How to Choose the Best Home Security System

A man checking the home security cameras on his tablet.

Choosing a home security system is not simple with so many new choices on the market. However, once the choice is made, security equipment is much easier to install then they used to be. A home security company used to bring a technician in to install a standard monitoring service, like a simple smart security camera or a burglar alarm, that had to be wired through the walls of a house.

Then, the monitored system costs a monthly fee. In contrast, today’s systems save purchasers from much of that hassle with home security systems that are wireless, have smart lock features, and are quite simple to install.

The traditional home security companies have had to adapt as newer home automation features and technology hits the market. Abode, Ring, SimpliSafe, and others have made home security accessible for all. It is not just meant for high-end houses. Companies such as ADT are partnering up with tech companies like Samsung to create home hubs that work as a home security provider as well. There are lots of options for a monitored security system in an everchanging marketplace.

Marketplace Changes

The constant technology changes in the marketplace mean that getting a home security wireless system is now cheaper and there are more options to choose from even a few years ago. Having home automation more accessible to the regular homeowner means more people can perform a DIY installation.

The bonus is that many of them are also smart home hubs that have a smart lock, and can control lights, thermostats, and blinds through an app that makes them even more desirable. The fact that many are DIY smart home security installs is an added plus as there is no external company to schedule and have in the home.

The marketplace also has expanded from the basics of home monitoring to expanded use of sensors and components. The basics can be installed to start out and then the homeowner can add more sensors, cameras, and extenders as needed. While all these options are great, deciding which one is best for the household may not be easy. Here are some facts to look at when choosing the best home security system for your circumstances.

Home Security Systems Available

A close look at various home security equipment.

Comparing DIY security system installation to ones that are professionally installed by a technician is a place to start when assessing what fits a household’s needs best. There is no one home security system that is best for all circumstances. Each homeowners’ needs have to be assessed as do the financial implications and what the system needs to do. A wired system versus a DIY wireless home security system each has its pros and cons.

DIY Wireless Home Security Systems

While DIY often sounds daunting, these security systems are packaged for an easy install. There is nothing overly complicated about the setup. The homeowner can even monitor the installed system themselves through an app on their smartphone. The cost for this ranges from free to monthly fees.

There are often options that offer professional monitoring or a free version, so it is self-monitored. Being able to switch back and forth is helpful if self-monitoring isn’t an option such as during vacation or business trips. These DIY systems are great for offering flexibility, easy install along with lower monthly monitoring fees compared to the professional installs.

The cons of these systems are that they are self-install which is not great if the homeowner is not keen on doing it or is unable to. The systems are also not monitored 24/7 if you are going with the self-monitoring. They run the risk of missing a smartphone alert or having a false alarm. It means the system is working but monitoring it is not.

Home Security Systems that are Professionally Installed

Home security systems that are installed by a professional technician have 24/7 monitoring. Alarm monitoring centers have dispatchers that are trained to deal with alarms that have been triggered and work with the homeowner and local authorities to deal with them.

Some of these systems have an app for smartphones that allow remote monitoring and alarm control. The equipment has some cost upfront and an installation fee and then most ask the homeowner to sign a contract that has a monthly monitoring fee. Overall, this system is usually not as cost-effective as a DIY system but it is monitored all the time so there are no gaps in coverage.

Sensors and Components of a Basic Security System

A man caught by the CCTV trying to break into the house.

Home security systems can be remarkably simple or overly complex. A motion detector system is placed around the house, like window senses and door locks, that are usually battery powered. Some may plug into chargers as needed. They can range in size, but none are exceptionally big.

These systems also include a control panel on your smartphone device and keypads and sirens in the more complex home systems. Remember that this is basic. The systems can have more or fewer components as situation warrants. These are the basic parts in order of importance to the system itself.

Base Station

This is the most critical part of the security system. It is the central brain that keeps everything going and linked. It is a hub that pulls all the individual parts together and links to the internet. They often have a siren that is built-in, backup batteries in case of a power failure, and extra components for cellular connectivity if the internet goes out.

Contact sensors

These are the components that are attached to doors and windows, so the homeowner/authorities know if they are open or shut. Notifications can show when they are opened at times they should not be.

Motion sensors

These are good when a room has more than one door or window as these are the sensors that will detect any unusual movement of people. Many are designed to work so pets will not trip them. If you have pets you will spend a lot of time with unnecessary notifications if the system does not have the ability to discern between pets and people.


These are the components that will be used in some systems to arm or disarm the whole system. This component is a keypad where the homeowner puts in a code to shut the system on or off. They can sometimes be used with fobs as well.

Touchscreen control panels

This is a newer way of working with a home security system. It is a small tablet that works like a keypad. It allows the user to arm or disarm the system, put in access codes, and control any other smart home devices that are linked in. As systems become more integrated with home hubs like Good Home and Alexa, a touchscreen can be beneficial over a keypad.

Fobs and tags

These components are similar to a fob that is used for a car. They have arm and disarm abilities, and some have RF tags so all that needs to be done to disarm and arm the system is a quick tap on the keypad or base station.

Range extenders

Many of the base stations only have a range of a couple of hundred feet. This is problematic in bigger houses so range extenders can be used to make sure all sensors are connected no matter where in the home they are. There are also wireless components that are signal repeaters that can also work to extend the range of the base station.

Extra (Add-On) Sensors and Components

A person controlling the house system with a tablet application.

The basics of a home security system usually include all the parts that should be installed for basic home coverage, but there are a number of sensors and components that are available as add-ons. However, extra parts usually mean there is an extra cost to go along with them.

These add-on sensors are for personal safety, fire detection, C02 warnings, and health care. They can all be linked directly into the systems. Extras are always optional but certainly beneficial in certain circumstances such as monitoring health-related falls, etc.

Security cameras

These are add-ons that are helpful. Many systems can integrate security cameras and video doorbells so the homeowner can see and hear what is going on whenever they want. They do not have to be home to do this and can monitor from an app. Many will record footage when the alarm goes off.

Sensors and alarms for the environment

These are items that will make sure homeowners are aware of a fire, water issues, temperature oddities, and CO2 problems. These alarms go above and beyond the regular fire, smoke, and CO2 alarms.


Purchasing/renting extra sirens can be helpful if the home being monitored is large. Multiple sirens can help with alerts.

Broken Glass Sensors

These sensors can monitor for the sound of broken glass should someone break-in.

Garage Door Sensor

These are put on the inside of the garage door and then will go off if the door tilts when it is opening or closing when it shouldn’t be.

Panic buttons and pendants

There are panic buttons to be used when the wearer has a physical emergency. It tells the monitoring station that help is needed.

Contracts for Systems that are Professionally Installed

If a home security system is professionally installed, the company usually requires that a contract be signed that goes from 2-5 years. There are monthly fees, but they are set for the term of that contract. The system is maintained and updated so the homeowner always has the latest software along with their 24 hours a day protection.

So, while professionally installed systems have the pros and cons, what should a homeowner look for to decide on the best DIY home security system?

DIY Home Security Systems

There is a lot of new technology on the market when it comes to DIY home security systems. They are constantly changing and updating as new hardware and software come out. Understanding the security options, essentials, and add-ons along with how easy the system is to set up and use, its ability to detect motion and video quality all play into the decision. Features and functionality have to be assessed to make sure the system is going to offer the homeowner everything they want and more.

DIYers need to assess motion and contact sensors, fobs, keypads, sirens, and apps as well as any add-ons such as panic buttons and cameras with motion detection. There should be questions around smart home systems and whether that will be part of it, and whether safety features integrate well. Ease of use, system interaction, and sensitivity all need to be looked at.

Considerations About DIY Home Security Systems

A person checking the footage of the CCTV on the laptop.

Beyond the hardware and ease of use, homeowners need to assess whether professional monitoring versus self-monitoring is right for them. The reason this is important when deciding how to choose the system is that professional monitoring adds to the overall cost of the system. But the ability to have trained people monitoring your system means there are 24/7 alerts if needed.

In contrast, self-monitoring means there are no fees to add on top of the system itself. Unfortunately, homeowners are not as reliable in catching alerts as the dispatchers that are paid to. There is a middle of the road option for some that have on-demand monitoring so it can be turned on and off as needed. This is a better option than getting tied into a long-term contract if the home is not high-risk.

Extra Costs

When a home security system is purchased, it is usually just the basics for well under $1000. But in reality, when the cost of additional components is added in the price can take a huge jump. The basic system usually has some contact and motion sensors, but if more needs to be added, then the costs go up. Extra sensors can range from $20-50 each and cameras can go over $300. There is nothing wrong with adding in more sensors but keep the extra cost in mind when choosing the best system for the home.

Other Factors the Choice of a Home Security System

A significant factor in choosing a system is what is going to be monitored. Guarding against robbery is usually the main reason but is there a need for sensors that detect fire, C02, sump pump shut off, leaks, floods, or other home problems and safety concerns. Is a pendant needed for fall risks? And what of these extras needs a professional monitor?

Another major factor occurs with smart home integration. Many systems now can connect to a smart home hub. These hubs let the homeowner control light, temperature, and lock all with an app on a smartphone. Integration with smart devices can make a big difference with in-home monitoring. Doors are locked and the alarm system is automatically on. There are lots of benefits to home integration, but not everyone needs it or is comfortable with the complexities of it.

Make sure to also check the area where the home is located and that it does not require a permit for monitoring. This sounds odd but some areas want to have a record of all alarm systems in the area and may charge a fee if there is one. All this can play into the type of home security system and monitoring chosen.

Making the Right Choice

Choosing a home security system has to be right for the individual homeowner. They are not a one size fits all. Choosing between professionally installed versus do-it-yourself is important as it moves beyond the hardware to the software and monitoring. The decision has to be based on the house, the cost, the type of system, add-ons needed, and the intensity of monitoring the system. Many want systems that have all the bells and whistles but other people may simply want a system that is monitored and keeps their home, assets, and health protected.

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