Home Security.

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Home Security Systems

What every informed consumer needs to know...

At the most basic level, a Home Security System is designed to detect an intruder in your home and report it to a monitoring company, who will then notify you and the authorities in case of an emergency. With upgrades that detect environmental dangers like fire, floods and carbon monoxide, your system can alert you when there’s trouble. Add on Home Automation to control your home’s features all from a mobile device.

The FBI recently reported that in 2013, there were close to 2 million thefts. That means there is a break-in every 15 seconds! But homes with Security Systems are 60% less likely to be burglarized. So, protecting your home can be easy and with so many Home Security Companies in the market, you’re sure to find a system that will work for you.

Home Security Checklist

1.) Coverage

Watch the video here!

Starting with basic burglar detection, there are a number of additional detection sensors that you can add to protect your home from damages and threats. The most common additions are fire or smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Water and flood sensors are useful if you live in an area prone to floods or areas with heavy rains. Mold detectors are also available, but not as common. 

With video surveillance you can watch your home from wherever you are, making sure that your children make it home from school safely, or adding extra coverage to hard to see areas of your home, yard, or garage.

Home Security Systems are also at the forefront of the rapidly growing home automation movement. This allows consumers to have connected homes where turning on or off the lights, locking or unlocking the doors and even controlling the thermostat are all possible from a handy app on your phone or tablet. 

Home Security Systems can include:

  • 24 Hour Monitoring – Monitoring Services provided by your Home Security Company, which you pay for monthly.
  • Intruder Detection- Protection against burglars and other intruders by using sensors on your windows and doors.
  • Fire & Smoke Detection – Protect your family and your home against fires, much like your home fire alarm. The benefit of this option is that if your home catches on fire, an alarm will sound and your monitoring company will be notified and help will be dispatched even if you aren’t in the home.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detection- Protect your family and home against this deadly and colorless, odorless gas. Like with Fire & Smoke detection, your monitoring center will be notified and so will you.
  • Water & Flood Detection – Notifies you and your monitoring company the moment there is a problem. This is a good option for people who live in areas with heavy rains or flooding.
  • Video Surveillance – This feature allows you to keep an eye on your home when you are away. If you are the victim of a break-in a video surveillance system that records footage could give police the evidence they need to find the person responsible.
  • Home Automation Features- Additional features that not only are fun and helpful but that also add to the protection of your home. Lock or unlock your doors for home repair professionals, turn your lights on or off to give the impression that someone’s home, or adjust your thermostat for maximum energy efficiency. Home Automation makes controlling the features of your home easy from anywhere.

The Bottom Line

Not all companies offer the same types of coverage, but with over 200 Home Security companies to choose from, there is a system out there for everyone’s needs.

If you need to suspend your service for any reasons, talk to your service provider, they may be able to assist you. If you are a Military Service Member, many Companies are more than happy to suspend service at no additional cost. 

2.) Monitoring Services

The quality of the monitoring services may be the most important thing to consider when shopping for a Home Security System. In this section we will discuss what makes a monitoring service stand out.

You want to first find out who is doing the monitoring. Like some companies partner with equipment manufacturers, others partner with monitoring companies. The benefit for Home Security companies is that they can partner with a company that has high standards for their monitoring centers and provides extensive training for their representatives. Whether you pick a company that does it’s own monitoring or decide to find one that will outsource this service, you want to make sure that the monitoring center is certified by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) or has a 5-diamond rating from Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). Also ensure the monitoring stations are located within the United States and not outsourced overseas and that the representatives go through an extensive training in order to handle emergency situations.

Additionally, we suggest you ask about the company’s average response time, or how long it takes for a company representative to contact you about the alarm going off in your home.

Home Security Companies typically have a 30 second wait time between the time that the alert is sent and they are able to respond. This window is to allow whoever has entered the home the opportunity to disarm the system by entering the correct code. It is not uncommon for a Home Security Company to say they respond “immediately” to an alarm instead of providing an exact time, so we suggest verifying that the response time is under a minute. When there is trouble in your home, a matter of minutes could mean the difference between a broken window and a burglary. 

What to consider when looking at Monitoring Stations…

  • Are they located in the United States?
  • Are they UL certified?
  • Do they have a CSAA 5-Diamond Rating?
  • Are their representatives trained to handle emergency calls?
  • Are the average response times under a minute?

The Bottom Line:

Picking a company that has a UL certified monitoring station and a CSAA 5-Diamond rating means your company has high standards. Also, make sure that your company has trained representatives that are ready to take your calls and that the company has a history of fast response times.

3.) Alerts

Watch the video here!

Home Security Companies want you to be in the loop, and not just when there is trouble. In addition to being able to control features in your home from a mobile phone or tablet, your system can be programmed to send you text or email notifications depending on different scenarios.

For example, you can receive a notification when some enters or exits your home. Or, if you leave your home without setting the alarm, you may be able to set your system to remind you when your phone goes outside a certain radius.  If you’ve chosen to add Home Automation to your system, you can keep track of when someone unlocks or locks your door, when a light is turned on or off, or be notified when your thermostat is adjusted.

And as always, if there is trouble in your home, you will be contacted immediately.

The Bottom Line

Technological advancements have made it easy for Home Security Companies to keep you connected to what’s happening in your home with text and email alerts, even when it’s not an emergency.

All of the Top 10 Home Security Companies offer apps for mobile phones and tablets or have an online portal that you can control your Home Security System from when you are away from home.

4.) Equipment

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Many of the biggest and best Home Security Companies use the same equipment from respected manufactures like Honeywell and GE, while others build their own unique systems.

By contracting with reputable manufacturers, companies have found that they can offer consumers guaranteed high-quality equipment at competitive prices without taking their focus off of monitoring. With this widely used equipment, consumers benefit from having the flexibility to easily change their monitoring service if they are unhappy to another provider that also uses the same equipment.

If you are looking for a more advanced or personalized system, companies who have built their own systems are better able to customize them to your needs. However, it is worth mentioning that these companies also offer basic systems that match the quality of larger manufactures. Just because you have a custom system doesn’t mean you have to stick with that company for the long haul. Monitor-only companies make a living working with consumers who have all types of systems. You’ll just have to make some calls to see if your system is compatible. 

Home Security Equipment Definitions:

  • Master Control Panel - main brain behind your home security system. This panel will send any emergency signals to the monitoring company or will set off the alarm
  • Control Keypad- Additional devices that arm or disarm the security system
  • Door & Window Sensor Pads - the sensors that are designed to trip the alarm if they are moved.
  • Glass Break Sensor- Some burglars will smash windows instead of trying to open them in order to avoid setting off the sensor pads. A glass break sensor prevents against this by monitoring the glass and if there is a disturbance, your monitoring company will be notified.
  • Motion Sensor Device- can either activate the alarm OR turn on the recording device for your video surveillance
  • Video Cameras- Can work hand in hand with motion sensor devices to film an area if there is movement, or it can be programmed to remain on continuously. Footage is recorded and kept for a limited amount of time in case you need to review it. You can also access the footage from a computer or app when you are away from home.
  • Intercom System – This allows for voice communication between your home and the monitoring company from your control panel, or from your home to your front porch.
  • Emergency or Panic Buttons- emergency buttons are helpful if you are in the middle of an emergency and need assistance.  
  • Yard Signs & Window Decals- can act as a deterrent for burglars who may think twice about going up against your security system

The Bottom Line

As long as you select a highly rated Home Security Company, you are almost guaranteed a solid product. We have noticed no difference in quality between companies that partner with manufactures and companies that make their own equipment, so we suggest looking at price point and quality of coverage instead.


Home Security Companies make their money on monthly monitoring fees, so if you are going to lock yourself into a long term commitment, don’t be shy about discounted or even free equipment. There may even be a special offer availably already!

5.) Monitoring Technology

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In order for Home Security Systems to perform well, a strong and secure connection between your equipment and the monitoring station is necessary. In the past, the only way to connect the equipment to the monitoring company was through a home’s landline, but now you can also select a wireless (or cellular) connection or a broadband connection.

Some companies utilize just one type of connection, while others rely on multiple connections in case one fails.


Uses your home’s hard-wired phone line to send signals to the monitoring station.

Ensures a stable connection between the monitoring station and your Home Security System, however the line can easily be cut by burglars who know where to look.

Wireless (or Cellular)

Uses a cellular link to send signals to the monitoring station.

More secure than a landline or broadband connection because the line cannot be cut by intruders who know where to look. However, the signal can be interrupted by outside interference much like with cell phones.


Uses your Cable or Internet line to send signals to the monitoring station.

Common if your Home Security monitoring is provided by your Cable or Internet Provider.

Up to 4 times faster than a landline, but can also be easily cut by burglars who know where to look.


The Bottom Line

We suggest a wireless connection, which makes your system fast, secure and tamperproof.

6.) Installation

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When it comes to Home Security System installation, companies utilize two methods. With some companies you can install the system yourself, this is referred to as the DIY (or Do It Yourself) method. Alternately, some companies require a professional technician to come to your home and install the system for you. Most companies will either have DIY or Professional installation, but rarely both options.

The DIY option is quite popular these days. The Home Security Company will walk you through a home assessment over the phone or through their website. Once you have decided what your home needs, the equipment will be sent to your home with detailed instructions on how to install the unit yourself. Most consumers report that this is a lot easier than they had anticipated. Once you’ve installed the system, you’ll contact the Home Security Company to test the signal to the system and check for any bad connections.

With the professional installation, you’ll need to schedule a time for a technician to come to your home. Often time the technician will do an assessment of your home for you before setting up your system and provide you with safety suggestions. Once the system has been installed, the technician will ensure that the equipment and signals are all working properly for you.




  • No installation fees
  • No scheduling of appointments, install the system when it works for you
  • You get to know your equipment – if it breaks you’ll be better prepared to diagnose the problem.
  • If you move, installation is easy and free
  • Most likely, no holes in walls or doors.


  • You will have to assess your home yourself
  • If you have trouble installing the system, no one will be coming to double-check your work.

Professional Installation


  • Professional Assessment of your needs
  • You don’t have to install the system yourself
  • Worry-free installation from someone who knows how to install everything


  • Taking time out of your day for your appointment
  • Installation fee for set up may be required.
  • If you move, you may have to pay an additional fee to have your equipment installed again.




The Bottom Line
As long as your system is installed correctly, there is no difference in the quality of your equipment. Installation is a personal preference. If you have a basic system and are handy, the DIY method may work best for you. If you choose a more complicated system with bells and whistles, Professional installation may be the best option.

7.) Customer Service

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As is true in any industry, Home Security Companies can be pushy or even downright deceptive. However, we are pleased to say that each year there are an increasing number of great companies that offer exceptional customer service.

A great customer service practice that all of the Top 10 Home Security Companies offer is a money back guarantee trial period. These trial periods range from 3 days up to 6 months, though a 30-day trial period is the most common.  Because Home Security policies are not always transparent, we suggest verifying that there are no “restocking fees” associated to the trial periods and that you will truly receive your money back from all the equipment and services provided BEFORE signing up with any company.

Additionally, we suggest reading reviews from consumers who have been in your shoes. This will give you an idea of how you will be treated if you become a customer.

The Bottom Line

Take companies up on their money back guarantee trial periods, but if you aren’t happy, make sure to notify the company and send any equipment back within the trial period otherwise you may be stuck in your contract. Always read your contract, or the terms and conditions of your agreement before you commit to any plan.

8.) Contract

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The most common customer complaints we get are from people who did not understand the terms of their contract and now are having trouble getting out of them. It’s not hard to cancel a service agreement with Home Security Companies, but it is expensive.

Contracts of 3 years or more are common in the Home Security Industry, however there are companies that have 1 year or even month-to-month contracts.

Once your trial period ends, breaking your contract will cost you. Cancellation fees are extreme, typically ranging from 75% up to 100% of your remaining monthly monitoring expenses. Sometimes they are set prices

Another common complaint is that some Home Security Companies set up automatic contract renewal. So, if you don’t cancel your contract before it ends, you may find yourself locked into another three years without even knowing it. If you read through the terms of service, any fee or renewal policy will be mentioned. Though it’s always good to double check if you happen to be speaking to a representative.

Understanding Cancellation Fees:

Let’s say you pay $45 a month for Monitoring Services, then cancel your contract 12 months early.

$45 X 12 = $540

If the Home Insurance Company has a cancellation fee of 80% of the remaining monthly monitoring contract

80% of $540     =    $432 Cancelation Fee


The Bottom Line

Just because contracts have a lot to look out for doesn’t mean they are deceptive. This is all outlined in a Company’s Terms and Conditions of Service.  Make sure to look for any additional fees or renewal clauses. Just because a Company has a binding contract that is hard to get out of, doesn’t mean the service isn’t worth it. 

9.) Cost

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Similar to cell phone providers, Home Security Companies make their money from the monthly monitoring service, not on the equipment. This may mean that you can get a better deal on the latest & greatest equipment, especially if you are willing to sign a long-term contract.

Prices can vary, even within the same company due to special offers and promotions. We suggest asking the company representative if there are any special deals going on. If you find a great offer, we also suggest asking for it in writing if you are going to keep shopping around. This way if the deal or offer changes, you still can benefit from the deal you had discussed with the representative.

Many companies will also look at your credit score. If you have a good score, they may be more inclined to give you a discount on equipment.

Lastly, during our research we found no correlation between price and quality, so just because the cost is more for a service or equipment, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a better quality product, and vice versa.

When buying a new Home Security System, there are three different costs to consider:


This depends on the type of equipment you will need. For intruder only system, expect to pay a few hundred dollars. If you are looking for a system with all the bells and whistles, you may be looking at a bill upwards of $1000.

Some Companies rent the equipment to you instead of purchasing it yourself, but like the cable company, you will have to pay rental fees.


(If you have a Professional Installation)

Installation of your system usually starts around $50-$100 for the most basic systems and increase from there depending on how advanced your system is.

Companies may also have one time activation or service fees that you will need to pay upfront.



Monthly Monitoring


Monthly monitoring is usually around $20-$60 each month. If your equipment came free with your monitoring plan, you may pay more. There are also monthly monitoring only plans available for around $10/month if you own your own equipment already.





The Bottom Line

The cost of your equipment, installation and monthly monitoring will all depend on the company you choose and the coverage features you’ve selected. In order to get the best deal possible, look for special offers or discounts, and be sure to ask a company representative if there are any better offers available.

10.) Reveiws

When you are reading through Home Security Reviews, here are some things you’re going to want to consider.

  1. Statistical Significance: Take a look at the number of reviews that make up the overall company rating. If there are only two reviews, the star rating is going to mean a lot less than if there are 500 reviews. With a significant number of reviews, you'll be able to get a good idea of whether or not consumers are happy with their decision to work with this company. Reviews with only a few consumer ratings may not fairly represent the overall customer experiences with this company, but they still have their value. In this situation, take the overall rating with a grain of salt, and read what people have written to get specific details about their experiences to help you decide whether to work with this company or not. 
  2. Word Sentiment: Take a look at what people say about the company in the reviews. Do you see positive language being used or is it mostly negative? Ranking style varies from person to person, for instance, some people never give out perfect scores on principle, some people may only rate on customer service, while others may compare multiple factors. As a result, the numeric overall score may not be the best way to judge a company. This is why we suggest taking a moment to see what people say and which words they use to share their experience with others.
  3. Customer Care: If the home security company has the chance to respond to customer feedback, do they? Do the companies you are looking at make the effort to resolve complaints and use polite wording? Or are the responses gruff and defensive? If a company reaches out to customer whether the review is positive or negative, this is a good indicator that they will value your experience with their company as well. However if a company is rude or dismissive of their customers concerns, chances are this is how you'll be treated if a problem arises. If the company does not or cannot respond directly, do reviewers talk about how responsive the company was to their concerns?
  4. Learn from other people’s mistakes:  More often than not, complaints arise from expectations not being met. Sometimes this is the fault of the consumer and sometimes the blame falls on the company. We suggest reading a few negative reviews and thinking about how this complaint could have been prevented. For instance, if a customer is upset because they can't get out of their contract, make sure you understand the terms you are agreeing to before signing up. If the problem is clearly a fault of the company, and no efforts are made to resolve the problem, learn from this as well by selecting a company with a reputation for working with customers to address concerns. 

To find the best home security system for your home, visit the Top 10 Companies here!

Our Top Ranked Companies

Our Partner

9.512 / 10

Our Partner

8.564 / 10

Our Partner

8.52 / 10

Our Partner

8.46 / 10

Other Reviews:  Monitronics   •  Protect America  •  Link Interactive   •  Cammy  •  SimpliSafe  •  Scout Alarm  •  Fluent  •  Pinnacle Home Security  •  LifeShield  •  Alarm Force Security  •  Canary Home Security Device  •  AlarmGrid Security  •  Ackerman Security  •  AT&T Home Security   •  Post Alarm Systems

Resources From Our Editors

Why Mark & Laura Got a Home Security SystemHome Security System ReviewsHome Alarm SystemsTop Home Security SystemsCellular versus Landline Home Security - Which is better?DIY Home Security Systems vs Professionally InstalledIs a Home Security System Really Necessary?

Recent Consumer Reviews

10 / 10

Great service and very helpful telephone assistance. Price is ok. 36 mo contract works for me as I bought this with a future in mind. 5 stars ****...  READ MORE
Mark K