Home security systems FAQ
How much do home security systems cost?
Costs vary depending on what you want from your home security system. If you’re looking for a camera that you can watch on your own, you could spend less than $150 for a cheap camera and call it good. Or you could monitor your security equipment and be on your way for less than $500 (more on that below).
For the pros to install and monitor your alarm system, you’ll spend significantly more up front, and you’ll have monthly costs to consider. Some systems let you control your security equipment and smart devices from your phone. But you might spend as much as $40 and $60 a month for monitoring and about $1,000* (or more, if your house is larger) for equipment. That can still be significantly less than a break-in, which can cost thousands of dollars in property damage.
*Cost calculated based on Vivint pricing of control panel, two key fobs, three entry sensors, and one motion detector, plus the cost of professional installation. Data effective 09/03/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.
What kinds of home security systems are there?
In our reviews, we break security systems down into three main categories:
- DIY installation with self-monitoring
- DIY installation with professional monitoring
- Professional installation with professional monitoring
DIY installation with self-monitoring: Some brands we recommend, like Ring, Abode, and Nest, offer both professional and self-monitoring. They let you monitor your equipment on your own after you install it if you don’t want to pay the pros.
DIY installation with professional monitoring: Frontpoint, SimpliSafe, Link Interactive, Brinks, and Protect America all monitor your systems, but you install the equipment on your own.
Professional installation with professional monitoring: Brands like Vivint professionally install and monitor your system—you don’t have to lift a finger or babysit alerts.
How much are home security systems without monitoring?
You can save significant dough if you monitor your system yourself and cut out the monthly monitoring costs. If you’re strapped for cash, fully DIY systems like Ring and Abode let you monitor your system for free. You just buy the equipment—both base packages start at $199—and you’re off. From there, you can add cameras for another $110–$300 to see what’s happening at home before calling the police or fire responders.
A few caveats. First, as we’ve said, we recommend professional monitoring. You can’t always be on the job when you’ve got other things to attend to, like sleep or a real job. Self-monitoring is better than nothing, but be realistic about the amount of attention you can give it.
Second, you’ll need a way to verify that something is happening at your house. You’re liable in some states if you call 911 with false alarms. That’s why we recommend a camera of some kind with your DIY security system.
You’re liable in some states if you call 911 with false alarms.
Third, watch out for added fees like video cloud storage. Cost of storage varies by brand, so make sure to look into that before purchasing.
If you’d like a more detailed look at specific systems’ costs, check out our cost comparison article.
What are monitored and unmonitored security systems?
Monitored systems rely on professionals to watch for triggered alarms, contact system owners, and dispatch emergency services. Unmonitored security systems aren’t connected to a monitoring center. Instead, they usually connect with an app that the system owner watches for suspicious activity.
We almost always recommend you bring in the pros to monitor your system because you can’t always watch it yourself. They’re professionally trained to dispatch emergency services and work with people during moments of crisis.
Learn more in our article about the differences between monitored and unmonitored security systems.
What should I look for in a home security system if I’m a renter?
There are lots of good home security system options out there for renters. You’ll want equipment that you can install without drilling holes through the walls. Wireless systems are ideal for renters because you don’t have to run phone lines to them. Plus you can put the control panel wherever is most convenient for your space.
You’ll also want a system that you can take with you whenever you move. If you’re renting because you move often, you can bring your system wherever you land next without having to start your contract over.
We like Frontpoint for renters, but if you want more options, check out our best home security systems for renters article.
What is the best home security camera system?
With Frontpoint, Vivint, and Ring, you can get indoor, outdoor, and video doorbell security cameras. Other companies, like SimpliSafe, also offer some type of camera. We like that several of these brands will professionally monitor your cameras for you. You don’t have to be glued to your phone, looking at the live feed whenever your camera detects motion at home. Instead, the pros will keep an eye out and let you know if there’s a problem.
When you add a security camera to your home security system, it gives you a peek into what’s going on at home. If something triggers your alarm, you can check your cameras to see what set it off. Day to day, cameras let you pop in to say hi to the kids after school or check that your packages are still on the porch.
If you want a video surveillance system without a home security system, we’ve got lots of recommendations in our best home security camera systems post.
What do I do if my house is broken into?
Security systems deter break-ins, but they don’t always prevent them. If you’ve experienced a break-in, you should file a police report, create records of what was damaged or lost, contact your insurance, and fix the damage. Find out more in our article about what to do if your house is broken into.