Quicklist: Home Security Systems
- Self-Monitored Security Systems
- Unmonitored Security Systems
- Wireless Security Alarm Systems
- Wired Home Security Systems
What is a Home Security System?
A home security system, at its most generic term, is a method of securing a property through a system of devices and interworking components.
These security systems usually come in the form of interconnected electronic devices that work together with the main control panel to safeguard your home against robbers and other potential dangers.
A regular home security system includes:
- a control panel that controls the entire security system
- wireless or wired security cameras
- exterior and interior motion sensors
- door and window sensors
- window stickers and yard signs
- a high-decibel alarm or siren
How Does a Home Security System Work?
The purpose of home security systems is to secure all entry points of your home through a command center, or sensors that communicate with a control panel installed on your property.
Such sensors are commonly placed in areas that lead to and from a house like doors and accessible windows, especially those at the ground level. The open spaces of your home can be also secured using motion sensors.
The components of a security system include:
- Control Panel: A computer, or any device, that communicates with each installed component, connects with an alarm monitoring company, sounds the alarm when a security zone is breached, and arms and disarms the security systems.
The panel typically features a touchpad for trouble-free interaction and programming. It also requires passcodes to arm and disarm the system and can be programmed to work with fobs or wireless remote controls. A control panel can work on voice commands, as well.
- Surveillance Cameras: Available in both wireless and wired configurations, the cameras can be used in different ways to reinforce your home’s entire security system.
The typical uses of surveillance cameras include:
- interior and exterior entry points like front doors and garage doors
- remote buildings like barns, workshop areas, and garages
- distant or hard to reach areas of your property
Surveillance cameras are also remotely accessible with smartphones, tablets or computers. This method is especially ideal for homeowners who go out of town on a regular basis. They can monitor the arrival of their children after school, and watch for deliveries and other service personnel, like landscapers and caregivers who enter their property.
The cameras can be used to record any security breaches like a home invasion including a good look at trespassers, and even the vehicle they used.
- Motion Sensors: When armed, motion sensors guard a particular space through making an invisible zone that is unbreachable unless the alarm goes off. These sensors are normally used to protect rooms with valuable items and less-frequented areas in larger homes.
- Door and Window Sensors: These sensors are composed of two parts that are adjacent to each other when installed. A part of the device is placed on the window or door while the other is on the window sill or door frame. The two parts of the sensor are joined together and create a security circuit whenever a door or window closes.
Door and window sensors communicate with a security system through reporting that all points of entry are secured. Should a monitored window or door suddenly open, the security circuit will break and the control panel will interpret it as a breach of security. A high-decibel alarm is then sounded and notifies the alarm=monitoring company.
- Yard Signs and Window Stickers: These items might seem like nothing more than marketing props for alarm companies but make no mistake they play important roles in home security, too.
When you plant a yard sign in your front yard or place a security sticker in the front window, you’re warning potential burglars that your property is professionally guarded and protected. Hence, it wouldn’t be wise for them to attempt burglar at your home. The stickers and yard signs are excellent at sending out this kind of message.
- High-decibel Alarm or Siren: Alarms and sirens serve a few different purposes when it comes to home security: First, they warn and alert people that there’s a problem brewing inside the house; they also notify nearby neighbors to the situation and are shrill enough to ward off burglars.
One out of 36 homes is burglarized every year in the United States. Think about that.
That means on your street, it’s very likely at least one home, and maybe more, will be robbed this year. Of course, some neighborhoods suffer higher robbery rates than others, but it’s still an alarming statistic.
My wife and I have never been robbed, but when growing up our home was burglarized while on vacation. The perps were caught — they were some young teenagers who grabbed the TV and some jewelry. They didn’t destroy the place, but it’s very unnerving.
Related: Types of Door Locks | Backyard Shed Security | Smart Home Door Locks | Types of Locks for Sliding Doors | Smart Home Sensors
A reformed burglar is asked whether security systems are a deterrence in this article exploring the psychology of burglary. Here’s another piece suggesting burglar alarms do indeed make thieves think twice.
So it appears that home security systems help prevent home burglaries.
The question that remains and that we focus on here is setting out your home security system options. Here they are organized into four main categories.
Types of Home Security Systems
Security systems come in different styles and functions, and choosing the best one for your home can be a daunting task.
Making sure that your security system can protect your loved ones and your valuables is as important as the property itself. Take your cue from these four types of home security systems along with their pros and cons.
1. Monitored Security Systems
A monitored system alarm is one of the most popular security systems for homes available on the market. Normally, this system works by alerting a call center, security team, or emergency responders whenever the system detects a robbery, fire, or other emergencies.
This system comes in two types, the company-monitored security system or self-monitored security systems.
A. Self-Monitored Security Systems
As the name suggests, self-monitored security systems are those that you can monitor and control yourself. These systems include motion sensors, door sensors, security cameras, as well as sirens that call or text your mobile phone when triggered.
Most self-monitoring systems now come with mobile applications that will allow you to remotely monitor your home through your phone and other mobile devices. Further, this system also provides you the option of either calling 911 or asking a neighbor to check for signs of a break-in whenever you receive a notification and you’re not at home.
Although self-monitored security systems are considered modern and efficient, they still have their fair share of pros and cons.
- You get a real-time notification whenever the system is activated which allows for quick responses like calling the police or sending out people to check your property.
- They are handy and can be easily relocated to another location since you can install and uninstall the systems by yourself.
- Their camera systems can monitor and record video evidence of trespassers.
- Self-monitored security systems are affordable.
- Self-monitored security systems need a Wi-Fi connection to work. It will not function if there’s a power outage.
- You may miss an intruder alert if you’re in the area with no mobile service.
- Most self-monitored systems don’t have alarm systems to repel intruders.
- The coverage of the camera systems is only limited to the area where they’re installed.
- It’s expensive to install multiple security cameras, should you wish to cover more areas of your home.
B. Company-Monitored Security Systems
Company-monitored security systems are controlled and operated by professional organizations and personnel. These systems include door sensors, motion detectors, cameras, glass-break sensors, loud sirens to startle intruders and silent alarms.
Even though every system has different functions, most company-monitored security systems are built to warn their respective contact centers whenever a trespasser breaks in to your home while the system is armed.
You will also receive a verification phone call to check if the alarm system was not triggered by mistake. The security organization will dispatch the security company or police to investigate in case you don’t respond or answer your phone.
Similar to self-monitored-security systems, these systems also come with significant pros and cons.
- The majority of company-monitored security systems run on cellular radio or traditional phone lines and come with battery backup. They will continue to run furing a power outage.
- You don’t need to contact or call the authorities yourself if you’re phone is out of reach or you’re away from home.
- The alarm and sirens are more than enough to frighten away intruders as soon as they enter your property, preventing damage and theft.
- If company-monitored security systems are installed properly, they can eliminate any blind spots and can cover your entire home.
- If the system is accidentally triggered, you will need to answer your phone to disable it. Otherwise, the authorities will be contacted right away.
- If a security company or police are dispatched and find no sign of forced entry or break-in, you may possibly be charged for a false alarm.
- You need to always engage the alarm system before going to sleep or leaving your home for it to be active.
- This security system usually requires a monthly fee and contract.
2. Unmonitored Security Systems
An unmonitored security system is another option for protecting your property. This system works by setting off a deafening siren when the alarm is triggered.
Unmonitored security systems consist of security items such as motion sensors, control panel, glass-break sensors, sirens, door and window sensors and smoke detectors. All of which can be installed by yourself or by a professional.
Some systems are also compatible with smartphones which allows you to check the monitor remotely.
- They provide a good level of security even though they are not as sophisticated and comprehensive as monitored systems.
- These systems are easy to operate.
- Unmonitored security systems are more cost-effective and cheaper because they have no subscription or ongoing fees.
- Most unmonitored security systems are heavily dependent on the owner. That said, they aren’t effective without the user or when the homeowner is away.
- Communicating with law enforcement can be difficult in times of distress or emergency because these systems are not automated.
- Unmonitored security systems are less secure and robust than monitored security systems.
3. Wireless Security Alarm Systems
The components of wireless security systems usually include detectors, sensors, cameras, alarms, and a main control panel.
Such systems also have a three-fold process, namely;
- Detection: The initial step of the process involves the detection of any changes in the security status of your home such as when someone breaks your window or an untrusted party opens your door.
- Annunciation: This stage alerts homeowners of possible break-in through the use of sirens, alarm systems, flashing lights, etc.
- Monitoring: The most critical stage of the process requires your alarm to be connected to a monitoring service. When an emergency or threat takes place, the system triggers the alarm and notifies the monitoring company. The company then sends assistance.
Just like any other systems, wireless security alarm systems have their pros and cons.
- Easy to install and uninstall. It will be easy to take your house alarm system with you in case you want to change its location or you will move to another home.
- These systems are available in DIY kits. You can install and make them up and running no time as there’s no need to drill holes and complicated wiring to set up.
- Wireless security systems are easy to upgrade. Because the systems aren’t hard-wired, it’s easy to upgrade and change them. It is easy to move devices and add new devices to the system.
- There are no wires to cut for burglars. A wireless home security system is difficult for a burglar to disable because there are no wires attached between the control panel and detection device.
- You can easily operate them through remote controls. It can be done via remote control units, wireless key fobs, and mobile apps. You can easily check your home security system without the need to use control panels.
- It’s vulnerable to interference. It may not be common, but wireless security systems can be affected by interference. For instance, large objects can block their signal. Certain electrical equipment may create problems too which makes it possible for a burglar to jam a wireless security system if he or she has the right tools.
- You will need lots of batteries. Wireless detection devices usually need batteries to work. As such, the batteries need to be replaced as needed and sensors will need to be periodically checked. If you have a big house, you will need more to check-in.
- Prone to hacking. It will be possible for a burglar to block the signals and hack a wireless system. There are cheap wireless alarm systems that don’t encrypt the signals between the control panel and the sensors.
- There are wireless systems with wires! It may be ironic, but in order for some wireless security systems to power the control panel, they use the main power supply. Some even need telephone landlines to loop with a monitoring service. So, be sure to check the system requirements before buying a wireless security alarm, especially if you don’t have a landline.
4. Wired Home Security Systems
The components of wired home security systems connect to an alarm panel that has low-voltage wiring. All entry points of your home will be wired back to the main control panel along with motion detectors, keypads, and other security devices.
These hard-wired alarm systems provide a more trustworthy connection than wireless systems because the main panel knows the real-time status of each device within the system.
- Wired systems are extremely reliable because they don’t depend on sensors that use radio frequencies to communicate. As long as the phone line isn’t snipped or the wiring isn’t damaged, these systems will provide security.
- The systems are easy to maintain as homeowners only need to change the batteries to keep them working.
- Hardwired security systems are perfect for big homes as they can carry more sensors compared to wireless systems.
- Systems are less prone to hacking than wireless systems because they require manual connection to access.
- Professionals prefer wired security system connections because of their security, consistency and reliability.
- Wired systems are rich in features with high-definition video surveillance and control panels in multiple rooms.
- Wired systems are more expensive to install.
- These systems are more vulnerable to robbers. Trespassers can simply cut the wiring and phone lines outside the house should they wish to disable the security system.
- Wired security system equipment is difficult to uninstall. Some security companies refuse to install old equipment in a new location and may not even recommend moving wired systems.
- They only have one control location which means you can only arm and disarm them from the main control panel.
Top Brands — Home Security Systems
Vivint is an award-winning home security brand offering solutions both indoors and outdoors. The company allows you to choose one of the three packages, with the option of customization to meet your needs.
These packages are Starter, Premium and Premium Plus. If you are unsure what you want, you can get in touch with a Vivint representative, who will ask you a series of questions about your home.
Your answers will act as the blueprint for the customization plan. Some add-on devices you can get with a customized plan include water sensors, doorbell cameras, and contact break-in sensors.
The company also has Vivint app and Vivint Smart Hub that allow you to control the security system. You can receive notifications, create custom actions, and control devices remotely. Third-party compatibility is available through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices.
Notably, Vivint does not offer a trial period. Therefore, ensure that you discuss all details with the representative to ensure you understand all the terms of your agreement.
SimpliSafe is an American home security company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. The company allows you to choose between professional and DIY installation. You can also choose between self-monitoring and professional monitoring.
So if you are big on having options, this would be a good brand for you. SimpliSafe offers its users seven pre-customized packages — they all include a base station and a keypad, but the rest of the components vary. These components include a motion sensor, smoke detector, water sensor and panic button.
You can also build a customized package and receive the equipment in under a week. Unlike Vivint, SimpliSafe has a 60-day trial period. Installation is also quick and easy.
Additionally, you can integrate your SimpliSafe home security system with a third-party application like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
For over 140 years, ADT has proven to be an expert in home security systems. The largest residential security company in the United States, it has 12 monitoring call centers across the country and hundreds of local offices and dealers. The brand also patented the first automated burglar alarm system.
ADT offers customers three home security system packages, but they can send a technician to your home to create a customized system for you. However, even if you pick a pre-customized package, you will need a technician since there is no option for DIY installation.
You also must be ready to commit long-term — ADT has a three-year contract, with no month-to-month options nor a trial period.
However, there is a six-month money-back guarantee. On the bright side, the system allows you to connect over 150 smart home devices with the ADT Control smartphone app.
4. Link Interactive
Link Interactive is another renowned home security system brand designed with a DIY enthusiast in mind. Unlike most companies, Link Interactive does not have pre-customized packages. Everyone gets to choose the hardware they want for the system.
Another thing that sets them apart is the fact that professional installation is not an option. However, that shouldn’t put you off. Since all the Link’s security system is wireless, you don’t have to worry about drilling walls or running cables.
They also send the hardware with clear installation instructions, and you can reach out to professionals at their call center should you need further help with the instructions.
There are three subscription plans: Standard, Gold, and Elite. However, if you want a plan with home automation technology, you have to purchase either of the last two subscription plans. Additionally, Link Interactive has three contract length options: 12, 24, and 36 months.
Just like Link Interactive, Frontpoint is a DIY-friendly brand. It uses wireless technology. Each component comes in a box labeled with the step number, so you just need to follow the steps in the right order, not to mention they have a follow-along Setup Wizard app.
Frontpoint has pre-built kits, but there is an option to build your system from scratch. They have partnered with Alarm.com, and that’s where you choose the equipment from. These products come with a three-year warranty, giving you much-needed peace of mind.
Frontpoint only offers one monitoring plan, but you can pay on a month-to-month basis. It is also worth noting that Frontpoint does not have a self-monitoring option.
The Frontpoint system is also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant and excellent customer support.
6. Abode Iota
Abode’s Iota security hub blends together DIY and monitored security solutions. The base unit is a very capable camera, sensor, alarm, and router for other security devices.
Its self-monitoring capabilities are somewhat limited without one of the monitoring plans for storing video recordings, but the pricing for the standard plan is cheap relative to other companies’ monitoring plans.
7. Ring Cameras
Ring has surged into the home security marketplace over the past few years. They’re relatively cheap for both the equipment and monitoring plans, although the latest generation of their doorbell cameras may cost more than entire security systems.
You can pick up a Ring camera at many stores with electronics departments for immediate improvements to your home’s security.
For those comfortable with technology, personalizing a home security system can be done with parts and equipment picked up at a site like Newegg. While not true for every case, you’ll usually be able to save a little bit of money or get slightly better performance for the price.
With certain devices listed above, like the Abode Iota or a pro plan from Ring’s monitoring, additional equipment can also expand the ready-made solutions.
Tyler Pack is a real estate consultant and journalist with a passion for smart homes technology. He is keen on writing about home and property security, and cybersecurity.