Choosing a Home Security System Made Easy
Last updated: Septebmber 4, 2017. Home Security Buyers Guide.
Looking for the best home alarm system? At Alarm Reviews we have tested and reviewed dozens of home security systems. Home safety is crucial to have - especially in this day and age. With a home security system up and running, you can now know what's going on in the home while on vacation, at work or on a date.
The FBI reports "there are over 2 million home burglaries every year in the U.S. Users with a home security system are 3x less likely to become victims." Security systems give peace of mind, something that is nearly impossible to bring back once a home has been tampered with. Protect yourself from the worse case scenario by using one of the alarm systems reviewed below.
The 20 Best Home Security Systems in 2017
#1 - Frontpoint Security with full Home Automation Control
The Frontpoint security system has the best features of several security system providers wrapped up in one. In 2016 they upgraded all their equipment making them a better all around security provider. What stood out the most were the overwhelming positive customer reviews they have gotten. Best of all? You aren't selling your kidney just to get it. Low starting and monitoring costs.
A look into what you can do with the Frontpoint alarm system:
Standard touchscreen panel. Typing your pass-code in is old school. This is a unique touchscreen panel with updates of the weather, your neighborhood and more. Think of it as a mini mart tablet. Also, not so large that you may be embarrassed by it and hide it in the closet as is common with older, bulkier panels.
Control your home with ease. Their home security app is available for free on iOS or Android smart devices. Users can connect their cameras, automate lights, door locks and thermostat through this app.
The advantages and disadvantages of Frontpoint are:
- Fire & carbon monoxide protection included
- Smash and crash technology
- Geo services
- Cool vibe to company and great customer support
- 30 day money back guarantee
- Clean user face on equipment and app control
- A+ BBB rating
- Qualified users get $300 off upfront costs
- Outdoor surveillance camera available
- Purchase most equipment upfront
- Shorter history in industry
When testing their alarm system there wasn't much we could find wrong with it. Sensors functioned as advertised and they carry a 3 year warranty. If you are not comfortable with setting up your own system then you will want to go with our #2 pick.
Our rating: (4.7 / 5)
Get Frontpoint by calling 855-861-8730
#2 - ADT Monitoring + Pulse Home Automation
The ADT Monitored home security system has kept up with the competition. Close to 8 million people use their alarm system. Why is it in the top 2? Because it comes with professional installation so users need not worry about setting it up wrong. All of the authorized dealer technicians are licensed professionals able to do the job right.
A glance into how Pulse operates:
Using ADT Pulse app. Once installed you gain login access to their free mobile app. With it, you can check notifications given by the Pulse alarm system at any time as well as view live video feed from security cameras.
Move with you. We liked the point that they don't heckle their customers when moving. You can usually get a brand new alarm system installed at your new place for very low cost.
Best reputation. They have 6 large monitoring centers nation wide. Reliable security equipment and most satisfied customers in the home security niche.
The advantages and disadvantages of the Pulse system are:
- Professional installation done for you (Highly recommended for most users!)
- Basic to advanced system depending on user needs
- Long history with lots of users
- Two-way over voice control panel
- Easy to use interface on mobile app
- $850 in free equipment
- They don't update your security system unless asked for. Some users have had their system for over 10+ years without an upgrade. Remember to ask for upgrade after 3-5 years.
- Installation fee (although to most it's better than doing it their-self)
Their monitoring stations are each backed up by one another. If one fails, another one in a different location automatically takes on your monitoring. On each burglary simulation performed, the control panel siren went off and we were called in less than 30 seconds. The biggest complaints of the other alarm systems are malfunctions of the security system not being connected properly to monitoring when it is triggered by a break-in. That being the primary use of a security system, the ADT Monitoring specialists reliability is worth every penny.
Our rating: (4.5 / 5)
Call 888-285-0760 for a Free Quote
#3 - Vivint
The Vivint Sky Smart Control System is basically like having a mini tablet on your wall. Vivint started out offering home security systems only but now they have ventured off into many areas including internet and solar energy. Due to the rapid growth and new expansions they seem to not have home security as their primary focus anymore.
Looking more into the smart control package:
Luxury home automation. This smart alarm system is continually being updated and worked on. Vivint's security system now falls more into the home automation niche. If you need only basic security services and don't care for all the 'bells and whistles' then don't choose this.
Ding dong, the bad guys caught. Newly added is the doorbell camera. You can view what is happening on your door step from your phone through a doorbell camera. This is ironic as now you can see the Vivint sales rep and not answer the door!
The pros and cons of Vivint Sky smart control:
- High grade technology automation
- Can take over existing Honeywell or ADT systems
- Sky touchscreen panel only available through Vivint
- Lots of equipment to choose from
- High monthly monitoring fee
- Complicated for non-technical people
- 42-60 month contracts
The Vivint Security System has continued to improve what it can offer for your home. It is not a great solution for renters or smaller residences but for those with a mansion and want the best of the best then this is a good purchase. Smart control service from any smart device worked well when testing. Not the most affordable package but if you plan on living at your current residence for the next 5-10 years, this could be a good fit.
Our rating: (4.4 / 5)
Get a custom quote by calling 855-298-7671
#4 - Protect America
The Protect America Security System will get you the most bang for your buck. The platinum plan is $42.99 and comes with 14 window / door sensors + motion detector + panel + mobile control. It is an easy-to-do self-installation so literally you can get away with $0 starting costs. It is very reliable because it is comprised of General Electric top grade equipment. For those wanting customization, there are some cool upgrades available.
A look into how it all works:
Enough equipment to cover the whole home. While you may find good promotions elsewhere what usually is not included is enough equipment to cover every point of entry. You don't have to worry about skipping out on securing the kids' windows or other places with this one.
Fastest response time. When doing our home invasion test, Protect America monitoring was the fastest to call in under 30 seconds consistently. Many complaints of the new all-in-one camera systems that other companies have are that they don't trigger the alarm and get the police called.
The advantages and disadvantages of the Protect America are:
- Best value for your money
- Re-branded in summer of 2017 including fully upgraded alarm system
- Quickest monitoring response time
- Several cool add-on features including: cameras, flood sensor, GPS device and backup touchscreen panel
- Great promotions with up to $1400 in free equipment
- 20 years in business
- B+ BBB rating
- $0 installation and $0 activation
- Easy to be deceived by their $19.99/mo price, this is for landline only and not very practical.
- Basic panel and limited home automation available
To avoid high out of pocket costs, some people settle for getting less security equipment than originally desired. While those in town-homes and apartments may not need a lot of equipment, it's a good choice or those who do. Our third best may not win the most visually appealing award, but at least it's reliable.
Our rating: (4 / 5)
Get a quote by calling 888-936-2878
#5 - Link Interactive 2Gig Wireless Touchscreen System
The Link Interactive 2gig system isn't the first thing that comes to mind when shopping around for a home security system. And that's what we like about it. It has gone largely unnoticed even though it's been available for over 50 years. It is a great all-around package with a standard touchscreen panel and several wireless sensors to cover the entire home.
A deeper look into what it can do:
More advanced than most think. Geo-fencing feature can automatically disarm the alarm system when your smartphone enters a certain perimeter of the control panel (up to 150'). Controlling lights and thermostats with this Z-wave compatible security system is easily do-able.
Low-cost monitoring. Less than $1 a day usually carries a * and some fine print with it. Not here. $29.99/mo gets you a full set of equipment with active monitoring.
The advantages and disadvantages of the Link Interactive 2gig system are:
- Lowest cost for home automation monitoring
- Touchscreen panel
- Quality security cameras available
- A+ BBB rating
- Portable system (great for renters)
- Free mobile alerts
- Z-wave features for advanced users
- Positive customer ratings
- Website looks old and outdated
- Generic look and appeal to brand
Although there isn't as much hype around the Link Interactive alarm system it shouldn't be overlooked. They use alarm.com for their free smart control app. After ordering, you will receive a package with activated equipment that requires self-setup.
Our rating: (4 / 5)
Call a rep at 855-534-7784
Video comparison ranking the Top 5 Security Systems:
#6 - Honeywell Lynx Touch L7000 Wireless Security Alarm Kit with Wifi and Z-wave Module
The Honeywell lynx touchscreen with WiFi capabilities is a rock solid product. Honeywell is used by hundreds of dealers and exceeds $3 billion in sales a year. Their backup batteries exceed the life of any other sensors. If you want to get a Honeywell home Alarm System installed then check out this company. If you buy this one as a DIY project just know ahead of time that you are required to find a monitoring company.
Further investigation into the Honeywell Lynx Touch L7000 Alarm kit:
Large LCD display. Don't plan on watching TV from this, but the touchscreen is a nice full 7" color display. Z-wave features open the possibilities of some pretty cool things, see what here.
Techie required. Installing the Lynx Touch L7000 requires a professional to drill and run the wire(s), install the modules and plugin control panel. Although it comes with a guide we don't recommend trying this as your next DIY project.
The ups and downs of the Lynx Touch L7000:
- Used by professional technicians
- Comes with 3 door/window sensors, key fob and motion sensor
- Good fit for the skilled techie
- Great for small to medium sized businesses
- A reputable brand name with durable security equipment
- Control with Z-wave and smart devices
- Expensive, $400 for basic setup
- Requires a skilled professional to get up and running
- You're required to find and connect to a monitoring service
- No free move with you service
This package made #6 on our list because of the Honeywell brand. This standalone touchscreen alarm kit may not be your best option of a quick setup. However, once installed one can count on it working for years to come.
Our rating: (4.3 / 5)
#7 - Protection One Wireless 2-way over voice Digital Alarm Package
The Protection One smart control package covers the average users' needs. Using a variation of the Honeywell Lynx panel in our #6, the digital alarm package comes with 3 window/door contacts, a motion detector and a key fob. This brand is on a slippery slope downwards, having once been our #3 recommendation in 2014 and dropped to #7 in 2016.
A deeper look into what it is:
Generic compiled package. Nothing new with this alarm package. We've seen this offered for the past 25 years. Throw together a bunch of GE or Honeywell equipment, use a third party app to connect it all and stick the brands logo on it and charge the customer. This is what they've done whereas our top 5 all have unique security systems.
Primarily for businesses. The digital voice package is good for home owners but Protection One is all-around a better choice for small businesses. If you operate a physical store then you may want to look into this, otherwise the top 5 have you covered with better equipment at a better price.
The good and the bad of Protection 1:
- Used by professional technicians
- Uses Honeywell brand equipment
- Multiple backup monitoring stations
- Expensive start-up costs including installation and activation fee
- Requires a skilled professional to install
- Nothing unique to equipment or smart phone app
- High monthly costs for home automation
- Now sold by door to door sales reps
The Protection One Digital Alarm Package came in 7th because it has been around for several years. It is not the latest and greatest equipment nor the best deal but you can trust it to work.
Our rating: (3.6 / 5)
#8 - Scout Alarm Wireless Home Security System
The Scout Alarm System is new to the market and quickly gaining popularity. Designed with a modern look, they market to millennials and those with a keen sense of home fashion. The system is bought piece by piece so you only get what is needed. The sleek look of Scout Alarm System comes in three different styles; White, Black and Wood. You won't find a choice in looks elsewhere.
A deeper inspection of the Scout alarm:
Better looks equal higher costs. They say you get what you pay for in life and for the unique look of this alarm system it holds true. However, it is more affordable then one may think. A hub is $130 (1 required per home), door/window sensors are $29 apiece, motion detector is $49 and accessories ranging from $2-10. Total setup total averaging between $300-500.
Quick self-setup. Like our #1 and #3 pick, you put the pieces where they belong. It can be bought online, gets shipped and then DIY setup. We were able to set it up on a 4 bedroom home in under 1 hour.
Relies on mobile control. The modern design of the control panel has taken away the basic ability of turning it on and off easily by hand. While using the mobile app is convenient, sometimes it's easier to still do it the old way on a keypad or touchscreen panel, which cannot be done with this.
What we did and did not like about the Scout Alarm:
- Modern and visually appealing
- Fast installation
- Easy to add on more equipment later
- Low monitoring costs available
- Automatic arm and disarm
- Do good looks equal the good functionality? Home security systems are not typically shown off like a new car or toy so it would be making looks not as important (our opinion)
- Not compatible with any other security equipment
- Short history
- Reports of app glitches
- No security cameras or automation available
When you compare the good with the bad you end up in a pretty safe neutral area with the Scout Alarm System. The biggest risk one takes in buying it is that they are new to the market.
Our rating: (4 / 5)
#9 - iSmartAlarm iSA3 Preferred Package
The iSmartAlarm iSA3 is fancy and affordable. It was hard to find something wrong with it when testing this alarm system. The main thing to know before buying is that it is a self-monitored system. Therefore, if you are away from your phone (on vacation or at work) and someone breaks in it is as if you didn't have an alarm at all. Like #8 Scout, it has a modern design to it.
More details of the iSA3 iSmartAlarm:
Preferred or deluxe: The Preferred Security System Package comes with: 2 window/door contacts, motion detector, 1 hub and 2 key fobs. Plan on adding another 2+ door contacts for the average home, a cost of $60 for 2. Or you can get the deluxe package for $230 which comes with 4 window/door contacts.
How smart is the iSmartAlarm? When testing for performance the app notified us of 9/10 home intrusions. The motion didn't set off the alarm one time. The window and door contacts tested positive each of the 10 times. Their app has an easy-to-use interface and simple navigational controls. It's not the smartest one in its class but it will get the job done.
The good and the bad of iSmartAlarm:
- Unique self-made equipment
- Low cost yet high quality
- Easy to add on sensors later
- HD security camera available
- Easy to use free app for iOS or android
- New to market
- Self-monitored system. Not going to call the police or fire department!
- Mixed customer reviews, many claiming app did not work when needed
We were most impressed with the iSA3 by iSmartAlarm's design and affordability. However, with no monitoring available it defies the point of having a home security system installed for occasions like vacation, date night, kids at home by themselves or while at work. If you are someone who wants to rely on a gun or their own defense, this will at least get you forewarned at a good price.
Our rating: (3.7 / 5)
#10 - Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit
The Samsung SmartThings Monitoring Kit is simplicity at its finest. Nothing too fancy or new about this, which is why we like it. It will secure a couple doors and a large space for $250. It has some add-on features when enabling Z-wave. It's a great kit for techies who want to try to incorporate new things into their home automation hub.
A better look into the SmartThings Home Alarm System Kit:
Doesn't Samsung make phones? Several companies have jumped into the home security industry in the past few years and Samsung is one of them. (Others include AT&T digital life, DirecTV and Xfinity Security, all of which we do not recommend.) Luckily Samsung knows how to manufacture quality technology products.
The reliability of the hub: A hub is required as it is the brains of the system. Their biggest complaints on Amazon reviews are that while away their hub has gone offline, therefore taking down the entire system.
The good and the bad about SmartThings:
- Proprietary equipment
- Customization settings for the tech savvy
- Not a stand-alone security brand
- Hub malfunctions and system may go offline
- Comes with limited equipment (2 door sensors and a motion)
If you are looking to buy a security system so you don't have to worry about what's going on at home then make sure to choose one that can be monitored. With the Samsung SmartThings you may not get too much peace of mind since you are the one on-call 24/7. If you are fine with that then this would be an affordable option.
Our rating: (3.4 / 5)
#11 - General Electric Simon XT Wireless Security System
The 80-649-3N-XT General Electric Simon XT Security System is by far the most sold and used alarm system of all time. From 1995-2010 nearly every security dealer used this for their customers and many companies still do. It didn't get in our top 10 because it is now outdated by better touchscreen panels and sensors but we couldn't ignore the Simon XT.
More information on the GE Simon XT:
Lasts for years. If you go into any home that had a security system installed in the past 20 years, chances are you would find this one. It was one of the first wireless systems offered and has great functionality. Can be turned on and off with a simple 1 button push. The key fob has the ability to be used as an emergency pendant for elderly. It is Z-wave compatible and continues to keep up with most of the current trends.
Used by the masses. Home safety wasn't as much of a need in the 1900's as it has become in the 2000's. The Simon XT has been the most used home security system through both generations and is used by dealers throughout the world.
The pros and cons of General Electric's SimonXT:
- Millions of units sold and used
- Durable equipment with highest reliability rate
- Trusted by brands such as ADT
- Integrate and work with existing Honeywell sensors
- Must find your own monitoring
- Requires drilling to connect panel to outlet
- Limited home automation capabilities
If you just need something you can rely on then don't feel ashamed of using what works! It does require a professional to install and activate unless you get it pre-activated from a company like Protect America.
Our rating: (4 / 5)
#12 - SkylinkNet SK-200 Connected Home
The SkylinkNet SK-200 has a motion sensor and control panel different from others. The motion sensor has 110 degree detection with adjustable sensitivity which makes it great fit for those with pets. No other alarm system has a custom motion detector.
A look into what else you can do with the SK-200 by Skylink:
Build as you grow. Many can't afford all the equipment they want right away. With the SK-200, you can buy separate pieces and add onto your alarm as time goes by. Prices are very affordable with the main package costing $150, extra door sensors are $20/each, $25 for motion detector, $20 for key-fob, $20 for water leak sensors and $90 for IP security camera.
WiFi capabilities. It comes with an ether net cable to connect with the hub. When testing, it was easy to connect a smartphone to the IP camera. When using the SK-200 camera, the video stream was choppy. Don't count on seeing high quality footage from their security camera with 3G or 4G internet.
The good and the bad about of the SkylinkNet SK-200:
- Easy to use app for iOS or Android device
- Stores recent activities and creates a history log of alarm settings
- Supports up to 100 sensors so you can really get carried away with building a fortress
- No contracts
- Can add high end Skylink surveillance cameras to the system
- Self-monitored. If you're unable to check your phone at the time of a break-in then its goodbye to whatever the criminal takes
- Not visually appealing
- No live customer service
If you think you are better off running the end to end solution by yourself then this is a good choice. It is not ideal for most home owners as it's not too convenient. The equipment is nothing to 'ooh and ahh' over. It will be interesting to watch how Skylink grows over the next few years or if they fade out like hundreds of others have.
Our rating: (3.5 / 5)
#13 - AT&T Digital Life
AT&T decided to make their own brand of home security equipment calling the system 'Digital Life'. It is new to the market and available for current users who have AT&T cable. They take our unlucky 13 spot and will most likely drop to #20 by the end of the year.
More about the Digital Life package:
Out-of-pocket costs. To get this system up and running takes quite a bit of money in starting costs. Anything more than the standard 3 door sensors and 1 motion detector will be out-of-pocket costs.
New to monitoring. Careful before trusting their monitoring stations to have you covered 24/7. This isn't a overnight success service as they have tried to make it be one.
The good and the bad of AT&T security:
- Unique alarm system
- App functions that work well
- Automation features available but at a high cost
- Worst customer ratings of all top 20
- High monitoring services
- May not be available in your area
- Promotional pricing
- High startup fees
The only logical reason we came up with to buy the Digital Life package is if one wants their TV bill & home security bill to be one. Customers are abandoning this system faster than new ones are signing up for it.
Our rating: (2.8 / 5)
#14 - Piper Security "All-in-One" Security System
The new Piper All-In-One Security System claims to be a motion sensor, camera, control panel and siren in an all-in-one home security device. How well did it work when we tried it out? Not all that great. It is so new to the market that it needs more testing done. Our opinion is they made it available to consumers too soon. Most of their negative reviews come from customers saying the app has several glitches and that the all-in-one device isn't as practical as it appears.
A better look into what the Piper All-In-one Device is:
3 in 1. The main unit of Piper was engineered to be a siren, motion detector, smart security camera. So do you end up saving money by getting a 3 for 1 deal? Unfortunately not. It is priced at $350 which can purchase a full home security system with any of our top 10.
Still a need for additional sensors. It comes with 1 door sensor which isn't practical. You will need at least 3-4 to cover the areas this camera isn't going to cover. Another option would be buying 2-3 of the cameras which adds up quickly.
The pros and cons of Piper:
- Modern and classy looking
- Free Piper smartphone app to control the all-in-one device
- HD camera with night vision
- Monthly fees to store camera footage on their cloud based server
- Not monitored
- Poor customer reviews saying it doesn't work as advertised
- Made in China
- Doesn't actually replace the home alarm system. Seems they know it too since it comes with a door sensor.
A good choice for those with spare money who like to try out new gadgets. We were impressed with the design and the features they put all together. We are not impressed with them claiming it replaces the alarm system as a whole. It is a step ahead of the #15 Canary who thinks it doesn't need the aid of any other sensors.
Our rating: (2.8 / 5)
#15 - Canary All-in-One Home Security Device
The Canary All-In-One Home Security Device claims to have replaced the window/door sensors, motion detector and security cameras all with 1 device. We tested it for practicality in replacing a standard alarm system.
Examining the Canary All-In-One security device:
Cool but costly. At $180 per device, don't get fooled into thinking all-in-one means you only need one to protect all your home. If you imagine with your own two eyes where you would place this, that's what it covers. Great for large areas but not practical for 1 per room. By the time you put one in each location needed, you are going to be over $1000 in costs.
Mix 'n Match. You can choose between black or white. If you want window/door sensors you will need to choose a different company's equipment. This can turn into a headache pretty quick.
False alarms. When testing it, we along with several customers noticed the software didn't always function as advertised. Because it is so new to the market there is a lot of glitches that have yet to be worked out.
The good and the bad of the canary device:
- Modern and sleek looking
- Self-branded app, unique to the system
- Easy and quick setup
- Night vision
- Automatic arm and disarm
- New to market, get ready to be a lab rat
- Impressive but expensive
- Its smart learning is not as smart as claims to be
- No home automation or energy controls
- No optional sensors to add
- Several negative complaints about device or app not functioning when needed
So there you have our quick look into the Canary All-In-One Security Device. Yes it may look good in the living room and one can brag that it is fulfilling multiple uses but when the time comes that a burglar breaks in we wouldn't want to rely on this like we would the standard security system offered by others.
Our rating: (2.4 / 5)
#16 - Golden Security + HD IP camera
The Golden Security bundle package comes with an impressive amount of equipment which made us really dig deep into this system to see if it was of quality. The outdoor siren is not legal in most cities or states and the panel is outdated. The rest of the equipment has decent quality expect a few sensors would not work shortly after buying.
A better look into what you get with the Golden Security:
The bundle. For a mere $225 you get: 1 panel, 5 motion sensors, 6 door sensors, 5 key fobs. 5 key remotes is a bit of an overkill, only 1 or even 0 are needed with smart phone controls now. Also included is 1 IP camera and 1 wired siren (not useful). All of this for less than the cost of one Piper All-In-One Security system reviewed above.
Quality or lack thereof. If you have a large house and need to slap-up some security then use this for the low cost. But the sensors aren't made with the same quality that Honeywell, GE and others have. You can't buy individual sensors to add on later and you are on the hook if anything breaks because there is no warranty.
The good, the bad and the ugly about Golden Security:
- Get tons of equipment for a low one-time fee
- Camera is included and not an added expense
- Positive reviews from customers on Amazon
- Enough key fobs you can give one to every kid or neighbor
- Outdated control panel
- Siren needs wiring to be installed
- Poor quality of equipment
- No smart phone app
If you simply want the most bang for your buck than this one is for you. It's still better then going down to the local hardware store and getting something out of their home goods area. You don't get a warranty or customer service. The guide that comes with it is not much help. If you get this one and feel all on your own assembling it, don't blame us!
Our rating: (2.3 / 5)
#17 - Simplisafe2 8-piece Plus Package
The SimpliSafe2 Wireless Security System for your home looks nothing like the others. While every other hub out there is square or rectangle, the SimpliSafe2 went with a tall cylinder shaped piece. While we weren't impressed by the visual side of this system, thousands use it to protect their home so we had to give it a try.
A deeper analysis of the SimpliSafe wireless package:
Designed for the elderly. They know their target audience and cater to them well. It's advertised on Dave Ramsey towards an audience of 50-70 years of age. The equipment style is also made blander for them. The bright red panic buttons stand out which serve a dual purpose as a medical alert pendant.
Happy customers. They have over 7,000 reviews left on Amazon alone averaging 4 stars and above. While it may not be the latest and greatest, it performed well when testing.
The pros and cons of SimpliSafe 2 8-piece plus package:
- Trusted and used by thousands
- Like the name states, a very simple product
- Medical pendant integrated
- Monitoring available
- Live customer service available
- Expensive for what you get
- Not visually appealing
- Cannot integrate with any other types of alarm systems
Just because we're not a fan doesn't mean it's not a good product. It looks like something at a rest home but if that fits your needs it may be the perfect match. It hasn't been upgraded in years and our opinion is they could really reduce the size of their hub.
Our rating: (2.6 / 5)
#18 - Wolf-Guard GSM with Fire Alarm and Auto Dialer
If you're sick of seeing white security equipment, then check out the Wolf-Guard GSM with auto dialer's black base and its blue back lighting keypad. This was definitely cool and futuristic 10 years ago. Times have changes and our top 5 security systems come with touchscreen panels. We are sad to say that Wolf-Guard is no longer ahead of its time.
A glance at what it is:
The GSM auto dialer. Think of it as a pager from back in the 1990's, or as a notification on your smart phone now. You can preset a phone number for it to call anytime the alarm system is tripped. While this was a feature that was once popular and cool, it has been updated and replaced by apps and notifications.
The large amount of equipment per package. We can't argue on this one. The Wolf-Guard GSM package comes with a large amount of equipment all for $160. The equipment is low quality even though the looks of it don't indicate that. It requires a professional to install, so don't count on this being a simple DIY project.
The ups and the downs about Wolf-Guard GSM system:
- Get a lot of starting equipment, more than needed by most houses
- Low costs
- Different designs
- Out of date
- Requires drilling and running of wires
- 1 star overall review on Amazon
- Not compatible with other brands
- No warranty or direct customer service
- No BBB record
If this was 2005 it may be at the top of our list. But going out of your way for something that will only give you a headache and possibly not work well isn't worth it. However, if $150 and over 20 sensors sounds like a deal you want to try, then please let us know how it was in the comments below!
Our rating: (1.2 / 5)
#19 - Insteon 2582-222 Connected Home Automation Starter Kit
The Insteon 2582-222 Starter Kit will get you going in the right direction to protect your belongings but comes up short and leaves you paying for more than you get. The starter package has some great equipment but not enough to keep out the crooks. If you have an existing system (maybe you moved into a home with one) then this is a good upgrade to integrate automation.
A deeper glance into what you get with the Insteon 2582-222 Starter Kit:
Combo pack: A security camera, a hub which is unique only to them, 1 door sensor and 1 motion detector. Not too practical for the average user. Plan on adding 2+ additional sensors for $35 a piece which can be purchased through Insteon.
A giant box hub. At least it looks okay on the outside but a bit bulky for our times. If you purchase the Insteon 2582-222 Starter Kit plan on hiding the hub of the system in a closet or utility room.
The good and bad of this starter kit is:
- Good starter bundle
- High grade security camera
- Average price at around the $230 range
- Will need to buy add-on sensors
- Bad customer service
- Hard to follow installation guides
- Bulky hub box required
- Small customer base
The majority of the Insteon 2582-222 Starter Kit are white and labeled GE, so it isn't actually a self-made home security system. While not making our top 10, it's not the end of the world if you buy this to upgrade an existing system.
Our rating: (2.7 / 5)
#20 - Visonic PowerMax Home Security & Management Kit
The Visonic PowerMax home management kit comes in last place at #20. A unique but complicated interface really made for some interesting tests. The door sensors do not have peel and stick technology and require drilling.
More about the PowerMax kit:
Basically basic. We were surprised to see this one is even for sale. It is as average as one can get in 2017 and is hard to setup. No authorized security dealers carry it. Nothing to connect to smart phone or that route. One really has to go out of their way to find the PowerMax by Visonic.
The good, not-so-good and horrible about PowerMax:
- It made our top 20...barely
- Unique equipment
- Wired system
- Outdated equipment
- Smart phone connection unavailable
- No Z-wave or automation
- No customer support
The bad list could go on and on. There you have the top 20, now check out the best of the best in our comparison chart below.
|Headquarters||Virginia||Indiana, US||Texas, USA||Utah, USA||Utah, USA|
|Standard Windows, Motion, Door & Glass Sensors|
|Key Remote (On/Off) Fob|
|C02, Fire and Flood Sensors|
|Mobile & Tablet Control|
|Cameras||Indoor & Outdoor & Doorbell||Indoor, Pan Tilt||Indoor, Pan Tilt||Indoor, Outdoor, Pan Tilt||Indoor|
|Advanced Features||Light Control, Automated Door Locks, Temperature & Energy Control||Pulse® Automation & More||GPS Security, Medical Panic||Vivint Sky, Doorbell Camera, Advanced home automation||Door locks, Thermostats, Plugin light automation|
|Installation||$0||One time Fee||$0||$0||$0|
|Equipment||One time Fee|
|Smoke, C02 & Flood||Included||Included||(+)||(+)||(+)|
Home Security Equipment Basics - Features and Tips
|The standard panel comes in all sizes and brands. Whether it is Honeywell, GE, 2Gig or DCS it has the same function which is the hub of the system. In a wireless setup it will be the only piece of equipment that plugs into a power jack. These come with 3-7 day backup battery that way if power is off for multiple days you are still secured.||If you do not want to mount it on your wall you can hide it in closet and still turn it on and off with key remote or smart phone. You may also want to get a secondary panel for your Master bedroom, garage etc. for convenience although this is not important with mobile control available.|
Secondary Control Panel
|Great looking touchscreen panel that is a companion to the standard touch panel. Most companies offer one like this (or a keypad) to put in a convenient spot. It's smaller, thinner and better looking with weather and other information available.||Save yourself a trip down the stairs at night when turning your alarm on. Apps on smartphones have basically replaced this but many (primarily the elderly) prefer to set it manually.|
Window / Door Sensors
|One piece connects to your door and the other the window. Creating a magnetic field, anytime your alarm is turned on and the magnetic field is broken this sets off the alarm. Gone are the days of having to take apart your door or window to get these installed, they are wireless with ion lithium backup batteries.||Don't get one for every single window in your house. Instead, use a glass break or motion sensor to cover multiple windows. Get enough for each door leading to outside. Can also be used to secure a shed or detached garage if within 100-200 feet of control panel.|
|The look varies from company to company but the purpose stays the same. Motion sensors use thermal energy (heat waves) and detect anything over 40 lbs. Great for hall ways, living rooms and areas with lots of windows. Not recommended for single rooms.||Don't put one in a garage or shed due to high temperatures. Use for large open spaces. Can be turned off using 'Stay mode' while windows and door sensors remain on. This is nice for night time and when you want to walk around while keeping the security system on.|
Glass Break Detectors
|If you have a big pet over 40 lbs and can't get a motion sensor then this is your best bet. They can cover up to 40' diameter in your home. How it works: When glass breaks, it bows and sets off a really high pitch frequencies. This sensor picks up those high pitch waves and sets off the alarm.||Although very uncommon, some people have reported these going off when breaking a glass plate or cup. We recommend not setting one up in your kitchen. These can save you money by putting 1 in a room that would otherwise require 5+ window sensors.|
|What makes this one different from what you already have? This one is directly connected to the fire department and monitored by your security company. Now if your house catches on fire with you not home the fire department can get there before it is too late.||You don't need to go all out with these. 1-2 per home should do just fine. Some companies charge additional monthly fee (up to $9.99) for fire protection. If that's what they tell you, bag it and go with someone else, this is a standard feature. However, to get a smoke detector may be an upfront equipment fee.|
Carbon Monoxide Detector
|Much like the smoke sensor, you may already have these in your home. C02 is a poisonous gas and silent killer. This will set of the alarm (good for at night) any time there is carbon monoxide detected in the air.||Unless your very paranoid, we recommend buying a cheap C02 detector at Walmart for $10-15 rather than a security company who will charge you $99+. However, the cheap ones are not monitored but will still sound off when c02 is detected|
|Quick and convienent, the keyfob is still a luxury in the 21st century. Works 150-200 ft from the main control panel. 1 button arms it, 1 disarms it, 1 panic and 1 for Stay mode (which means doors and window sensors on, motions off).||Keep one in the car and one near the bed for quick and easy on and off access to the security system. Although mobile control is nice, this can still trump that with adding it to your keychain. Also, the panic button has a dual purpose and can serve as a life alert panic button for the elderly or disabled.|
|Going on a date and want to check in on the kids? With a security camera you can access live feed from your phone and know what's going on anywhere you go. Live data may be choppy or delayed depending on your internet connection. Most companies offer pan-tilt camera or fixed. You can control the pan tilt from your phone (make it move left or right).||Have a baby? Use this to serve a dual purpose as a baby monitor as well. Also, many companies have outdoor camera's available and if they don't you can get a fixed camera and set it up near a window to record your porch, driveway, shed etc.|
Mobile & Tablet Control
|This is a new standard across the board and should be expected at any package above $29.99 typically. Even without a touchscreen panel, Simon XT control panels can use a 3rd party mobile app to control your system. Turn it on and off from any smart phone or smart device at any time. Make sure to have this with any modern security system you are choosing.||When getting setup, replace any Key fobs offered by the company for extra door/window sensors. Use your phone instead of a keyfob to get extra equipment. Hint not always recommended. Keyfobs can still be more convenient to keep in a car or hidden place at times. 2nd tip: Have your kids download the app and learn how to turn on and off the alarm.|
Burglary & home security statistics info-graphic:
Competition has driven down price. Because there are several brands to choose from, competition has driven down prices to make purchasing a home security system a reality. For a dollar a day or less, one can have one up and running right away. Comparing that to other utility bills like TV, internet or phone,it's apparent that home security costs less and is more important.
Smart home automation systems. The home security system has evolved over the last decade. Homes being torn apart for wiring is no longer necessary. Most of the security systems reviewed offer free smart control. Rushing inside the home to turn the panel off can now be bypassed with a tap on a smart device from any location.
Show it off. Imagine controlling your lights, thermostat and view live video feed from your security cameras. What was once available only to the rich and famous has made its way to the everyday consumer.
Our process of ranking the top 20 home security systems include:
1 - Nationwide. Unexpected moves happen and the last thing you need is a cancellation charge. Small companies have their perks but also many disadvantages. Each one reviewed here is available throughout the nation.
2 -Wireless. It's 2017. No need to get an alarm system that requires a renovation to install. Note: Control panels and security cameras may need to plug in to a power source. Other than that, all motion and window sensors reviewed are wireless.
3 - Affordable. You're not going to have to "sell the farm" to secure your home.
4 - Reputation. Thanks to door to door salesmen, many consumers have been scammed over the years expecting a 'free security system'. A good history and customer support base greatly impacted the ratings of these companies.
5 - Available to all. Some companies only allow home owners to buy their system. We made sure to include those that are available for renters and owners. You need to protect your possessions and loved ones whether you rent or own your home.
Helpful tips when choosing a smart home alarm system
When deciding what security system should go in a home consider these questions:
- How much security system equipment do you really needed?
- Are all the gadgets of a smart-home system needed or would a simple system suffice?
- Professional or self installation?
- Do I want a security system with a long history of performance or am I okay with trying out a newer device?
The FTC published an article regarding the safe purchasing of home security systems. Below we cover these and other concerns of those who have asked us for help.
What equipment is really NEEDED for the home to be protected?
For door / window sensors: A sensor on each door leading to outside is vital. The actual garage door typically doesn't have it's own sensor. The door leading in and out from the house to the garage should be. The average home has several windows it is a users preference whether or not to get a sensor for each one. To save money, add a motion sensor to the hallway. That way if a burglar breaks in from any of the room windows the hallway motion detector will catch them. However, for parents with children on the ground floors we do recommend getting a window sensor or security camera for each room.
Living room, kitchen, and hallways: A motion detector can see up to 40'+. It is infrared, picking up heat waves over 40 pounds. If there is a large dog that stays inside the home, a glass break detector should be used in its place. This device captures the high pitch frequency of glass shattering and sound off the alarm. Get 1 motion or glass break sensor per large area. Upstairs is usually bypassed since burglars will break-in on the basement or main floor.
Home security cameras & automation: This one is completely up to you. Basic systems can get the job done, but smart home control is beginning to gain popularity worldwide. Basic smart control is now included with almost every security system so you get it whether you need it or not, but as for the extras like smart thermostat and security cameras that decision is up the user. They are nice to have but users are always surprised by how often they end up not using most of the home automation features.
What is the normal cost when purchasing a home security system?
Anywhere from $99-500 upfront and a $30-60 monthly monitoring rate. Anything over these prices should make a consumer skeptical and do further research of the company and what you are actually paying for. Make sure to read over any monitoring agreements that come with it as well. Promotions continually change but it is easy to find a good deal where the company will subsidize the cost of the alarm system if you use their monitoring.
DIY Self setup or professional installation?
Because of the simplicity of the equipment now, self-install is easier than most think. DIY security sensors have two sided tape so all you have to do is peel and stick the equipment where you want it. Each system comes with how-to guides and support. What is our recommendation? Get a professional to do it. An alarm system isn't a DIY project you want to mess up on, your loved one(s) safety is risk. Although nearly all of our top 20 reviewed here are D-I-Y, our #2 pick will do the best professional installation at only $99. A low price to pay for not having to worry about setting it up incorrectly.
Top Security Systems Recap
|Rank||Home Security System||Starting Cost|
There is no monetary value one can put on a family's safety. Having a 'protected by' sign at the front of a home is the first crime deterrent, having an affordable home security system to back it up is the best. With several brands competing against another costs have become very affordable. In 2017, there is no excuse for one not to have their home protected.
We hope you liked our in-depth analysis and testing results that we have shared to help save time, money and a headache of deciding which to buy.