Best Home Security Systems of 2020
We've been testing and reviewing security systems for 5 years. Each year we select the top systems based on reliability, flexibility, smart home integrations, and of course, affordability.
Figuring out which home security system is right for you doesn’t have to be stressful. At Security.org, we’ve tested out all the top options with a wide variety of features: DIY home security, professionally installed home security, home security systems that work with Alexa and Google Assistant, and plain old local alarms for the more tech-averse people in our lives. No matter the size of your house, apartment, or business, there’s a ton of scalable options to choose from, and we’ve tested out all our security systems personally to make sure they’re reliable. From options with no monthly fees whatsoever to options with 24/7, live professional monitoring, home security can look many different ways in 2020, and we’ve tried out everything, so you don’t have to.
Best Home Security Overall
Best Google Home Security
At Security.org, we tested all the best options 2020 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.
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, abode, and Nest Secure (Google Nest’s take on home security) as well as products from more established security companies like ADT, Protect America and Frontpoint.
The Best Home Security Systems of 2020
- SimpliSafe - Best Home Security System Overall
- Cove - Best Security System for Google Home
- Vivint - Best Home Security and Automation
- ADT - Best Home Security System with Pro Installation
- Alder - Best Security System for Response Times
- Frontpoint - Best DIY Home Security System
- Abode - Best No Monthly Fee Home Security System
- Protect America - Most Affordable Home Security with Landline
- Ring Alarm - Best Alexa Home Security System
- Xfinity - Best Security System for the Smart Home
Comparison of the Best Home Security Systems
|Monthly Plan||$14.99 and Up||$15.00 and Up||$29.99 and Up||$28.95 and Up||$40.00 and Up||$34.99 and Up||$8.00 and Up||$19.99 and Up||$3.00 and Up||$15.00 and Up|
|Contract Length||None||Monthly or 36-Months||42-Months||36-Months||36-Months||None||None||36-Months||None||Monthly|
|Package Cost||$199 and Up||None||$599 and Up||$99 and Up||$40 and Up||$130 and Up||$179 and Up||None||$199 and Up||$360 and Up|
|Read Review||SimpliSafe Review||Cove Review||Vivint Review||ADT Review||Alder Security Review||Frontpoint Review||Abode Review||Protect America Review||Ring Alarm Review||Xfinity Review|
A Detailed List of the Best Home Alarm Systems
1. SimpliSafe - Best Home Security System Overall
A popular choice for no-contract, easy DIY setup, and refreshingly affordable home security.
Why SimpliSafe Was Best for No-Contract Home Security
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 $14.99 per month. DIY monitoring was always available with the free SimpliSafe mobile app.
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 Dont 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. A starter set cost us $244 before discounts. This security company had frequent specials, plus they offered us refurbished security equipment for less.
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.
We weren’t super fond of the simplicity of SimpliSafe’s video cameras. They weren’t weatherproof and we would have liked indoor or outdoor cameras with more advanced functions.
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.
2. Cove - Best Security System for Google Home
Cove definitely flies under the radar, but if you’re already in the Google smart home ecosystem, they’re one of the best security systems around.
Why Cove Is The Best System for Google Home
We already had a ton of Nest speakers and Nest Hubs in our home, so it was easy to control our Cove security system with Google Assistant. We asked Google to arm our security system, tell us its status, or get an event history. This was especially helpful when we were running out of the house in a hurry and didn’t have time to arm our system via the Touchscreen Panel! But for those in the Amazon ecosystem, Cove also works with Alexa.
What We Like
- Integrations with Google Assistant and Alexa
- Month-to-month contracts available
- Can choose to pay nothing upfront
- Battery backup
What We Dont Like
- Professional monitoring required
- Third-party security cameras only
- Expensive remote control
- Monthly fees required
24/7 Professional Monitoring
Being a newer company, we were surprised that all of Cove’s systems require 24/7 professional monitoring, but we liked that we could either sign up for a month if we paid for our equipment upfront, or for three years if we didn’t want to pay anything upfront. For those concerned with money, the latter is a good option, although your monthly rates will be more expensive, $25 to $35 a month compared to $15 or $25 (we paid $25 a month).
One way that we saved money with Cove was by installing the system ourselves. Pre-programmed even before it was shipped to us, we stuck our sensors on our walls via their 3M-backed adhesives. On the phone with someone from Cove, we made sure each consistent worked, a fairly long but necessary process. However, you can set it up in as little as an hour if you don’t need that extra confirmation. But this is definitely a system that’s easy to install and best of all, free to install.
3. Vivint - Best Home Security and Automation
An intelligent approach to home security with an impressive lineup of home automation features.
How Vivint Was Best for Home Security with Automation
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 ux.
In our company researched, we learned that Vivint worked with some of the major smart home assistants such as Google Home and Alexa to develop a fully autonomous home. Most Vivint customers were homeowners with long-term security contracts and the majority gave Vivint excellent reviews. 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 Dont 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 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.
4. ADT - Best Home Security System with Pro Installation
The biggest name in home security known for professional installation and monitoring you can trust.
How ADT Was Best for Pro-Installed Home Security
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 Pulse. We appreciated that ADT Pulse 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 Pulse 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
- Professional installation
- High-quality equipment
- Reliable monitoring with multiple centers
What We Dont 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 Pulse installation was that it was effectively 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 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.
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.
5. Alder - Best Security System for Response Times
With response times 10 times faster than the rest, the professional monitoring from Alder was top-notch.
Why Alder Was The Best Security System for Response Time
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
- Quick installation
- 30-day trial period
- User-friendly mobile app
- Free equipment
What We Dont Like
- Three-year contracts
- 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!
6. Frontpoint - Best DIY Home Security System
DIY home security systems offering cutting-edge technology, outstanding service, and total home automation.
Why Frontpoint was the Best DIY Security Company
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
- High-quality equipment
What We Dont Like
- Requires a long-contract
- Can be prone to false alarms
- Requires a credit check
- Relatively new to security industry
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, we were able to choose a one of three-year alarm monitoring plan. The best prices ($34.99 and up) we were offered came with three-year contracts.
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
- Remote-control thermostat
We were very interested in the newest Frontpoint control panel, which had an easy-to-use color touchscreen. We felt safer about this unit because it had Crash & Smash protection, which meant Frontpoint would notify police if someone tampered with our device, and our built-in camera would snap a picture of intruders, too.
7. Abode - Best No Monthly Fee Home Security System
Get home security and smart home automation without all the contracts and monthly fees.
How Abode Was Best for No-Monthly-Fee Home Security
Abode was one of the best security companies that let 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.
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 Dont 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.
Short-Term Pro Monitoring
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. Short-term choices for pro monitoring included:
- Three days, $8
- One week, $15
- One month, $20
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.
8. Protect America - Most Affordable Home Security with Landline
Protect America is a go-to choice for low-cost, DIY, landline-based home security.
How Protect America was Best for Landline Home Security
Protect America provided us a basic security system with pro monitoring at a low monthly price. If we spent more, they also guarded against environmental threats (smoke, fire, carbon monoxide, and water leaks) and supported home automation. Home automation equipment could be controlled with voice commands, the Protect America control panel, or a mobile app.
How it worked: we could order online or by phone. Protect America shipped the equipment, and we installed a Protect America security system with about an hour of work. After that, Protect America monitored the system for emergencies. We could personally check surveillance video and other system activity with a mobile app.
The lowest price we identified for pro monitoring by Protect America came with landline service, and the agreement was for 36 months. We could have chosen cellular or broadband monitoring, but it was about twice as much.
In sum, we thought Protect America was best for people who didn’t mind long-term contracts and was most affordable for those with landlines. Read on for three reasons why we thought Protect America was the best home security choice for many shoppers.
What We Like
- No upfront equipment costs
- Simple do-it-yourself installation
- App-controlled home automation
- Affordable monthly monitoring plans
What We Dont Like
- Long-term contract required
- Strict cancellation terms
- High pressure sales tactics
- Customer service needs improvement
Free Security Equipment
With Protect America’s simplest security system, we didn’t have to pay for the equipment. The only charge was $19.99 per month for monitoring with landline signaling. The main components of this system were:
- A General Electric color touchscreen
- Three entry sensors
- A doorbell camera with two-way voice
For a charge, we could add additional security equipment and environmental monitors… and most excitingly, we could include home automation with voice control. We were also informed that Protect America control panels were compatible with ZigBee and Z-Wave devices, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and other home automation technologies.
Low-Cost Landline Monitoring
After a 14-day trial period, our Protect America security contract began. The duration was 36 months, and the lowest price ($19.99 per month) was for landline monitoring. In other words, if a sensor was triggered, it alerted Protect America operators via phone cables.
We considered Protect America’s broadband and cellular emergency signal monitoring for $41.99 per month but decided it was too expensive. However, cellular backup would have given us extra protection in case criminals or Mother Nature knocked out a landline connection.
Next-Day DIY Installation
Next-day installation came with our Protect America plan. Our installation took less than an hour, and no tools were needed.
9. Ring Alarm - Best Alexa Home Security System
The Amazon-owned Ring Alarm plays well with Alexa and offers 24/7 monitoring for just $10/mo.
Why Ring was the Best Alexa Security System
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 a Ring security system or pay for an affordable month-to-month monitoring service.
What We Like
- Highly-affordable professional monitoring at $10/mo.
- Advanced home automation features and Alexa integrations
- No contract required on Ring Alarm systems
- Simple DIY setup takes only minutes to install
What We Dont 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 $10, and we could cancel anytime without penalty. 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, such as Nest Secure, 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.
10. Xfinity- Best Security System for the Smart Home
You may think of Xfinity as a cable provider, but recently, they’ve become one of the biggest names in smart home security.
Why Xfinity Is The Best For The Smart Home
Xfinity works with tons of different third-party IoT devices, from smart locks to smart lighting to smart thermostats, Bluetooth trackers, and garage door openers. We had our security system arm and our Hue lights turn on away mode so it seemed like we were still home, with our lights turning off and on randomly. We also had our Yale locks immediately close our doors when the system was armed and ensured that our thermostat was down a few degrees to save energy. All of these partnerships with popular IoT brands made Xfinity a great fit for our smart home.
What We Like
- Works with August, Hue, Kwikset, GE, ecobee, LIFX, Yale, etc.
- Monthly contracting
- Low monthly fees
- Cellular backup included
What We Dont Like
- Doesn’t work with voice assistants
- Professional installation required for some components
- Professional monitoring required
- No discounted long-term contract options
Affordable Professional Monitoring
All of Xfinity’s systems come with 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, the cost of which will vary based on where you live, but we got away with paying $20 a month for the Security Plus plan. This really opened things up for us like recording when our cameras detected motion, detection for people, pets, and vehicles specifically as opposed to motion of any kind, and 24/7 recording, if we so pleased. It was nice having people at our disposal 24/7 if we couldn’t respond to mobile notifications, which brings us to our next point…
Sure, we had professional monitoring, but to livestream footage, view recordings, receive notifications, and set up home automation, we turned to the Xfinity Home app. While we used the iOS app and didn’t run into issues, the Android app is even higher-rated, with a 4.5 in the Google Play store as opposed to a 4.4. Either way, you shouldn’t run into any bugs controlling your Xfinity security system remotely.
Our Video Review
We tested out each and every security system on our list and made a video to prove it. Watch it below to see the systems, cameras, and sensors we wrote about in action!
Security System Buying Guide: How We Determined 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.
- 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 three 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:
- Checked for homeowner’s insurance discount: We were awarded a 15% 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.
Methodology: How We Ranked Security Systems
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:
- Security cameras
- Video doorbells
- Smart locks
- Motion sensors
- Entry sensors
- Glass break sensors
- Garage door sensors
- Base station
- Panic button
- 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
- Sometimes time-consuming
- Some systems were easier to install than others
- Less reliable than professionally installed systems
What We Like
- No work from the user required
- More trustworthy
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.
FAQs About Home Security Systems
- What was the best and most affordable security system?
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 $10 a month or $100 a year, which was the lowest price we saw.
- What was the best smart home security system?
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.
- What are the best home security systems?
The best home security systems we’ve tested are SimpliSafe, Vivint, ADT, Frontpoint, Brinks, abode, Protect America, Nest Secure, Ring Alarm, Arlo, and Alder Security.
- Does Alexa really work for with home security systems?
Some smart security systems we tried worked with Alexa, but not all.
Top security system options we found worked with Alexa included Nest, Ring Alarm, and Vivint.
KTVB. (2019). We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes. https://www.ktvb.com/article/news/crime/we-asked-86-burglars-how-they-broke-into-homes/277-344333696
ASU Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. (2002). The Problem of Burglary of Single-Family Houses. https://popcenter.asu.edu/content/burglary-single-family-houses-0
Colonial Behavioral Health. (2012). The Cognitive and Emotional Impact of Crime, Parts 1 and 2. https://www.colonialbh.org/about-us/news-and-events/the-cognitive-and-emotional-impact-of-crime-parts-1-and-2.aspx