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Best Home Security Systems of 2020
Having and using a home security system is your best chance of avoiding a burglary.
- show you the major decisions
- discuss pros and cons of each
- save you tons of time in your search
We won’t pitch you the system that makes us the most money.
Since it’s tough to get your hands on professionally monitored security systems for testing without being on their payroll (as an affiliate), I’ll stick to the DIY systems that I have experience with. Of those, I think the best security systems of 2020 are:
I gave them both the same rating for slightly different reasons. Both support IFTTT to let you integrate easily with other systems. And while Scout is a little more expensive, their integration with Amazon’s Echo is really neat if you’re into that sort of thing. On the other hand, iSmartAlarm is a great value and has the camera integration to boot! But, my needs may be different than yours! For example, I would personally go for a home automation system and use it for security. Keep reading to see how your priorities may lead you to another security system that the ones I like.
Your Search for the Top Security Systems
If you found this page, then you probably are already convinced that you want an alarm system. If not, take a look at this video to see just how easy it is to get into your house by walking through the front door with a bump key.
Alright, now you’re motivated. Let’s talk about securing your home.
First, if you are interested in affordable alternatives to a complete home security system, check out our article on DIY home security tips. Many of those ideas can be used alongside a monitored home security system.
Otherwise, let’s continue. It doesn’t take much searching to realize that there are LOTS of home security systems to choose from. If the amount of choices seems overwhelming, and you’re tired of browsing manufacturer websites that promise all kinds of awesomeness but may not deliver, then you’ve come to the right place.
You won’t see a ranking of alarm or home automation systems on this site, because we feel strongly that only you know what your exact needs are. A full service system with no headaches can be right for one family and completely wrong for the next.
With that in mind, there are a few questions you need to answer before selecting a system:
- Are you comfortable with a DIY installation?
- Do you want to have a service that monitors the security system for you, do you have a smart phone and want to do it yourself, or are you just trying to scare criminals away?
- Are you willing to spend a little more upfront to save costs over time?
Alarm System Installation
DIY Home Security Systems
Peel and stick:
Installing systems has gotten a lot easier with the introduction of wireless technology. You won’t have to drill holes in your walls and door frames and run wires back to a central alarm monitoring unit. Installing most modern alarm systems is as simple as reading the manufacturer’s directions about sensor placement, peeling an adhesive backing off of the unit, and sticking it to the wall.
SimpliSafe has a good video featured on their site that illustrates just how easy this can be. The most difficult part of the installation will be similar to hanging a picture on the wall and may be needed to install heavier sensors like the control panel or security cameras. For cameras, check out our huge guide to the best home security camera systems.
If you just aren’t sure, you can read more information about DIY security systems here to get an idea of what you’re in for.
But you value your time, right?
On the other hand, if you are willing to pay more for peace of mind, a professionally installed and monitored system may be the best alarm system for your home. A professional installation is done by people who put security systems in every day. Usually, you would schedule these a few days in advance and generally have to wait for the installers to arrive in a 2-4 hour window (think cable guy).
Depending on your own skill level and attention to detail, the quality of the installation may be better and even faster, but you will definitely pay for that level of service.
The company may recoup their costs through installation fees or just by rolling it into a higher monthly service charge and a longer contract to keep using them as your alarm monitoring company.
Another thing to consider is how long you will be in your current location. If you move a lot, then paying professional installers to come and remove the equipment and then install it in your new location can add additional expenses, and it may be worthwhile to learn a new skill so that you can do the job yourself.
Consider the complexity of your installation:
If you are having your personal assistant research this for your 6,000 sq. ft. beach home, then you probably want to spend the extra money to make sure that you have enough sensors of the right type and an installation that will make the most effective use of them. After all, incorrect application of sensors can drive you crazy with false alarms and could even merit a fine to offset the costs of sending law enforcement officers to your home.
There are a few options when it comes to monitoring security systems:
- Wired to local monitoring services via phone lines that will contact local authorities during a security event
- Cellular wireless, same as wired, but using cellular networks rather than land lines (can you hear me now?)
- Internet based, giving you (almost) instant notification via smartphone, text message, etc.
- Deterrents that simply scare the intruder based on noises and/or lights (think installing motion-activated security lights and smart lighting)
Level of Service
Both the options that include professional alarm monitoring services will increase the overall cost of the system but may be worth the added peace of mind to have 24/7 protection. On the other hand, some of you will have a hard time sending money to a monitoring service when your smart phone never leaves your side anyway, and you care more about your house than someone in an overseas call center (Hello, my name is George . Yeah . . . sure it is!).
All jokes aside, not all companies are equally good, and it pays to compare home alarm companies to see which ones have great responsiveness and customer service.
In addition to personal preference, geographical location also plays a role in deciding which system is best for your safety. If you live in a subdivision with close neighbors, an audible deterrent might grab someone’s attention easily.
Unfortunately that’s not always the case:
If you live away from town and other neighbors, a thief may not be alarmed by an audible siren. Some of you may not have very good cellular service at your homes, making a solution that relies on an unreliable cellular network effectively useless. After all, the call to alert the police or monitoring center of a fire is the last one that you want to be dropped.
Alarm System Costs
You may wonder why I didn’t put this first, since most of you care the most about this one. The reason . . . because this is the decision that KEEPS ON GIVING, and I wanted you to remember it! For those of you Generation Xers that haven’t used a land line since you were in high school, the thought of paying $25 per month for a land line on top of another $40 for a monitoring service is tough to stomach.
You need to consider both the upfront cost and the recurring costs and judge the expense over the lifetime of the system, which could be 10+ years. As a matter of fact, we created an easy security system cost calculator that will let you plug in the upfront and recurring costs and see exactly how much you’ll shell out over the life of the system.
After all, not all of the systems adhere to some kind of open standard or protocol that makes them compatible with other services and will allow you to switch services later. Many of the “old guard” alarm companies are going to make you sign 3 year contracts with them as well, so what you thought was the best home security system could turn into a weight around your neck if it doesn’t live up to expectations.
Do you have bad memories of trying to break a cellular phone contract?
That’s pretty close to the experience you can expect from an alarm company that is faced with the idea of NOT getting $40 from you every month to answer the phone and dispatch the police.
What other features might be important in the best home security system for your family? Here is a brief list of things that may or may not be important to you when selecting the best home security systems, depending on your needs:
- Changing services – Am I locked in to one alarm company or can I just pay another service and use the same equipment?
- Aesthetics – Some systems (like Scout) clearly place a premium on design and others look, well . . . dated.
- Variety of sensors – Do you need something beyond just intrusion detection (ex. water sensors, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide, freeze warnings, home automation)? We’ve got a page just for home automation devices too!
- Commitment – Are you locked into long term contracts or are you free to leave at any time with a money back guarantee?
- Warranty – If something breaks after installation, who covers the cost of replacement?
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