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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.
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.
Cove is one of the newest home security systems on the market, and the company offers a free quiz on its website to help homeowners identify the necessary equipment. Cove also offers a lifetime equipment warranty, and equipment can be paid for over a 36-month period. Monthly monitoring fees range from $14.99 to $24.99.
The process of installing the system is a DIY project with Cove, and the preconfigured equipment is simple to install. Additionally, homeowners will hear the name of the alarm that is triggered instead of an annoying siren. So, for example, if the homeowner names the front door siren “front door,” when this alarm goes off, the system will say “front door” repeatedly. Unfortunately, Cove only provides three indoor security cameras and outdoor cameras are available upon request. Home automation is also minimal, but the system can be synced with Google Home or Alexa.
While Nest Secure isn’t ideal for every everyone, it’s a good choice for customers living in a small home. For the relatively high price of $499, customers get a streamlined–yet effective security system adequate for a modest house with two entries. In contrast to other home security options, Nest Secure is 100% wireless and designed for self-monitoring, although Nest has partnered with Moni for a professional monitoring option.
The Nest Secure starter kit is comprised of one Nest Guard hub, two Nest Detect door.window sensors and two Nest tags adequate for a two-entry home. While, additional equipment is available for purchase, add-ons can get pretty expensive. Perhaps the best feature of the Nest equipment is the Nest Guard, a user friendly control panel that you use to arm and disarm your system and comes compatible with Google Assistant (Google is Nest’s parent company). Also unique is the Nest Tag, a handy little key chain that allows you to arm and disarm your system from anywhere without pulling out your phone.
Let’s talk about pricing: the starter pack will run you $499 and homeowners can buy Nest Cams for $99-199 and additional Nest Detect sensors go for $59 a pop. After the initial costs, Nest Secure is quite cheap, since it’s designed for self-monitoring. $10 dollars a month will buy you cellular backup via T-Mobile to send alerts if the WiFi goes kaput, and those who insist on professional monitoring can get it for $19 (three-year agreement) or $29 (pay-as-you-go) a month through Nest’s partnership with Moni.
However, Nest Secure does have its drawbacks: many BBB reviewers have issues with poor tech support and a lack of information on warranties. Furthermore, there is occasionally up to an hour delay in receiving alerts on your phone from the Nest Guard, a concerning issue. All in all, Nest Secure does provide a solid package for customers who prefer a self-monitoring system.
A relative newcomer to the home security industry given a boost through crowd funding its first product line, Scout is refreshingly transparent with its service compared to its competitors that often require long-term contracts with harsh cancellation penalties. Though some homeowners may prefer a more elaborate, professionally installed system, Scout is great for the more hands-on inclined customer with its highly customizable equipment and systems. You can opt for either self-monitoring or professional monitoring plans, and neither will set you back too much.
All of the equipment you use with a Scout system is self-manufactured and purchased upfront through the website. The equipment ships with a 60-day full-refund return policy and a 1-3 year limited warranty with few exceptions. Scout security systems are run through the Scout hub, a keypadless device that plugs directly into your router. Instead of the keypad, homeowners control the hub through the Scout Alarm mobile app. Through the app, you can view the status and regulate all of your installed devices: sensors, door panels, and motion detectors. The system is also compatible with home automation devices such as Amazon Alexa devices, Google Home, Nest, and other Z-Wave and Zigbee compatible devices.
After the initial high expense of purchasing equipment, Scout offers two month-to-month subscription plans depending on whether you opt for self or professional monitoring. Always On, the self monitoring plan, costs just $9.99 a month and comes with 4G LTE cellular and battery backup, while AlwaysOn+ goes for $19.99 and includes 24-hour professional monitoring.
Though not as extensive as some of the security solutions offered by market competitors, Scout is a great company with a solid product. Older homeowners might be put off by the lack of a keypad in the central hub, however many customers should be perfectly comfortable controlling everything through their mobile phones.
Ring started as a smart doorbell company, and was acquired by Amazon in February 2018. There are two subscription plans: Basic and Plus. The Basic plan costs $3 monthly or $30 annually while the Plus plan costs $10 per month or $100 annually. The Plus plan provides active video recording and professional monitoring for all devices.
Homeowners can call customer service between 5am and 10pm to receive guidance on the equipment necessary for their home, and there is a Neighbors app that acts like a virtual neighborhood watch. Real-time updates are provided by both neighbors and law enforcement on crimes occurring in the area.
Two-way-talk is another useful Ring feature. It allows homeowners to talk to anyone who approaches the Ring doorbell camera, even if they are miles away. This feature can help scare away intruders, as well as prevent theft of Amazon packages.
Homeowners can livestream video of their home, get notifications when activity happens, and pair the cameras with additional tools like a keypad, contact sensor, motion detector, range detector, and doorbell camera.
Home security systems have evolved over the past decade. They are no longer limited to long-term contracts with companies that install a few surveillance cameras throughout a home. Instead, the best home security systems provide professional monitoring through connections with smart devices. They also work in tandem with the best smart home features.
For example, homeowners can monitor their properties using the home security system’s app even if they are thousands of miles away. Having greater control over home security, without losing the benefits of professional monitoring, is ultimately what homeowners love about these advanced home security systems.
Choice is also important. Most homeowners want to find the best homes at affordable prices, and the same is true for their home alarm systems. The best home security systems with no contract offer professional monitoring at affordable prices. Homeowners and renters can breathe a sigh of relief because they no longer have to lock themselves into tedious long-term contracts with home security companies.
What is a home security system?
The most basic home security systems sound an alarm when an entry-point is breached and offer peace of mind in an age of uncertainty. An array of sensors can be connected to the system’s control panel to detect this breach. Some of the most common sensors include:
- Motion sensors
- Glass-break sensors
- Security cameras
- Video doorbells
- Home automation controls
- Key fobs and panic buttons
The best home security systems with professional monitoring will also contact local authorities if the correct password or voice command is not given within a predetermined time frame after a sensor has been triggered.
How do home security systems work?
A home security system works in four stages.
Stage 1: A sensor is triggered
A security sensor is placed at all windows and doors that lead into the house. The homeowner inputs the password on the system’s control panel which activates the alarm. One of these entry points is opened and a signal is sent to the control panel.
Stage 2: A signal sent to the control panel
Motion sensors and security sensors send signals to the control panel. An alarm sounds. The process ends here if professional monitoring is not included with the security system.
Stage 3: The monitoring base station contacts the homeowner
False alarms are common, so the monitoring station will contact the homeowner when an alert is received from the control panel. The homeowner will then either be prompted to input a code or give a voice command. If calls go unanswered, or the wrong prompt is entered, the monitoring station enters the next stage.
Stage 4: The monitoring center contacts the authorities
First responders and the police are contacted.
Why do you need a home security system?
A home security system provides five main benefits.
1. Family protection
The assurance that a home security system will alert the family of danger helps satisfy their basic human need for safety. Families can then protect themselves as best as possible until help arrives. Otherwise, the intruder can use the element of surprise to his or her advantage.
2. Protection for home and valuables
Often times, posting a sticker that indicates the home is protected by a security system is enough to deter intruders. Those who still try to enter are usually scared away by the sound of the alarm. A home security system wards off intruders and, therefore, protects both the home and its valuables.
3. The ability to detect potential dangers
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can also be included in a home security system, which will protect your family from both intruders and environmental hazards.
4. Remote access to a home
A home security system can transform an ordinary home into a smart home, giving homeowners control over more than just the alarm. The home security system’s app can be used to control lights, smart locks, security cameras, entertainment and even HVAC system.
5. Home insurance discounts
Insurance companies tend to offer home insurance discounts for homes with home security systems since they are perceived as less risky than homes without security systems. As such, a homeowner with a home security system can pay less than $1,000 per year for home insurance.
What is the difference between a monitored and self-monitored home security system?
The difference between monitored and self-monitored DIY systems is simple. A self-monitored home security system requires the homeowner to call the authorities should there be a breach. A monitored security system, on the other hand, has a monitoring station that calls the authorities on the homeowner’s behalf. An additional fee is charged for this service.
Home security systems with no contract can either be monitored or self-monitored. A self-monitored system should:
- Have the ability to send push or text notifications
- Call the homeowner directly if the system is breached
- Send a message to additional contacts chosen by the homeowner such as family members and close friends
Self-monitored security systems also tend to have more DIY elements. As such, they are not ideal for homeowners who have neither the patience nor the time to set up and continuously monitor the system.
What are the features of the best home security systems with no contract?
There are six things to consider when evaluating the best home security systems with no contract.
The size of the system
Larger homes need more sensors and smart home features than smaller homes. So naturally, a large home security system will be needed for large homes and a smaller home security system for small homes.
Asset protection devices
Asset protection devices send alerts when assets have been tampered. This is not a make or break feature though unless homeowners have one or more highly valuable assets such as expensive jewelry or paintings.
The best home security systems are more than just burglar alarms. They also offer sensors that can detect environmental hazards such as fires. Some even offer sensors that can detect when appliances are not working properly, thus providing huge cost-savings for homeowners.
Equipment packages to suit any budget
Homeowners should choose the right combination of home security system features that suit their budget. Inflexible home security system packages have one price and limited options. They may also be lacking in features that are important to a homeowners specific goals and needs.
Some of the best home security systems offer panic buttons that are ideal for the elderly, as well as people who live alone with no neighbors close by. These panic buttons are ideal for several personal security threats, including medical emergencies. For example, someone who has fallen down the stairs and dislocated her hip would be unable to call for help. If she’s wearing a panic button on her wrist, she can easily press it and get assistance. This is not a must-have feature, but may be an option worthy of consideration.
Smart home features
A home security system can transform an ordinary home into a smart home. There are special add-ons that allow the homeowner to control the home remotely (open/close doors or windows, turn on/off appliances and so on) via a smartphone. Some home security systems can also be integrated with Google Home and Amazon Alexa for voice-command features.
Can home security systems be hacked?
Home security systems have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. The strength of the home security systems internal software infrastructure determines how difficult it is for hackers to break through. A home security system can be hacked in one of three ways.
Wireless signals transmitted by a home security system can be intercepted if these signals are not encrypted. A hacker can use a Software Defined Radio (SDR) to intercept transmissions of an un-encrypted home security system. The hacker then has complete control of the home security system and can take full advantage of this power. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to choose a home security system that emphasizes data encryption.
Home security system apps are often based on open-source software, which allows third-party software developers to create applications based on the software. The risk of open-source software is that hackers can also exploit its weaknesses for their own gains.
Homeowners should only purchase home security systems that restrict third-party access. They should also ensure that the home security system’s software and firmware are up-to-date. Current updates include patches that fix pre-existing loopholes.
Some home security systems can be pulled apart easily and hackers will use this to their advantage to turn the system against the homeowner. Homeowners should ensure that the home security system purchased cannot be easily tampered with, and that a signal is sent when any form of tampering is detected. DIY home security systems put homeowners at considerable risk in this regard, which is why professional installation is recommended, if at all possible.
How much do home security systems with no contract cost?
There are usually five types of home security system fees that homeowners should consider:
- Activation fee
- Installation fee
- Equipment fees
- Monitoring fees
- Miscellaneous fees
Home security systems with no-contract have upfront fees, and the monthly fees of these systems vary depending on the features the homeowner chooses to purchases, especially if professional monitoring is added. Upfront equipment costs can range from $100 to $2000, and may include a monthly equipment fee. Most home security systems allow homeowners to pay some of these costs over 36 months, on average.