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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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Home security systems have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. And thankfully, renters no longer need to set an appointment with a professional installer, nor pay exorbitant amounts, to feel safer in their homes. Modern alarm systems offer flexibility, convenience, and peace of mind.
As a renter, ensuring the safety of one’s home and valuables, as well as loved ones and pets inside, is important. Home security systems are perfect for deterring thieves, keeping an eye on pets while at work, and protecting deliveries once they arrive.
What is a home security system?
A home security system is a network of sensors and devices that work together to monitor unauthorized activity and intrusions. Systems can be purchased as a bundled package of components, or on a customizable piece by piece basis. Many can even be installed by customers themselves, as opposed to trained professionals from the security company.
What’s more, home security systems for renters cover the gamut in terms of complexity, and may consist of just a few sensors and a base station or a network of dozens of sensors and devices depending on home size and security goals.
Why should I get a home security system for renters?
A home security system can help deter break-ins, home invasions and theft, as well as prevent flooding, and detect fires and unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. Many security systems also come with a 24/7 monitoring service so that law enforcement can be contacted during an emergency.
What are the key features to look for in a home security system for renters?
When evaluating home security system options, you’ll come across a variety of different options. As such, it’s important to have a good foundational understanding of which ones are absolute must-haves based on your goals, needs, and budget. While home security systems are more affordable than ever, the numbers can really start to add up when advanced features are tacked onto the foundational basics of the system itself.
Push to connect
Most smart devices are now effortlessly networked, and the best home security systems should be too. The key is to ensure that all “network components,” including things like security cameras and motion sensors, are able to “talk” to display devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops and even TVs.
Traditional home security systems require the hardware to be linked to the electrical system of the home, which is labor-intensive and expensive to install. Thankfully, wi-fi connectivity is becoming more and more common for electronics, and as a result, many home security system manufacturers now incorporate this technology into their products as well. Modern home security systems are simpler to install, don’t require drilling into walls and are more visually appealing.
Discreet door and window sensors
No one wants to feel like they are living in a high-security compound. Small, discreet sensors can be easily attached to doors and windows with strong, yet removable, stickers. This improves security, without detracting from the aesthetics of the rental unit itself.
Most security companies require long-term contracts that range from 2 to 4 years. The monthly fees for a security package, which include monitoring and equipment rental, can be both expensive and inconvenient for renters who want to end the service early. Early cancellation charges and clauses in the contract can also end up making the security system more of a hassle.
The best security firms don’t outsource monitoring to other companies. They have their own dedicated monitoring centers that conform to industry best practices. Having dedicated monitoring systems allow them to have faster reaction times in case of an emergency. When a robbery takes place, the speed of dispatching a response team is critical to catching the criminals and protecting the victims.
Almost all home security systems have a battery backup in case of power failures. What this means is that they can still monitor the unit for intrusions, unauthorized entry or environmental hazards and sound the alarm for up to 24 hours after the power outage starts. It’s important to note, however, that monitoring systems may not work if the mobile network or Internet connection is affected.
Home security system FAQs
Do simple, affordable home security systems for renters actually exist?
The new generation of home security systems is more affordable, as well as easier to install. This makes them ideal for renters since they no longer require specialized skills or expensive professional installations.
Basic systems consist of surveillance cameras that stream video footage to smartphones, with customization options that include everything from door and window sensors and smart lights to thermostats and video doorbells.
How do home security systems protect against fire and floods?
Many of the best security systems include equipment that senses carbon monoxide. Once the sensor detects dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, an alarm sounds and the customer can be alerted of the danger. Similarly, smoke detectors can also sound the alarm in the event of a fire.
Some systems also include water detectors, which are sensors that can be placed in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements to detect flooding. In such cases, most modern security systems can send a message or alert to mobile phones to alert the user.
Why install a home security system yourself?
Up until recently, home security systems required professional installation, which meant they become a permanent fixture to the property. This often violated specific terms within rental agreements, so many renters were unable to take advantage of all the benefits that home security systems afford.
Modern systems are simple to install, and in many cases, can be dismantled and removed when the renter moves out. What’s more, some landlords will even agree to help defray the cost of the system, since they have a vested interest in ensuring the property remains safe and secure.
Will my pet trigger a false alarm on my home security system?
Often, customers don’t activate their security system’s motion sensors for fear of their pets setting off false alarms. Too many false alarms due to motion detection can result in heavy fines and possibly even being placed on a ‘Do Not Respond’ list by the authorities.
Fortunately, many modern systems are pet immune, meaning their motion sensors will ignore pets up to 80 pounds using infrared technology to recognize and disregard animal heat signatures. Renters with large pets are advised to opt for pet immune motion sensors so they make full use of their home security systems.
What is the difference between a monitored and unmonitored security system?
For starters, monitored systems are more expensive than unmonitored systems because professionals in dedicated monitoring centers are on standby to keep track of your home’s security, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. When the system detects a break-in, a fire or any other emergency, it notifies first responders or security teams as needed.
Monitored systems also have the major advantage of providing peace of mind while renters are away from their homes, and are usually more comprehensive than systems customers purchase and install on their own. Some monitored systems include home automation and other value-added services along with monitoring.
While unmonitored systems can offer the same level of functionality, the upfront costs of the equipment may be higher. For renters looking to save money, an unmonitored system is best. But if peace of mind and convenience are important, then you’re better off choosing a monitored home security system.
What’s the initial cost for a home security system?
The cost of a home security system will vary greatly, depending on the package selected, the company, the length of the contract, installation type, and monitoring contract.
- Equipment – If you are buying all the equipment yourself, a complete package will include a control panel or base, door and window sensors, cameras and motion detectors and alarms. any companies won’t charge upfront for the equipment, and will instead charge rent for it on a monthly basis. While convenient, this means that customers end up paying a large amount over the years, yet don’t actually own any equipment.
- Installation – Renters who choose DIY home security systems option can save quite a bit upfront, although it can be expensive if you don’t have all the proper tools and expertise, particularly for a wired system. Thankfully, most wireless systems come with everything needed for installation, and are a breeze to install.
- Monitoring Costs – Renters with an excellent credit history can usually get shorter contracts, but will still be required to pay a monthly monitoring fee. On average, prices for the equipment for home security systems range from $99 to $599 upfront, with ongoing monthly monitoring fees of anywhere between $14.99 and $34.99.
What is home automation and how does it work?
Home automation is a relatively new feature in home security systems for renters. Many systems are compatible with existing home automation products such as Nest Thermostats, Alexa smart speakers and Philips lighting systems.
- Energy Efficiency – One of the biggest advantages of home automation is in energy efficiency, as lights and appliances can be automatically turned off to save power when the home is unoccupied. Lighting and heating systems can also be programmed to behave differently so that they are turned off according to the time of day or seasons. This feature may help save enough money to at least partly offset the cost of a new security system.
- Home Automation – Home automation includes the various aspects of smart home devices, including lighting, electrical outlets, appliances, heating and cooling, sprinklers and even door locks.
- Remote Control – Many home security systems offer the functionality of controlling appliances and equipment remotely. You can watch live video of video cameras, set the doors to lock at specific times, arm or disarm monitoring, unlock doors, and even turn on lights – all from the convenience of smartphones and tablets.
Best apartment security systems
After considering the key factors of a good security system – including features, contract terms, costs, and monitoring – here are our top picks for the best home security systems for renters.