What are the differences between landline, broadband, and cellular monitoring?
Landline, broadband, and cellular monitoring are different ways your home security system can be connected to the monitoring center. Landline monitoring uses a home phone line, broadband uses an internet connection, and cellular monitoring uses a cellular uplink. Landline monitoring is most vulnerable because a phone line could be cut, and cellular is least vulnerable because there are no wires.
Can I afford a home security system?
That depends on your budget and comfort with risk. At first glance, a $40 or $50 per month monitoring fee can seem steep, but that adds up to $600 or less per year. Keep in mind that the more features and extras you add to your system, the bigger the price tag. Some top-tier packages cost upward of $60 per month. That’s still significant, but it’s a lot less than the average loss of a break-in. While the rate of burglaries nationally has decreased, the average loss remains high—in 2019, that number was more than $2,600 per incident.
What is the difference between professional monitoring and self-monitoring?
A professionally monitored security system has trained professionals keeping an eye on your home 24/7. Monitoring centers contact you if the alarm is triggered, and they can dispatch emergency services to your home. We recommend professional monitoring because it’s your most direct line to help if something happens.
With a self-monitored system, you and other authorized household members are the ones checking in to make sure everything’s okay at home. Depending on the security system you choose, that may or may not include motion detector alerts, outside security camera alerts, and life-saving alerts like notification that your smoke alarm went off. You can save money with self-monitoring by avoiding monthly monitoring fees. But that can leave your home more vulnerable because you won’t have experts watching around the clock.
What are the differences between wired and wireless home security systems?
“Wireless” refers to the use of wireless technology like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for monitoring and to connect the components of your system. “Wired” refers to a home security system that is hardwired into your home’s electrical system.
Both protect your home just fine, but wireless systems have more flexibility if you may move or don’t want to put holes in walls. A hardwired system could be the perfect option if you want a complete smart home and you’re able to incorporate the installation into a renovation or new construction.
Does a home security system give me a discount on homeowners insurance?
Yes. Most insurance companies offer a discount when you install a security system. Depending on your insurance, you may qualify for as much as 15% off your premium with 24/7 professional monitoring. When you’re looking for the best home security system to buy, be sure to verify that you’ll get a certificate to submit to your home insurance company after installation.
Can I install a home security system if I rent?
Yes. Thanks to wireless technology, it’s now easy to add security to your home—whether you own, rent, or live in a dorm or with roommates. Many of our top home security systems have packages that meet renters’ security needs. To make it even easier, we also ranked the best security systems for renters.
Will I be stuck in a long contract?
Possibly. It depends on which security company you choose. Many professionally monitored home security systems require a contract, and contract length can range from three to five years. But today you’ll find more home security options than ever before that offer shorter contracts and month-to-month (contract-free) terms—especially if you can pay for equipment up front. Most home security companies will charge you around 75% of the remaining term of your contract if you cancel early—and some require 100%.
What’s the difference between home security and home automation?
The best home security systems use tools and technology to help keep you, your family, and your property safe—think burglar alarms, security cameras, door and window sensors, motion sensors, and reinforced door locks. Home automation uses technology to automate everyday activities like locking the doors, turning up the thermostat, or starting the coffee pot.
When combined with home security, home automation can help increase your home’s energy efficiency, remotely control your alarm system, and let you check in on kids or pets when you’re away from home.
What makes a home security system smart?
The difference between a traditional alarm system and a smart one is that different components within the system can communicate with one another. Not only does smart technology give you the ability to control and monitor your home alarm system from anywhere—it also makes your system able to respond to your habits and routines.
Many home security systems offer extra sensors that provide protection beyond keeping out intruders. These sensors help you protect your home from things like floods and freezing temperatures. Smart sensors take information from the physical surroundings to detect changes in the environment that could signal trouble. Some security systems also use smart sensors to “listen” for CO and smoke alarms. When those sensors hear an alarm, both you and the monitoring center are notified and emergency help is dispatched if needed.
What is do-it-yourself home security?
Home security systems that are 100% DIY let you pick the security products, set them up, and monitor them—all on your own. Brands like Frontpoint or Link Interactive offer DIY installation with professional monitoring. Find some of our favorites on our full list of the best DIY home security systems.
When should I go with a professional installation?
Sometimes you don’t have a choice. High-end home security companies like Vivint and ADT offer only professional installation. But most other companies on our best home security systems list give you a DIY option.
Alarm systems that require wiring and sensor or camera placement benefit from professional installation companies—especially if an incorrectly placed motion sensor, door sensor, or security camera could lead to false alarms, or worse, an intruder. But there are some downsides to a pro install—primarily the necessity to schedule an appointment and have someone come into your home.
How we picked the best home security systems
SafeWise getting “hands-on” with home security equipment.
We’ve spent seven years and hundreds of hours testing, researching, and comparing home security systems based on the factors that matter most when it comes to protecting your home and family:
- Cost and contracts
- Response time and monitoring options
- Security features and smart home integration
- Customer service and reputation
- Ease of installation and use
Every month, more than one million visitors look to us for home security information and recommendations. Our honest reviews and expert insights come from hands-on tests, interviews with real customers, and meetings with technical pros, owners, and CEOs of large and small home security companies.
See our rigorous testing process in our full methodology.
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