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There’s a lot at stake when it comes to protecting your home, and we want you to feel confident that you chose the right home security provider. Our expert reviewers compared both DIY and professionally installed home security companies to help you identify the best one for your situation.
The best DIY home security providers
The best professionally installed home security providers
- Xfinity Home
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How to choose a home security system
When deciding on a home security system, think about whether you want a professionally installed or DIY system. DIY systems are often more affordable and allow for further customization. But they require more technical know-how and troubleshooting skills. Professionally installed systems, on the other hand, offer a wider range of features and services but at a higher price tag. They usually require you to commit to a long-term contract as well.
Another factor to consider when shopping for a dependable home security system is its basic components. The most common ones include door and window sensors, motion detectors, and cameras. Consider adding extra components like glass break sensors and smoke detectors for added protection.
When it comes to cameras, you'll need to decide between wired and wireless options. Wired cameras are more reliable, but they can be hard to install, and many find them to be less aesthetically pleasing. In contrast, wireless cameras are more flexible when it comes to placement and installation. However, they can be subject to vulnerabilities and rely on a strong Wi-Fi signal.
You’ll also want to explore ample monitoring options, including self-monitoring through a smartphone app, professional monitoring, or a combination of both. Consider other costs like equipment, installation, and ongoing monitoring fees. When it comes to smart home integration, find a system that can pair with your smart home devices for a more personalized experience.
How much a home security system costs
A home security system's cost varies depending on factors like how much equipment you need, equipment types, monitoring options, installation choices, and extra features. The main costs are the equipment cost and the monthly monitoring fee.
For DIY companies, equipment costs can range anywhere from $100 (basic packages) for small homes to mid-to-upper hundreds for larger homes with more extensive systems. With most DIY systems, you can self-monitor for free or opt for professional monitoring, which usually sits in the $20–$30 range.
For professionally installed systems, equipment generally starts at around $700 and skyrockets well into the thousands. You’ll typically be locked into a contract, and you can’t self-monitor. Professional monitoring fees range from $30 to $60 or more per month.
How to save money on home security
Whether you opt for a DIY or professionally installed system, it's possible to have robust home security without breaking the bank.
Start by customizing your system to include only necessary components like door and window sensors, a central control panel, and outdoor cameras. This eliminates the cost of unnecessary add-ons. Save more money by shopping around for the best prices on each component. Search for discounts, bundles, and deals—which are common, especially amongst DIY home security companies.
Finally, consider whether you need a professionally monitored system or if a DIY, self-monitored system through a smartphone app will suffice. If you choose a professionally monitored one, look for an affordable monitoring service that fits your needs. Don't forget to double-check for contract obligations!
Questions to ask home security companies
Before committing to a provider, ask the right questions to make an informed decision:
- Do you have tiered monitoring plans? How do they work?
- What are your contract terms and cancelation policies?
- What is your exchange policy for devices?
- Are my equipment and services transferable if I move?
- Does your service qualify for discounts on homeowner's insurance?
- Who owns my data?
- Does you share data or video footage without my consent?
- What is the warranty on my equipment?
- What is the typical response time for emergency services?
- How can I reach customer support if needed?
- What is your installation process like?
Understanding the company's policies will help you pick the right provider for your home security needs.
Browse our home security resources
Read these helpful articles to become an expert on home security, and get all the info you need to choose the right home security provider for your needs.
How we rank home security companies
We’re committed to untarnished editorial integrity, so we want to be transparent about what we do, how we make money, and why we evaluate home security brands the way we do.
First, we seek out home security experts with a proven track record writing about and reviewing home security to write reviews. Then we send them actual home security equipment to test in their own homes in a real-world setting. Using their first-hand experience and findings, we then run each review through an objective star-rating formula to ensure each brand is rewarded for the good and docked for the not-so-good.
The Switchful home security scoring system
But what does this actually look like, and why should it be important to you?
Well, our rating criteria vets some of the most obvious home security aspects: how much the system costs, the number of devices you’ll get, how easy it is to set up and use, etc.
But we also asked people what’s important to them. We interviewed real users who chose a new home security system in the past 12 months and asked for their insights. What did they like and dislike about buying and installing their system? What stood out to them after using it on a daily basis? Is there anything they wished home security providers did differently?
We saw some common themes and baked them into our rating criteria.
Equipment and customization
When we interviewed customers and read user reviews, we found that most people value functional, comprehensive equipment first and foremost.
But beyond a working camera and a loud alarm, we looked at how customizable each system is, the number of smart home devices it connects with, and whether the brand shows its products online.
To find a brand’s score for this category, we started with a baseline number of available devices (the companies that offer a large number get a high score, while the companies that don’t get a lower one), and then accounted for several other factors, including how many smart home systems it pairs to, whether you can place an order online or if you have to call, and shipping or installation times, to name a few.
Most DIY home security systems are extremely affordable, whereas professionally installed ones are typically a lot more expensive. But we don’t look at value by a brand’s price tag alone.
Did you ever hear the phrase “you get what you pay for”? Well, that doesn’t exactly apply to home security. With one company, you might pay thousands of dollars and feel a little disappointed when it’s installed in your home. With another, you might pay next to nothing up front and feel that you got an extremely competent system.
To bridge this massive divide, we looked at upfront, monthly, and long-term costs, and then filled in the gaps to provide some context. We rewarded brands that offer affordable professional monitoring (and free self-monitoring), and we didn’t mind if a high price could be attributed to high-quality, proprietary equipment. On the other hand, we docked companies if they required long contracts or had a lot of hidden fees.
Ease of use
The home security market is typically broken down into two categories: DIY installation and professional installation. So, it stands to reason that we’d look at how easy the installation process is. For the systems our reviewers installed themselves, we evaluated how easy it was to set up, any hiccups they ran into along the way, and whether they had to resort to third-party tutorials. For the systems we had installed, we documented how long it took a professional to do it, any faulty devices we received, and any major troubleshooting issues.
Once installed, we also looked at how simple the system was to use. The companies with a high score typically had seamless smart-home integration, an intuitive app and control panel, and easily customizable rules and preferences. After all, if you trust a home security system enough to protect your home, you should trust yourself to be able to use it.
Getting your home security system up and running is only one part of the equation, so we evaluated each brand’s professional monitoring, too. For example, some home security companies offer tiered plans from which to choose, or an option to self-monitor. We also looked at their processes in the event of a real or false alarm.
To properly rate each home security provider’s professional monitoring, we researched typical emergency response times, the number of monitoring centers, and how simple it is to cancel false alarms, to name a few.
Most know the pains of a brutal customer support experience, and for home security users, positive customer service is key for troubleshooting. After all, if just one device goes down, your home will have immediate vulnerabilities.
Our reviewers contacted each brand’s customer service on multiple channels and documented hold times, whether they were transferred to multiple representatives, which channel connected them with customer support the fastest, and whether they had their questions answered or issues resolved in a timely manner.
Protecting your private information is paramount for any company. But home security providers face a taller order, as they have open access to your home—including your video footage and recordings.
To rate a home security company’s data privacy practices, we started by looking for data breaches, whether the company shares your information for marketing purposes, and what steps it takes to protect your data. But we also looked at ethical implications, including whether brands give your camera footage to police or media without your consent, any misleading sales or retention tactics, and any unresolved civil lawsuits.
A note on affiliate marketing
Some home security providers pay us a referral fee if you click or call after reading our reviews. We appreciate that affiliate marketing might rub people the wrong way, so we’re committed to making our reviews and rankings completely unbiased.
We don’t tell our home security experts which companies are part of this arrangement, meaning they aren’t swayed or influenced by revenue. Our reviews are driven instead by first-hand experience, rigorous testing, and thorough research, and we won’t recommend any brand over another based on affiliate partnerships. We also won’t hold back criticism—because what’s helpful to you is knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly about any system you’re considering.