Every homeowner wishes that keeping their place secure was as simple as saying, “Yes, I’d like a home security system, please.”
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a home security system — what type of security system, unmonitored or monitored security systems, types of security cameras, what features you’d like to add, etc.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to consider so you can find the right home security system for your home.
Types of security systems
The first thing you’ll want to consider is what type of security system you need. There are four main types, including unmonitored and monitored security systems as well as wireless alarm systems and electric current home alarms.
Monitored security systems
Probably the most commonly known type of security system, monitored security systems alert a call center when the alarm is triggered so they can contact the police department if needed. Monitored security systems typically mean you’ll have faster reactions to potential incidents, but you’ll pay more for the monitoring service.
Unmonitored security systems
Unlike monitored security systems, unmonitored ones don’t alert a call center. Instead, a loud siren is usually triggered thereby alerting you and/or your neighbors to a potential threat. Since a call center is not contacted, it is on you or your neighbors to alert the authorities, should they be needed. These systems are typically less expensive, but may also be less convenient.
DIY security systems
Do-it-yourself, or DIY, security systems are all about providing you with more flexibility. Many top home security providers offer DIY kits for setting up your own security system. Instead of locking you into a multi-year contract, most DIY security systems offer the flexibility to add monthly monitoring, and then cancel if you don’t need it. Additionally, they typically come with more accessories and add-on features, such as remote security options.
Wireless home alarm systems
Similar to DIY security systems, wireless home alarm systems use radio frequency to communicate via a control panel and various alarm sensors positioned throughout your home. This makes them easy to install and allows you more customization in the type of equipment you use. However, they may not come with all of the features of a DIY security system kit. Also, they are unmonitored, which costs less but means you won’t have a call center to rely on.
Electric current home alarms
Electric current home alarms (sometimes referred to as wired home alarm systems) use a low-voltage electrical current to monitor whether or not a door or window has been opened. If the electrical circuit is disrupted by the opening of a door or window, the alarm is triggered. One downside to wired home alarm systems is that lightning or other outside electrical currents can interfere with them.
In addition to the type of security system, you’ll want to consider the home security connection type. Today, home security systems no longer have to rely on a landline connection, but can also connect over Wi-Fi, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or cellular connections.
Types of security cameras
There’s more to security cameras than just indoor vs. outdoor. No matter what type of camera you choose, though, you’ll want to consider the field of view, whether you need night vision, video resolution, motion detection, power sources, app support and mobile notifications, size and video storage.
Some types of security cameras include:
- Bullet – These long, cylindrical cameras are easy to mount on a wall or ceiling both indoors and outdoors, but only provide you with a fixed view of one point of entry, so you may need multiple cameras.
- Dome – These dome-shaped cameras can be mounted indoors or outdoors and provide a wider-angle view than the bullet, but still provide a fixed view. Dome security cameras can support night vision as well as motion detection.
- Voice-integrated – The latest models of security cameras combine the powers of smart home devices to create voice-integrated cameras that can be used with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
- Wired – The most traditional type of security camera, wired cameras are connected directly to a video recorder and require a connected power source. Depending on the recorder you choose, you may be able to access video footage remotely.
- Wire-free – Wire-free cameras don’t require a connected power source or video recorder since they operate on batteries and store footage on the cloud. While this makes them easy to install, it also means you’ll need to stay on top of replacing batteries regularly.
- Wireless – Sometimes referred to as wireless IP cameras, these cameras collect and stream data over your wireless network allowing you to view video footage remotely. Wireless cameras aren’t necessarily wire-free, the name instead refers to being able to work over your home Wi-Fi.
Security system features and accessories
Smart home technology has allowed home security to evolve beyond video cameras and triggered alarms. Today, there are a number of features and accessories for you to consider, including:
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Door and window sensors
- Flood sensor
- Freeze sensors
- Glass break sensors
- Heat sensors
- Home automation controls
- Mobile app notifications
- Motion sensors
- Nanny cameras
- Remote viewing and control
- Smart home integration
- Smoke detectors
- Two-way voice
- Video doorbells
The one thing to keep in mind, though, is the more features and accessories you add to your home security system, the higher the upfront and possible monthly costs will be.
Security system costs
There are a number of costs associated with maintaining a home security system. There are the upfront costs, such as purchasing your equipment, paying for professional installation and being charged an activation fee. Then there are the ongoing monthly monitoring fees if you choose a monitored security system. If you lease your equipment, you may have a monthly rental fee.
Some home security providers may offer free activation and installation; however, you may see the true price of these “free” offers reflected in higher monthly monitoring fees. Additionally, add-on features and accessories, such as remote monitoring or cloud storage, may require an additional monthly fee.
Security system installation
When it comes to home security system installation, you have two options: professional or DIY. Here are some of the pros and cons of each:
Professional security system installation
- Time saver
- Ensure proper connection of equipment
- On-site troubleshooting and instructions on how to use your system
- Higher upfront costs
- May take days or weeks to get an appointment
- Unable to customize your system
- May not be compatible with your rental agreement
DIY security system installation
- Lower upfront costs
- No appointment needed
- Ability to customize your system
- Can be time-consuming
- No on-site resources for troubleshooting
- Higher upfront costs if you have to buy vs. rent equipment