It can be overwhelming trying to decide which home security system to choose. There are many different types, with various styles and levels of expertise required to install and operate each.
So how do you know which one is right for you? Smartphone apps, security cameras, and alarm systems are just a few of the options available today, but navigating this can be difficult if you’ve never tried anything out before. To help, we talked to experts about what to look for, plus their recommendations for the best home security solutions for homeowners, apartment dwellers, and anyone else searching for more peace of mind in their living spaces.
What To Look For in a Home Security System
“One of the best things you can do for your home security is to not be a target in the first place,” James Wilson, a digital privacy and security expert at My Data Removal, tells Mental Floss. But before you invest in anything (whether it be for just your property or for your online home security), it’s important to know there’s more than just one kind of home alarm system. There are two main types: do-it-yourself (DIY) or professionally installed options.
DIY home security systems are user-friendly and typically offer an easy setup, while professionally installed systems are more complex and are usually monitored by the company setting it up. Some DIY security systems may provide paid monitoring services as an add-on, but not all do, so be sure that you are getting the type of system that you want before making a purchase.
On the other hand, professionally installed home security systems are often a bit more pricey, but they come with some great perks. There is no DIY aspect, and the installers will take care of everything from the setup to connecting to the internet, and will even help you figure out an app to use in tandem with your security system. Plus, you’ll get the advantage of home monitoring services so you and your family can stay safe in the event that an incident occurs. But there are a couple variations in monitoring services to look out for, too.
With a professional monitoring service provided by a company, you’ll likely get 24/7 monitoring, and they’ll alert emergency services on your behalf if necessary. Any time an alarm is triggered, the service will automatically look into the situation so that you can get help as soon as possible.
Conversely, self-monitored home security systems usually come with a companion, connected smartphone app that receives feedback from the various cameras and sensors in your home. If an alarm, sensor, or motion detector is triggered, you’ll be notified so that you can access the video feed and decide what to do.
Beyond DIY and professionally installed security systems, there are also wired and wireless options to consider. With the former, the unit is usually hard-wired to connect to sensors and entry points around the house; the central control panel also typically runs on electricity. Wireless systems are more popular these days because they’re simple to install. They also run on batteries and rely on radio waves to send important notifications. However, they can be prone to outages.
What Types of Equipment Usually Come With Home Security Systems?
There are several components that make up a complete home security system. Some brands will have all of these, while some may offer just a few. Furthermore, some may come with some extra tools to help keep you safe. Here are the most common types of security equipment to look for in your next security system:
- A simple control panel: This is the central point for a home security system. It usually comes in the form of a wall-mounted keypad or tablet-like touchscreen device.
- A home security app: This makes it easy to lock your doors or set your alarms if you’ve already left the house.
- Door, window, and glass-break sensors: These sensors tell whoever is monitoring your system (you or a pro) that a security event has occurred and it may be time to contact emergency services.
- Interior and/or exterior motion detectors: Sometimes connected to a light or an alarm, motion detectors alert your control panel that there is potentially suspicious activity occurring in or around your home.
- Indoor and/or outdoor video surveillance cameras: Whether it’s a video doorbell or a camera, these devices allow you to get a real-time view of what’s going on around your property.
- Environmental sensors: Carbon monoxide, fire, and water leaks all pose a danger to your home and safety. Some systems may offer specific sensors that monitor these things and will ping you if anything seems unusual.
Additionally, you may encounter different types of connectivity within these systems. Security apps provide users with the ability to connect to video feeds and sensors, and stay up to date with what’s going on while they’re out of the house. With smart home integration, folks can connect their apps to plug-ins, lightbulbs, televisions, thermostats, and more to better control and monitor their personal spaces.
But if you’re using smart tech, experts say it’s important to stay vigilant. “Smart home technologies provide great conveniences, but also introduce vulnerabilities into our homes,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “So it’s wise to do your homework and choose smart home products that offer the best security and regular updates, and change the default [passwords] to something more sophisticated.”
The Best Home Security Products
The options we’ll cover here merely scratch the surface of smart home security options. While these are worth checking out, it’s also a good idea to do your own research, use a service provider if you don’t want to explore the DIY route, and make sure that your Wi-Fi enabled devices are protected by using a VPN (some of the most well-known, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, can protect your privacy online by encrypting the connection between your devices and the internet, which creates a vital layer of added security in today’s digital world).
To minimize costs in case the worst happens, make sure your home insurance policy also covers both the building and its contents. A valid, up-to-date policy is the best way to protect your investment in your home in the event of a covered loss.
1. Best Full Home Security System: ADT; Prices Vary
If you want a full home system, ADT is a trusted name in the security monitoring space and one that experts still recommend. “ADT [is] perfect for people who want full coverage and a variety of products options,” Walter Lappert, owner and CEO of Triad Drones, says.
There are many packages to choose from, but ADT security plans can include services like 24/7 monitoring, professional installation, motion detection, and more. Depending on which one you purchase, you could also be able to record and save video clips, access livestream videos, and sync the system up with your existing smart-tech devices.
For pricing, it varies depending on the plan and your home, but the installation fee is usually around $150, and you’ll also have monthly monitoring costs and equipment payments on top of that. For equipment, fees on the most basic package start at $10 per month for 60 months, while the monitoring fee starts at $46 per month.
Buy it: ADT
2. Great Home Security System For DIYs: FrontPoint Home Security System; Prices Vary
ADT is great for full coverage, but it’s not the only provider worth considering. Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, recommends FrontPoint Home Security. “This wireless system includes all the features you need to protect your home, including smoke detectors and customizable alarms. It’s also smart-lock compatible, and the whole system is incredibly easy to set up yourself,” Freiberger says.
FrontPoint offers a starter package that usually costs around $400 and includes everything you need to get started with home security. Their mid-size package runs for about $679, and offers an indoor camera and motion sensor, as well as smoke, heat, and flood sensors in your setup.
The brand’s Family Lookout package, normally $791, boasts extra protection, and comes with a doorbell camera, three sensors for your door and/or windows, and offers sensor activity monitoring and sensor history. You can also build your own system, and prices will vary based on that based on what you include in it. Beyond the price of the packages, if you want professional monitoring from the company, it’ll be about $50 per month.
Buy it: FrontPoint Home Security
3. Best Video Doorbells: Ring Video Doorbell Wired or Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2; From $65
With video doorbells, you can see who is at your door without having to get up. But beyond convenience, these devices can be an affordable way to amp up your home’s security, especially if you’re not quite ready to invest in a full-scale home security system. And in the realm of video-enabled smart doorbells, Ring is a brand that experts say is worth shopping.
“More and more houses are installing Ring doorbells to track who comes to their door, record package deliveries and damage done to the house, and communicate with any visitors when you can’t come to the door,” Lappert says.
According to Lappert, these devices are good to use in all kinds of situations, whether you’re home alone and someone knocks on your door, or if you’re on vacation. Plus, “Being able to communicate clearly through your Ring doorbell without having to unlock your door keeps you safe from any unwelcome surprises.”
There are tons of Ring models to choose from right now, but if you’re looking for a good value, the Ring Video doorbell wired is top-rated and priced under $70. You’ll need existing doorbell wires to install it, as it doesn’t come with a battery, but using the brand’s app, you can check out live streams of what your camera is capturing, as well as create custom motion zones, and more. The Alexa-compatible unit offers night vision and two-way talk functionality, records images in 1080 pixel (p), high-definition (HD) video, and has a 155-degree horizontal field of view.
But if you don’t mind spending more, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 could be a worthwhile upgrade. This Alexa-enabled smart doorbell is good for DIYs as it also has to be installed using existing wires, but it boasts more features than the wired model and superior 1536p HD picture quality. With its 150-degree horizontal and 150-degree vertical field of view, you’ll get head-to-toe video, and if you love details, this unit’s 3D motion detection and bird’s eye view capabilities will be great, as you’ll be able to get an aerial map view around your home and trace where any motion took place up to 30 feet away from the doorbell.
4. Popular Smart Locks: Yale Assure Lock 2 or August Wi-Fi (4th Generation) Smart Lock; From $190
Looking to upgrade your existing deadbolt? A smart lock may be worth grabbing. While there can be plenty of differences across models and brands, virtually all of them have one thing in common: You won’t need a key to enter your home. Another advantage to these Bluetooth-enabled gadgets is that many offer remote access and voice control, and enable you to let guests (if you’re an Airbnb host, for example) inside, so you won’t have to worry about where to safely hide a spare set of keys.
Two popular smart locks out right now are the August Wi-Fi (4th Generation) smart lock and Yale Assure Lock 2, but depending on what your living situation is, one might be a better option than the other.
Designed to fit on the inside of any door, the 4th Gen. August smart lock could be a good option for homeowners or those living in apartments. With it, you’ll gain auto-lock and unlock functionality, so no more digging at the bottom of your purse for your keys to get inside. According to the brand, it’s simple to install and has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can use it in conjunction with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. Plus, using the brand’s app, you can grant temporary guest access to friends or other visitors, and a whole lot more.
The Yale Assure Lock 2 could be ideal if you’re a homeowner looking for a full deadlock replacement. This totally key-free device is small but sleek—in fact, it’s smaller than previous models and is available in three finishes. For added security, the touchscreen unit offers two-factor authentication and biometric verification (you can also choose between push button or keypad options). To get the most out of it, be sure to check out the Yale Access Kit. You’ll be able to use additional smart features such as 24/7 lock-activity monitoring, auto-lock and unlock, and control access remotely via the Yale app.
5. Great for Door Security: Door Armor Max and Haven Connect Door Reinforcer; From $96
If you want to add a literal extra layer of security to your doors and make it harder for them to be kicked in, consider adding reinforcements. Glen Bhimani, CEO and founder of BPS Security, recommends two home security products that can be used together or alone.
The first is the Door Armor Max combo kit, which is designed to work with jambs of varying degrees of thickness. According to the brand, it’s also easy to install and can be used to repair any existing kick-in damage doors might have. “This door security set helps to reinforce your door at its weakest points, namely the lock and the hinges,” Bhimani says. “It makes a huge difference in keeping invaders out of your home.”
Bhimani also recommends an additional entry-point reinforcer to prevent a break-in. According to him, the Haven Connect door reinforcer “works in tandem” with the Door Armor set, and offers some great features thanks to its Bluetooth capability (it’s even Alexa-enabled and pairs with a free mobile app, which you can use to monitor your doors). “While the Door Armor set ensures that your door is connected to the wall [safely], this door reinforcer keeps the door shut for you. I’ve got it installed at my home,” he says.