Home Security System Buyers Guide
Reviewer: Aaron Creighton | March 3, 2019
Home security is about peace-of-mind and safety for your family and valuables. Top home security providers offer both home monitoring services and home automation equipment… but it’s really about which options work best for you.
Editor Update 1/9/2019: Readers responded looking for a low-cost security, so we’ve added our top hidden camera pick.
What You Need to Know
Each security system has its own strengths and weaknesses. Technology and service options are endless. The only truth about all systems is that they can be tailored to meet your individual needs. Without this understanding, you may pay too much for a system that doesn’t work for you.
Most security systems have many of the same standard features. The first thing is a central controller. This controller can accept inputs from a variety of wired and wireless devices such as motion detectors, video cameras, wired power, battery backup and some type of alarm.
The best way to find a system that works best for you is to evaluate all features, determine your needs, and shop confidently. We can help with all three.
Security systems come in wired or wireless version. Both rely on internet or phone connectivity to transfer information like silent alarms outside the household. Wireless systems are easier to install because they use less hardware, and are often more affordable for the same reason. That makes them perfect for a DIY job, but also means they have more potential to experience glitches like dropped signals because they aren’t hardwired to the central controller.
Nowadays, people can control just about every electronic item in the home from a mobile app, as long as they have a smart home controller and some extra external devices. Homeowners can monitor and control lights, thermostats and video cameras from any mobile device. While these features are very common, they don’t necessarily need to be tied in with a security system, making it more expensive than it would be without those options.
Smart home technology is so common and inexpensive now that anyone can install smart home devices that work with common mobile apps, including Google, Apple and Amazon voice control.
There are numerous video surveillance options that range from simple doorbell monitoring by the homeowner to video transmission to a security service. Obviously, the more involved or “high-tech” the service or equipment, the higher the cost.
To save on costs, consider turnkey wireless video systems. They’re much easier to install DIY with the right basic skills. If flexible is your goal, wireless video is unmatched, but wired systems do boast a bit more reliability. The number of cameras also modifies the price; you can pick up a decent four-camera system for under $500, whereas a security company is likely to charge much more for video.
Some options that can be included or added to most security systems are a doorbell camera with two-way voice, automated door locks, light controls, energy management controls, voice response and remote garage control. These options offer convenience and consistency, but it’s really about how much the homeowner wants their system to do. For some, that amount of technology can be overwhelming, while others desire that level of automation and control.
Advanced technology doesn’t have to be difficult to use. New smart security equipment can be controlled with just a touch, combining power and simplicity to make it easier for people to manage and control their systems from a distance. Mobile app integration provides easy access to monitoring equipment from virtually anywhere, letting users keep track of video monitoring and even interact with systems on the fly. These systems also keep users informed by sending out automatic texts or notifications if and when someone triggers the alarm. Systems with live video technology add another safety layer, giving them the ability to quickly check on pets or kids.
Most top security systems consist of different components, some of which require professional installation and 24/7 monitoring. Even though security providers offer DIY options, it’s often a good idea to have systems installed, configured, and maintained by professionally trained technicians. Companies should provide technical support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day — with specialized services for emergencies, taking the maintenance burden off the homeowner.
Do-it-yourself installation is not available for most premium packages from security companies. Having a security system professionally installed ensures the entire installation is guaranteed and supported by the company’s tech support. When it comes to selecting wired or wireless options, wireless may be the way for renters to go. If the home can be serviced by wireless connections and backed up by wireless connections, that’s typically the most reliable way to go.
Our Top Home Security Pick for 2018 / 2019