Achieving peace of mind for your home doesn’t have to be pricey or difficult. Traditional home security systems often require long contracts and expensive pro installation, but with most smart versions you can install them yourself and pay for a monitoring plan only when you want it. SimpliSafe is the most reliable, comprehensive, and easy-to-use DIY home security system we’ve tested, and includes the option to use professional monitoring without locking you into a contract.
SimpliSafe is an easy-to-use DIY security system, with add-ons such as an indoor video camera, a doorbell camera, a smart lock, and smoke and other sensors. The 24/7 live-monitoring fees are competitive with those of other DIY systems. It also works with voice-control systems Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (but not Apple HomeKit). Unfortunately, SimpliSafe does not offer any outdoor cameras or self-monitoring options (without a subscription, the system will only work locally); and outside of smart speakers, the only non-SimpliSafe devices it’s compatible with are August locks. Still, for anyone wanting a reliable system that’s easy to use, with a good selection of add-ons, we think the SimpliSafe setup is the best option.
Abode offers more smart-home integration than any other security system we tested, with support for Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Z-Wave, and Zigbee.
Abode is for the person who wants a security system that can integrate with smart lighting, thermostats, voice control, and other smart-home devices—and doesn’t mind going through the steps to create that system. Abode supports both Z-Wave and Zigbee-enabled devices, as well as Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and IFTTT (If This Then That). We found Abode starter packages and most accessories to be more expensive than our main pick, but we like that it can function as a self-monitored system if you don’t want to pay for monitoring all the time.
We moved the second-generation Ring Alarm from main pick to budget pick. We still think it’s an easy-to-use DIY security system with the least expensive live-monitoring plan ($10 per month). However, we currently don’t recommend Ring cameras, which means we no longer consider it to be the most comprehensive. We are reviewing recent changes to the Ring app, however, and will revisit and update this guide, as needed. Still, if you’re looking for simple, inexpensive security for doors, windows, and entryways, this system is hard to beat.
Everything we recommend
Abode offers more smart-home integration than any other security system we tested, with support for Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Z-Wave, and Zigbee.
Why you should trust us
I first started testing smart-home devices back when the only smart-home devices were X10. Over the past 15 years, I’ve had my hands on everything from remotes and security cameras to AV receivers and smart light switches. I’ve also written articles for The New York Times, Wired, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, and USA Today, among others.
For this guide, we interviewed peers, home security consultants, police departments, and insurance agents. We also sent security companies detailed questionnaires about their products and services.
Who should get this
You’ve probably worried about the safety of your home at some point, but it’s important to know that most homes and apartments will never be burglarized. According to the FBI, the number of property crimes in the US has continued to drop for more than 25 years. Still, if you want more peace of mind about the safety of your family and the security of your belongings, and if you want to know that someone will call emergency services should the need arise, a security system can play a valuable role. And although a home security system can’t stop a determined burglar from breaking into your house, it can discourage someone from breaking in if they know you have it (PDF), frighten someone away if they do get in, summon cops or firefighters in case of an emergency, and save you as much as 20% on your home-insurance premium. “An alarm system might sit there for 10 years and do absolutely nothing,” said Bob Dolph, a home security consultant who has spent decades in the business. “You only need it to work that one time.”
Note too that security systems aren’t just about crime prevention: Most have add-on sensors that can protect your home from fire, flood, and even temperature changes (to prevent pipes from bursting, for one thing). Also, many of these systems can integrate with other smart-home devices, such as thermostats, locks, and light bulbs. That means you can add, for example, a smart speaker to arm, disarm, and check system status with the sound of your voice, as well as trigger cameras or lights to go on based on alerts or your location.
You can find two types of security systems: professionally monitored and unmonitored. In the former, when an alarm goes off, a professional monitoring company receives a notification and then attempts to contact you and, if need be, your local emergency services. An unmonitored system leaves all the work up to you. That means you need to be on call, day and night, during work and vacation time, and ready to determine whether police, fire departments, or other emergency services need to be dispatched. Then you need to make that call yourself. It’s a big difference, and why we think a professionally monitored system is fundamentally more secure than an unmonitored or self-monitored one.
But monitored systems also tend to have a service contract, which locks you into paying an often-pricey monthly fee for a set amount of time, typically one to five years. No-contract systems, which allow you to pay for monitoring services on a month-to-month basis rather than committing to a long-term arrangement, are becoming more common. These systems sometimes cost more up front for the hardware than pro systems that offer a discount in exchange for that lengthy service agreement. Paying for the equipment up front provides you with a lot of control over what you get, where you can put it, and how you use the service. And you can start and stop the monitoring service as many times as you want.
Once you decide what type of system you want, you need to pick what that system will include. Most security companies, whether they’re DIY, professionally installed, professionally monitored, or self-monitored, will offer guidance if you’re confused about what to choose. DIY systems are also modular, so you can easily add sensors and devices as you need them—perhaps a camera by the garage, say, or sensors on the sliding glass door upstairs.
The backbone of a home security system is the base station. This unit is what communicates with all of the security sensors and smart-home components in your house. Many connect to a home router, but if yours has Wi-Fi or cellular support, placement is more flexible. Contact sensors are the first thing you should buy alongside the base station; these attach to doors and windows and will alert you when they open. Other home security components include motion sensors, keypads, key fobs, cameras, glass-break sensors, and panic buttons.
How we picked
We only looked for DIY security systems that offered professional monitoring options because that’s the key feature that sets a security system apart from a local alert system. We also insisted on no-contract systems, even though those require you to pay for the hardware up front. Although some companies provide free or heavily discounted hardware in exchange for a service commitment that can last anywhere from one to five years, we found no-contract systems to be the most flexible. For instance, some people may only want monitoring when they’re on vacation; a no-contract system lets you come and go as you please. No-contract systems also cost less in the long run and allow you to be in total control of the equipment you use, as well as how and when you use and pay for monitoring services.
We didn’t consider alarm systems that required professional installation. Pro-installed systems usually cost more, despite using equipment similar to that of DIY systems, typically come with long and often onerous contracts, and rely on the same monitoring companies that self-installed systems use, so they offer little advantage. A good example is the Vivint system, which we’ve reviewed separately and don’t recommend for most people.
Next, we prioritized systems with consistently good ratings and customer reviews. The basic packages varied, but we looked for home security systems that include the following:
- Live 24/7 monitoring: Getting a text when danger arises is great, but unless you plan to be on call—all day, every day, including during vacation—you should choose a service that will contact emergency services when you can’t.
- A useful package of sensors and accessories: A home security starter package should come with door/window contact sensors and motion sensors. The size of your home will dictate what devices you need and how many of them. We also looked at what add-ons each system offered, including cameras, glass-break sensors, smoke alarms, panic buttons, and water-leak sensors.
- An audible alarm: Signs and stickers could make a burglar think twice, but a piercing alarm will send them scurrying.
- Battery backup: You shouldn’t have to let your guard down when the power goes out. Most systems have some type of battery backup.
- Cellular connection: A landline or Wi-Fi connection to the monitoring service can be cut or disrupted, so this provides a fail-safe option.
- Keypad: A smartphone app is a must for use when you’re away from home, but you shouldn’t have to fumble with your phone when you’re coming and going. A keypad can sit by the front door, making it easy to arm and disarm the system.
- Fire prevention: Preventing break-ins is only one part of a security setup; most systems also offer protection against fire and carbon monoxide, although those devices cost extra.
- UL approval: We asked manufacturers if each system met UL Standards, though we didn’t rule out systems on this basis because there’s no federal requirement to meet those standards. (For instance, the UL CP-01 listing means that a control panel has features to reduce false alarms—that’s a good thing, because false alarms can cost you money.)
How we tested
To thoroughly test each system, we spent several weeks walking in front of motion sensors, opening and closing contact sensors, and setting off sirens. Next, we looked at cameras, keypads, and iOS/Android apps, when available. And finally, we armed, disarmed, and spied on each system from inside and outside the home, even testing each system’s battery backup by cutting its power.
To gauge reaction times for the monitoring company, we triggered each system a minimum of five times, using contact and motion sensors. However, keep in mind that the monitoring company’s reaction time has absolutely nothing to do with the speed at which your local authorities will respond to the alarm—if they respond at all. Many municipalities have rules designed to limit the time and resources that police and fire departments waste on false alarms—you may even be fined if you have too many. For instance, Salt Lake City requires confirmation of an emergency from a private security guard before police are dispatched. Several cities, such as Los Angeles, also require a permit to even own and operate a home security system.
Security, privacy, and security systems
Wirecutter takes security and privacy issues seriously and investigates, as much as possible, how the companies we recommend deal with customer data. As part of our vetting process for home security systems, we looked at all of the security and data-privacy practices behind our picks. We also reached out to all the companies that produced our top picks and had them answer an extensive questionnaire to confirm information that we thought should be of primary concern for any potential buyer. Here are the results.
|SimpliSafe||Abode Smart Security Kit||Ring Alarm|
|Is a user’s identifying data (such as email addresses or Wi-Fi network name and password) encrypted when stored in the cloud?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|When cameras are connected, is video transmitted using end-to-end encryption?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can video or audio be accessed without permission by anyone besides the owner?||No, except when Video Verification is enabled, which allows the monitoring center to review alarm footage, or when required by law, such as via a valid subpoena or court order, and then only by limited personnel.||Yes, the monitoring center will use visual verification if you don’t respond to an active alarm, after which the connection is terminated and there is no way for the monitoring center to reactivate the connection. This permission is granted when customers agree to the monitoring contract. Additionally, when required by law, such as via a valid subpoena or court order, and then only by authorized personnel.||Ring employees cannot access customers’ videos without their permission except when required by law, such as to comply with a legally binding search warrant, or there is an emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person, and then only by limited Ring personnel.|
|Do you share data with third parties, affiliates, and partners? If so, what data, and for what purpose (including location, tracking, marketing, or any other purpose)?||Yes, information is disclosed to monitoring, emergency dispatch services, and setup services, as needed. SimpliSafe also shares non-personally identifiable information with Google Firebase.||Yes, but only for professional monitoring and third-party product/device integrations, which are all optional.||Yes, we share personal information with a third-party monitoring company to provide monitoring services. We also share information with third parties for advertising purposes, but users can choose to opt out.|
|Does this system offer two-factor authentication? If so, is it required?||Yes/Yes||Yes/No||Yes/Yes|
|Does this system offer tamper alerts in case of theft or power outage?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Does this system record and share location data?||When signing up for monitoring,|
all customers provide a
valid service address.
To provision the monitoring service, this service address is disclosed to
a third-party monitoring provider.
|Users are required to associate the system with an address and zip code. If users opt for professional monitoring, Abode system location is shared with the monitoring center, but phone location of users is not.||Users are required to associate the system with an address and zip code. If it's invalid, the app will ask to use Location Services, but users can decline. If users opt for professional monitoring, Ring will share location data with its professional monitoring service provider.|
Wirecutter tests all of its picks over the long term, including keeping track of app, firmware, and policy updates, and hardware and software incidents. Should any privacy or security issues be found with any of our selected products, we’ll report that here and, if needed, update or alter our recommendations.
Our pick: SimpliSafe
SimpliSafe is a flexible, affordable, and easy-to-use live-monitoring security system. Setting it up was straightforward, with customizable alarm triggers and consistent monitoring response times. It’s also scalable to small and large homes and configurable with a variety of accessories, from entry and motion detectors to fire and CO sensors to leak and temperature sensors. SimpliSafe also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to arm and check the system using only voice commands. It doesn’t work with many third-party smart-home devices, though, and it isn’t very useful without a monitoring subscription.
The $207 Essentials package includes the base station, a keypad, three entry sensors, one motion sensor, a yard sign, and two window decals. For $15 per month, you can add around-the-clock professional monitoring and a cellular connection, so the system can communicate with the monitoring service without a landline. The $25-per-month Interactive plan adds control via iOS and Android smartphone apps, push and email alerts, and 30-day event-footage storage for unlimited cameras, including the SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro, which is available separately. Without the $25 plan, you have to use the keypad to manage all the settings and controls.
SimpliSafe is a no-contract security system, which means you pay for the monitoring service on a month-to-month basis rather than make a long-term commitment. However, it has no self-monitoring option: If you cancel, you lose monitoring, remote access, and all smartphone alerts, though the sensors and sirens will still work, so you can at least set an alarm when you’re home at night.
The SimpliSafe equipment is now in its third version, and both the app and hardware have a simpler and more stylish design. The sensors are smaller and the range on the base station is better, which the company claims can stretch to sensors up to 800 feet away. While our tests only extended about 50 feet in different directions, we had no issues with sensors reacting and triggering the alarm.
The base station is the brains behind the system. It has built-in Wi-Fi, which means it doesn’t need to be physically connected to a router and can sit in any convenient spot in your home (both plans include a backup cellular connection, in case your internet goes down). It also features a 24-hour battery backup, blue and red lights for alerts, UL certification, and an adjustable 95 dB siren (our tests actually found it closer to 98 dB), which, while not the loudest alarm we tested (Ring was the standout), would definitely catch the attention of burglars in our 1,600-square-foot home. If you want to go louder, or if you have a large home and need more than one siren, you can purchase a standalone 105 dB siren.
Unlike the Ring and Abode base stations, the SimpliSafe base station provides voice prompts during setup, as well as when the system is arming and disarming. When the system is triggered, the keypad will beep to prompt you to enter your passcode before the siren starts blaring. You can also integrate SimpliSafe into Alexa or Google Home smart-home setups, which enables you to arm (but not disarm) the system in Home or Away mode or check the system’s status using voice commands and a smart speaker or phone.
SimpliSafe’s contact sensors for doors and windows are small enough to be camouflaged when installed on white trim; the motion sensor is noticeable but not an eyesore. When we placed the motion sensor about 6.5 feet off the ground, it was quick to respond, yet it was never triggered by a 30-pound dog. SimpliSafe also sells extra entry sensors, water and freeze sensors, glass-break sensors, panic buttons, smoke and carbon monoxide sensors, and temperature sensors. It offers an indoor camera, which isn’t on a par with our camera picks but allows for Visual Verification, an opt-in feature that permits the monitoring service to view live video in your home to confirm there’s an actual emergency before calling the cavalry—a system intended to reduce false alerts (and, as noted above, a requirement in some communities). SimpliSafe also offers a door lock and a smart video doorbell with two-way audio that integrates with the SimpliSafe system; you can back up and store video recordings from its camera as part of the monthly Interactive plan as well.
Although entry and exit trigger times are customizable (up to 4 minutes 15 seconds), the response time in our tests was always consistent: In every one of our tests, the COPS monitoring service called exactly 44 seconds after the alarm sounded. The service was always polite, and for security it requires a safe word to restore the peace.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
SimpliSafe currently supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Watch, and August Smart Locks. With the exception of the locks, integration is limited to arming the system and checking the status of connected sensors and other security devices. If you’re looking for more complex smart-device capabilities, like turning on smart lights when the system is triggered, or want to add HomeKit voice control, our Runner-up may be a better fit.
SimpliSafe has 24/7 monitoring, but if you have a hardware problem in the middle of the night, you may have to wait. You can contact customer service through email, Twitter, and Facebook, but the 800 number is available only from 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern, seven days a week.
In August 2019, the LockPickingLawyer YouTube channel posted a video showing how to hack into a SimpliSafe system using a $2 remote. SimpliSafe responded with a statement saying the system would alert users when it detected any type of interference. The company also questioned the video, claiming that there would need to be a perfect storm of circumstances for someone to successfully hack the system. Over a week, we ran more than 25 tests using two different 433 MHz remotes, with contact sensors located 6 to 26 feet away from the SimpliSafe Base Station, and we were unable to replicate the issue. Although our testing shouldn’t be taken as conclusive, we believe this issue is unlikely to be a real-world problem for SimpliSafe customers who own the current system.
Runner-up: Abode Smart Security Kit
Abode offers more smart-home integration than any other security system we tested, with support for Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Z-Wave, and Zigbee.
If you already use a bunch of smart-home devices and want a security system that can integrate with a wide range of devices, then you might prefer the Abode Smart Security Kit. It is compatible with sensors and accessories that communicate wirelessly using Z-Wave, Zigbee, and AbodeRF (radio frequency), and Abode also integrates with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and IFTTT—so it should fit into more elaborate DIY home-automation setups. However, the UL-certified system isn’t as pretty as our top pick and will cost you more for the main system and most accessory devices.
Installing the Abode system is as easy as any other system we tested, but placement is more limited than with the SimpliSafe and Ring systems, because the Abode hub unit needs to be wired to your network router with an Ethernet cable rather than Wi-Fi. (The Abode Iota uses Wi-Fi, but we don’t recommend that system for reasons mentioned in The competition.) We found the Abode Gateway to be less attractive and a little bulky compared with our other picks—about the same size as a standard router. In addition to the network connection and cellular connection (with a paid Pro subscription), the base station has a 5-hour backup battery, which is 19 hours less than SimpliSafe’s battery.
The Abode system costs more up front than our top pick: For $199, you get just the Gateway, one door/window sensor, one motion sensor, and a key fob. Unlike SimpliSafe, it does offer a free plan that allows for self-monitoring, live camera views, and smart-device integrations. For $6 per month (or $60 per year), the Standard plan adds seven days of events and video storage as well as CUE automations which, similar to IFTTT, allow you to create multistep conditional triggers and Routines in the Abode app that can factor in details like the weather, time, and the phone locations of family members. For instance, we set up a Rule so that we get a smartphone notification whenever a monitored door is open for longer than five minutes—but only if we’re not home. It does not include professional monitoring—unless you pay an additional fee for short-term three- or seven-day monitoring, or subscribe to the $20 Pro option, which adds 24/7 live monitoring and 30 days of video storage.
Abode’s web and mobile apps are easy to use and allow you to arm and disarm the system, access cameras, check the status of sensors, and control third-party smart-home devices, including Philips Hue bulbs, Ecobee thermostats, and Schlage door locks. A paid subscription adds access to an event timeline and the ability to add the aforementioned CUE automations.
In our testing, the system performed well both in self-monitoring mode and when connected to the monitoring service. Users can customize entry and exit trigger delays up to four minutes. The system will send an instant push confirmation when put into Away mode or when the alarm is triggered. When we tested the professional monitoring, we got service calls between 70 and 120 seconds after the alarm was triggered. The service rep was always polite and asked for a four-digit PIN to keep police from being dispatched for a triggered alarm. We were able to arm and disarm the Abode system using Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. For Alexa and Google Assistant, you need to speak a PIN number; HomeKit requires you to unlock your iPhone.
In addition to the Z-Wave/Zigbee products and sensors that you can add to the system, Abode sells several models of door and window sensors, acoustic glass-break sensors, cameras, and other sensors and accessories, including a smoke-alarm monitor that works in conjunction with your existing UL-listed smoke detector. Currently, Abode doesn't have any outdoor cameras, although one should be coming soon.
Budget pick: Ring Alarm
The Ring Alarm monitoring service costs less than our other picks, but the system doesn’t have as much smart-home integration or offer glass-break sensors, and we currently don’t recommend Ring cameras, making this a less comprehensive option than our other picks. It provides no-contract 24/7 monitoring for $10 a month—the least expensive plan we’ve seen—and it can be used as a self-monitored security system if you choose not to pay for the service at all. That monthly fee also includes cellular backup, fire protection, 60 days of video storage for an unlimited number of cameras, and extends the original warranty for equipment damage to the length of your subscription. Ring Alarm doesn’t support Google Assistant or HomeKit; however we think it’s still a reliable low-cost system for users looking to easily guard doors, windows, and hallways.
The five-piece Ring Starter Kit comes with the base station, keypad, one contact sensor, one motion detector, and a range extender (this is the second-generation system, so the sensors and keypad are smaller and sleeker). Currently, you can expand the Ring Alarm system with water leak sensors, a smoke/CO listener for existing detectors, a 95 dB external siren, and a number of other accessories. Ring Alarm also integrates with the company’s other devices, such as video doorbells and security cameras, as well as third-party devices via its Works With Ring program.
In our tests, the Ring Alarm system sent smartphone alerts within four seconds of the alarm being triggered, with email alerts as an option as well. The siren can be configured to go off between 30 and 180 seconds of a triggering event. Verification calls from Rapid Response, a third-party partner service, came within 60 seconds of our 113-decibel siren (per our measurements) being triggered; you can disarm it by using the app or by giving your personally chosen verbal password to the monitoring service.
Although monitoring is 24/7, customer service is only available from 8 a.m. to midnight, Eastern time. The base station also sends alerts should it get disconnected from power, and has a built-in battery that provides 24 hours of backup power, which was confirmed by our testing.
Both the iOS and Android apps feature the ability to disarm or arm the system in Home or Away modes right from the homepage, and they also offer one-touch access to live views and recordings on all connected cameras. The app also includes one-touch access to Neighbors, a sort of neighborhood-watch social network that allows users to report and monitor suspicious activity in a zone that you can customize from about 500 feet up to a 5-mile radius. Neighbors is part of the Ring app when you sign up for an account; you can post comments and videos, view ones from others in your surrounding area, or, turn off notifications to ignore it. To completely delete it from view, you can opt out in the Control Center section of the app. You don’t even have to be a Ring device owner to be part of Neighbors; there is a standalone Neighbors app for iOS and Android devices. All users can post messages, photos, or links, which are expected to adhere to community guidelines.
The Ring Alarm system has several accessories but still lacks a standalone glass-break sensor and a key fob, which has buttons to arm and disarm your system. A glass-break sensor is supposedly coming, but for now you can use the Alexa Guard feature on any Amazon Echo for the same task. (For reference, everyday pricing on the Amazon Echo Dot is $50, often much less on sale, which is about $10 to $15 more than glass-break sensors offered by our other two picks.) Ring also doesn’t support as many smart-home platforms as our other picks: It works only with Alexa. If you’re a Google Home or HomeKit user, you may prefer one of our other picks.
What to look forward to
We’re getting ready to test the Blue by ADT system and will publish our results soon.
Scheduled to arrive in late 2020, the Abode Outdoor Smart Camera can be used on its own or added to an Abode security system. The $200 camera captures 1080p video and includes facial recognition, plus support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. It also has a 152-degree field of view, as well as a variety of mount options so you can place the camera by an existing doorbell or via a plug-in outlet.
Amazon will soon launch Alexa Guard Plus, which expands the capabilities of Alexa Guard for $5 per month (or $50 per year). Like the free service, this one uses Alexa devices to monitor for sounds of glass breaking or smoke detectors blaring, but adds in other sounds, such as footsteps and doors closing. It also includes the option to play barking dog sounds and a line to emergency services, allowing you to ask “Alexa, call for help.” Users can subscribe to the standalone service; both Ring and Abode have announced plans to bundle Alexa Guard Plus into their top-tier subscription offerings.
Coming in early 2021, Wyze Home Monitoring will combine new contact and motion sensors with existing Wyze cameras, Alexa Guard Plus, and monitoring from Noonlight. There’s no word on the cost of the new equipment or monitoring service, but it's expected to work with indoor and outdoor Wyze cameras and sensors at launch, with doorbell and lock support to follow.
Like Abode, Scout is a no-contract system with Z-Wave support, a (bulky) base station that needs to be tethered to a router, and similarly priced monitoring plans. However, it doesn’t have as many smart-home integration options and won’t send any smartphone alerts without the monitoring plan.
The Frontpoint Security system, along with its Interactive plan, was our favorite home security system from 2013 to early 2016. Since then, the company has dropped the need for a contract, but the monthly fee is more expensive than any of our top picks.
Nest Secure is pricey yet lacks the add-ons offered by our top picks. Monitoring is provided by Brinks Home Security, and doesn’t include fire service with the Nest Protect or video storage (video requires a separate Nest Aware subscription). Our other picks provide much better value.
Cove matches SimpliSafe in almost every way. What kept it from being a pick was its app, which constantly locked us out, so we needed to enter a password for every log-in. Also, Cove currently ships equipment with a Yi camera but doesn’t integrate it, or any other cameras, into the actual security system.
We encountered a few technical issues while long-term testing the Abode Iota and no longer recommend it. We also dismissed the Ooma Smart Security System because the monitoring option isn’t currently available in Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Alabama, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Montana, and the District of Columbia.
Frequently asked questions
How much does a home security system cost?
The cost of a home security system varies depending on the number of devices and accessories included. A good starter system can be had for under $200 and should include a base station, a keypad, a door/contact sensor, and a motion sensor. Look for a system that will allow you to start small and add on other devices and features as your needs change; contact sensors go for as little as $15, cameras run from $100 to $200 each, and so on.
Can I install my own home security system?
Absolutely. Professionally installed systems typically cost more or require a lengthy service contract—but often have the same features and equipment as DIY systems. Although installing some components (such as motion sensors and cameras) may require a stepladder, you don’t even need to own a drill; you can install many devices, such as door/window sensors, using strong two-sided tape (which is often included in the box). The system’s app should offer step-by-step instructions on how to set up your security system. Some systems are also preconfigured, so you just need to connect the base station and then install the sensors and other components. And if you need additional help, don’t be afraid to consult customer service via phone or online chat.
Do I need a home security system in an apartment?
Having a security system in an apartment is a good idea, especially in buildings with high traffic. You never know who your neighbor could be buzzing in—in fact, they might not even know. A security system can also alert you to dangers from fire, flood, and frozen pipes.
Can I install a home security system if I rent?
DIY security systems are perfect for pretty much any living situation, including rental houses and apartments. Many of the various accessories, such as the contact and motion sensors, come with strong two-sided adhesive, so you won’t need to drill into walls (and risk losing your security deposit). Also, because many security systems offer month-to-month contracts, you won’t have to worry about being locked into something long-term or passing a contract on to the next renter.
David Ludlow, Best home security systems 2020: Smart security monitoring for your safety, Top Ten Reviews, March 23, 2020
Katie McEntire, How to Choose a Security System, SafeWise, February 6, 2020
Shelley Little, What You Should Know Before Buying a Home Security System, MyMove, October 2, 2020
Anita Ostrowski, 5 Benefits of On-Demand Home Monitoring, Vector Security, August 15, 2017
Megan Wollerton, The best DIY home security systems of 2020, CNET, October 5, 2020
About your guide
Rachel Cericola is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter who has been covering smart-home technology since the days of X10. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, Men’s Health, USA Today, and others. She hopes her neighbors read this bio because it would explain why she always has four video doorbells running simultaneously outside her home.