We spent two months and over 40 hours researching and testing 12 monitored home security systems. We think SimpliSafe is the best self-installed option for most people. It doesn’t require a long-term contract and it offers the benefits of a security system that’s monitored 24/7. SimpliSafe is reliable, easy to install, and it works with some Alexa voice commands.
Our runner-up pick, the Abode, supports many smart-home devices via Nest, Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT, Zigbee, and Z-Wave—all of which are managed through the Abode Web portal. You can bypass paying for monitoring around the clock as it offers live-monitoring service plans for the duration of three, seven, and 30 days. The Adobe is a tad more expensive than our top pick but it’s convenient to use during special occasions and vacations. It needs to be connected to your network router with an Ethernet cable and like our top pick’s, its setup process isn’t too difficult.
Who should get this
Although purchasing a home security system doesn’t guarantee that determined burglars won’t try to break into your home, it can scare them off and offer you some helpful insights. A home security system can alert and summon firefighters or police in case of an emergency, and save you between 8 and 15 percent on your home-insurance premium.
It’s important to reinforce the fact that your home is equipped with a home security system. A sign in your front yard or a sticker on your window can help in keeping trespassers away. According to an Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation study that was conducted in 2012 (PDF), 60 percent of offenders told researchers that they would pass up homes with alarm systems. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go the extra mile to protect your home. Getting a good door lock is another great place to start.
Ultimately, a professionally monitored system is more secure than an unmonitored or self-monitored one. When a professionally monitored system triggers a call to the service, an operator calls you to verify the alert. Most systems double-verify meaning the service will call a second number if you don’t answer the first time. If the service doesn’t receive a response, or if you confirm a break-in, it calls 911.
With an unmonitored system, you receive notifications (usually via text), not the authorities. This means that you’ll be required to stay on call and alert the police yourself if your system is triggered.
Whether or not you want 24/7 professional monitoring depends on the level of security you need, how important your valuables are, and how much you trust your neighbors and others in your home.
How we picked and tested
We researched companies that offered monitoring, both with and without a contract. We found that many companies offer a service commitment in exchange for free or discounted hardware. No-contracts systems on the other hand cost less, are most flexible, and leave room for unexpected life changes. No-contract systems also allow you to be in control of the equipment that you use.
Before testing we read customer reviews on Amazon, Angie’s List, and Yelp. We also looked on review sites such as SecurityGem (now part of Reviews.org), CNET, and ASecureLife to find systems with consistently good ratings. While basic packages varied, our criteria for testing home security systems included: live 24/7 monitoring with notifications; a useful package of accessories and sensors; a piercing audible alarm; a backup battery in case the power goes out; and a cellular connection in case a landline is cut.
We also only considered systems with a keypad (which can be placed by the door for easy arming and disarming), systems that come with additional devices to protect against fire and carbon monoxide, and systems with UL approval. We didn’t test systems that require professional installation as they cost more and use similar equipment as systems that you can install yourself.
After narrowing down our list to 12 systems, we installed them in two homes and used them over four weeks. We tested their contact sensors, smartphone apps, sirens, and motion sensors while they were unplugged and connected to power. We used at least one motion sensor and two contact sensors per system. We also tested keypads and cameras if they were available.
Arming and disarming the systems from inside and outside the house, we triggered each of them at least five times to get an idea of the average reaction time for the monitoring company. It’s important to note that the speed in which a monitoring company responds is not indicative of how fast your local authorities will respond.
Our pick: SimpliSafe
We chose SimpliSafe as our top pick for monitored home security systems because it’s affordable, reliable, and its live-monitoring security option is easy to use. It’s a flexible system with alarm triggers that can be customized.
During testing, its monitoring response times were consistent. After its alarm sounded, the COPS monitoring service called in exactly 44 seconds, in every one of our tests.
Since SimpliSafe doesn’t upsell add-ons or push more than what most security-focused people need, it doesn’t overcharge for its service. It’s the only no-contract company that comes with a yard sign. Its Foundation Package also includes a keypad, a Base Station, one motion sensor, one entry sensor, and two window decals.
Google Home and HomeKit support—along with support for locks and lights—is slated to arrive later this year. With Alexa, you can arm the system simply by using voice commands.
While you’re going to pay more up front for hardware with a no-contract, month-to-month security system like SimpliSafe, you don’t have to commit to a long-term contract. You’ll also have more freedom with where you place the system, how you use the service, as well as more control over what you get out of the service. You can start and stop the system as you please. The sirens and sensors will still work if you cancel the service, but you’ll no longer have monitoring or remote access.
Having gone through three incarnations, its latest design is stylish and simple. Its Base Station is curvier and its sensors are smaller this go round, but the range of the SimpliSafe is improved. We like that the system is a good fit for small or large homes, and in an average-size home you can place the equipment anywhere. Its wireless, stand-alone keypad can also be mounted anywhere because it doesn’t need AC power. The buttons are soft and react quickly with each press for easy alarming and disarming.
SimpliSafe’s Base Station is the operation center of the system. It works over Wi-Fi and an optional cellular connection so it doesn’t have to be connected to a router. It’s 95 dB siren isn’t the loudest, but for an average-size home, it’s more than sufficient. You can add a stand-alone 105 dB alarm for an additional cost if necessary. The SimpliSafe is UL certified and has a 24-hour backup battery. During setup and when the system is triggered, alarming and disarming, the Base Station’s voice prompts act as a guide for easy operation.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendations or availability updates, you can read the full home security system guide here.
More Info: www.forbes.com