Best Home Security System for 2016

Deter burglars and have some peace of mind with a top-rated home security system

The best home security systems have a proven track record in protecting homes and their valuable contents. Unfortunately, many people don’t address home security until it’s too late — after they’ve already had a break-in. Homes with alarm systems have shown to be 300% less likely to be broken into.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security Systems

  1. Best Home Security System with DIY Installation: Frontpoint® Home Security
  2. Best Home Security System for Reliability: LifeShield® Home Security
  3. Best Home Security System on a Budget: LiveWatch Security®
  4. Best Big-Name Home Security System: ADT® & ADT Pulse®
  5. Best Home Security System for Home Automation: Vivint® Home Security

Best Home Security System with DIY Installation: Frontpoint®

Frontpoint® is regularly ranked as a top home security system. They boast 100% wireless and cellular technology as well as top-rated GE security equipment, and simple DIY installation instructions.

That’s right — with Frontpoint, you set up your system yourself, saving you from dealing with costly and inconvenient professional installation appointments. This also means that when you move, your home security system can move with you — it’s completely portable.

Frontpoint® is also one of the few home-security monitoring providers that goes beyond fire, flood, and carbon-monoxide detection by including a service that can detect if there’s a break in your natural-gas line. They also have the ability to connect up to 39 sensors and your mobile device, bringing the safety and security of your home into the palm of your hand.

Frontpoint® continuously ranks at the top of the list in all categories when it comes to monitoring, security devices, alerts, and customer service. Their “Crash & Smash” protection even allows your control panel to send alert signals in the event a burglar attempts to destroy it.

Frontpoint® has a working relationship with Alarm.com that adds several additional features, including geolocation services. You can set up your system to automatically notify you if you leave a certain perimeter around your home and have not yet activated your alarm system.

You also can pause the recording of specific cameras when you’re in a certain area. For example, when you get home from work, your security cameras can stop recording while your outdoor cameras remain on and continue to capture video.

Frontpoint offers three plan levels. The base Protection Plan is $34.99 a month. At this price, you get wireless and cellular connections; intrusion, fire, carbon monoxide, and flooding protection; medical emergency support; and 24/7 professional monitoring.

Stepping up to the $42.99 Interactive Plan adds Crash & Smash protection; remote control and monitoring via your smartphone; geo location services; and remote light and appliance control.

Finally, the $49.99 ultimate plan also includes live video stream; motion-activated video; HD and night-vision video; automated locks; and remote thermostat control.

The biggest downside of Frontpoint will be its upside for many others: There is no professional installation. While the majority of homeowners will probably appreciate the savings, a handful may prefer to skip DIY installation and leave their security system in a technician’s hands.

Another con to consider: Because Frontpoint relies on cellular monitoring, it won’t be a good option in any area where cellular coverage is weak or unreliable.

You can try out Frontpoint® to ensure it’s a good fit for you and your family with their 30-day free trial.

Best Home Security System for Reliability: LifeShield®

LifeShield® has one the fastest response times in the industry. They’ve partnered with DirecTV and are therefore connected to a monitoring station with broadband Internet connection. They offer DIY or professional installation depending on your needs, availability, or ability.

LifeShield® goes beyond other home security systems by providing additional layers of backup in the event that your power goes out or home phone line is disabled:

  • Broadband Internet: In the event of an emergency, LifeShield connects to the monitoring center in seconds using your broadband Internet connection.
  • Cellular Network: You’re able to use a built-in cellular connection as an additional layer of protection.
  • Land Line Phone: LifeShield also connects through a landline in the event that your Internet and/or cellular connection goes down.
  • Battery Backup: You’ll be alerted when your battery is low, and the battery will keep your alarm system online for up to 24 hours after the power goes out.

LifeShield® offers another unique feature that provides local crime and data alerts so you can make a more informed decision about your level of home security coverage.

LifeShield offers three packages that vary based on the included equipment — all include mobile app access, 24/7 professional monitoring, and fire protection.

For $29.99 a month, the base Security Essentials package includes four door and window sensors, a security touchpad, a security base and keypad, one keychain remote, a motion sensor, and a fire safety sensor.

At $39.99 a month, the Security Advantage plan includes six door and window sensors as well as a wireless camera and video monitoring.

And for $49.99 a month, the Security Professional plan includes eight door and window sensors, two wireless cameras with video monitoring, and an extra gigabyte of video storage.

LifeShield’s biggest drawback is the lack of home automation options such as remote control of lights, appliances, and home temperature. Many other systems integrate these features, though often at a higher price point.

Best Home Security System on a Budget: LiveWatch®

LiveWatch Security® was created in 2002 with the goal of making home security easy and affordable without sacrificing quality. They provide truly customizable home security and are able to keep their costs low by offering DIY installation and avoiding extra hardware.

If you’re worried about the DIY installation, don’t be. A LiveWatch® customer service technician will remain on the phone and talk you through the process. After the installation is complete, they’ll run live tests on the system to ensure it’s working correctly.

LiveWatch® also has an excellent customer service record and says the majority of their business comes from customer referrals. After the first 12 months, your contract moves to a month-to-month agreement with no termination fee if you decide to move away from monitoring services. If you cancel within the first 12 months, you are eligible for a refund on any purchased equipment.

The $19.95-a-month base plan includes 24/7 monitoring and LiveWatch’s ASAPer rapid alarm resolution, which allows you to alert as many emergency contacts as you want in case of an alarm.

For $29.95 month, you also get Crash and Smash protection as well as mobile system control via your smartphone.

For $39.95 a month, you can also get home automation abilities, location-based controls, advanced security alerts (these include power failures, bad weather, and battery status); no-show notifications (you’ll be alerted if someone doesn’t arrive at your house by a specified time); and $50 in equipment add-ons.

Like Frontpoint, Livewatch doesn’t offer professional installation, so keep that in mind if you prefer to work with a security technician.

Best Big-Name Home Security System: ADT® & ADT Pulse®

ADT® has been in existence for over 140 years, serves over 7 million customers, and has the most monitoring service centers in the industry. While length and existence don’t guarantee great service in today’s world, a known name can never hurt in deterring potential intruders.

Aside from their security devices and monitoring services, ADT® provides guarantees to ensure you feel confident about your security investment, including:

  • Theft Protection Guarantee: ADT® will pay up to $500 of your security deductible if your home is robbed while your security system is armed.
  • Mover’s Security Guarantee: ADT® customers are entitled to a free security system in their new home.
  • Money-Back Service Guarantee: If you are not satisfied within six months, ADT® offers a refund on the installation price and monitoring fees.
  • Homeowner’s Insurance Certificate: With this certificate, you can save up to 20% on your homeowner’s insurance.

In 2010 ADT® launched ADT Pulse®, an upgraded service including home automation with Z-Wave™ technology. It has opened ADT® up to compete with the quickly emerging high-tech security systems.

ADT offers five plans ranging from $36.99 to $49.99 a month. The base plan offers 24/7 monitoring via a landline with a digital keypad, three entry sensors, a motion sensor, a keychain remote, high-decibel alarm, and battery backup.

For $42.99, you can add two-way voice that lets you talk with ADT representatives from your home.

For $44.99, you can get a cellular-based system with all the features of the base system; for $47.99, you can get that plus two-way voice.

Finally, for $49.99, the Pulse Select system drops the two-way voice but adds remote control of your system via your smartphone as well as text and email alerts.

ADT’s biggest downfall is that there’s no DIY option here — you will have to have your system professionally installed, whether you like it or not. Accordingly, you won’t be able to take your system with you when you move. While ADT does offer a free system to customers who move, you’ll have to sign a new contract to take advantage.

Best Home Security System for Home Automation: Vivint®

Vivint® is consistently one of the top-rated security providers. With their monitoring services, you get 24/7 coverage 365 days a year along with unique non-emergency alerts, severe weather alerts, and a key fob that allows you to turn your alarm system on or off or call the authorities directly from the device without ever having to enter your home.

Vivint® provides their own internal monitoring, so they’re able to work directly with you. This is a plus because you don’t have to worry about outsourcing of monitoring services and going through a middleman for any issues.

Home security monitoring starts at $53.99 a month, which includes a touchscreen panel, three entry sensors, a motion detector, and key fob. All equipment is backed by 24/7 monitoring, non-emergency and weather alerts, and mobile system control via your smartphone. Add-ons include smoke detectors, carbon-monoxide detectors, glass-break detectors, and a dedicated panic-button pendant.

Vivint® also excels at home automation. The Smart Energy plan is an integrated system that gives you control over your appliances, lights, and thermostat from anywhere. They have gone above and beyond to create savings with your home by establishing the Vivint Solar solution, which streamlines the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy by using solar panels installed on your rooftop to supply power to your home.

On the downside, Vivint’s security plans start at a relatively pricey $53.99 a month, and the website lacks transparency about pricing that others have. You’ll want to be sure that you’ll make the most of the added features, such as home automation, to justify the higher price.

What Do the Best Home Security Systems Offer?

My methodology in determining the best home security system was based on four major components, ranked as follows:

  1. Monitoring services
  2. Security devices
  3. Customer service
  4. Affordability

Monitoring services fell at the top of my list in evaluating the top home security systems, as constant and effective monitoring is key to protecting your home.

Security devices include the equipment that your company monitors, including entry sensors, motion detectors, and cameras.

A product as complex as home security requires friendly, efficient customer service — especially if you choose a DIY solution that requires self setup.

Finally, affordability is a crucial consideration, especially considering that all the security systems require ongoing monthly fees for monitoring.

As you can imagine, home automation often comes with a heftier price tag. However, with this feature, you’re often able to control your thermostat, appliances, and outlets, which increases potential savings. Look into what home automation features are available with your home security system to take advantage of these opportunities.

All of my picks for the best home security systems include the following services in various packages:

  • 24-hour monitoring
  • Internet/cellular monitoring
  • Battery backup for power failure
  • Online account access
  • Door, window, garage door, glass break, and motion sensors
  • Panic button
  • Flood, carbon monoxide, and fire detection
  • Security camera(s)
  • Customer support available via email and phone
  • Online tutorials
  • Alarm history reports

Below you will find a comparison of other components that were not universal within the list:

FeatureFrontpoint®LifeShield®LiveWatch®ADT®Vivint®
Alert Response Time30 Seconds1 Second18 Seconds45 Seconds9 Seconds
Security Equipment ManufacturerGELifeShield®VariesHoneywellVaries
Basic Monthly Monitoring Fee$34.99$29.99$19.99$36.99$53.99
Contract Length1 Year3 Years1 Year3 Years5 Years

Wired vs. Wireless Security Systems

Wired home-security systems are starting to be a thing of the past. While ADT® and some less tech-savvy systems still have wired options, they leave your home vulnerable to power outages or disabled phone lines.

They also require actual wiring in your home, which can be a disadvantage. I have a hard time putting a nail in my wall, let alone a gaping hole, but wired systems require costly and intensive professional installation. Wired systems also typically require reinstallation at the new location when you move. Note that ADT® actually leaves the system behind and gives you a credit for your new system if you’re still within the timeframe of your contract agreement.

Wireless Internet and cellular security systems are not only the direction of the future for any tech industry, but they also remove the vulnerability of your phone line being disabled. They use a battery for power and are able to maintain coverage long after the power goes out.

The wireless alarm sensors, similar to radio waves, communicate with the control panel. The wireless frequency is typically proprietary and will not interfere with other wireless equipment in your home or other wireless systems.

Cellular systems use a cellular device that is installed in the control panel and uses cellular towers to transmit the signal, similar to sending a text message. It’s the newest form of home security alarm-signal technology and is revered as the most reliable monitoring on the market. The best home alarm systems will give you this option.

Wireless systems come standard with four of the top five picks. The exception is ADT®, which only provides a wireless option with ADT Pulse®.

Home Security Camera Systems

In the past, home security cameras were all based on closed-circuit television technology, which required cabled connections in your home. Now, most home security cameras are wireless digital cameras that are easy and inexpensive to install, require no video cables, and have cloud-based storage.

The combination of the Internet and your home security camera gives you the ability to view a live feed from anywhere, including your smartphone in many instances. Frontpoint® is one of the best home-security camera providers with options for fixed, pan-and-tilt, and outdoor wireless cameras.

DIY Home Security Systems

DIY home security systems typically come as either those where you purchase the devices and services from a home security provider like Frontpoint® and LifeShield®, relying on those companies for professional monitoring, or those where you purchase your own tools and monitor the system yourself.

While deterrence from individually provided and installed solutions like motion detector lights, more secure locks, and home security cameras can be effective, it is important to have a direct line to authorities in the unfortunate event that you need them. For this, a monitoring service from an established home-security system provider is a must.

Home Safety Tips

There are simple measures you should take regardless of whether you own one of the best home alarm systems. The following preventative steps are simple but can minimize the chances of your home being targeted by burglars.

  • Keep your doors and windows locked — even when you’re at home.
  • Get deadbolt locks installed on your doors.
  • Don’t leave valuables in plain sight.
  • Keep your phone ringer volume on low.
  • Don’t post travel plans on social media sites.
  • Alert your neighbors when you’ll be out of town so they can keep an eye on your home.
  • Lock up important documents.
  • Have a dog (not recommended if only for security purposes).
  • Put away your ladder when you’re done using it.
  • Don’t leave a key, even a hidden one, outside your home.
  • Leave a light, TV, or radio on when you’re not at home.
  • Clear large bushes a burglar could hide behind from near your entryways.
  • Frost your garage windows so burglars can’t see whether your car is inside.
  • Install motion detector lights outside your home.

For other tips on preventing burglaries, including what to do after you discover a theft, see our article on Burglary Prevention & Home Insurance.

Other Benefits of Home Security Systems

The main goal of a home security or alarm system is to protect your home, whether it’s from a burglar, fire, flood, or other hazard that can be monitored by your security system. However, there are many other benefits to home security systems.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, some companies decrease your insurance premium by up to 20% if you install a comprehensive home security system. Before investing in a system, talk to your insurance provider to get a better idea of the savings versus the cost, depending on the plan you go with. If you need a solid recommendation for a homeowners insurance company, be sure to check out our guide to the Best Home Insurance.

It also turns out that when you install a home security system, you are not only protecting yourself but also your neighbors. “Neighborhoods in which burglar alarms were densely installed have fewer incidents of residential burglaries than the neighborhoods with fewer burglar alarms,” a recent study by Rutgers University reported.

What You Should Be Asking Your Home Security Provider

Before you buy any home security devices or sign any contracts, there are many non-advertised answers you should seek from your provider about the services you’ll be paying for.

Many home security providers have various response methods. Some send contracted security professionals to assess the situation prior to contacting the authorities. Every company has a different response time, and some provide additional resources like long-lasting batteries and additional monitoring service centers.

Here are questions you can ask beyond what is readily available on providers’ websites:

  • What is the typical response time when the alarm is set off?
  • What is the typical response?
  • If I cannot reach the established emergency contacts (if that’s part of the process), will you reach out to the authorities immediately?
  • When can I expect someone to be at my home after the alarm has been set off?
  • How many monitoring centers service the provider?
  • In the event of power loss, how long should my battery last?
  • Will I be provided a lawn sign or door decal to advertise that I am using security services?
  • Am I able to take the security system with me when I move?

The Best Home Security Systems Bring Peace of Mind

Home security systems are effective in deterring burglaries, according to the Rutgers study. Moreover, the study found that burglaries are not concentrated in specific economic groups or metropolitan areas. Burglars don’t discriminate.

I recently attended a neighborhood watch meeting at the local library near my home. I was blown away by the number of incidents in what I believed to be a safe neighborhood. But the passion and creativity the community demonstrated to ensure the safety of their homes and, more importantly, their families, was comforting. Very few, however, mentioned home security systems, which can add an additional layer of security and peace of mind.

Home security systems are one of the most effective solutions you can use to protect your home, your valuables, and your family. But remember not to overlook home insurance in your efforts to secure your home and belongings. Want to know which companies are the best? Our guide to the Best Home Insurance can help you select the best provider, and our article on How to Find Cheap Home Insurance can keep you from overpaying.

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