You can find anything online these days. From the comfort of your couch, a quick Google search on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop will yield thousands of results on just about any product or service you could ever imagine. Home security systems are no exception.
But there are challenges that come along with the internet age. For one thing, having seemingly endless options at your fingertips makes deciding more difficult. Making a choice can seem paralyzing, especially when the information is disorganized and difficult to understand. Think: manufacturer-written product descriptions, paid ads, and reviews based on subjective, personal experiences.
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Furthermore, the word “best” is highly subjective. In short, the home security system that is best for you may not be for someone else. Every home is different, and the features you and your family need in a security system won’t be the same as for the family down the street or the person writing that five-star online review.
So, the trick to finding the best home security system — online or otherwise — is to find the right system for you. From price to features to satisfaction, you have to determine what you want in a system. That’s the hard part. From there, you just have to figure out which one checks all of the boxes.
For many people, the top concern when it comes to purchasing a home security system is the investment. This is true whether you are operating on a budget or you just want the most bang for your buck. Just remember that to properly evaluate the total cost of a system, you must consider both the upfront costs and the ongoing monthly fees.
When searching online for pricing, be sure to double-check costs with the company over the phone. Be wary of promotional rates that may expire, causing your bill to increase before your contract ends. Before you sign a service agreement, ask for an in-person inspection and a quote for initial costs, as well as monthly fees.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $1,500 to purchase, install, and activate a home security system. Exact price will depend on the type of equipment you choose and whether you require professional installation. Some companies may also charge installation fees.
- Equipment costs will make up the majority of your initial investment. Many companies offer free equipment, but be sure to read the fine print. If the free products come with long-term contracts, minimum monthly fees, or a high activation fee, the deal may end up costing you more than just purchasing the equipment outright. The type, style, and amount of equipment you choose will determine your costs.
- Installation fees vary by provider. Most companies now offer self-installation, while others offer free, professional installation.
- Activation charges range from $0 to $199. These costs often go unmentioned until it’s time to sign the contract, so be sure to ask about these fees in your initial conversations as you compare your options.
A monitored security system — one that is connected to an external monitoring center — is considered the best way to protect your home. Representatives remotely monitor your system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the event of an emergency, they notify the proper authorities automatically.
These services come with a fee that ranges from $10 to more than $100 per month. The average family pays about $30 per month for their monitoring service. Commonly, companies advertise their base monitoring costs on their websites, and included services vary by provider. Consumers should ask what is included with base monitoring and what the fees are for add-on services.
Of course, you can always choose an unmonitored security system — one that will sound an alarm locally when there is an emergency, but will not notify an external monitoring service or automatically contact authorities. Some of these systems allow self-monitoring via a smartphone or computer, but you will still be responsible for contacting authorities if something goes awry.
Functionality and Features
The next thing to consider when selecting your home security system online is what functionality and features you need. Is a simple alarm system good enough, or do you want to incorporate motion sensors, disaster services, and home automation? Not all providers offer every feature.
- Alarms are the most basic feature of any security system. Look for one that will sound automatically and on demand with the use of a panic button.
- Two-way communication allows you to talk with a representative from your monitoring system through a speaker in your control panel.
- Cameras can be installed on the interior and/or exterior of your home, and can be motion-activated or record 24/7, depending on your needs.
- Sensors that detect motion, temperature, water levels, glass breaking, windows and doors opening, carbon monoxide levels, and smoke can automatically alert the monitoring system in the event of just about any home emergency.
- Personal security devices are wearable units that allow you to press a button to contact your monitoring service. These are particularly useful for medical emergencies.
- Remote access allows you to check your own cameras and sensors from your smartphone or computer.
- Different monitoring types are best for different situations. Make sure you choose a company that offers the best service to meet your needs.
- Landline monitoring works well for people in remote locations, but is most vulnerable to tampering.
- Broadband monitoring is safer and faster than a landline and allows you to add home automation, but it won’t work if your internet is down.
- Cellular monitoring is the most reliable as long as you are within range of a cell tower, but it is also the most expensive.
- Automation allows you to control your security system — and just about every aspect of your home, from lights to door locks to your thermostat — from your computer, tablet, or mobile device.
The final thing homeowners should look for in a security system provider is perhaps the most important: satisfaction. Every home security system has a learning curve, and it’s likely you’ll need assistance to learn how to use all the features. Furthermore, even with all the planning and research you can do online and over the phone, there is still the chance that the security system you choose won’t be right for your home and family.
Luckily, most providers understand that. That’s why they offer ways for you to ensure your investment in a home security system pays off and that you remain a satisfied customer for years to come.
- Trial periods and money-back guarantees offer you the chance to try your system out for 30, 60, or 90 days to see if you like it. If you change your mind within that period, the provider will offer you a full refund. Just be sure to ask if there are any restocking or return fees.
- Warranties protect you in the event your equipment is defective or damaged. Terms vary by product and provider. In some instances, professional installation is required, and any modifications or repairs made by homeowners will void the warranty.
- Customer service should be reliable and easy to access, both in the event of an emergency and when you have a question about your system. One great way to determine how providers treat their customers is to look at online reviews.
- Relocation services allow you to take your home security system with you when you move houses. Look for a company that offers these services free of charge as a way to keep your business.
Finding a home security system that is worth the investment and satisfies your family’s needs is not an easy task. Focus your online research on identifying top candidates based on price, features, and satisfaction. Compare each company’s online reviews, ask specific questions, and don’t forget to read the fine print. Then, pick the system that will provide you with the most peace of mind. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to leave your worries at the door — whether you’re enjoying an afternoon at home or a vacation away.