We’re often asked, how do we arrive at our conclusions when we’re putting together a list like this one? Actually, we consider several specific factors. Some of those factors apply across the board to every security system we rate. Others apply more specifically to this list of hardwired systems only.
As a starting point, we consider what kind of equipment each security company offers. That can include:
Of course, we’re interested as well in the quality of each device, looking specifically at durability and available features such as:
- 1080p HD video
- Cameras with night vision, both infrared and color
- Two-way audio
- Storage space
- Smart device integrations
- Person detection
Finally, we looked at how easy it was to customize security packages. We prefer home security companies that let us build systems ourselves so we don’t wind up spending money on equipment we don’t need.
Pro Tip: Both DVRs (digital video recorders) and NVRs (network video recorders) record video. However, where DVRs process video on the device itself, NVRs process video on the camera before sending it to a storage device.
Another important factor we consider is how a security system is installed. Generally, we like DIY vs. professional installation, since it’s faster, cheaper, and allows us to make changes to suit our needs. However, if a system demands professional installation, we expect the company to have their own installation team or offer us a list of local contractors.
This list focuses on hardwired security systems. Hardwired systems, by definition, include self-monitoring through on-site DVR or NVR recording. As a result, most companies don’t offer professional monitoring services with their hardwired packages. After all, if you’re recording video footage yourself, the point is to watch it yourself rather than pay someone else at a remote site to watch it.
The exception on this particular list is the Ring Alarm. They don’t offer any kind of local storage, and their cloud storage costs $3 per month. However, they also offer Ring Protect Plans, which come with 24/7 monitoring for $10 a month.
Smart Home Integrations
Hardwired security systems aren’t as smart home-friendly as wireless systems, since most smart technology relies on some form of wireless communication between devices. However, we expect any system that makes this list to work seamlessly with both Alexa and Google Assistant. You can find out more about smart homes by heading over to our guide to home automation or our smart home guide. Learn how to make your smart home dreams a reality with the latest smart lighting, smart light switches, smart locks, and more convenient smart home devices.
Here again, hardwired security systems are unique in that they are based on local recording and self-monitoring. In fact, one of the advantages to hardwired systems is that once you’ve purchased monitoring equipment, you’re done paying, in most cases. The exception, of course, is the Ring system. They don’t offer a DVR or NVR and charge $3 per month for cloud-based storage. Our primary focus then, for this list, was on the cost of the equipment itself. We compared prices between single security pieces like cameras, door sensors, and video doorbells. Some of the price ranges we found included:
- Basic indoor security camera: $38 – $60
- Outdoor night vision camera: $60 – $100
- Outdoor camera with spotlight: $78 – $200
- 1 TB DVR or NVR: $130 – $220
- Doorbell camera: $60 – $130
- Door/ window sensor: $20 – $25
Of course, in each case, we considered the value we got for our money. For example, Swann’s cheapest camera sells for $38, which is $2 cheaper than Reolink’s cheapest camera. However, the Reolink camera comes with two-way audio, while the Swann camera doesn’t. In addition, some companies didn’t offer some components, which affected their rating. Swann, for instance, doesn’t offer door sensors. Reolink doesn’t offer doorbell cameras. And Lorex was the only system we came across that sold their own home hubs. Finally, we considered whether or not a particular security system allowed for DIY installation since, of course, DIY saves money. A professionally installed system can run anywhere from $75 to $300 per camera.
Mobile apps are important for hardwired systems especially, since they require self-monitoring. We start by exploring reviews at Google Play and the App Store. Ultimately, though, we prefer to do our own testing as well. We give better marks to apps that send us real-time alerts so we can keep a close eye on our homes. We also expect apps to give us full access to live-stream and recorded video, and we prefer it if we can make camera adjustments, like changing monitoring zones and motion sensitivity. Finally, we like apps that are intuitive and logical so we don’t have to waste time trying to learn how they work.