not provide professional installation services, making it accessible to individuals who may be unable or unwilling to install the system themselves.
Like most security services, SimpliSafe offers a mobile app that enables users to monitor their home’s camera feeds. However, to access advanced features such as system configuration, recordings, environmental monitoring, alerts, and smart home integration, enrollment in the Interactive Monitoring services is required, which costs $25 per month.
For individuals who occasionally require assistance with self-monitoring, SimpliSafe offers the option to pay for 30 non-consecutive days of self-monitoring through the app. This unique and consumer-friendly feature caters to those who self-monitor but may need occasional support.
The system employs cellular connections for monitoring, but it can also connect to the home’s Wi-Fi network in the event of cellular tower outages. Cellular connections are advantageous as they are difficult to tamper with and less prone to failure.
In the event of a power outage, SimpliSafe’s base station can operate on a backup battery for up to 24 hours. This inclusion of battery backup is not always standard for base stations, making it a notable advantage of the SimpliSafe system.
Furthermore, the SimpliSafe ecosystem seamlessly integrates with popular smart home platforms such as Alexa, Google Home, and Nest Thermostat, making it an ideal choice for smart homes.
For users with specific requirements, SimpliSafe offers the flexibility to customize a kit on their website, allowing them to choose the necessary components. Additional accessories available include panic buttons, glass break sensors, water sensors, temperature sensors, and carbon monoxide detectors.
For budget-conscious individuals, a visit to the SimpliSafe website enables the purchase of a Base Station, Keypad, and affordable accessories such as entry and motion sensors. As finances permit, the system can be expanded accordingly.
Best Pick for Professional Installation: ADT Complete Package
ADT, renowned as one of the most reputable security systems in the country, has established a long-standing presence in the industry. ADT is often regarded as a comprehensive, full-service provider. When you choose ADT, their team of technicians will conduct a thorough security assessment and handle the installation process for you.
The inclusion of a security assessment and professional installation sets ADT apart from other offerings that lean more towards a do-it-yourself approach. While companies like SimpliSafe and others may offer professional installation as an option for an additional cost, ADT automatically provides professional installation as part of their service.
Similar to SimpliSafe, ADT allows for plan customization and offers flexible contract terms and payment options, accommodating individual preferences.
ADT includes professional monitoring as a standard feature. Both SimpliSafe and ADT operate multiple monitoring stations across the country, ensuring constant surveillance of your home’s security. While with SimpliSafe, opting for professional monitoring is optional, ADT includes it automatically. These monitoring stations provide redundancy in case of local power outages or communication infrastructure failures.
ADT distinguishes itself by offering plans that utilize reliable cellular networks and landline systems, surpassing the reliance on Wi-Fi connectivity seen in some security systems. Despite this, ADT systems can still integrate seamlessly with popular smart home platforms such as Alexa, Google Home, or Z-Wave systems, allowing for enhanced convenience and control.
Price: $18.49 per month
Excellent Pick for Smart Homes: Vivant Smart Home
While both SimpliSafe and ADT are commendable choices for smart homes, Vivant stands out as the ultimate system designed specifically for smart homes.
Vivant prioritizes smart home integration and specializes in the security system industry. Their systems are professionally installed and monitored, with installation costs ranging from $99 to $199. The monthly monitoring fee for Vivant systems is $50, and equipment fees vary depending on customization preferences.
Vivant systems seamlessly integrate with Smart Hub, Google Home, Amazon Echo, Nest Thermostat, Element Thermostat, and Philips Hue, offering extensive compatibility with popular smart home platforms. In addition to standard security features, Vivant’s suite of products includes premium offerings such as smart locks, garage door control, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, water sensors, indoor cameras, outdoor cameras, and doorbell cameras.
Vivant also offers a noteworthy product called Smart Drive, which is a 1 terabyte low-cost video storage solution. This encrypted storage solution ensures that only the homeowner can access the data.
Furthermore, Vivant introduces Car Guard, a feature that integrates with the Vivant Smart Home System to monitor the health and location of vehicles.
For those who prioritize an exceptional smart home experience and are willing to invest without financial constraints, Vivant Smart Home emerges as the top choice in the market.
Price: $44.99 per month
While not the ultimate choices, here are some notable contenders worth considering during your shopping journey:
Abode – Abode proves to be a suitable option for renters and apartments, although it fell slightly behind Ring and was ultimately surpassed by SimpliSafe.
Blue by ADT – This DIY system is commendable, but the cost of accessories for scaling the system proved to be relatively high.
Frontpoint – Frontpoint came remarkably close to being our top pick. However, SimpliSafe’s inclusion of professional installation gave it the edge. Frontpoint remains an excellent system overall.
Google Nest Secure – While a great product, Google Nest Secure may pose some challenges for the average user during setup, and the upfront costs were relatively high. Nonetheless, it stands as a favorable option for tech-savvy individuals.
Honeywell Smart Home Security Starter Kit – The absence of professional monitoring prevented this kit from remaining in contention. However, if self-monitoring is your preference, it can still serve your needs.
Link Interactive – Link Interactive offers a solid system that is easily expandable. It narrowly missed out on the top spots due to the presence of more versatile security systems.
Ring Alarm System – Ring is highly regarded as a great system, but SimpliSafe’s inclusion of professional installation gave it the edge over Ring in our evaluation process.
Alarm System Basics
When it comes to protecting against intruders, most alarm systems prioritize securing doors and windows, which are the primary points of entry. Additionally, some alarms also address secondary threats such as environmental hazards like fire and water.
The following are the most common equipment components found in alarm systems:
- Control panel or hub: This serves as the central communication hub of the system, allowing interaction with sensors, arming and disarming, and more. Typically located in a central area of the home, it features a keypad or touchscreen interface.
- Mobile app: Almost all security systems nowadays come with a companion mobile app. This app enables you to configure and control your security system, receive alerts and records, and view real-time feeds from your sensors and cameras.
- Key fob: A small accessory that can be attached to your keychain, allowing you to conveniently disarm the system with the press of a button.
- Contact sensors: These battery-powered devices consist of a sensor and magnet. They are attached to doors and windows to detect when they are opened or closed.
- Motion sensors: Battery-powered devices designed to detect motion in areas where contact sensors may not be suitable. Some systems allow customization to avoid false alarms caused by pets, and advanced systems can even perform this adjustment automatically.
- Glass break sensors: These sensors listen for the distinctive sound of glass breaking, indicating an attempted break-in.
- Sirens: Typically integrated into the control panel, sirens can also be separate devices placed strategically. When an alarm is triggered, they emit a loud sound to scare off intruders and alert nearby individuals.
- Yard signs and stickers: Placed on windows, doors, and in the yard, these signs and stickers serve as visible deterrents to potential intruders.
- Cameras: Used for recording and streaming video and audio, cameras have become more advanced. Modern cameras can detect motion, identify pets, recognize familiar faces, and even enable two-way communication through a speaker on the camera using a mobile phone.
- Environmental sensors: These sensors detect various environmental hazards such as smoke, carbon monoxide, heat, water, and temperature. It’s important to note that heat, water, and temperature sensors are not typically included as standard features and may require additional purchase or customization.
Security Systems, the Internet, and Safety
When it comes to alarms, their primary purpose is to notify someone when unfavorable events occur, and this usually involves establishing a connection with the outside world.
In some cases, your system may transmit information through a conventional phone line to a central monitoring service, while in others, it might utilize internet connectivity to interface with platforms like Apple or Google, which subsequently push notifications to your mobile device.
Alternatively, certain systems employ a cellular signal to connect with the outside world, minimizing the risk of a single-point failure in case of power or data loss. In such situations, if your primary connection or power is disrupted, many alarms can be configured to sound an audible alert as a backup measure.
Moreover, the external connection is sometimes utilized for storing video footage and other data in the cloud, enabling later access.
Concerns have been raised by some individuals regarding the security of security systems connected to the outside world, and these concerns are not unwarranted. An example of such concerns is the case of Amazon-owned Ring, which faced scrutiny after sharing home surveillance footage with law enforcement agencies for crime-solving purposes.
Let’s face it: it’s becoming increasingly challenging to avoid connecting our homes to the outside world. However, this connection comes with inherent risks. Nevertheless, it offers the trade-off of providing us with remarkably simple yet highly effective security systems.
If you are concerned about cloud storage or the possibility of hacking, you can opt for a system that prioritizes privacy and does not share information. Google Nest, for instance, has made it explicitly clear that they do not share video footage with law enforcement agencies.
For those who desire features such as video monitoring and motion detection without exposing the sensors to external networks, an alternative approach is to acquire these components separately and construct a “local” system that may not incorporate notification capabilities, emergency calls, or cloud storage.
Wired vs. Wireless
Back in the past, security systems required extensive installation efforts, involving cutting holes in walls for control panels and running wires throughout the premises to connect satellite sensors.
However, the advent of wireless technology has revolutionized this process, making it much simpler. Nowadays, it is often unnecessary to make any alterations to your home, or at most, you may need to drill a small hole to accommodate the power cable of external cameras.
When we talk about whether a product is wireless or not, it can pertain to two distinct aspects: electricity and data transmission.
For instance, a device or sensor may require a wired connection for power, while the data is transmitted wirelessly. Conversely, a device may be powered by solar energy and have no electrical wires, but the data is sent through an ethernet cable.
Certain devices like cameras, hubs/base stations, and smoke detectors commonly involve some form of wiring. On the other hand, smaller sensors such as magnets used for detecting open doors or windows tend to be completely wireless.
There is no definitive right or wrong answer in this regard; what matters is considering your specific needs and preferences. You might opt for wireless options due to their ease of installation and portability, especially if you plan to relocate. Alternatively, you might favor wired solutions for enhanced stability, particularly if you intend to stay in the same location for an extended period.
Professionally Monitored vs. Self Monitored
With most security systems, you have the choice between self-monitoring or opting for professional monitoring by paying an additional fee.
In professionally-monitored systems, alerts are sent to a central facility staffed round-the-clock. When an alert is received, an employee follows the predefined steps you have set for your system. For instance, they may first contact you directly to verify if there is a genuine problem. Alternatively, you can provide them with your neighbor’s phone number as an additional contact. If direct contact cannot be established, the monitoring company will then proceed to notify the police or fire department, depending on the nature of the alarm, on your behalf.
On the other hand, self-monitored systems do not involve an external company acting as an intermediary. In these systems, local alarms such as loud sirens are triggered, and you are notified through the methods you have configured. With many smart home systems, this typically entails receiving alerts on your mobile phone.
An increasing number of systems now offer the flexibility to switch between both monitoring options. For example, you can utilize Google Nest as a self-monitored system for most occasions, but activate professional monitoring for a specific period, such as during an extended vacation when you may not have a reliable cellular signal.
DIY Installation vs. Professional Installation
The availability of wireless technology, mobile apps, and the emphasis from manufacturers on user-friendly installations have led to a growing trend of DIY security system installations. As long as you have basic tools such as a stud finder, screwdriver, ladder, and the ability to set up your home’s Wi-Fi, you should be able to handle the installation process.
Many of the modern security systems now provide helpful DIY walkthrough videos, along with the option to locate certified local contractors who can assist with the installation if needed. This means that you can give it a try on your own, and if you encounter any difficulties, support is readily accessible to provide assistance.
- DIY installation can lead to savings of $100-800 in installation fees.
- Installation fees may be waived by professionals if you commit to a multi-year contract.
- Opting for DIY installation means fewer unfamiliar individuals with knowledge of your security will be in your home.
- Professionals typically provide warranties for their work, ensuring assistance with any installation or configuration issues that may arise later.
- Professionals offer training sessions to ensure you are proficient in operating your security system.
- Professionals often offer a complimentary “security assessment” of your property, although the advice provided may not be more advanced than what you can find online.
- DIY installation is more suitable for simple or small homes, while professionals are better equipped to handle complex homes with unique features such as unusual roof lines, numerous corners, or blind spots.
How Much Will a Good System Cost?
At first glance, DIY systems may seem more expensive compared to professionally installed systems. With DIY systems, you need to purchase the hardware and potentially subscribe to a monthly monitoring service. The cost of DIY systems can range from $50 to $2,000, depending on the hardware components. However, DIY systems often prove to be cost-effective in the long run.
On the other hand, a professionally installed system like ADT Command Tier III is priced at $63 per month with an upfront cost of just $199, which is lower than some DIY systems. This plan from ADT is their most expensive option and includes premium features such as live video, remote access, and smart home integration.
Understanding Contracts and Plans
Most security systems do not require a plan, but if you opt for 24/7 monitoring, you will need to pay a monthly fee. By choosing a plan and signing a long-term contract, you can have lower upfront costs as they are incorporated into your monthly fee.
Typical contract length: Usually ranging from 12 to 60 months, with the industry standard being 36 months. The length of the contract can affect your monthly payments as it spreads out the initial costs of installation and equipment.
What you’re paying for: The cost of equipment, installation, and monitoring service.
No-contract plans: These plans typically involve purchasing the equipment and self-installation, although there may be exceptions. Once you own the equipment, the “plan” covers the monitoring service and/or video storage.
In summary, the best home alarm system for you will depend on your unique needs and preferences. SimpliSafe, ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint all offer reliable protection and a range of features to suit different requirements. Before making a decision, it’s essential to consider factors such as installation, monitoring, smart home integration, and pricing. By comparing the options and understanding your priorities, you can choose the perfect home alarm system to keep your property safe and secure.