Best Home Security Alarm Systems for Apartments in 2020
Best Overall Value
A state-of-the-art system and advanced home automation features.
Best DIY System
Easy-to-setup. Small, powerful, and stylish. No middlemen. No contracts.
Best Home Automation
The oldest—and possibly the most trusted—home security provider in the U.S.
While most people don’t think of apartments when they hear about home burglaries and invasions, it turns out that apartments are 85% more likely to be robbed than single family homes. This makes it all the more important to consider home security systems that will keep thieves and intruders at bay, while also alerting the authorities if an intrusion does take place.
What is a home security system?
A home security system is a network of electronic devices that help protect apartment tenants from intruders and burglars. It typically consists of a central control panel or system, as well as multiple sensors, video cameras, alarms and remote monitoring options.
Many home security systems can even alert the police and/or private security that an intruder has broken in, so they can dispatch someone to investigate. While traditional security equipment packages used to be wired, these days most security equipment is wireless, making installation - and removal - much easier and faster.
Why should you get a home security system for your apartment?
A home security system gives peace of mind that in case of unforeseen events, one’s property will remain secure and its occupants safe from harm. It helps prevent break-ins and theft, and alerts tenants of things like fires, water leaks, and suspicious activity.
A good home security system often acts as a deterrent to would-be criminals who are planning a break-in, since they know it will make the crime more difficult to commit.
But the benefits don't stop there. Indoor security cameras can be used for keeping an eye on babysitters and dog walkers, as well as monitor the activity of children in another room.
What are the key features to look for in a home security system?
The marketplace is flooded with home security system providers, and there's an almost limitless number of customization options as well. As such, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out what'll make most sense, based on individual goals, needs and preferences. Here are some key factors to consider as you're evaluating options.
While both wired and wireless options are available, wireless security systems are well-suited for apartments due to their ease of installation and the fact that they are generally more secure. What's more, most wi-fi systems don't require professional installation, and offer features like live video monitoring through a mobile app, as well as remote control of locks, thermostats, and even lighting. Wireless equipment is also more flexible in terms of repositioning and relocating sensors and cameras.
Look for security systems that are compatible with a variety of devices and brands. The Z-Wave wireless communications protocol is used in smart home devices from companies like Google, Amazon and Nest. These systems allow new equipment to be easily added on to the existing network of devices, without being restricted to just one vendor.
While some security companies offer only long-term contracts of 2+years, it's advisable to avoid such contracts, if at all possible. Technology is constantly changing, and cancellation fees can get quite expensive depending on how much time is left in the contract itself. Look for systems that can be purchased upfront with no contract, or that provide you with the flexibility to cancel the service at any time. Also, look for security systems that allow customers to keep their equipment, but switch professional monitoring providers, if desired.
When comparing the cost of home security systems, always take into account the sum of the installation costs, equipment costs and monitoring charges over the contract period. When considering the overall cost, keep in mind that security companies offer varying levels of monitoring, equipment, features and customer service. A higher monthly fee may be worth it to ensure that the security company will be responsive when needed.
One of the reasons why the home security systems of yesteryear were so expensive is because of the upfront installation fees. Before wireless systems became widespread, a trained technician had to install the security system and wire the components correctly. As a renter,you're much better off choosing a home security system with DIY installation, as opposed to professional installation, which will lower your overall out-of-pocket cost. Most companies offer plenty of tutorials and support so that even non-technical customers can set up their new home security systems. DIY home security systems installation can sometimes be completed in as little as half an hour.
Equipment and features
While the equipment needed for an apartment will vary based on size, also keep the number of doors and windows in mind, as well as whether the apartment is accessible from the ground. A list of basic equipment includes a control panel, motion sensors, door and window opening sensors, temperature sensors and alarms.
Also, be sure to read the fine print. For example, does the company offer a money back guarantee, or replace faulty equipment? Do they do equipment buyback at the end of the long term contract?
Choose a company that has their own monitoring centers, as opposed to outsourced centers. Consider the average response time of the security company and compare it to the industry average. The top companies will usually respond within 5 to 10 seconds.
Home security system FAQ's
Can I control my home security through my phone?
Several components of a home security system can be compatible with smartphone remote controls. Depending on the features available in a system, equipment that can be controlled via a smartphone includes smart lighting, smart locks, smoke detectors, cameras, smart door locks and burglar alarms.
These components allow users to control lighting remotely to give the impression that someone is home, even if the premises are empty. Similarly, users can open a door remotely for letting in guests or get alerts when the outdoor camera sees movement.
Does my security system still work if the power goes out?
It depends on what kind of home security system is installed. The following are the various types of systems available:
- Landline - If your home security system communicates over landlines, it will continue to operate normally with the monitoring center, even during a power outage.
- Cellular Radio - Just like a cellular phone is unaffected by a local power outage, a battery powered home security system running on a cellular radio will continue to work normally during power outages.
- VoIP - Wireless security systems that run on VoIP are vulnerable to power outages because they often draw their power from home phone lines. If a power outage affects the Internet, the system may be unable to communicate with the monitoring centers. Some companies like RingCentral have VoIP solutions that maintain communications, even during power outages.
- Internet - Security systems that use the Internet for communication are the most vulnerable to communication breakdowns during a power outage, since the connection to the monitoring center will only be restored after the outage is over.
Can I get a home security system without a phone line?
Depending on the security provider, customers in rural areas without cellular service or broadband may require a physical phone line in order to have a home security system with remote monitoring. n a majority of cases, however, a landline is no longer required. Most modern systems use cellular networks for communications instead.
Can I have my existing security system equipment monitored?
Equipment and monitoring are two distinct parts of a home security package, so in some cases, it may be possible to use the hardware from one company with the monitoring services of another. This can be especially helpful for tenants moving into a home with a pre-installed security system.
Can renters really install home security system?
Renters can opt to install a home security system, but should get permission from their landlord first. There are several wireless security packages that are well-suited for apartments, and can be installed quickly and easily. An advantage of these types of wireless security systems is that they are portable and can be removed once the tenant moves out.
How long does it take for a security system to alert the provider of an intrusion?
Security systems, contrary to popular belief, do not always alert the monitoring center to intrusions or breaches. In fact, many have built-in alarm delays to prevent false alarms. This helps to ensure that dispatchers are able to give the best possible assistance to their customers during actual emergencies. It also saves customers from racking up excessive fees for false alarms.
What are smart locks and how do they work?
Smart locks are electronic door locks that include automation features like remote locking and unlocking. They can be controlled by a keypad, a button, keys, and sometimes even smartphone. Some security systems even give end users the ability to monitor and control their smart locks remotely, and advanced automation means locks can be programmed to lock and unlock doors at preset times.
Will my pet trigger motion detectors?
Some security systems are more pet-friendly than others, and offer pet immune motion detection sensors. These sensors use speed, mass, movement and body heat through infrared technology to determine if movement is caused by humans, or a pet.
What are the best home security alarm systems for apartments?
Keeping the key factors such as contracts, cost, compatibility, and installation in view, here are some of our top picks of the best home security systems for apartments.
- Overall Rating: 4.3
- Features: 4.8
- Price: 3.7
- Ease of Use: 4.4
- Customer Service: 4.6
Vivint couples advanced technology with the fact that they have their own monitoring systems.Their sleek and aesthetic wireless systems are connected to a powerful cell network, and the company boasts an average call response time of 10 seconds.
On the downside, Vivint requires professional installation and a long term contract of at least 5 years. This type of long-term contract makes it a less flexible and more expensive option, which isn't necessarily ideal for renters. If a customer doesn’t want to the monitoring plan, they can still use the equipment for self-monitoring, however.
Vivint's basic kit includes a touchscreen panel, as well as 6 smart sensors, which can include a choice of door/window sensors, motion detectors, glass break detectors, flood/freeze detectors, and smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. Vivint systems work with Google Home, Nest, Amazon Alexa, and other equipment, like video doorbell cameras.
- Overall Rating: 4.0
- Features: 4.5
- Price: 4.0
- Ease of Use: 4.0
- Customer Service: 3.5
While ADT is an established name and current market leader in the home security space, the company doesn’t offer as many options and features as some of the newer security systems on the market. What's more, ADT locks customers into 2 and3-year contracts, depending on the location. They do offer a 6-month money-back guarantee, however, and will issue a full refund if the company is unable to resolve any installation/service concern during the first 6 months.
ADT offers five packages that combine equipment and monitoring, ranging from $28 to $59 per month. Unfortunately, all packages require professional installation. Depending on the package selected, renters will have remote control over lighting, temperature and door locks, as well as24-hour alert monitoring and video security.
The most basic plan includes a control panel, a motion sensor, wireless sensors, wireless remote, a backup battery, a yard sign, and window decals. Upgraded packages offer more sensors and equipment, and provide protection against fire, carbon monoxide, and leaks.
- Overall Rating: 4.6
- Features: 4.6
- Price: 4.3
- Ease of Use: 4.8
- Customer Service: 4.4
Simplisafe couples hi-tech security hardware with monthly monitoring at an affordable price point. No contract is required and installation is quick and easy. What's more, even without monthly monitoring, the security system works as a local alarm for fires, water leaks, and freezing temperatures.
Renters choose Simplisafe's award-winning monitoring service for additional peace of mind. The company offers multiple packages containing various wireless hardware components, depending on home size and security requirements. It's also compatible with Alexa, Nest thermostats, Google Home and the August door lock.
The basic package includes a base station, a wireless keypad, an entry sensor, and a motion sensor. Additional add-ons are also available, including keychain remotes, indoor video cameras, motion sensors, door/window entry sensors, panic buttons, sirens, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, water and freeze sensors, SimpliSafe yard signs and window decals.
- Overall Rating: 4.4
- Features: 4.8
- Price: 3.9
- Ease of Use: 4.8
- Customer Service: 4.5
Frontpoint is one of the industry’s top home security systems and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. The company is known for outstanding customer service, wireless security components, home automation features and ease of DIY installation. On the downside, they require a long term monitoring contract, which varies from 1 to 3 years.
Frontpoint's monitoring plans include options to protect against fire and flood, remote control of lighting, and automatic alerts to a police dispatcher in the case of tampering or forced entry.
The company's equipment lineup starts with a touch screen control panel that can connect with entryway sensors, indoor motion detectors, glass break sensors, environmental monitors, panic buttons, home security cameras, thermostats, and more. The security system can be integrated with any 3rd-wave Z-Wave products, which includes products by both Nest and Philips.
- Overall Rating: 4.3
- Features: 4.2
- Price: 4.0
- Ease of Use: 4.5
- Customer Service: 4.4
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Protect America contracts start at a minimum of a 3-year commitment.While the company is known for excellent customer service, their higher-end packages can get quite expensive. The good news is that Protect America offers a Lowest Price Guarantee, and will match the lowest total price of equipment and monitoring from competitors over a period of 36 months.
Wireless security components can be installed by customers themselves, and their packages include items such as door/window entry sensors, motion detectors, video cameras, garage door sensors, glass break sensors, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke and heat sensors, water leak/flood sensors, indoor cameras and keypad door locks. Another plus is that their systems support the Z-Wave standard for home automation, which allows integration of devices from multiple brands.
Protect America offers three packages - Copper, Silver, and Platinum - with prices that range from $19.99 to $ 42.99 per month. Each package includes a control panel, motion sensors, and a different number of entry sensors. As a bonus, any piece of equipment that is faulty will be replaced for free.