ADT Security System Review
This company has stood the test of time and now offers smart home automation
If you ask the average person in the United States to name a security company, chances are they’ll say ADT. Their blue and white door stickers have become an iconic symbol of their security systems, and for good reason: with over 140 years in business1, ADT is what comes to mind when you think of traditional home security. Of course, just because something has been around for a long time doesn’t mean it’s effective (see Diet Coke, the electoral college, etc.). In this review, our security experts tested out ADT’s security system from unboxing it to getting alerts. Let’s see how it stacks up!
Pros and Cons of ADT
For those short on time, here are our favorite and least favorite things about ADT:
What We Like
- Trusted company: With over 140 years in business, we felt comfortable with choosing ADT right off the bat.
- Alexa integration: We enjoyed telling Alexa to arm and disarm our system as well as control smart lights, locks and thermostats.
- User-friendly app: The ADT Pulse app was easy to use on both iPhones and Androids alike.
What We Don’t Like
- Professional installation only: Although this meant less work for us, it also meant we had to pay a fee to get our security system installed.
- Three-year contracts: Unfortunately, we had no choice but to sign a binding, three-year contract rather than a flexible monthly contract, locking us into ADT.
- Monthly fees aren’t lowest-price available: If you like negotiating, you’ll love signing up for ADT, as none of their monthly fees are set in stone. However, expect to pay about $40 to $60 a month on 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, which is an average price for the more established security companies like ADT.
Did ADT Work Well?
We found ADT easy to use, especially through Alexa. With our voices alone, we were able to arm and disarm the security system from anywhere in our house as well as control connected devices. And since installation was professional, there was very little struggle from installation to use. Although most of the ADT security system is made out of hardened plastic, it was very durable throughout the months we had it installed (although ADT offers a one-year warranty to replace any defective products). Overall, anyone from your elderly grandmother to your tech nerd son will be able to use ADT with ease.
Video Review of ADT
Do you prefer seeing and listening to reading? Watch our video review of ADT, which will show you the system and cameras in action.
Components of the ADT Security System
In this section, we’ll explain our experience using each component and how it enhanced our home’s security.
The digital panel is a touchscreen panel that let us arm and disarm our system, either in away mode, meaning all of the sensors were activated, or in stay mode, which means that some of the sensors were updated. This came in handy for when we were watching a movie upstairs but wanted to keep our downstairs protected, and we were able to customize exactly which sensors were armed. The panel also let us create automations between different connected devices, and let us group connected devices into scenes so we could control multiple at once. But don’t worry, we’ll discuss ADT’s smart home integrations more in a bit.
We placed the contact sensors on doors/ windows and their respective frames so that we were notified whenever they were opened or closed. Wireless, the sensors were easy to install and test out. Plus, we appreciated the fact that ADT had a bunch of contact sensor options in terms of power input and size. You shouldn’t have any issue finding a contact sensor that works for your home with ADT.
The More You Know: Put contact sensors on any windows on the ground level of your home.
Using the digital panel wasn’t the only way we could arm and disarm our security system. When we were far away from it (re: upstairs), we used the keychain remote. Aside from arming and disarming, the keychain remote also has a panic button that, if pushed, contacts the monitoring team directly requesting help. We recommend keeping these in your bedside table, as this could definitely come in handy in an emergency. Plus, the remote is totally wireless and has a battery life of up to five years, so once we got it, we didn’t have to worry much about power. Plus, unlike the digital panel, the keychain remote didn’t make us enter a passcode, so we were able to control our system literally at the touch of a button.
This is pretty self-explanatory: the motion sensor detected motion in a range of 35 by 40 feet, which was more than enough for our small-ish house. And although we don’t have pets, it was cool to read that the motion detector doesn’t pick up motion from pets. Rather, users can adjust it to the pet’s weight so they only get notified from movement from humans. Wireless with a seven-year battery life, even attempting to tamper with the motion detectors didn’t work; our digital panel was still alerted as was our ADT Pulse app.
Glass Break Sensors
Although it may seem redundant with the motion and entry sensors, some intruders will break in by smashing glass, and for those instances, there’s a glass break sensor, which has a 25-foot range. We adjusted the sensors’ sensitivity, as we tend to be a bit clumsy with glasses, to the lowest sensitivity out of four options. Like the motion detector, the glass break sensors are wireless with a five-year battery life and tamper protection, which was confirmed in our testing.
Otherwise known as a panic button, the emergency button let us contact emergency services through two buttons, which can be programmed to contact the police, the fire department and even local hospitals (we chose the two former options). We also wore the emergency button as a necklace for easy access, but it can also be worn as a bracelet, clipped onto a belt or just used on its own. But don’t get us wrong, with recessed buttons, we didn’t experience any false alarms or accidental “butt dials,” if you will.
ADT Video Doorbell Camera
We’re on the lazy side, which is why we love video doorbells in general. They let you use an app to see and speak to whoever’s at your front door, but of course, they’re not all created equal in terms of quality. Video-wise, we were disappointed at the doorbell’s camera quality, which was 720p HD, not as clear as our preferred 1080p HD like that of the Ring Video Doorbells. However, as far as field of view went, it was 180 degrees, giving us the widest possible picture of our front yard. We were also impressed with the camera’s infrared night vision and two-way audio, which actually reduced the amount of background noise we heard compared to similar models.
Now, keep in mind that we did have to hardwire the doorbell camera into our home (well, the professional installer did, anyway). Don’t buy the video doorbell unless you have an existing 8-24 VAC system like us! If you don’t have an existing doorbell setup, check out the Skybell Slim Line Doorbell Camera, which is battery-powered. In terms of durability, the ADT Video Doorbell Camera impressed, working in temperatures from four to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. All that being said, aside from the sub-par video, we were pretty satisfied with ADT’s doorbell camera.
ADT Outdoor Security Camera
Of course, having a camera at our front door wasn’t enough. For us, we also wanted to get an outdoor camera for our backyard. Unfortunately, the outdoor camera had the same video quality as the doorbell camera: 720p HD, which gave us footage that wasn’t as crystal-clear as we would’ve liked. Double unfortunately, the camera gives a really narrow picture with a field of view of only 95 degrees, which was only enough to cover half of our backyard. Still, we will salute the outdoor camera for its weather resistance; not only could it withstand any solid we threw at it, but it even worked after we sprayed it with powerful water jets! As long as you don’t immerse it in water, the outdoor camera will continue functioning normally, with infrared night vision for those dark nights. Still, given the low video quality, we’d recommend buying an outdoor camera elsewhere, like Nest; their cameras are all 1080p HD, and some are even 4K, which has twice as many pixels as 1080p HD for super clear footage.
ADT Indoor Security Camera
Finally, there’s the indoor camera which yes, has 720p HD video, infrared night vision, and a decently wide field of view of around 130 degrees. One feature we really liked about the indoor camera, despite its disappointing video quality, was the fact that whenever the camera detected motion, we received a video clip of the livestream. However, when we tried to speak through the app, we found that the indoor camera actually lacks two-way audio, a huge drawback. Again, given the camera’s low video quality and absence of two-way audio, you may want to buy an indoor camera from another brand, like the Wyze Cam; all of their cameras, the Wyze Cam and the Wyze Cam Pan, have 1080p HD video, two-way audio and infrared night vision.
If a smoke detector goes off and no one is around to hear it, does it even matter? Well, if it’s a WiFi-connected smoke detector from ADT, then the answer is a resounding yes. To test this out, we burnt toast and can confirm that we received an alert along with the monitoring team. Plus, the detector itself shone LED lights and even sounded a siren, in case the message wasn’t clear enough!
Carbon Monoxide Detector
While we couldn’t exactly test the carbon monoxide detector by producing a dangerous amount of CO, we can tell you that ADT’s version is tamper-protected, has an LED light and alarm, plus a hush button, which seems like it would definitely come in handy.
Finally, there was the flood sensor, which can detect water leaks before they turned into full-blown floods.
ADT also offers other smart home products like smart light bulbs, thermostat, plugs, and garage door controls, but since they’re only tangentially security-related, we didn’t test them out for this review.
Home Automation with ADT
Our ADT system worked with the Amazon smart home ecosystem, meaning we could tell Alexa2 to control it, including arming and disarming the systems and controlling smart lights, locks and thermostats. This pretty much covers it when it comes to voice assistants, as ADT doesn’t work with Google Assistant or Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. However, if you’re already using Alexa, ADT will integrate nicely into your smart home as it did ours.
FYI: ADT only works with Alexa, making it a poor choice for those in the Google or Apple smart home ecosystems.
Now, aside from voice assistants, we were also able to set up our system with Internet of Things, or IoT devices from Kwikset, Liftmaster, and Sonos3. At our house, we had the smart locks open our doors when the smoke and CO alarms went off to air out the house. This all occurred automatically, which was not only convenient but super safe. All in all, we were satisfied with how ADT fit into our existing smart home, but it might not be the best choice for those already in the Google or Apple ecosystems. For those that want a security system that works with Google Assistant, check out Nest Secure, which is actually owned by Google. As far as Apple goes, the only security system we’ve reviewed that works with Siri is abode.
ADT’s Monitoring Plans
ADT being the old-school company that it is, it was no surprise that all of their systems required us to pay for 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, which kept the system on even during a power outage. While we’re huge fans of professional monitoring, we wish ADT at least gave us the option to self-monitor, in our opinion. On top of that, we had to sign a binding, three-year contract, which meant that we had to pay anywhere from $40 to $60 a month for a few years (although the exact number will differ based on your equipment and services).
This is among the more expensive monthly costs, so ADT isn’t a great choice for those looking to save money. However, for those of you that definitely want 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, it could make sense; just know that you’re not exactly getting the lowest price possible, as some companies charge as little as $10 a month for the same exact thing (looking at you, Ring Alarm!).
Our Installation Process with ADT
Since ADT is professionally installed, we didn’t have to lift a finger to get our security system up and running. Of course, we did have to pay a negotiable fee like the rest of our equipment and services from ADT, which was a bit annoying, so ADT is only a good choice for those that definitely want professional over DIY installation.
The ADT Pulse App
Although ADT requires professional monitoring, we also self-monitored our system using the ADT Pulse app. From anywhere with an Internet connection, we were able to arm our security system, create schedules and home automations, control connected devices, receive notifications, speak through two-way audio and livestream footage.
We found the apps for iOS4 and Android5 really easy to use, and other ADT customers agreed with us, rating it with a 4.8 and 4.6, respectively. The ADT Pulse app was actually one of the least-buggy security apps we’ve reviewed, so this is a great feature of choosing ADT.
ADT’s Customer Support
ADT offers 24/7 phone support, email support, and live chat, in addition to their online help center6. But in our experience, we found that the quality of the support we received was hit to miss. Speaking over the phone was really time-consuming and we found that most representatives didn’t know how many infrared sensors their indoor camera has, a seemingly simple question. Additionally, it was frustrating to not be told directly how much their products and services cost. However, we found the live chat feature to be superior over the phone line in terms of how quickly we got our answers.
Tip: If you need help with ADT, use live chat before you call them over the phone.
Recap of the ADT Security System
ADT has a huge reputation to uphold, and as far as the actual system goes, we were pretty impressed, save for the indoor and outdoor cameras. When it came to easy functionality and a user-friendly app, the company impressed, but it’s not the most flexible around and therefore only good for some people and not others.
Who We’d Recommend ADT For…
- Someone who wants 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup: If you have $40 to $60 a month to spare for added security, ADT will work for you.
- Anyone okay with signing a long term contract: ADT may be a better choice for homeowners rather than renters.
- Someone who wants professional installation: If DIY installation isn’t for you, you’ll love having your ADT security system professionally installed.
Who We Wouldn’t Recommend ADT For…
- Someone that wants to self-monitor: ADT’s 24/7 professional monitoring is among the most trustworthy in the smart security market, as the company has been around for over 140 years. However, if you don’t want professional monitoring, there’s no option to self-monitor only.
- Anyone on a budget: We think ADT’s pricing reflects their quality; in other words, you pay for what you get. However, if you’re looking for the absolute lowest-cost home security system around, ADT may not make as much sense.
- A person that wants DIY installation: We loved ADT’s professional installation because it ensured that our system was installed correctly, plus, we didn’t mind sitting back and relaxing while someone else took on all the work. But if you don’t want to pay for professional installation, ADT may not be for you, as DIY isn’t an option.
- How much is ADT per month?
The monthly cost of ADT depends on the user’s equipment and services. Unfortunately, it can vary from customer to customer, so users will need to get a quote from an ADT sales representative.
- How much do ADT cameras cost?
Unfortunately, ADT doesn’t list the cost of their products on their website. Rather, users will need to speak to sales representatives to negotiate the prices of their cameras and 24/7 professional monitoring.
- Is ADT worth the cost?
Although ADT is pretty expensive in terms of equipment and monitoring costs, we still think it’s worth the cost.
- What does ADT Pulse include?
The ADT Pulse app lets users arm their security systems, set up schedules and home automations, control connected devices, receive notifications and livestream footage.
- Will ADT negotiate?
ADT will negotiate as they customize their pricing based on the users’ equipment and services.
- Does ADT install cameras?
ADT does install their cameras along with the rest of their security system.
ADT. (2020). About ADT. adt.com/about-adt
Amazon. (2020). ADT Pulse App. amazon.com/ADT-LLC-Pulse/dp/B01NARHJWE
ADT. (2020). ADT Pulse Approved Devices. adt.com/pulse/approved-devices
Apple App Store. (2020). ADT Pulse App.
Google Play. (2020). ADT Pulse App.
ADT. (2020). ADT Help. adt.com/help