According to the FBI, there were over 1.7 million burglaries in 2014 (the most recent year complete stats are available), with an average of $2,251 worth of goods stolen in each. You already take care to shop smart and hunt for the best deals — what about protecting what you bring home?
That's where home security systems come in. Frugal shoppers may balk at the expensive combination of upfront and month-to-month costs. But homeowners have more options than the traditional security system these days; DIY smart home systems can offer security at a more wallet-friendly price, and many cable providers can bundle smart home features into your monthly bill.
No matter where you buy, prices can vary greatly depending on the size of your home and just how you want to secure it. If you need more motion sensors and glass break break sensors, you're going to pay for them. But before you decide that a good home security system is just too expensive, let's take a look at what's available and what it's likely to cost.
Traditional Security Systems
These are the home security systems with which you're probably the most familiar. Though the bells and whistles differ from system to system, they should all include entry detection sensors, an audible alarm, a control panel to turn the alarm on and off, and 24/7 monitoring. The monitoring is what makes these systems shine; there are real people keeping an eye on your home all the time, and they'll call the police or fire department in an emergency situation.
The downside is cost. While you might have the option to pay for hardware upfront or lease it from your provider, you'll always have a monthly bill for monitoring, and that cost adds up. Most providers also require a 36-month contract, so once you sign up, you're stuck with it.
It's not the cheapest option, but with some of the most transparent pricing in the industry, Frontpoint is a definite favorite. On top of making it easy to tell what your security system will cost, the service offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with no hidden fees or charges — if you don't like the system, just send it back.
Frontpoint offers three subscription tiers that are all monitored by cellular service, which is more reliable than using your home phone line. They also all include intrusion protection, fire protection, carbon monoxide detection, and life safety (with a medical alert button that can be worn).At higher price points, you'll get what Frontpoint calls "crash and smash protection," which contacts the company if the system is broken (for example, if the control panel is smashed by a burglar). Interested in home automation? You can get that, too, with remote monitoring via your mobile device, video monitoring, and remote light, lock, and thermostat controls.
You'll pay $99 to $199.93 upfront for equipment (which is wireless and self-installed), as well as $34.99 to $44.99 per month with a 36-month commitment.
An option that's easy on the budget, Protect America has no upfront activation, installation, or equipment fees. At $19.99 a month, the service has the lowest monthly pricing on this list — and it'll guarantee your monthly price, so you won't be hit by unexpected cost increases. There's certainly some trade-offs to this low-cost system: there's no risk-free trial and the lowest pricing tier only does monitoring via your phone line (although you can pay more to use a broadband or cellular connection).
The self-installed system offers the basics with door and window sensors, as well as a motion detector, but offers fewer smart home features. You can get automatic door locks, fire protection, life safety, and even vehicle protection (with GPS tracking), but all of these will add additional costs to your subscription.
Base subscriptions run from $19.99 to $42.99 a month with a 36-month commitment — it's a great deal if all you want is a no-frills system.
ADT is one of the biggest names in home security — it's been in operation since 1874, when the company offered telegraph-based alert systems. Today it offers a bevvy of high-tech security systems, which can include intrusion detection, video monitoring, fire protection, and carbon monoxide protection.
Smart home features can be added, too, with options for mobile access, and control of your locks, lights, and thermostat. ADT has an especially reliable monitoring network, with multiple monitoring stations to watch your home in case one station has an outage. And if your home is broken into ADT offers $500 in theft protection.
The downside to ADT is price and a general lack of transparency about your costs. Basic pricing only includes intrusion detection over a phone line, so if you want important extras like cellular monitoring, fire protection, carbon monoxide protection, or any home automation features, the price can balloon. Professional installation is required (though same day installation is often available) and equipment and activation fees run $99 and up.
Base subscriptions run from $36.99 to $52.99 a month with a 36-month commitment — but if you're looking for a system that's customizable and reliable, ADT may be worth the cost.
Smart Home and DIY Security Options
Incorporating smart home technology into your security is easy with web-connected cameras, fire alarms, and door locks. Pricing is also much more predictable than with a traditional security company — smart home options will have a clear upfront cost, no long-term commitment, and often no subscription fees.
The big downside to such systems is that you don't get professional, 24/7 monitoring. While you can check, control, and get alerts from the system on your mobile device, it's on you to do anything with that information. Still, these cost-effective systems boast a wide range of potential configurations to meet your needs and your budget.
An all-in-one security option, the Piper NV is a single device that features a 180-degree camera with night vision, as well as sensors for motion, sound, light, humidity, and temperature. It plugs into an ordinary wall outlet (though it has a battery backup) and connects to your home's WiFi network. If you want to add more security options, Piper is compatible with Z-Wave tech, which can add door and window sensors, smart lights, smart switches, and more.
Depending on how you configure its rules, Piper will alert you of unusual activity, and you can check it from your mobile device. If there is a burglar, you can sound Piper's 105 decibel alarm.
Piper NV costs $275 and has no subscription fee.
Instead of an all-in-one device, iSmartAlarm is a system of connected devices — so you can get exactly what you want. It includes a hub that controls the system, plus components you can connect to it, like several different types of camera (one of which includes night vision), smart switches, motion sensors, door and window sensors, and a 110 decibel alarm.
Like Piper, iSmartAlarm will notify you of any unusual activity. In addition to monitoring and controlling your iSmartAlarm system through an app, you can also use keyfobs to control basic features.
iSmartAlarm costs vary depending on which components you want, but package prices range from $169 to $499 — though only the $349 package includes a camera. There's no subscription fee.
If you're looking for monitoring, rather than a full-fledged security system, perhaps all you need is the Nest Cam. This 1080p connected camera will stream video to your mobile device, and send you alerts if it detects motion or sound. Nest Cam also works with Nest's other connected devices (a thermostat and a smoke/carbon monoxide detector) for home automation, but even with those additions it's not a full-fledged security system.
The Nest Cam costs $199 and requires no subscription, but if you want to keep archived video instead of just streaming it, you'll have to pay between $10 and $30 a month.
Home Security From Your Cable Provider
Looking for an alternative that falls somewhere between traditional security services and the DIY options? Many cable companies are now offering smart home services. Prices and offerings vary greatly, but all include professional monitoring, which adds reliability. While the prices aren't better than what you'd get from any other security system, you may find it more convenient to deal with a single vendor.
Here are your major options:
- AT&T Digital Life, starts at $49.99 upfront and $39.99 a month
- Comcast Xfinity Home, starts at $99 upfront and $39.95 a month
- Cox Home Security, starts at $99 upfront and $29.99 a month
- Time Warner IntelligentHome, starts at $39.99 a month
Readers, have you secured your home with one of the options above? Or have you left your belongings in the cruel hands of Fate? Share your thoughts (but not your address) in the comments below!