We spent several weeks looking at all aspects of dozens of home security companies. This review focuses on home security systems with active 24/7 monitoring services. We rated each company on their equipment, monitoring, response time and much more. Protect America is our top pick as they scored high in all aspects of our review.
Home security systems greatly reduce your chance of suffering from a home break-in. Everything from your yard sign, window stickers, and audible alarm deter burglars from breaking in. If all of those deterrents do not work you have a 24/7 monitored system that can dispatch the police, fire or emergency medical response as needed. Additionally, you can save up to 20% on your home owners insurance by implementing a home security system.
- Best Wireless Home Security System
- Best Professionally Installed Security System
- Best Home Automation System
- How We Selected
- Home Security Equipment
- Homeowner’s Insurance Discounts
- Types of Monitoring
- Pre-Purchase Considerations
- Types of Communication
- DIY VS Professional Installation
- Local VS National Home Security Companies
- 24/7 Monthly Monitoring
- Is a DIY Home Security System Worth the Money?
- Before Signing a Contract
- How to Reduce False Alarms
How We Selected
There are hundreds of home security companies across the United States but only a few national brands that are well-known and established in the market. We disqualified all regional and local home security companies. We also excluded companies with a poor Better Business Bureau Rating and an overwhelming amount of poor consumer reviews. This left us with a smaller group of national companies that have excellent ratings and offer robust security and home automation packages.
Home Security Systems Reviews
Home Security Equipment
Each company offers a range of home security equipment, however, here are the essential components every home security system should have:
This is the brain of the home security system and it communicates with both the security sensors and the central monitoring station (the 24/7 hour monitoring center). Most systems today are wireless and cellular where the communication with the sensors occurs over the same technology as your wireless network. The communication with the central monitoring station is over cellular communication.
These type of sensors are placed on all entrances and windows on your first floor. If you have a lot of windows these sensors can become expensive and it is a best practice to use a glass break sensor to cover
Motion sensors are great for covering a large area like a living room or family room. They can sensor motion up to 40ft. Dogs less than 40lbs don’t typically trigger an alarm but its best to keep pets out of the area when the alarm system is enabled.
Chances are you already have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. You can incorporate these with your home security system.
There are a lot of other sensors that you can use to monitor your home that includes freeze sensors, heat sensors, carbon monoxide detectors, garage door sensors, and flood sensors to name a few. When you call a home security company a consultant will work with you to determine the proper coverage for your home. If you have specific needs you can mention it on the call. Most companies carry these other sensors.
Homeowner’s Insurance Discounts
Each insurance company is different but most of them will reward you for taking steps to secure your home and your personal property. You might be able to save 5% for an unmonitored home security system installation but the savings really add up when you add 24/7 monitoring services. Some insurance companies will provide you with a 20% discount for installing a monitored home security solution. Having a home security system is a deterrent, furthermore having one that is monitored all day and night adds another layer of protection.
Types of Monitoring
Home security systems have two types of monitoring: internal and external. Most security system components communicate with each other wirelessly using the same 802.11 standards of home networking. As long as your home is conducive to a wireless network, you shouldn’t have any issue with the wireless sensors communicating back to the control panel. Home security systems can be hard wired too, but this is less common. A hard wire installation was more popular back in the 90’s. Another benefit of having all of the components communicating wirelessly is that you can take the system with you when you move.
The communication from the control panel to the central monitoring station determines the type of monitoring technology that is being used. There are three main options which include landline, broadband, and cellular. Landline uses your existing telephone service from the phone company. This type of monitoring is the most stable as far as communication but is the least secure as the telephone line can be cut from outside the home. If a burglar is determined to break into your home, cutting the lines of cable, phone and Internet is the first step they will take. Broadband monitoring is susceptible to the same cutting of the lines as a landline.
There are several things that you want to think about before you choose a particular home security system. How you answer the following questions can help steer you towards the right company for yours and your family’s security needs. Think about the points below and get a clearer picture of what you want and need out of a security system.
Types of Communication
There are three ways that a security system can communicate:
DIY VS Professional Installation
The kind of installation your security system requires will affect the cost significantly. For those companies that offer DIY installation, there is usually a dramatic reduction in the cost. There are two different kinds of installs available: DIY and Professional Install.
There are some pros and cons to each of them. DIY install is recommended if the system is easy to set up, such as with peel and stick sensors that have been pre-programmed to match up with the different areas of your home that they will be applied.
Many people are not comfortable installing a system of such importance on their own, even if the company states that installation is easy. For this reason, many opt for professional installation despite the higher cost. Below we have listed the differences between Professional Installation and DIY Installs.
DIY Security System Installation
- Takes roughly an hour or two to set up
- Allows the homeowner to become very familiar with the system they have chosen and how that system works.
- DIY installation doesn’t require any appointments; do it on your own timetable.
- There are no installation fees
- Can be easily moved to another home should you move
- Requires very little to no running of cables, mounting or drilling
- Can be a challenge for those who are not DIY savvy
- Provides a sales pitch free experience
- Could involve having to contact tech support if there is any problem that arises during the self-install
- Worry can arise about the system being installed properly
Professional Security System Installation
- Requires an installation fee or activation fee although there can be specials
- Provides the opportunity for the homeowner to ask the installer questions.
- Security that the system is installed properly
- The opportunity for the installer to demonstrate how the system works so there are no questions
- Needs an appointment although most home security companies try to get installers out asap from the time you call to order it.
- Requires some drilling and running of cables or lines
- Involves having to have a stranger in the home
- Can take as long as 4 hours including demonstration and set up.
Local VS National Home Security Companies
There are some things that are better purchased local such as clothing, food and even furnishings. When it comes to home security systems, it is highly recommended that the homeowner purchase from national companies that are recognized and that have a strong reputation. National companies almost always strictly focus on home security only which gives them large amount of specific experience.
- Is cellular monitoring available?
- Where is the monitoring for the equipment handled? Are they redundant?
- What is the monitoring company’s response rate?
- What warranty or extended service plans are offered?
- What kind of features does the company offer? (video surveillance, etc)
- Do you offer DIY installation if desired?
- Is there 24/7 tech support?
- Do they offer different packages available?
- Do they run any installation specials?
- If you move, can the system come with you?
24/7 Monthly Monitoring
There are two aspects of the home security system: the system itself and the monthly monitoring that you can get. There are so many options on the market these days that you may be tempted to just get a system with no monitoring. Although it will have a smaller cost, what you won’t have is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the monitoring company has your back should there be problems such as fire, medical, or burglary.
Monthly monitoring will range in cost. It will vary from company to company according to the features and technologies that you choose. The basis of the service is the same no matter what company you choose; you pay for a company to respond to the alarm in case of an emergency. This peace of mind that someone is always watching out for you can bring so much peace of mind that many people feel it is worth it no matter what the cost. There are several benefits to having this monthly monitoring.
Emergency Response Plans
The majority of professional monitoring companies offer customization of the emergency response plan that can be tailored to your preferences and needs. This involves deciding who is called first in the event of an emergency and other decision.
A monitoring agent is trained to help people through emergencies such as a break in or medical emergency. This can be invaluable for those with latch key kids or elderly parents living in the home.
Medical Alert Help
Medical pendants or watches can be purchased that signal an agent that someone is having a medical crisis so emergency medical personnel can be dispatched.
This benefit is very good if you are ever the victim of a home invasion. You enter a code into the system that indicates you need immediate help and cannot be contacted.
Is a DIY Home Security System Worth the Money?
So is a home security system right for you? So many people worry about wasting money or they have the mentality of ‘it will never happen to me’ but this is a potentially dangerous mentality to have. It is not paranoid to have a home security system with monitoring in place to protect your home and family. Things like yard signs and window stickers deter burglars from trying to break in a large amount of the time.
In addition, the home alarm’s siren can scare them away and reduces the amount of time the burglar is at the home if they don’t deter them from coming in altogether. Statistics show that having a home security system installed is far and above worth the investment for the peace of mind factor alone. You will have the knowledge that your home is protected by a system that will reduce the chances of your home ever being broken into.
These statistics only cover burglaries. Add in the statistics that involve fires and medical emergencies and it’s very easy to see the benefits of having a home security system.
Before Signing a Contract
Now that you have decided a home security system is for you, there are a few things you want to make sure of before you sign any contracts. The following points protect you from getting hooked up with a less than reputable company or spending money you didn’t think you were going to spend.
- If the home security system company you are considering going with says that they ONLY work with their licensed monitoring system you need to move on to another one. Make sure that you will have access to the programming features and all access codes to your system and that you are able to go with the monitoring system of your choice when your current contract is over.
- Make sure the security system comes with a contract and a guarantee on labor and parts. You can also inquire about extended warranties. It may add a couple of hundred to your costs but it is worth it to know that the parts, labors and fees are covered should you need them.
- Find out the specifics of the contract before you sign up with a company. How long do they require service before you can move the system? Is there a way of cancelling the contract if needed? What happens in the event of a financial emergency that requires you to pause your monitoring system for a period of time? Are the monthly fees locked in for your protection or can they be increased with no notice? What do the costs revert to once the contract is over?
- What equipment is yours to keep once your contract runs out? Are you just leasing the equipment or are you buying it? What is their response time in regards to technical problems that affect the workings of the system? Do they offer system checks to make sure everything is working properly?
- Does the company have references? How do they act when you ask for previous customers that have their service? If they have references to give you, call them and find out what kind of service and response time the monitoring company has.
- Get a risk assessment to determine what kinds of security issues you will want to cover in your system and monitoring. These risk assessments should be free of charge and they should send someone out to the home, not attempt to do it over the phone by asking questions. If they will not send a person out to the home for the inspection, choose another company.
- Does the installer take the time to explain the workings of the home security system and the features you have purchased to you and the members of your family? Do they rush through the explanations or take the time to answer questions and make sure you understand everything?
- Get your quote in writing and make sure it includes all the equipment you’ve chosen, the monthly monitoring fees, warranties, set up, installation and any other charges they have told you about. Getting this quote in writing protects you from surprise charges and fees.
The right home security system can make a huge difference in the peace of mind that is in your home. It is especially important to have this protection and peace of mind when there are children in the home. The three home security companies we reviewed above are excellent choices that offer the homeowner a variety of packages, equipment choices and monitoring choices to fit all kinds of needs and preferences. When you have your system set up and working, you will be amazed at how much better you feel about the safety of your family and home.
How to Reduce False Alarms
Not only can false alarms be irritating, but they can also be costly if they result in false alarm fees and use taxpayer dollars. False alarms are disruptive to neighbors and to pets, and they unnecessarily redirect law enforcement resources by taking officers off other crime prevention initiatives.
Worse yet, you might start to feel ambivalent about using your alarm if you’ve experienced false alarms in the past. We want you to feel safe and secure while using your home security system and suggest the following ways to avoid dealing with false alarms.
Completely Shut and Lock Windows and Doors
Many false alarms are triggered by a door or window that hasn’t been completely shut, or by a door that isn’t locked while the alarm is activated. In bad weather, a gust of air can push open windows and doors that don’t have a tight connection with the sensor and set off the alarm.
It only takes a few inches of movement to activate the system. Additionally, neighbors and friends can enter unlocked doors, unwittingly setting off an alarm that’s been set. Be sure to double-check all windows, doors, and locks before you leave the house.
Know Your Passcodes
Amazingly, many alarms are triggered by a homeowner entering an incorrect keypad passcode. Make sure that the passcode you choose is one that you can remember easily and one that every member of the household can remember. Be sure to inform everyone who uses the security system of the new passcode if you change it.
Be Aware of Stray Objects
Stray objects can include anything from pets to curtains blowing near a heat register. Motion detectors can get a bad rap if homeowners feel they activate too easily, but in reality, they are an incredibly helpful home security component when the surrounding room is set up properly. And don’t forget to store those remaining party balloons in a place where they won’t activate your sensor!
Work with your home security company to review procedures for dispatching the police. For example, will they make one call or two before sending authorities? You can likely request they call both your home and your cell phone before they dispatch police. Also, will they send police for both interior and an exterior alarm activation? This, too, can likely be set up based on your preferences.
If You Give Them a Key, Give Them a Code
Be sure to educate and train everyone who has access to your home on how to properly use your home security system. This could include cleaning services, caretakers, children, neighbors, friends, and even employees. Many alarm companies allow you to have multiple codes that disarm the system. If everyone has a code, not only will it help deter false alarms, but it will also help you know who has been coming and going while you’re away.
Use Dual-technology Sensors
This type of sensor has more than one type of detector and both will need to be activated before an alarm signal is sent to authorities.
Did you know that 90 – 95% of all alarm calls end up being false alarms?
False alarms can be a problem for everyone. If every user has just a few false alarms, hundreds of thousands of dollars can be wasted in a year’s time. Following the above steps will help save vital police resources and improve the effectiveness of your home security system.
After countless hours of researching the best home security companies and their offerings, we highly recommend Protect America. They have an array of plans available to protect your home and all of them can be customized.