Home Security Buying Guide

Dashia Starr
Updated Oct 7, 2020
8 min read
Picking the right home security system to help watch over your home 24/7 is the key to feeling safe and secure whether you’re at home or work. We’ve compiled a security system buying guide with all of the best information, tips and questions to help guide you to the right security systems to protect your home and family.

Understanding the Different Types of Home Security Systems

  • Landline home security systems: Home security monitoring with a landline relies on a wired phone connection and radio frequency to send alerts when sensors are triggered. If phone lines are down or there’s a power outage, these home security systems depend on a backup battery to continue monitoring your home. Landline security systems often require professional installation to connect to your phone line. But in the Digital Age, these are growing a lot less popular due to wireless systems offering easier installation, regular security updates and more additional features to give you more control of your equipment.
  • Wireless home security systems: Wireless security systems use cellular signals to alert you of triggered sensors. The security equipment is easy to install without a professional technician or drilling. Most equipment comes pre-programmed and ready to use when it arrives at your home. Wireless home security systems still offer professional home security monitoring and instant alerts. If you choose a wireless security package, consider your area’s cellular signal and ask the provider about options of your area has spotty cellular signals that may impact your equipment working properly.

Reading the Fine Print of Home Security System Contracts

Before buying a home security system read the fine print. Some security providers require a binding contract for a number of years for the lowest pricing or discounts. There are a few points to keep in mind when reviewing your home security provider’s contract:

  • Some providers may charge you a termination fee costing hundreds of dollars if you break your contract early - some cost more than $700.
  • Contracts may include installation and equipment fees. If you’re not satisfied with the equipment, you may not get a refund.
  • Understand what your provider will and won’t cover If you experience a burglary or damages with your home security system installed. Some offer a money-back guarantee for burglaries, while others state in their contract that they will not be held liable.
  • Your home security provider may allow you to rent or lease the equipment instead of owning it regardless of how long your contract is. And if it’s not working properly after returning it, you may incur a fee.

If you don’t understand or have questions regarding your contract, reach out to your security provider before signing. After all, it’s a legally binding and long-term investment to help protect your home.

Home Security Installation

DIY installation

  • A DIY installation home security system requires you to set up your equipment yourself. A DIY home security system typically doesn’t require drilling or wiring and are easy to set up with removable adhesive or plugs into your standard wall outlet and completing the setup on your smartphone or Internet. With DIY installation, you’ll also be more able to pack up the system and reinstall it in your new home without needing a professional technician.

Professional installation

  • Some home security systems require professional installation to set up your home’s security equipment correctly. As an advantage, this means you’ll save time and headaches of handling wiring and drilling, however, you’ll want to factor in the cost of professional installation when purchasing the home security system and equipment – as some cost over $200, but there may be a discounted rate depending on the security equipment or package purchased.

Expectations for Home Security System Customer Service

To learn more about home security system providers, consider giving them a quick phone call to get all of your questions answered. Purchasing a home security system is a long-term investment so don’t just rely on their website and reviews to protect your home. Here are a few questions to ask about any home security system. By the end of the call, you should have a better understanding of the security provider, their offerings and how they help keep your home safe.

  • What security measures does your company take to help protect my home?
  • How much does the security equipment cost? Is there a warranty?
  • What customer service or tech support is available?
  • How is your home security system installed?
  • How does your equipment work in the event of a power outage?
  • Can I add more equipment to my home security system over time?
  • Do I have to sign a contract for equipment or professional monitoring?

What to Look for in a Home Security System

  • Professional Monitoring

    Professional monitoring provides you with around-the-clock surveillance as monitoring specialists are there to assist in the event your alarm is triggered. As soon as your monitoring station receives an alert from your home security system, they’ll investigate the situation including contacting emergency responders and notifying you. If you choose not to have professional monitoring services and opt to self-monitor, you should be able to receive notifications if your alarm or a sensor is triggered. You’ll be responsible for notifications and alerting the authorities if necessary.

  • Mobile App

    The best home security system mobile apps make it easy for you to control your home security system from your smartphone when you’re at work or watching TV at home. Home security provider mobile apps allow you to instantly be notified when your security system’s sensors and signals are triggered. If your security camera detects motion, you’ll automatically receive a notification and you’ll be able to see live footage using the app without ever peeking outside.

  • Usability

    Your home security system is designed to help protect your home, making it easy for you to use without worry. .In the event of an emergency, you should instantly know where the ‘Panic’ button is or how to arm your security system. Your home security system should make it easy to understand what each sound or alert means. The system should also automatically alert you if there’s a power outage, batteries are low or there’s a technical issue with equipment.

  • Home Automation

    Look for a home security system with smart home devices and or capability. Some home security systems connect to voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for voice control. Connecting these devices allows you to create automated routines that can save you time and money. You can create schedules to turn the lights on and off to trick lurkers, or even automatically turn off the lights when you leave for work at 8 A.M. to save on your energy bill.

  • Expandibility

    After installing your new security system or moving into a new home, you may need more equipment to help protect your home. Your security provider can offer additional sensors, security cameras and other security equipment. Before buying a home security system learn about how you may be able to add more equipment to your existing system.

  • Design

    Some home security systems are designed to be small, but powerful. Most homeowners enjoy a stylish home security system to blend into the home’s design without bulky wires and systems. Some systems offer touchscreen tablet-style control panels or smaller base stations to place in the kitchen or bedroom to be simple, stylish and less noticeable.

Shopping for the Best Home Security System Equipment

All home security systems come with the basics including a control panel or base station to manage all equipment and a ‘Panic’ button in the event of danger not detected by sensors. Each security system provider offers different equipment and packages to meet your specific needs. Here are some devices you’ll generally find with most home security providers:


  • Glass-break sensors – Many home security system providers offer glass-break sensors to help protect your home. Glass-break sensors are used to detect any glass cracking or shattering within a certain range including windows and front door glass. The sensors use a microphone to listen for the unique sound of glass breaking and sound a loud high-decibel alarm.
  • Door and window sensors – Most home security systems include door and window sensors to instantly alert you when someone enters your home. Door and window sensors come in two pieces – one side is a reed switch and the other is a magnet to create a closed circuit. If the two ends are more than two inches apart if a window or door is open an alarm will sound to alert you.
  • Security cameraSecurity cameras are your home security system’s extra set of eyes to watch over your home. They’re placed indoors and outdoors and are designed with motion and sound sensors to record motion detected activity. Today’s security cameras automatically send a mobile alert for you to see your camera’s live footage using your smartphone. Some cameras include two-way audio for you to speak to your home’s guests when you’re away or scare off burglars by the unexpected sound of your voice.
  • Video doorbellVideo doorbells are made to show you who’s at your door without leaving your couch to answer it. When your video doorbell detects motion or sound, it will automatically send a push notification to alert you that someone’s at your door and a live view from the doorbell’s camera. Some video doorbells allow you to send a pre-recorded message telling guests your unavailable and many include two-way audio to speak to guests using your smartphone.
  • Motion detectorsMotion detectors are designed to detect motion in your home. Combined with your control panel, these two devices help to provide intrusion detection for your home. If you plan to install your own security system, you’ll need to know the area that one motion detector can cover. You’ll also need to be aware of how the sensor needs to be placed, whether that’s in the corner of a room or set on a level surface in a room.
  • Control panel – The control panel is the brain of your security system. It relays information as its connected to your motion sensors, door/window sensors, home environmental monitoring devices, and smart home devices. With most control panels today, you’ll find that you can easily arm and disarm your security system, speak with a monitoring specialist through two-way communication, control any smart devices, and more.
  • Smoke detector – As a home environmental monitoring device, having a smoke detector is essential. Look for smoke detectors that have photoelectric sensors designed for early fire detection. You may be able to purchase one as part of a security system package or as a standalone device.
  • Carbon monoxide detector – As another home environmental monitoring device, carbon monoxide detectors will help to protect you and your family by alerting you in the event of dangerous CO levels in your home. Like smoke detectors, you may be able to purchase a carbon monoxide detector as part of a package or as a standalone device.
  • Smart thermostat – If you want to be able to easily control and automate your home’s climate, having a smart thermostat is a great option. Many home security providers allow you to purchase a smart thermostat as part of a higher-tier package, but you’ll likely pay more. One benefit you might be able to have is to save on your monthly energy bill.
    Smart door lock- Normally forget to lock one of your doors before leaving home? Having a smart door lock allows you to check and lock or unlock your door no matter your location. As with a smart thermostat, you’ll likely have to pay a little more for this device and its features.
  • Best overall DIY security system

    SimpliSafe Home Security

    Our rating
    Starting at

    Our take on SimpliSafe Home Security:

    SimpliSafe Home Security is our top pick for inexpensive monitoring, durable equipment, and reliable services that simplify home security. You’ll have all the right devices and features to give you peace of mind — even when the unexpected happens.



    • Inexpensive professional monitoring
    • Wireless equipment
    • Cellular monitoring


    • Mobile alerts not available in the basic monitoring plan
    • No selection of smart home devices
    • Smart home capabilities not available in the basic monitoring plan
    Research SimpliSafe

    SimpliSafe Home Security: Our Pick for DIY Installation

    For those seeking a DIY solution, we’d recommend SimpliSafe for its easy installation. The SimpliSafe Base Station can be set on a level surface, and the keypad and sensors can be adhered to level surfaces. Another benefit you’ll find with SimpliSafe is that you can choose between self and professional monitoring. SimpliSafe profesional monitoring starts at $19/mo., while self-monitoring is free. SimpliSafe’s least expensive package starts at $229.96, and they range upward from there.


  • Best home security for industry experience

    ADT Home Security

    Our rating
    Starting at

    Our Take on ADT Home Security

    ADT Home Security is a well-known name in the home security industry. It offers traditional security that requires professional installation and monitoring at a steep price.


    • 6-month money-back guarantee
    • $500 theft protection guarantee
    • High-quality equipment


    • Must pay for an extended warranty
    • Lengthy contracts
    • More expensive than competitors
    Research ADT

    ADT Home Security: Our Pick for Professional Installation and Monitoring

    If you’re in the market for a professionally installed and monitored security system, we’d recommend ADT. With over 6 million people trusting ADT’s home security service and the provider’s 6-month money-back guarantee, the provider aims to please by making sure you’re happy with their system and service. You can choose from four packages: Protection Plus, Smart Protection, Video Lite and Complete. The cost ADT equipment is $599. ADT monitoring starts at $45.99/mo. and ranges up to $57.99/mo.




  • Best smart home security

    Vivint Home Security

    Our rating
    Starting at

    Our Take on Vivint Home Security

    Vivint is our top choice for smart home security with an extensive line of equipment filled with smart features. The control panel also doubles as a smart hub. The only downside is that Vivint requires a long-term contract if you finance the equipment. Professional monitoring and installation are also required. 


    • Smart Hub to connect and control smart home and security devices
    • Extensive smart features for security equipment including package detection and Smart Deter
    • Wide range of security and smart home equipment


    • Contract required for service and financed equipment.
    • Professional monitoring and installation required
    • Expensive equipment compared to other providers
    Research Vivint

    Vivint Home Security: Our Pick for Proprietary Equipment

    If uniqueness is what you’re looking for in a security system, we’d recommend Vivint. Not only will you get proprietary equipment, but you’ll also have your security system professionally installed and monitored. One factor to take note of with Vivint, however, is that the equipment is pricey. You’ll have to spend at least $599 in equipment to use the provider’s service. Vivint monitoring ranges from $38.99/mo. – $39.99/mo., and it’s based on the devices you choose for your package.




Home Security System FAQs

Home Security Writer

Dashia Starr

Dashia researches and writes on all things home automation and security. She focuses on the latest news, products, and providers to share only the best with you.

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