2017 Update: We still stand by these tips on home security for women, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussions on safety for professional women, including the best personal safety apps for women who live alone.
We haven’t talked about home security systems before, and a recent comment thread spurred us to give the topic its own post. While you may find it hard to name many companies beyond ADT (the country’s biggest security company), new technology has opened the market to lots of competitors. Some of those, like SimpliSafe (which a few readers have recommended) even let you install a home security system yourself.
If you’re not interested in a full home security system, one reader pointed out that you can find many home-safety items online. She found security company stickers (pros and cons here), a special light that makes it look like someone’s at home watching TV, and a barking dog alarm. It’s also easy to find online tips for making your home safer, from displaying fake security cameras to using motion sensor lights outside — but if you want to install the real thing, which will not only help keep your home safe but reduce your insurance premiums as well, we’ve got many tips to share today.
Looking at the lengthy list of home security companies can be overwhelming, but we’ve gathered some reviews, ratings, and other information to help you sort out the choices:
Ratings for Home Security Systems
A Secure Life, which specializes in reviewing home and online security resources, ranked the top five home security systems for 2016 as Frontpoint, Protect America, LiveWatch, Link Interactive, and Scout Review. Brands that you’re more likely to have heard of show up lower on the list, like SimpliSafe at#6, ADT at #9, and AT&T Digital Life at #10. (Neither Time Warner nor Xfinity made it into the top 10.) The reviews looked at several factors: customer service and reputation, price, equipment, and technology.
PC Mag compiled a list of the “best smart home security systems” — i.e., devices that allow you to remotely control lights, thermostats, etc. — for 2016. They included (in descending order) the iSmartAlarm Premium Package, SimpliSafe, Vivint Sky, and SkylinkNet Alarm System Starter Kit. (All except Vivint allow DIY installation.) The article shares some information on smart system components and their integration, as well as installation and mobile apps. It also recommends a couple of products that are adequate for small apartments.
As usual, The Sweethome was very thorough in its evaluations, which looked at six systems that allow DIY installation. After research and home testing, its writer named LiveWatch Plug&Protect IQ with Total Home + Video Plan the best overall. SimpliSafe with Interactive plan is the budget pick. The article includes a detailed guide about the review process and research, and provides some general tips. (One is a warning not to buy a home security system from a door-to-door salesperson.) It also reviews Frontpoint, Link Interactive, Protect America (in “The competition” section), and Scout and SwannOne (in “The no-contract competition“). (Remember, these rankings only include companies that don’t require professional installation.)
Options for Home Security Systems
When you browse these ratings, keep in mind that you have a few things to think about when you pick a home security system:
- Are you willing to pay for for monthly monitoring? Such a system will notify you first of unexpected activity and will contact emergency services if you can’t be reached. With a self-monitored system, only you will be notified.
- Do you want the system to be professionally installed? Would you rather do it yourself?
- Are you hoping to include video surveillance, like a doorbell camera?
- How important is it to you to have a smart system — one that allows you to control the alarm system and other home systems from an app on your phone?
- What length of contract is acceptable? These may be as short as three days (SwannOne) or as long as three years (Frontpoint).
In terms of the features available with home security systems, A Secure Life put together some very helpful charts that compare various security companies and plans along different price points. (To see them, just scroll down past the section for their top pick, Frontpoint.) Typical security features include motion detectors, door and window sensors (to detect when they’re opened or broken), glass-breakage sensors, wireless cameras (some with remote controls), home automation features (to control things like lights and locks from an app), and sensors for smoke, heat, and water (e.g., basement flooding).
Home Security Tips for Apartments
- A door jammer can be an inexpensive way to secure your door, whether you live alone, have a roommate who brings people home, or just want to feel safer in general. This Master Lock one is a bestseller on Amazon.
- If you feel exposed by your apartment windows but don’t want to block the light, you can get removable window film for additional privacy.
- This Apartment Therapy post offers a few more options, including emergency all-in-one systems like the Canary, and home cameras. (Kat’s written before about her Foscam cameras.) And just last week they looked into smart-home technology for apartments, including home security features.
Look Into Deductions on Your Home Insurance Bill
Whether you’re setting up something new or augmenting an existing system or plan, don’t forget to call your insurance company. Safewise notes that if you have a home security system, companies will often reduce your premium for renters or homeowners insurance by up to 20%.
Do you have a home security system? (Does it have four legs?) How much safer does it make you feel? Are you happy with the company you chose? Have you had any problems with false alarms? Feel free to share specific recommendations in the comments. Also, check out our self-defense tips for women.
- Safe & Sound: Great Home Security Options for Renters [Apartment Therapy]
- Your Ultimate Home Security Cheat Sheet [Realtor.com]
- Popular Home Security System SimpliSafe Can Be Easily Disabled by Burglars [PC World]
- Comcast Xfinity Home Security System Leaves Home-Owners Unsecured [Slate]
- This Startup’s Home Sensor Could Save America $8 Billion in Insurance Claims [Inc.]