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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.
Through its twenty-one years in the home security industry, Vivint Smart Home has grown to become one of the top providers in the U.S. and Canada, supplying service to over a million homeowners. Concurrently, the company has also earned a name as a trailblazer with its advanced equipment and home automation features, finding a spot on Fast Company’s World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies list in 2017. Vivint supplies some of the most state-of-the-art systems in the industry, although it’s overall rating is marred by inadequate customer service and lengthy lock-in contracts.
Vivint shines through its proprietary equipment, which stands out in its sleekness and functionality compared to that of its competitors. The system’s operating hub is the Sky Control, a 7-inch color touchscreen device from which you activate and deactivate your system, lock and unlock doors, view video feeds, adjust smart home devices, and much more. Vivint’s other devices such as sensors and outdoor and doorbell cameras are equally high-end and compatible with 3rd party smart home devices. The system uses a cellular connection, which protects against burglar wire cutting, but may be an issue in rural areas where the cellular signal is weak.
However, the quality equipment comes at a cost: you have the choice of buying all the equipment upfront and paying month-to-month for a price of around $2000 or signing a 42-60 month contract (the cheapest of which is $39.99 a month) and leasing the equipment. None of the plans offer a money-back guarantee beyond three days, and the cancellation fee is a full 100%, so customers must be positive they want to go with Vivint or suffer expensive consequences.
American District Telegraph, the oldest home security provider in the United States, continues to put forward a good product. Still the likeliest home security sign you’ll see walking down the street, ADT stays at the top of the field by providing a broad range of services that most of its competitors cannot match, owing its established name and large amount of capital. Few other home security providers will allow customers to connect security systems from other providers, or offer such a wide-ranging choice of plans, including custom solutions, but ADT does.
ADT also shines in its monitoring centers and customer support: 24/7 monitoring from four stations around the US and around-the-clock technical support. In terms of quality, ADT uses top notch equipment by GE, Honeywell, and ITI. Customers can select from a wide range of tools, like high-decibel sirens, entry sensors, motion detectors and more. Another great feature is ADT’s app, which allows remote access to your home system, although it is only available in select packages.
ADT offers three basic packages: Traditional ($28.99 monthly monitoring fee plus $125 installation fee), Control (24/7 monitoring and home automation, $36.99/mo plus installation fee), and Video (all of the above as well as video surveillance, $52.99 a month plus installation fee). In addition to these monthly charges, customers will have to pay an activation fee and sign a three-year contract. Although you may cancel your service within six months if you have a significant service-related concern, after that half a year is up, canceling means being charged 75% of the contract’s remainder. All in all, ADT demands a serious time and cost commitment up front.
Overall, ADT is a very good choice for those who want to go with a trusted name and can afford the expense.
With no lock-in contracts and optional monitoring, SimpliSafe is one of the top home security solutions for customers without a ton of money to spend. The company has been in business for 12 years and boasts an A+ rating with BBB. SimpliSafe’s good reputation with customers stems from its sleek, user-friendly, self-manufactured equipment, flexible pricing and optional monitoring.
SimpliSafe’s equipment comes with a three-year warranty and is 100% wireless. Homeowners can choose between a landline, broadband or cellular connected system, and the system is controlled through a base station rather than through a keypad on a control panel like most home security systems. This gives you added defense against clever crooks who know how to disable a system through damaging the control panel. Devices that come with the SimpliSafe system include the SimpliCam, an indoor camera with a motion sensor and HD video quality, and a keychain remote used to arm or disarm the system. Simplisafe does not include home automation features, other than Nest integration, which may be a turn off for some.
Unlike a majority of home security providers, SimpliSafe has no contracts. After you buy the initial package, with options ranging from $99 for one SimpliCam to $489 for the deluxe Haven package, the system is yours to do what you like with it.. Installation is DIY, but you can opt for a $199 professional installation if you want. Optional monthly monitoring plans cost $14.99 (no mobile control) and $24.99 (mobile control).
By making a conscious effort to right the wrongs of other home security providers by being transparent and not tricking people into long-term lock-in contracts with hidden stipulations, SimpliSafe has earned a reputation as a great choice for homeowners. While more home automation features and additional hardware options would sweeten the pot, you will likely be satisfied with Simplisafe as your home security solution.
- Basic Protection Plan: $34.99 a month. Includes 24/7 monitoring, fire protection, and environmental protection.
- Interactive Plan: $44.99 a month. Allows you to use the mobile app to remotely control your system and receive text and email alerts.
- Ultimate Plan: $49.99 a month. All of the features of Interactive in addition to live video streaming, cloud storage for old video, and home automation features.
One of the top home security providers since entering the business in 1992, Protect America provides service for hundreds of thousands of customers around the United States and Canada. They offer flexibility in their equipment and available plans, allowing homeowners to choose the security solution that best suits their needs. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to Protect America indicated by their low C- rating from BBB. A majority of the complaints center around misinformation regarding the mandatory three year contract. In fact, most customers were not aware they were making such a long term commitment. This, coupled with the severe penalty for premature cancellation–100% of the remaining balance plus paying for all of the equipment–may give some pause in choosing Protect America as their home security solution.
Where Protect America shines is in its provided equipment: the company uses Simon control panels and sensors that are compatible with a number of Z-Wave devices built by other manufacturers. Homeowners choose between the Simon XT Pushbutton and Simon Touchscreen, a more advanced device capable of monitoring up to 40 devices around the home. The available sensors come in all varieties, including break sensors, smoke sensors, carbon monoxide sensors, and motion detectors. Cameras and other home automation features are also available.
Protect America offers both landline and wireless connectivity for monitoring. In some areas where cellular service is not up to snuff, landline connectivity (which is the cheapest option, at $19.99 a month) is probably the best way to go to ensure the ideal monitoring situation. The DIY installation process is fairly simple, though professional assistance is available over the phone.
When it comes to pricing and contracts, Protect America is less than ideal. While the three plans (Copper, Silver, and Platinum) are reasonably priced for what they deliver, the mandatory three-year contract and draconian policy might scare many away. Additional fees like $10 for fire monitoring and $10 for video monitoring are also not common for competing home security providers.
To sum up, if the long-term contract doesn’t scare you away, Protect America provides a reasonably priced service with flexible options.