Home security systems can range from a simple set up to an extremely complicated and integrated system, the options are nearly endless. This makes deciding on the home security system that is right for you and your home a complicated and often overwhelming experience. Not only do you need to decide on the security components that will work for your home, but then you have to decide if you want to work with professional or go it alone.
Choosing to go with a professional security company does not mean the decisions are over, you still have to choose from sometimes several system options, then pick a monitoring plan. All of this way before you can even connect a single camera or sensor. We feel your frustration and we are here to help.
We decided to give you a one-stop look at the different types of security systems, from the different connection, monitored and self-monitored and even the most popular components are just a few of the things we have picked apart to offer you the best guide we could. So, stick around to learn all about the different types of home security systems.
What is a Home Security System?
First, a quick question about what a home security system actually is? The answer may be more involved then you realize. You probably automatically think of an intricate system of devices that monitor everything that goes on and somehow signals when there is a break-in or another disaster. And you wouldn’t be wrong.
However, a home security system is really much more involved than the electronic components and gadgets. Everything you do to protect your property, yourself and your loved ones is an important part of your home security system. And every piece is just as important as the next when it comes to safety and peace of mind.
Types of Home Security
When the subject of home security comes up it is not long before you realize there is not just one option. There are several options available. Depending on where you live, your unique security needs and your budget, your options may be nearly unlimited. However, all home security systems fall into 3 basic categories depending on how the system is installed and who watches over it.
Professionally Monitored and Installed Home Security
The most well known and most popular (at least in the past) is a home security system that is purchased, installed and monitored by a professional security company. Homeowners that can afford it often consider this the premier choice in home security. And that may have a bit of truth, but in a little bit, we’ll explain how that may be changing.
A professionally installed and monitored system does offer some advantages over other types of home security. Here are some of the advantages that most people lean on when choosing this type of home security.
Advantages of Professional Systems
- Professionally Installed Equipment – with a home security system purchased directly through a security company they often offer, and even sometimes require, that their systems are installed by their technicians. This allows them to make sure that everything is done to their specifications. It also allows them to properly test the system.
- Added Assurances – Professional systems are usually backed by some added assurances. Almost every security company claims they offer the highest security possible and to prove it they will often include warranties or replacement guarantees in their contracts.
- Around the Clock Monitoring – Perhaps the biggest reason people choose professional systems is the monitoring. Many security companies offer package discounts on either the hardware or the monitoring fees. In some cases, a company may even provide basic equipment at no cost with a monitoring contract.
What are the drawbacks? Just like everything else, there are a few drawbacks to going with a pro for home security and they cannot be ignored.
Disadvantages of Professional Systems
- Lack of Customization Options – in the world of home security professional systems are the least customizable option available. Not that you cannot adjust a system to fit your needs, but will have some limitations.
The most common issue is the technology. In general, most professional security packages will be at least a little behind on the most up to date on the latest technology. This is likely due to them only revamping their packages every few months or even years.
- Cost – In a side by side comparison, professional home security systems run slightly higher per month than a DIY system. However, over the term of the contract cost may level out with companies covering the cost of repairs or maintenance in many cases.
Professionally Monitored and Self-Installed Home Security
There is a growing market for home security systems that homeowners are able to install themselves. This is partly due to the increase in the use of wireless technology in security systems. There is also often a financial advantage to doing the installation on your own.
Some security companies have specifically designed packaged for self-installation, while other companies offer their monitoring services without requiring the use of their systems. Still, other security companies are only monitoring services, having no security products to offer the consumer. These companies have grown out of a need for monitoring, sometimes intricate, systems made of components from third-party manufacturers.
Advantages of Installing Your Own Professionally Monitored System
- Saving Some Money – Installing a professional security system yourself will immediately save you any costs associated with having it professionally installed. Since these fees start at around $100 and can go sky high with a custom installation, the potential for savings may be huge.
- Do it Your Way/ Your Time – Any kind of technician, phone, cable, internet, and even security company installation technicians work on a different type of schedule than virtually any other job. We’ve all had the 4-hour window appointment that ended up being a 6-hour window. And a few of us have been the unfortunate recipient (raises hand) of the “we’ll have to get to you tomorrow” that starts the whole cycle over.
Installing your own system means you get complete control, over the how and the when. Want to mount your camera at a different angle? Go ahead, there is no one to stop you! And you can do the installation on your schedule, instead of having to fit into someone else’s schedule. Ok, rant over… moving on.
- Personal Adjustments – A stranger could not possibly know your home as you do. When you do the installation, you will be able to make small personal adjustments that will fit your home and needs that a technician could never guess. While you can definitely give technician instructions, sometimes things don’t even occur to you until you are right there doing the thing.
- No Mystery Installation Tech – Speaking of strangers, most of us have dealt with the barrage of technicians and likely never see the same ones twice. Unless you live in a small community and are using a service with an office in that small community, the chances of you having any previous relationship of a technician are extremely low. Doing the job, yourself means one less strange person going in your home, and most importantly having first-hand knowledge of your security setup.
Disadvantages of Installing Your Own Professionally Monitored System
- The Installation is On You – Shockingly when you choose self-installation, you have to do the installation yourself. With a more intricate system, this could be a bigger issue than you may realize beforehand.
- Little or No Assistance – Your options for guidance, if you get in a pickle and cannot figure something out, may be extremely limited. If you are lucky you may get a customer service rep from the company that made your system to answer the phone. If you are really lucky, they may at least have an idea of how it works. Otherwise, you are on your own – well, maybe YouTube?
- Hidden Consequences – All of these add up to the very real possibility that installing your own system can have some consequences; many you may not be aware of until it is too late.
- A company may claim faulty installation as a reason not to stand behind their product, or failure in monitoring.
- Connection errors are not always detectable – this is more common in systems using devices across multiple manufacturers.
- Sole Responsibility – Finally, any self-installation means there is an automatic understanding that you are responsible for ensuring proper installation, connections between components, and that everything works as it should.
Self-Monitored and Self-Installed Home Security
The last option is going with a fully DIY home security system. You buy the equipment, you install it, and you are the one responsible for monitoring for disruptions. As technology has advanced so have these types of systems improved. It is not at all uncommon and in many cases, the number of homeowners choosing to self-monitor is on the rise.
There are areas where self-monitoring is perhaps the better option. For example, there is little reason to enlist profession monitoring services if you already live in a gated, monitored community. Homes that are in busier neighborhoods, the type that has people coming and going all the time, where someone is always watching is another great place for a self-monitored system.
However, there are areas that would make a self-monitored system a not-so-good choice. Areas, where the crime rate is already high, is one example. If your home has been invaded recently, while any system is better than no system, but a self-monitored system is going to make you more anxious than you realize.
And finally, the distance from emergency responders such as fire, police, and ems can be a risk to self-monitored systems. A big risk is if the person, likely you, are the one hurt or worse, who is going to alert emergency responders if you are the one that monitors the system.
How to Choose a Home Security System
Whether you go with a system from a security company or a third-party retailer, you are bound to have several options available in each. Either way, you are definitely going to have some decisions to make. Hopefully, we can help you get a jump start on those decisions
As we’ve already discussed, you may have the option of choosing your installation. This is true with many professional security companies. The advances in wireless technology have made the need for a trained professional to do the installation less necessary. If you can set up a smartphone and a smart TV, you likely have the skills necessary to install most wireless home security systems.
The next decision is going to be monitoring; Do you want it? Do you need it? Can you afford it? All of these questions are going to influence your decision, but choosing a monitoring service should not be done on a whim. You have to research the company, ask questions, and absolutely understand every aspect of any contract before agreeing. Misunderstandings or miscommunications can have serious consequences when you are talking about home security.
The cost of home security is almost as varied and flexible as there are options in home security systems. The overall cost can vary from home to home, package to package, and even from year to year. There are some specific prices to be aware of that may influence your choice in systems. The first is the cost of the equipment, followed by installation fees, as well as any fees for monitoring services.
The set-up costs usually cover the cost of equipment, installation, as well as any contract fees that a security company may charge. These fees can fluctuate depending on bundle discounts, professional installation fees, and finally the monitor bundle (or none) that you choose.
The monthly fees are most often only an issue with professional monitoring. Although there are some equipment rental and leasing options with some companies that increase the monthly rate. Also, many companies offer discounted rates to those who pay in large chunks, like a full year, for example.
When deciding, one thing to be sure of is any fluctuations in monthly fees that may occur. One of the primary complaints of several leading security companies in the practice of locking customers into long term contracts and then increasing rates after an introductory period of time.
Related read: Best Home Security System Without Monthly Fees
What are YOUR Homes Security Needs?
When it comes down to it, our homes are as unique as we are. Even homes with the exact same layout likely have families with unique security needs residing in them. That is why it is so important to take the time to access your personal home security needs before spending any money on a system that may not work for you.
You will need to examine your home completely, think like a potential intruder to uncover any hidden weakness, and finally design or pick a system that meets those needs. It is also very likely that a basic package is not going to have all of the necessary devices that you need. Meaning you will likely have to include additional devices. The whole process can be overwhelming. There is help available.
One option is to use the services of a professional security consultant. These individuals are often ex-police or military personnel that have experience with security in some form. They are trained and have the necessary experience to examine your home and help you design a custom security plan or choose a system that will work in your home. Some security companies even offer these consultations free of charge.
Ask the Police Department
Another option is to contact your local police department. Many departments offer security assessments as part of their community outreach programs. This allows you to get an idea of your specific home security needs and weaknesses from someone who has likely seen several home invasions. This can be invaluable information, even if you have a good idea of your needs, you may be surprised at what they can offer.
Home Security Buying Guide
Whether you have decided to go with a self-installed system or a professional system, you are going to need some understanding of the various components in your security system. Knowing ahead of time can save you time and energy in sifting through the various options available. Simple make a list of the components you need and find a system that fits your list.
Control Unit (Hub, Base, Control Panel)
No matter what name is used, every home security system has to have a central control device, this is basically the brains of the entire operation. The main unit is often the point of access between the home and any outside monitoring option, including your own smartphone, if that is the way you go. The control unit can be as simple as a smart speaker with a build-in the hub, or as complicated as a dedicated tablet control pad. There just has to be a control unit of some kind.
Almost every home security system you find these days will have at least one camera. Cameras can be motion censored or active full time. Many cameras come with two-way communication options and even night vision. In reality, your options are almost unlimited when it comes to adding cameras to your home security system. However, you should take special precaution if you plan to use any camera outdoors as they will need protection from the weather, including rain and even the sun. Deciding where you want cameras in advance can make it easier to find the right one camera to fit your needs.
Everyone is probably familiar with what an alarm is but may not know how many types of alarms there are. Alarms are all around us; including in most home security systems. Alarms work on that are designed to detect even tiny changes in their proximity. Depending on the alarms setup the detection can trigger the alarm, or activate another feature such as a camera. Alarms come in various shapes and sizes and can be used to detect anything from movement to heat, even sound.
As mentioned, sensors are designed to detect specific changes; these will vary depending on the type of sensor. Sensors do not only activate alarms but can be used to monitor several different things. The most commonly used is a door or window sensor that can detect when they are opened. It is usually recommended that every accessible window and door in your home be monitored by a sensor.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You likely already know what a smoke and carbon monoxide detector is, but what you may not realize is that they work on a sensor just like an alarm or window sensor. They detect smoke and carbon monoxide, some at very low levels to offer the best protection. Many homes have traditional battery-operated detectors or ones that are hard-wired. Replacing these with security grade detectors will not only add to your security, but some give you additional monitoring option.
The important thing to remember is that not all smoke detectors have carbon monoxide detection in them. Home at risk of carbon monoxide leaks or exposure include homes heated with natural gas, ones with attached garages, or any home new a gas source.
Water and Fire Sensors/Alarm
Another type of sensor or alarm is one device most young children become familiar with school safety drills. A fire alarm detects fire and heat, which is different than smoke detectors. The water sensor is designed to detect the presence of water, a great option for people with a basement water tank or other hard to see water pipes. They will detect a leak long before there are other signs.
Professional Home Security Companies
Now that we have covered the basics of home security systems, the next step is to find a home security company or retailer to find out your options. We’ve included the most popular home security companies below as well as a brief description of any specifics, including installation requirements they may offer. Those that prefer a DIY home security system may want to jump ahead a bit.
ADT an established leader in professional home security, is probably the most familiar to you, if only by name. ADT has been known to offer some of the best options for homeowners to get the security systems they need.
ADT does require that their systems are professionally installed, however, the installation is often included in free of charge, so look for this promotion if you choose to go with ADT. Otherwise, professional installation will cost between $99 to $199.
Brink’s Home Security is a well-known name in home security. Brinks merged with ADT in 2009 but has remained a separate security option for individuals looking for the newest technology in home security at often reduced prices. Unlike ADT, Brinks offers the option of a professional or self-installation.
Vivint is fast become the home security company to watch. They have been the leader in implementing smart technology into their security systems and always offers the most up to date options to new and existing customers.
Vivint places a high priority on proper home security, so they require that all of the systems be installed by one of their trained technicians. Vivint offers some flexibility, including access to their monitoring app, and a high number of sensor options.
DIY Home Security Systems
Individuals that would rather install their own system have several options, including some leading home security companies that have jumped on the wireless bandwagon for the most modern of home security options.
Abode is one of the most flexible DIY home security options due to having partnered with several leading manufacturers in home security. For those that need professional installation, don’t worry, they offer that too.
Frontpoint is fast becoming the go-to option in wireless home security systems. Not only do they over fully customizable systems, but they are available in all 50 US states and most of Canada. Their goal is to outfit every home with the system just right for them. All of their systems are designed for a quick and easy self-installation, often in under 30 minutes.
Link Interactive is one of the few security companies that do not expect you to purchase their monitoring services. All of their systems are easily installed and since they use cellular connections, you never have to worry about a drop in monitoring due to the weather or power outage.
Perhaps the most recognizable name in the wireless home security. All of their systems offer amazing options to homeowners and can be extended with additional sensors quickly and easily. The main component of any SimpliSafe system is its unique base station that plugs into any standard outlet and communicates with all SimpliSafe devices.
That is a lot of information to take in, and we hope we didn’t make the decision more difficult. We wanted to give you a good idea of the different types of home security systems available and feel we accomplished that goal. You will have to find the system that fit your unique security needs on your own, but hopefully, you have a bit of direction now. Keep safe!