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Cellular Home Security vs. Landline - Which Is Better?

Marcela OteroMay 15, 2014

There is no significant difference in terms of the type of equipment used for cellular home security and landline home security systems. All sensors, cameras, and control panels, for example, are basically the same except for how the alarm systems are connected to the home security provider.

Home Security System Equipment

Home security equipment creates a layer of protection and provides detection against burglaries and other home emergencies. A fully functional home security system should offer the following basic equipment as part of their standard packages.

Glass Break Sensors - Glass windows are often the point of entry for many intruders since these are easily compromised or broken. Glass break sensors have an effective range of 20 feet and are mounted on the wall or ceiling, and generally come standard with both cellular and landline home security systems.

Security Cameras - It’s recommended these be placed near doors, major entrances, and first floor hallways and rooms. Cameras function mainly as deterrents, as it’s virtually impossible for homeowners to monitor them 24/7. Often, they’re connected to a recording device for later viewing, and can be accessed via a mobile device or computer, from any location.

Garage Door Sensors - Garages protect one of your most valuable possessions, but also provide an alternative entry to your home. Garage door sensors automatically detect unauthorized access to your garage.

Motion Detectors - These usually have an effective range of 25 feet and spread in a 90 degree configuration, so proper placement is key. Motion detectors should be installed in places people tend to walk past, such as large windows, behind doors, or along pathways.

Control Panel - This is the most essential part of your home security system, allowing you to arm and disarm all of the individual components of your alarm system. They are usually placed near the front door. When an alarm is tripped, signals are sent to the control panel, which in turn automatically sends an alarm to your home security provider’s monitoring center.

Home Security Monitoring

Home security monitoring is the way in which your home security system and your security provider’s central station communicate. When an alarm or sensor is tripped, the control panel automatically sends an alert to the monitoring center. Some companies call their customer first, to verify it wasn’t a false alarm, whereas others automatically notify the relevant authorities.

Additional options include silent alarms that don’t alert intruders, or self-monitoring by the customer, instead of through a security provider. A third possibility are unmonitored “local” alarms, which simply consist of a loud alarm or klaxon, in the hopes that the noise will scare away intruders. Most home security companies, however, provide around-the-clock alarm monitoring as part of their essential features.

Cellular Security Systems

Cellular home security systems send signals wirelessly, both between the sensors in your home, and from the control panel to the monitoring center. Unlike landlines, which use physical connections that can be cut, cellular systems are more secure since they have no physical technology that can be tampered with. However, bad weather and appliances that use radio frequencies can interfere with cellular signals. Cellular home security equipment is marginally more expensive than wired systems, but they do offer the advantage of being completely installable on your own, thereby eliminating costly professional installation fees. Another advantage is the fact that cellular systems generally offer access via cell phones or computers, so customers can monitor their home remotely.

Landline Security Systems

A landline home security system uses wired-phone lines to connect your home security system to the company’s monitoring center. This used to be the standard method of communication, but recent years have seen companies leaning increasingly towards also offering wireless options. One advantage of a landline home security system is that the connection is a lot more stable than cellular, and much less at risk of interference. On the other hand, landlines are easy to cut, thereby disabling the system’s primary method of communication with its monitoring center, and leaving your house at risk.

Broadband Security Systems

A broadband connection is very similar to a cellular one, and they tend to have similar price tags and advantages over landlines. The main difference between cellular and broadband connections is that the latter communicate via your broadband internet connection rather than through a cell tower. Broadband signals travel four times faster than landline signals, which offers considerable advantages when your home and safety are at risk. While it is slightly more difficult to interfere with your internet cables, potential intruders can cut those wires and disable your security system. Some companies offer a 24-hour battery backup for this sort of emergency, or in case of a power outage.

The Final Verdict: Cellular vs. Landline vs. Broadband

There are several factors to consider when determining which type of connection works best for your needs, so you must conduct thorough research into the options available to you. A good place to start your search is our list of top ten home security companies. If you’re a renter, paying for a costly landline installation may not be the most wise financial decision, and a wireless system you can easily move and set up yourself makes much more sense. Homeowners, on the other hand, would benefit from the reliability of a landline system, with the addition of a cellular backup.

Another thing to consider is whether the company allows you to own the equipment. If you plan on moving, a long-term contract may not fit in with your lifestyle, although some companies do offer moving programs that transfer your service and equipment free of charge.

While none of these three options is perfect, we think a cellular-based system offers users the safest way to connect to central monitoring. The best alternative, of course, would be a landline security system with backup cellular or broadband monitoring, as this offers the best of both worlds: the reliability of traditional phone lines, with the access of cellular or broadband.