The 7 Best Home Security Systems of 2020

Create peace of mind with these reliable systems

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Vivint Smart Home

"Ensures that communications between the devices, your smartphone, and the company’s monitoring centers are rock solid."

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Xfinity Home

"If you’re already an Xfinity customer for phone and internet, then it’s easy to add home security to your existing services."

Best DIY Home Automation System: Abode

"If you prefer a low-cost DIY approach to home security, then Abode is your best bet."

Best DIY Pro-Monitored System: SimpliSafe

"Helps to ensure that your home security setup is easy to install and reliable."

Best with Largest Nationwide Network: ADT

"For many homeowners, ADT’s vast scale makes the company an obvious, trustworthy choice for home security."

Best Value: Ring Alarm

"With Ring Alarm, you can add a rudimentary system of DIY security for little as $199."

Best Professional: Frontpoint

"After the system is up and running, you will have the ongoing means to add virtually any type of home security and automation feature."

Best Overall: Vivint Smart Home

Vivint Smart Home

Vivint Smart Home

Excellent

Vivint Smart Home is a complete security and home automation system. The Utah-based company makes its own core set of sensors, cameras, and control devices. By designing its own equipment as an end-to-end solution—and using skilled, well-trained technicians for installation—Vivint ensures that communications between the devices, your smartphone, and the company’s monitoring centers are rock solid.

Here’s the bottom line: Vivint works. The upfront cost could be several hundred dollars more than competitors. But it’s worth it because Vivint is a delight to use. The control pad and mobile app are intuitive. The system provides one-click custom actions for commands such as modifying the temperature as you approach the house or turning on lights as you enter hallways. When an incident occurs, the monitoring team responds in seconds.

Finally, Vivint gives customers the option to buy all the gear upfront at a clearly denoted price. Paying upfront means you can secure professional monitoring on a cancel-anytime, month-to-month basis. You also have the option to finance the equipment with zero interest.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Xfinity Home

Xfinity Home

Xfinity Home

If you’re already an Xfinity customer for phone and internet, then it’s easy to add home security to your existing services. Bundling a home alarm system with your Xfinity services has two primary advantages. First, you can save money—paying about $360 for a professionally installed system, including one touchscreen control panel, three door-window sensors, one wireless keypad, and one motion sensor. The installation fee is often waived.

The second perk is the ability to use your Xfinity remote controllers (with voice commands) to manage your security and automation devices. The TV, the biggest screen in your home, acts as a second control hub.

Xfinity Home—like Vivint and Abode—develops its own set of capable security components, including an outdoor/indoor camera. The system is also compatible with a long list of third-party devices. Moreover, Xfinity Home maintains a staff of technicians specially trained to make sure that your home’s security network is reliable.

Professional monitoring starts at $39.95 a month—climbing to $49.95 if you have video recording. If you want continuous 24/7 recording of video, which stores the previous 10 days’ of footage, it costs $9.95 per camera.

Best DIY Home Automation System: Abode

Abode

Abode

Very Good

If you prefer a low-cost DIY approach to home security, then Abode is your best bet. The system takes a modular approach. With a starter kit for as low as about $200, you can be up and running in a few minutes. Attach one door/window sensor and one indoor motion sensor—and then fire up the tabletop hub device. Or use Abode’s all-in-one device called “The Iota,” which has a built-in HD camera and motion sensor, as the control hub.

Because Abode uses the open Z-Wave communications protocol, you can create a complete DIY automated home with Adobe-branded components and cameras, as well as third-party compatible devices, such as Nest thermostats, Schlage or Kwikset locks, and Philips Hue remote-control lights.

Be advised that Abode puts the onus on you to make sure the right entry points are protected—and that all the pieces of your system successfully talk to one another. But if you enjoy setting up electronics, then Abode offers robust capabilities at an affordable price. The system can work well as a self-monitored solution, although professional monitoring is affordable at $20 a month or $200 a year if paid upfront.

Best DIY Pro-Monitored System: SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe

Unlike the modular open approach taken by Abode, all the necessary SimpliSafe components are designed and made in-house by the company as a single integrated system. That helps ensure that your home security setup is easy to install and reliable.

Order a package of components—including the base station, keypad, and set of entry and motion sensors. Entry sensors use strong adhesive backing to attach to doorways and windows easily. Plug in the base station, follow step-by-step instructions on the keypad, and you’re in business.

We love the elegant design of the SimpliSafe system, especially the cylindrical base station with a glowing blue light. The list of devices includes a glass break sensor, remote panic button, smoke detector, temperature and water sensors, and key fob. Unfortunately, SimpliSafe does not include an outdoor security camera, but the system is compatible with third-party devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, as well as Nest thermostats and August-brand locks.

SimpliSafe’s $24.99 per month Interactive plan is its preferred monitoring solution. We do not recommend the lower-cost $14.99 Standard plan, or self-monitoring, which removes the ability to remotely control the system or receive notifications via your smartphone.

Best with Largest Nationwide Network: ADT

ADT

ADT 

As the nation’s largest home security provider, ADT provides an unparalleled scale of service to its seven million customers. The company has 12 interconnected monitoring centers, 200 local offices, and a massive network of authorized dealers. For many homeowners, ADT’s vast scale makes the company an obvious, trustworthy choice for home security.

All of ADT systems are professionally installed and monitored in a required three-year contract. Canceling a contract can result in hefty penalties.

ADT does not rely on a single source for its equipment, so the exact functionality, reliability, and user experience of any system is to be determined. The benefit of an aggregated approach is that professional installers can choose components from multiple suppliers—integrating the components in a custom solution with ADT’s mobile app and touchscreen panel.

Most ADT systems cost between about $30 and $60 a month for monitoring. Adding video cameras can push the price higher. The equipment, pricing, and quality of service can vary—so you won’t know the exact cost of an ADT system until you receive an estimate. Unless you confirm that a local dealer has a long-standing stellar reputation, you are likely to get the best price and service by working directly with ADT’s corporate office.

Best Value: Ring Alarm

Ring Alarm

Ring Alarm 

Ring is well-known for its line of video doorbells available for as low as $99. With Ring Alarm, you can add a rudimentary system of DIY security for little as $199. The package includes a base station, a keypad, a motion detector, a single door/window sensor, and an Alarm Range Extender that plugs into an outlet to strengthen the communications between devices.

It’s smart to add a door sensor and motion detector, but the power of Ring’s security solution is its cameras. The $249 Floodlight Cam, for example, has built-in motion detection, lights, HD video, two-way talk capability, and sirens. If somebody enters your yard, a bright light will shine. You will be immediately notified on your phone, and a clip of up to 60 seconds will be recorded.

The quality and reliability of Ring Alarm are not comparable with professionally installed security from Vivint, ADT, and Xfinity Home. The system lacks a glass-break sensor or outdoor siren, and there’s limited integration with third-party smart-home products.

Nonetheless, the Ring Protect Plus Plan, which provides professional monitoring, cellular backup, and recording of event clips from an unlimited number of cameras, is available for only $10 a month. That’s an unbeatable price for a base level of home security. 

Take a look at other product reviews with some of the best security cameras and the best doorbell cameras available online.

Best Professional: Frontpoint

Frontpoint

Frontpoint

Frontpoint gives DIYers access to equipment from Alarm.com, the same gear that professional installers use. Frontpoint’s base package — one keypad hub, two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a yard sign, five window decals, and door stickers — is just $99. However, a complete package for a larger home could easily exceed $1,000.

Frontpoint does not offer professional installation. Instead, the equipment is preconfigured for easy installation and is accompanied by a thoughtful set of tutorials and online support to guide you through the process. Most of the equipment is attached with strong peel-and-stick adhesive, although some cameras might require screws and a connection to a power source.

You might face a learning curve to get started, but after the system is up and running, you will have the ongoing means to add virtually any type of home security and automation feature. This forward-looking strategy is important because, unlike competing DIY solutions, Frontpoint locks you into a three-year monitoring plan.

Frontpoint’s $34.99 per month Protection Plan is adequate for essential security monitoring, but it lacks remote smartphone features and home automation. So expect to pay at least $44.99 a month for commonly desired security and smart home features, or $49.99 per month for live and recorded video.

What Is a Home Security System?

A home security system is exactly what it sounds like: a system of various electronic devices that work together to monitor the property. It generally includes a control panel that operates motion sensors, door and window sensors, cameras, and other devices. 

Any unusual activity, such as movement outside a door, will typically trigger an alert or an alarm, depending on your personal settings. Some systems come with professional monitoring, meaning alarms will alert the security company and/or local emergency services that something might be wrong. And other systems are self-monitored, meaning the homeowner must initiate an emergency call if necessary.

Not only does a home security system protect against potential intruders, but it also can monitor for fires, carbon monoxide leaks, and other potentially dangerous issues. You even can use certain systems to control your thermostat, lock or unlock doors, turn on and off lights, and check for open windows. 

Some people also have surveillance cameras they can access remotely to check on children or pets at home, as well as watch for deliveries, landscapers, and other people who might be stopping by.

What Are the Different Types of Home Security Systems? 

Some home security systems are wired. They function via electrical wires running through the home’s walls to various security devices, such as cameras and sensors. And they can use a phone line to transmit information to a security company or emergency services if you pay for such a service. The devices generally sound chirps and alarms around the house, according to your personal settings.

Other systems are wireless, using battery-powered transmitters to connect security devices. They either work through your home's internet service or a cellular service. These systems are easy to integrate with personal mobile devices, so you can monitor your home from wherever you are. They also can send information to paid security services. Most modern home security systems use wireless technology or a hybrid version of wired and wireless.

What Fees Are Typical With Home Security Systems?

For many home security systems, there might be an up-front fee for installation (unless you self-install) and activation. These fees are sometimes negotiable or have deals running that reduce the cost.

Then, you generally must pay for the security equipment, which can come in packages or be purchased individually. Some companies allow you to pay off the equipment in monthly installments while other equipment is sold at a one-time fee. 

If you choose a plan that involves professional security monitoring, that’s typically a monthly fee to the security company. This also might involve a contract that has fees for breaking it early.

What Should You Look for in a Home Security System?

When considering home security systems, first decide the area you want to monitor. For instance, maybe you just want security at your front door, so a simple doorbell camera might suit your needs. Or perhaps you're away from home a lot, in which case you might like a system that can remotely control lights, door locks, and the thermostat as well as monitor for environmental hazards, such as fires and floods.

If you have kids or pets, you might want a system with nanny cameras that allow you to remotely check what's going on inside your home, along with two-way talk features that allow you to communicate with whoever's at home. Some systems also include wearable security devices that can alert emergency services if the wearer is having a medical or other type of emergency.

You’ll also need to decide whether you want to monitor the system yourself or pay for a professional monitoring service that will alert emergency personnel for you. Plus, if you move frequently, you'll likely want to look at self-installed wireless systems that are easy to pack up and move with you.

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