Cut your costs, not your walls! Wireless home security is installed without reworking a home’s wiring. Instead of using the wires in your walls, a wireless system sends signals with radio chips, cellular chips, and other wireless technologies. The best wireless home security is more effective than hardwired security. One obvious benefit: Criminals can’t snip wires to stop alerts!
Types of wireless systems
Does it require a landline or internet?
Just internet or cellular
Some other benefits of wireless home security are text alerts and mobile apps, compatibility with virtual personal assistants (Alexa and Google), and the ability to update your system anytime. Even if a professional installs the original equipment, you can personally add gadgets that further enhance safety, save energy, and automate your home. No drilling/cutting is needed to install wireless cameras, glass break sensors, remote-controlled thermostats, smart outlets, and more.
Below we review the best wireless home security systems with do-it-yourself or professional setup. The providers are ADT, Cove, Vivint, Frontpoint, SimpliSafe, and abode.
ADT is North America’s longest-running home security company. They professionally install and monitor wireless, hardwired, and hybrid alarm systems. This review focuses on ADT wireless home security, ADT Control, formerly called ADT Pulse.
Along with pro monitoring, ADT Control lets you keep an eye on your home with a mobile app. The ADT Control app has a near-five-star average in the App Store, where more than 40,000 users have assigned ratings. The older ADT Pulse is just as well-liked, with a 4.8-star rating from 700,000 reviews. It’s also available for Android. Along with sending alerts, an ADT app lets you program your home and is compatible with virtual personal assistants. You can use basic Alexa/Google commands and create automated scenes.
About ADT Control Equipment
ADT Control can be managed with a touchscreen control panel. Essentially a tablet computer, the panel has various apps for managing home security, automating your home, and connecting with the Internet. The home screen shows these icons/functions:
Emergency buttons (police, fire, and paramedics)
Photos (Requires a Flickr account)
Daily Word (Vocabulary app)
The connected sensors will vary depending on your home’s layout. For instance, some homes need more door/window sensors than others to guard the periphery. Some need additional indoor motion detectors. An ADT technician helps determine what you’ll need for home protection. A typical set is valued at $850.
Following pro installation, you can personally expand the system anytime. The ADT Control mobile app makes it easy to add Z-Wave devices such as extra cameras, smart plugs, and so forth. As of today, ADT Pulse does not support ZigBee.
Medical alert pendants can connect with ADT operators too. With premium monthly service an ADT medical pendant will work anywhere on AT&T’s 4G cell network. ADT medical monitoring prices start at $29.99 month-to-month without ADT wireless home security.
About ADT Monitoring
ADT Pulse customers sign contracts for 36 months of service. Monthly payments let you buy the equipment over time, plus they include professional monitoring.
Prices vary depending on what equipment is installed. A $500 anti-theft policy is included with each contract.
2. Vivint - Best Wireless Security with Home Automation
Cutting-edge home automation with voice commands & optional artificial intelligence; pro monitoring available without a long-term contract
Vivint is a leading provider of professionally installed & monitored wireless home security systems. It’s a favorite for security with home automation, as a Vivint control panel can go beyond basic commands. With artificial intelligence (AI) it can “learn” to help your life run more smoothly! Vivint lets you set the sensitivity of AI so it can make decisions with different degrees of your involvement. The company reports that customers typically reduce energy bills by about 10 to 15 percent with help from artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence also helps make Vivint a top choice for video surveillance. In particular, their Outdoor Camera Pro takes a proactive stance: It has lurker detection to help prevent criminal attacks.
Vivint security systems work with month-to-month and long-term agreements.
About Vivint Equipment
Vivint’s new control panel is the Smart Hub. With its color touchscreen, the hub looks like a small tablet computer. Some built-in features are:
Panic buttons to alert police, paramedics, and firefighters
Microphone and speaker
Streaming video from security cameras
Duress code (a PIN that signals emergency)
The hub communicates with entry sensors and the other parts of your security system. It’s “smart” because it can monitor wireless devices with ZigBee and Z-Wave technologies, such as:
Vivint security cameras
Vivint garage door sensors
Google Echo speakers
August door locks
Philips smart lights
Here’s a look at Vivint security cameras for indoor and outdoor surveillance.
Ping Camera – This desktop camera is useful for home security and staying in touch with family members. For instance, your child can call your mobile phone by pressing a button on the camera. Vivint’s Ping camera is also triggered by motion. When triggered, it records 20-second clips. Videos are saved to the cloud for two weeks. This wireless unit has a wide-angle lens and infrared night vision.
Doorbell Camera – Vivint’s doorbell camera with night vision lets you see who’s at your door anytime. It’s triggered by motion and sends alerts to your mobile phone as needed. For instance, “A visitor approached your door” will be sent with video. Video is recorded with a 180-degree lens, and a sound system lets you talk with visitors.
Outdoor Camera – This weatherproof camera delivers smooth security video with a combination of hard wiring and WiFi. It’s motion-activated and has a speaker system, letting you send voice warnings through your phone. The lens covers 140 degrees and lets you zoom in on the action. Like the Ping camera, the Vivint Outdoor Camera records 20-second clips.
Additional Vivint control panels and add-ons are shown at smarthome.Vivint.com.
About Vivint Monitoring
A paid monitoring plan is required for a Vivint security system to work. Not long ago, Vivint only offered long-term contracts. Today customers have the option of long-term or month-to-month service. Prices start at $29.99/month and are higher if you include video security.
A favorite low-cost option for wireless home security without a monitoring contract
SimpliSafe is a longtime favorite brand for fully DIY home security. Owners can add professional monitoring, but many people choose SimpliSafe especially to avoid monthly fees. Other perks are low-cost equipment and easy setup.
This popular company got underway more than a decade ago. Recently SimpliSafe has upgraded its equipment to compete with higher-tech newcomers. A new SimpliSafe system can guard against intruders, send environmental alerts, and automate your home with voice commands.
SimpliSafe home automation is relatively limited compared with other companies in this review. It lets you arm your security system and control smart door locks, lights, and thermostats.
About SimpliSafe Equipment
With SimpliSafe security systems, a pear-shaped base station is the master of alerts. It can monitor up to 41 wireless sensors. Main features of the SimpliSafe Base Station are:
You can purchase the base station separately ($34.99) or bundled with motion sensors, remote control keyfobs, SimpliCam security cameras, and other equipment. A couple of examples:
SimpliCam – New SimpliSafe customers sometimes receive a free SimpliCam with a built-in motion detector. It also sells for $99. You can set this wireless camera anywhere for free 24/7 motion alerts… and you can activate its privacy shutter when you’d rather not record. With a paid plan you can access each video clip for up to 30 days.
Motion Sensor – This powerful motion sensor reaches out 30 feet and has a 90-degree range; it provides maximum coverage when set in a corner. It’s pet-friendly for animals up to 50 pounds. You can set it to Home or Away mode. This unit sells for just $29.
About SimpliSafe Monitoring
The SimpliSafe base station can be useful even without a paid monitoring plan. In case of a security breach, the siren will sound. Also, alerts will be sent to any wireless keypads you’ve installed around the home.
However, using the SimpliSafe mobile app requires a paid monitoring plan. You can add service month-by-month or annually.
A $17.99 per month plan gives you a 24/7 connection to emergency operators, plus it sends alerts to your mobile device.
The $27.99 per month plan brings the extra benefit of letting you remotely control your security system with the mobile app or voice commands.
Combines do-it-yourself installation with professional monitoring of alerts
Frontpoint is a top choice for wireless home security with DIY installation followed by pro monitoring. It’s the best recommendation in terms of high-quality equipment, straightforward contracts, and great customer service. Compatible with Google Home and Alexa too, a Frontpoint system can be an all-in-one solution to guard against intruders, monitor for environmental threats, and automate your home. You can choose a package or build a customized system.
Overall Frontpoint security is a great option for shoppers seeking long-term monitoring. Their minimum term for pro monitoring is one year, and the best Frontpoint deal comes with a 36-month agreement. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee at the start of each contract.
About Frontpoint Equipment
Brand-new Frontpoint security systems use the Frontpoint Smart Hub. Wireless and just 6” wide, the Smart Hub is a convenient control center for your home’s wireless devices: motion sensors, security cameras, smoke alarms, smart TVs, and so forth. It’s compatible with third-party Z-Wave devices, and it features the home alarm industry’s best data encryption software for 2019. The Smart Hub has tamper detection too; it will notify Frontpoint if someone tries to disable the system.
New Frontpoint customers get enhanced security backup, as the Smart Hub can reach operators via a 4G cellular chip and Wi-Fi. If your primary network goes down, the system will automatically change its connection.
Frontpoint ships a wireless keypad with each Smart Hub, and you can add more keypads for convenience. A keypad lets you arm/disarm with a PIN of four to six digits. You can also arm Frontpoint with a mobile app, a keyfob, or by voice.
As for sensors, Frontpoint sells equipment ranging from peel-and-stick entry sensors to wireless night vision cameras. Here are a few best-sellers:
Doorbell Camera: Frontpoint’s doorbell camera fits most door frames. It has a wide-angle lens, night vision and a motion sensor to detect visitors/lurkers. A microphone and speaker are embedded for two-way voice communication. No hardwiring is needed and DIY installation is easy. Unlike some others, the Frontpoint doorbell camera functions even in extreme cold and heat; its range is from -44° to 122° F.
Smart Door Lock: Leave your keys behind! Frontpoint smart locks let you assign PINs for convenient keyless entry. You can use a mobile app to monitor entries for up to 50 users.
Glass Break Sensor: These acoustic sensors detect the unique sounds of breaking glass. If a glass break sensor is triggered, Frontpoint is notified immediately.
For low maintenance, Frontpoint equipment is powered by long-lasting batteries. For instance, batteries in their pet-friendly motion sensors will serve for about seven years.
As mentioned above, the Frontpoint Smart Hub is compatible with third-party equipment too. It works with Z-Wave devices such as Amazon Echo speakers, August door locks, and Philips smart lights.
About Frontpoint Monitoring
Frontpoint has a single-tier plan structure. All customers must get the Ultimate plan at $49.99, but the good news is, it includes every feature possible with a Frontpoint system. It has professional monitoring, video monitoring and cloud storage, and home automation. So even if you start out with a basic system, you can expand it over time, which is made easier by Frontpoint’s wireless setup.
One of the biggest benefits of wireless home security is the fact that it’s easy to install, and that proved to be the case with Cove. Their sensors came with adhesives on the back so we could just stick them on our walls and doors and be done with it. And the Touch Alarm Panel, the base station and control center of each Cove system, was also wireless, so we ended up just putting it on a table near our entryway rather than sticking it on the wall.
About Cove Equipment
The system we bought from Cove included that Touch Alarm Panel, plus a motion sensor, door sensor, YI indoor camera, and a key remote. However, we could’ve scaled up with more sensors for glass breaking, floods, freezing temperatures, smoke, CO, or our windows opening. Cove also offers a medical button for $10. None of the equipment is over $100 a piece, so you can get away with spending under $200 overall, as the Touch Alarm Panel, the core of each system, is only $92.
About Cove Monitoring
Surprisingly, all of Cove’s wireless systems require that you pay at least $17.99 a month for 24/7 professional monitoring, but to get remote control plus Google and Alexa integrations, that cost goes up to $27.99 a month. Unfortunately, there’s no option for self-monitoring, but if you know you want professional monitoring, then Cove could be a good fit. Here are your options when it comes to Cove’s subscriptions:
24/7 Professional Monitoring
Smash and Grab Protection
100% ATT 4G LTE Connection
Hourly Automated System Check
24 Hour Battery Backup
Length of Equipment Warranty
Alexa and Google Home Integration
$5/ Month Equipment Reward
Lifetime Monitoring Rate-Lock Guarantee
To learn more about how all of our components worked together, read our Cove review.
Do-it-yourself home security systems that are compatible with Amazon and Google personal assistants; optional paid monitoring
Abode builds modern home security systems with DIY setup and no contracts required. It’s one of the best choices for home security with a modern slant. Special appeal is its compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Home personal assistant apps.
Compared with SimpliSafe, abode can be a low-cost DIY home security solution… but Abode appeals most to people who want custom-designed wireless home security with a wide selection of features.
About Abode Equipment
Smart Security Kit
iota Security Kit
Gateway, motion sensor, mini door/ window sensor, key fob
iota, mini door/ window sensor, key fob
30-day return policy
30-day return policy
1 year warranty
1 year warranty
Abode has two main styles of wireless home security systems: all-in-one and customized.
The simplest Abode system is an all-in-one unit called iota. It has a siren, a motion-sensitive camera, Amazon Alexa, a Google Home connection, and more.
For a multi-piece wireless security system, the Abode Gateway can be the hub. It can monitor up to 150 devices, and it’s compatible with Z-wave and ZigBee technologies. This might be the best way to build your own best wireless security system.
Customers have the freedom to choose from many brands for add-ons. Abode makes lots of gadgets too. Here are a few examples:
Abode Cam – This plug-in camera captures video with a 152-degree range. Two-way voice is included, letting you interact through your mobile app. This feature not only lets you holler at intruders, but also lets loved ones check in. The sale price is $129.
Water Leak Sensor – Save money with an early warning system! The Abode water leak sensor sends alerts to your phone and email when trouble is detected. This device also sounds a siren when water is present. Very low maintenance, it’s equipped with a 10-year battery.
Smart Home Power Switch – An Abode smart power switch brings endless potential for home automation. It lets you monitor and control any connected device via your smart home app. Some possibilities: a lamp; automated window blinds; a coffee pot; a crockpot; and your kid’s video game system.
About Abode Monitoring
Abode wireless home security can work without paid monitoring:
Going unmonitored, your siren will be active and you can get “chirp” entry alerts.
You can add paid monitoring anytime via the Abode security mobile app. Terms range from three days ($8) to one year ($180). Paid plans give you 24/7 professional monitoring along with cloud storage for security camera footage.
Let’s back up a second and talk about wireless security systems in general. What are they, how do they work, and what should you look for when buying one? We’ll go back to the basics.
What Are Wireless Security Systems?
Wireless security systems are, well, security systems that don’t have any wires. Rather, their components are mostly battery-powered as opposed to being hardwired into a home. Components like indoor and outdoor security cameras, video doorbells, various sensors, keypads, touchscreen panels, keyring remotes, and more can be wireless, which makes for easier installation.
How Do Wireless Security Systems Work?
Wireless security systems typically work by using a wireless protocol in order to connect to a mobile application as well as a monitoring center, in some cases when professional monitoring is available. The protocols include Wi-Fi, landline backup, cellular backup, Z-Wave, ZigBee and others. Through the mobile application, the user can control the system’s wireless components, arming and disarming sensors, checking the status of devices as well as their battery level, and other capabilities. If the user has professional monitoring, the wireless protocol will also connect the components to the company’s monitoring centers so that their staff can get alerted if any of the sensors go off. Then, remotely, they can check in the situation and call emergency personnel if needed.
Do I Need A Wireless Security System?
Whether you live in a house or an apartment, whether you live in the Big Apple or in a small town, if you have a home you’d like to protect, then a security system is a necessity. Of course, wireless home security isn’t strictly a necessity, but it certainly makes things easier when it comes to installation. Let’s break down its pros and cons here.
Pros of Wireless Home Security
No wires that can be cut
Not dependent on home’s power, if they use a cellular protocol other than Wi-Fi
Cons of Wireless Home Security
WiFi-dependent systems can be spotty
Batteries need to be changed or recharged
Some have connectivity issues with the apps
Security System vs. Cameras vs. Video Doorbells
There’s also the question of whether you should buy an entire security system, which typically includes motion and entry sensors, or if you should simply stick with cameras and video doorbells, and truly, the answer comes down to your personal preferences. While we recommend buying them all, if you don’t want to see what’s happening at home in real-time, then cameras and video doorbells are unnecessary. However, without them, if you do have an intrusion, you’ll lack video evidence, making it that much harder to catch the criminal or even identify him or her. But if budget is an issue, you can certainly stick to wireless sensors; they’re certainly better than nothing!
The Different Types of Wireless Security Systems
From studio apartments to eight-bedroom mansions, wireless security systems are going to look pretty different for everyone, with no one-size-fits-all approach. That being said, most companies offer systems that are both customizable and expandable, so you don’t need to buy any components that you don’t truly need.
If you live in a relatively small apartment or house like us, you could get away with simply arming your ground floor doors and windows with contact sensors and calling it a day. With a wireless system, these sensors will most likely have 3M adhesives on their backs, making installation as easy as putting a magnet on your fridge.
Tip: If your budget is super-tight, simply arm your ground-floor doors and windows with wireless sensors and call it a day.
If you live in a home with three to four bedrooms, you’ll probably want wireless home security that’s more involved with a keypad, panic buttons and keyring remotes for all of your family members, multiple indoor and outdoor cameras, and the like (we’ll go over what all of this equipment entails a little further down).
Those that live in houses with more than four bedrooms will probably spend up to thousands of dollars on wireless home security, covering each ground floor door and window with sensors along with any second-floor rooms with balconies or decks. You’ll also want to get keyring remotes and panic buttons for the whole family along with indoor and outdoor cameras and video doorbells.
How We Test Wireless Security Systems
We tested the six security systems on this list for six months each before making our decisions, drawing from testing of nearly 40 different systems. We installed all of these home security systems in our actual homes and offices, judging them on a variety of criteria as we explain in our home security guide. We notice how well they work, how well they connect with their applications and monitoring centers, and how easy the apps were to use, along with judging the system for its capabilities, costs and more. Based on these tests, we compare different home security systems to see which wireless ones performed best for low costs.
How To Buy Wireless Security Systems
But enough about us; let’s talk about how the average person, you, can go about buying a wireless home security system. There are a lot of factors to consider, and we’ve detailed them all below.
We’re not just talking about wireless home security systems; we’re talking about smart wireless home security systems, meaning that they connect to a mobile app and that we can control and monitor them remotely. And with this Internet connection comes the possibility of home automation, meaning that we set devices to trigger actions in one another as well as control our system’s components with our voices. Let us explain what we mean, for those not well-versed in the smart home universe we reside in.
Voice assistant integration: In order for us to control our wireless home security system, we need them to be integrated with voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, most commonly. To explain further, we don’t command the components directly, but tell our voice assistant to command them to do certain tasks, like arming our sensors, seeing if our front door is locked, or putting our outdoor camera footage on our Chromecast. For those that are already in the Google, Amazon or Apple ecosystems, you’ll want a wireless home security system that works with the voice assistant you already use, for ease of use. But if you’re still deciding, note that, as of 2019, Google Assistant beat Alexa and Siri in terms of both answering questions correctly and understanding the queries to begin with,1 so that’s something to consider.
Other IoT devices: Aside from working with voice assistants, some wireless home security systems work with Internet of Things, or IoT products, from other brands. For example, SimpliSafe works with Nest thermostats and August smart locks, as you can read about on our SimpliSafe pricing page. In our home, we had the August smart locks lock every time we armed our SimpliSafe security system so we didn’t have to worry about manually locking them ourselves. Because there’s no worse feeling than leaving your home, only to remember that your doors are wide open!
Learn More: We reviewed the Nest Learning Thermostat on our Youtube channel.2 Watch to learn about how it works and how it can work with wireless home security systems.
If your wireless home security system is Dorothy and an Internet connection is the Emerald City, then the wireless protocol is the yellow brick road, how you’ll actually complete that journey. Most commonly, wireless home security systems connect to their mobile applications via Wi-Fi. The big disadvantage of WiFi-only systems is that if your Wi-Fi is unstable or if your power goes out, you may not be able to control or monitor your system, which could be a huge issue.
Some other options that aren’t affected by power outages are cellular or landline backup, the latter of which, as you may have guessed, requires landlines. Although these forms of backup may require additional fees, their biggest advantage is that they can’t be cut, unlike an Internet router. Power blackout or not, these forms of backup will keep your wireless home security systems connected to both your app and the monitoring center.
Finally, some less common wireless protocols are Z-Wave and ZigBee. To summarize our comparison, ZigBee tends to be faster and less expensive, but it has a lower range of only 35 feet compared to 100 feet with Z-Wave. And so, we recommend ZigBee for people with smaller homes and less of a budget for home security and Z-Wave for those with larger homes and more of a budget. Like cellular or landline backup, Z-Wave and ZigBee will keep going, even when the neighborhood’s power is down.
If your wireless security system includes wireless cameras, then you’ll need somewhere to store their footage for safekeeping. Basically, storage for security cameras comes in two forms; either local storage, which is usually a slot for a micro-SD card or a connected hard drive, or cloud storage, a cloud server that often requires a monthly or yearly fee. Ideally, our wireless cameras have both cloud and local storage (redundancy is key when it comes to storage), but some people may be fine with having one or the other. But if it’s cloud storage, make sure you factor in the costs, if any, to your bottom line.
Since every wireless security system has its corresponding mobile app, make sure it has decent ratings on either the Google Play or Apple store, depending on whether you have an Android or an iPhone. The app should have a fast connectivity time with the components, meaning you should be notified as soon as any of the cameras or sensors are triggered, and it also shouldn’t have any bugs. Make sure to check the app store’s reviews right before buying, as software updates can greatly affect their functionality. The Nest app, for example, used to have low ratings for iOS, but improvements have been made to the software and the reviews went from low to high.
The next thing you’ll want to consider is exactly what equipment you’ll need. There are a lot of different components to consider, but we’ll let you know what’s most important and what can be considered “extra”.
Indoor/ outdoor cameras: If you want to actually see what’s happening in and outside of your home, or capture evidence of a crime taking place, then security cameras are a necessity. To learn more, read our security camera guide, which will go over everything from video resolution to night vision. We recommend placing security cameras on the ground floor of your home in main areas like a central hallway or living room, as well as outside any ground level doors.
Video doorbells: Video doorbells are essentially cameras that are meant to go next to your doorbell. The benefit of wireless video doorbells in particular is that they don’t require existing doorbell setups. Depending on the camera’s artificial intelligence capabilities, you’ll either get alerted when the camera detects movement, when the camera detects a person, or when your doorbell is rung. Most video doorbells have two-way audio and either color or infrared night vision so you can speak to and see your guest, day or night.
Motion sensors: Motion sensors are really the nuts and bolts of any security system. If you’re going to get one component, motion sensors should be placed in the main areas of your ground floor to detect motion when they’re armed.
Glass break sensors: Glass break sensors, as the name implies, can detect the sounds of glass breaking, as intruders will often break through windows as opposed to opening them up and risking waking the window sensors. However, if you have a motion sensor within the window’s range, then glass break sensors are unnecessary. Only use them on ground floor windows where the motion sensor is out of range.
Window/door sensors: Otherwise known as contact or entry sensors, you should place door/ window sensors on each of your doors and windows on the ground floor of your home. Each sensor is two parts, one that goes on the door or window frame, and one that goes on the door or window itself. When the two parts are separated, you’ll be notified, given of course that the system is armed.
Garage door sensors: Garage door sensors are essentially entry sensors designed for your garage door, another important area to secure if you keep valuables there or if there’s a connected entryway to your home.
Keypad: More traditional security systems still have keypads where you enter passcodes to arm and disarm your system. A wireless keypad can either be stuck on the wall near the door you most commonly enter and exit your home from, or it can be placed on any flat surface nearby.
Panic button: Panic buttons are definitely one of the more auxiliary components of wireless home security. Essentially, they’re wireless buttons that connect users to either the professional monitoring center or, more directly, the police, local hospital or fire department. Especially if you have a large family, we recommend getting panic buttons for each of your family members, stored in their nightstands or somewhere near their beds that’s easily accessible.
Key fob: Otherwise known as keyring remotes, key fobs work with some wireless security systems so that you can arm and disarm them even away from the keypad. Some key fobs, like the Nest Tags of the Nest Secure security system, now sadly off the market, allow users to simply tap the base station, or Nest Guard in this case, to arm and disarm the system. You can also use the key fobs to disarm the system while a short distance from your home so it’s ready when you walk in the door. If you get a key fob, be sure to store it safely, as a stolen key fob could mean a disarmed security system when no one is home.
Smart lock: Another auxiliary product that we highly recommend are smart locks, locks that can be locked and unlocked remotely. The best smart locks can hook up with your wireless home security system so that your doors can lock when your system is armed, ensuring that your home is truly secure when you leave the house.
Touchscreen panel: Most systems come with some form of touchscreen panel where you can control your wireless home security as well as any connected devices; sometimes, arming and disarming can also happen on this panel, which can be put on a wall or on any flat surface. The touch screen panel may have cellular backup built-in, or it could be in a separate device, which transitions nicely into our next point…
Cellular communicator: A cellular communicator may be a device all on its own that keeps your wireless home security system connected to the app as well as the monitoring center. For wireless systems, there’s no better protocol than cellular communication, as it stays on in a power outage and can’t be cut, unlike Wi-Fi.
Yard sign: In the home security industry, there’s some debate about the effectiveness of yard signs. While some people argue that they deter would-be burglars by letting them know of a security system in place, others believe that it gives the burglar useful intel that they can use to their advantage. Even burglars themselves fell on both sides of the argument3 when asked if security signs deterred them in a study. Our solution? Get a security sign from a different security company in order to both deter and throw off burglars at the same time. Genius, right?
Window stickers: We recommend the exact same thing when it comes to window stickers: order them from a different security company and stick them on your windows.
Siren: Many security system touch screen panels or base stations have sirens built-in, but if yours doesn’t, we recommend getting an auxiliary siren. You want it to be loud enough so that even if you’re not home or don’t have time to answer a notification, your neighbors could hear if an alarm goes off. Sound is measured in decibels,4 so pay attention to the siren’s technical specifications where it says DB. We recommend sirens of at least 85 decibels.
Micro-SD card: The only way for wireless cameras to store their footage locally without any wires whatsoever is through a micro-SD card. Many of these cameras come with their own micro-SD cards, although you may have to purchase one separately, typically with up to 64 GB of storage.
Environmental monitoring: While it’s not technically part of your home’s security, environmental monitoring is an extremely important way to keep your home safe from fires, floods, frozen pipes, and more. These days, many security companies also manufacture environment monitoring products that can be managed within the same app, so if you don’t already own these products, it’s easiest to get the sensors that correspond with your wireless home security system.
Smoke/ CO alarm: Did you know that about half of all fires start from cooking, while the other half start from a combination of heating, electrical systems, and more?5 Another deadly killer is carbon monoxide, a tasteless, colorless, and odorless gas that can be lethal if ingested in large quantities. If your home doesn’t already have smoke and CO detectors, we recommend buying a smart one so that you can be alerted of dangerous levels of smoke or CO even when you’re not home. Many of the wireless devices have long battery lives and can even alert you when their batteries are getting low, leaving your home protected 24/7.
Smoke/ CO alarm listener: Already have smoke and CO detectors that aren’t smart (no offense)? Smoke and CO alarm listeners can detect the sounds of your existing smoke and CO alarms going off and alert you via your mobile app, essentially turning your “dumb” devices into smart ones. This is a more affordable option than buying smart smoke and CO alarms to begin with, although not every company sells them.
Flood sensor: The only way to prevent floods is to catch leaks as soon as they happen, so put some flood sensors, sometimes called water leak detectors, near your dishwasher, washing machine, and any other areas where floods can occur.
Freeze sensor: Frozen pipes can burst, leading to floods (see above). But if you regular your pipes’ temperatures, you can prevent them from freezing and the flooding that comes with that.
Temperature sensor: While temperature sensors may be built into smoke alarms, they can be sold as separate devices that alert you of rapidly rising temperatures in your home, which could indicate fires.
Now that you’ve figured out the physical components you want in your wireless home security system, it’s time to decide how you want to install them: DIY or professional.
DIY: Most smart security systems have DIY installation, meaning you do it yourself. With wireless systems, in particular, DIY installation is much easier, as it doesn’t require hardwiring. DIY installation is also free, another advantage, and usually involves a step-by-step guided setup process in the app, making the system easy for laypeople to install.
Professional: Some more traditional security companies like ADT and Vivint require or offer professional installation, which typically costs a fee of around $100. If time and convenience are more valuable to you than the cost of installation, then professional installation could be worth your while.
Another thing to consider is monitoring. Are you going to monitor your system yourself, leave it to the professionals or a combo of the two? While all smart security companies offer some form of self-monitoring through the mobile app, some also require professional monitoring, which for others, it’s an option. Let’s talk more about each.
Self-monitoring: Self-monitoring means that whenever one of your wireless sensors goes off, you’ll get alerted via the mobile app. You’ll also be able to live-stream footage from your wireless cameras, speak through two-way audio, and control the system remotely, adjusting motion sensitivity, creating automated actions, and more. Self-monitoring is usually free but not always; SimpliSafe, for example, charges $24.99 a month for these actions, while with Ring Alarm, they’re free.
Professional monitoring: Professional monitoring means that the company has teams in monitoring centers across the country that will be notified when your alarms go off. If you don’t respond to the notification or if they’re unable to reach you, they can check into your home via your security cameras and verify if an emergency is happening or not. If it is, they can contact the correct emergency personnel for you, be it the police, an ambulance or the fire department. Professional monitoring is a good option for someone who travels a lot or simply can’t respond to each notification, although it typically requires monthly or yearly fees. How much are the fees, exactly? We thought you’d never ask.
At this point, you probably have a pretty big laundry list of everything you’d like in a wireless security system, but what’s the bottom line?
Upfront costs: Upfront costs typically include the cost of the equipment, although, with some companies, you can pay that over time. Some companies require activation fees, although these have become increasingly rare. The price of your equipment can differ greatly based on what you get, ranging from just $30 for some sensors all the way to thousands of dollars for an extensive system. The good news is that with such a wide range, you can basically decide on a budget and stick to it, so long as it’s reasonable for the size of your home.
Storage costs: With security cameras often comes cloud storage, and while some companies offer this for free, others charge monthly or yearly fees, typically for 30 or 60 days of cloud storage. While this fee is sometimes bundled in with professional monitoring, it can be separate. Nest, for example, charges $6 a month for 30 days of storage or $12 a month for 60 days, while Ring gives its users 60 days of storage for only $3 a month. While there is a range, we recommend only paying less than $10 a month for storage at the highest.
Professional monitoring costs: On its own or bundled with storage, professional monitoring costs can range from $10 to $60 a month, depending on the company.
Other costs: From professional installation to remote control, companies have differing miscellaneous costs, either upfront, monthly, yearly or longer. Be sure to consider both your upfront costs and any recurring costs to see the true bottom line of your wireless security system.
While some security systems don’t require any recurring costs whatsoever, many do, and with those recurring costs come contracts, either month-to-month, yearly, or more, typically. Be sure to find out the true length of your contract and if you can get out of it without losing more money. Some security companies have come under fire for not disclosing the true length of their contracts, so that’s something you’ll want to nail down before purchasing.
While you probably don’t have a journalism background, it is important to do a little background research on the company itself. Have they been hacked in the past? Sued? Criticized for predatory sales practices? Since we’re talking about your home’s security, the company needs to be trustworthy, so make sure it’s reputable through some web surfing.
Are Wireless Security Systems Hackable?
We’ve all seen the same things on the news, hackings of various Internet of Things devices, from security cameras to smart locks to smart lighting and everything in between. The truth is that, with weak passwords and no advanced authentication, any online account can be hacked. That’s why it’s important to create a long, complicated and unique password for your home security account, as well as turn on two or multi-factor authentication, if available. It’s also important to follow the best digital security practices in general; otherwise, you’re at risk of your accounts being compromised. To learn more about how you can protect your security account, read our authentication guide.
That is absolutely everything we know about wireless home security, but for the cheap seats in the back, we’ll go over some of the questions we get asked most frequently.
Wireless security systems work by connecting to a mobile application via a wireless protocol, which could be Wi-Fi, cellular backup, landline backup, ZigBee or Z-Wave. Through this protocol, the user can get alerted whenever their sensors go off when their system is armed. They can also control their systems remotely through the app as long as they have an Internet connection.
One of the best wireless home security systems without a monthly fee is abode. While abode doesn’t require any monthly fees, they do have optional cloud storage, cellular backup and professional monitoring.
How reliable a wireless security system is really depends on the company it comes from as well as its wireless protocol and mobile application. Trusted retailers like ADT and Frontpoint produce reliable security systems that run on cellular backup, meaning that they’ll stay connected in the event of a power outage. Less reliable systems rely purely on Wi-Fi, which can go out, or have buggy mobile applications which can lose connectivity to the wireless components.