Best Home Security Systems of 2019

We researched the top home security systems. Compare packages to find the best systems for you.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

The Best Home Security Companies of 2019

  • Frontpoint: Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components
  • Vivint Smart Home: Best full-service home security and automation solution
  • Abode: Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees
  • SimpliSafe: Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extras
  • Link Interactive: Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contract
  • ADT Security: Best for experience, dealer network and selection of equipment and services
  • Brinks Home Security: Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option
  • Protect America: Best for inexpensive landline monitoring
  • Xfinity Home: Best for integration with home internet and cable TV
  • Ring Alarm: Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security plan
  • Scout Alarm: Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installation
  • Nest Secure: Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capability

The basic goal of a home security system is to spot potential intruders and scare them away before they can do much damage, or even before they break in to begin with. Security devices can include sensors that detect when doors and windows are opened, additional window sensors that can "hear" if glass is broken, motion detectors (usually activated when residents are absent and adjusted to ignore pets), and cameras that record video clips on a remote server or a local hard drive. Fire alarms, water-leak sensors and smart home devices such as automatic lights can also be part of a home security system. Systems usually are controlled by a central hub and/or a smartphone app, and many rely on the owner's Wi-Fi connection or a wireless communications protocol like Z-Wave. While smaller homes may need only a few sensors, larger homes can require much more extensive installations.

An increasing number of people who are worried about crime in their communities are installing home security systems for protection and peace of mind. Dina Abdelrazik, a senior analyst at the market research and consulting company Parks Associates, estimates that 23% of all U.S. households with broadband internet have a professionally monitored home security system, and an additional 2.5% have a self-monitored system. Both of those numbers are expected to rise slowly but surely in the coming years, she says, due in part to cheaper equipment, greater availability of broadband internet to control the equipment, and the option to install many systems without professional help.

Why go to the expense and hassle of installing a home security system? First, it's clear that they can in fact deter crime. “It could make the intruder leave as soon as they hear the alarm, or at the very least limit the amount of time they’re on the property," says Michael Silva, owner of Silva Consultants, a security consulting and design firm. Research bears this out. A study by the University of North Carolina – Charlotte found that burglars are much less likely to break into homes equipped with security systems, and many will flee if they discover one while committing the crime. Unlike a guard dog, security systems can record a burglar in action and notify the police. Moreover, surveillance cameras have been shown to reduce crime in public places and help catch perpetrators.

A home security system also can help you save money on homeowners insurance. According to Scott Holeman, director of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners insurance companies often provide a 5% to 20% discount on premiums for customers who install a security system. In addition, camera footage can aid in filing a claim. "The more documentation you have, the easier and faster the claims process is going to be," he says. To qualify for a homeowners insurance discount, typically you need a "robust, monitored system," says Doug Huey, co-owner of Executive Security Consultants, which specializes in home security systems. Specifics vary from company to company, so ask your insurance agent for details.

Realize that a home security system won't prevent someone from breaking in if they really want to. Plus, Silva says there's no guarantee when, or even if, the police will respond after a professional monitoring center notifies them of an intruder. Many police departments have more work than they can handle and have become somewhat inured to home security systems, which often generate false alarms.

Still, a properly installed, correctly functioning security system can be well worth the money, both for protection and peace of mind. “The only person who shouldn't have one is someone who can't afford it," Huey says. "We no longer even have to convince most people that they need one."

Installing a home security system is easier than ever, thanks to new wireless technologies and smartphones. As a result, you have an unprecedented number of options for alarm and home automation. As we embarked upon our months-long research into the available systems, we encountered the same questions that you might face: How do these alarm systems work? Which features are most important? What are the relative pros and cons of different types of components and systems? What’s a good price?

U.S. News & World Report applied our unique 360 Review methodology to answer these questions. Learn more about how we evaluated home security systems using the U.S. News 360 Review methodology.

To identify the best home security systems, our research revealed one overarching theme: There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every system has its chief advantages and its trade-offs regarding design, cost and level of service. Yet, there are key differences between one security system and another, and those distinctions guide our recommendations for a system that could best meet your needs and budget.

Once you decide what type of system you need and determine your budget, your next task is to choose between the traditional alarm companies offering professional installation and the new breed of DIY security solutions. You might also consider how security cameras, including wireless cameras and doorbell cameras, integrate into the security system. Companies like ADT that sell professionally installed systems will send someone to your home to help you answer these questions, and most DIY home security companies will provide consultations over the phone.

Popular Home Security Companies

Pro-Installed vs. DIYs


Pro-Installed

DIY
Pros Pros
  • Security assessment included
  • No installation fee
  • Installer can provide advice and usage instructions on-site
  • Most equipment is wireless
  • Can be better for more complex installations
  • Homeowners can choose self-monitoring
Cons Cons
  • Requires installation fee
  • Upfront equipment cost is often higher
  • Requires scheduling time with a technician
  • Equipment can be challenging to install
  • Leased equipment often requires a contract
  • Problems can be more difficult to diagnose and fix.

With a professionally installed system like Vivint or ADT, someone from the company will explain your options and recommend the type and quantity of equipment that's best for your circumstances. In addition, the installer can adjust your equipment package if necessary after coming to your house. This eliminates guesswork and will save you hours or days of labor, depending on the size of your home, the complexity of the system and your technical acumen. But a professionally installed system often will lock you into an expensive long-term contract, and installation itself can cost $100 or more.

By contrast, installing a DIY system like Frontpoint or Abode requires only your time and possibly an activation fee, and most DIY companies don't require long-term contracts unless you want professional monitoring. The downside is that you'll have to study the available equipment, determine what to buy, install each device properly and ensure that everything works correctly. Many DIY companies make all of this relatively painless, offering equipment that's designed to work together seamlessly, step-by-step installation instructions and phone support if you have a problem. Nevertheless, getting a robust DIY system up and running may require significant time and effort.

Silva says DIY equipment has gotten much better in recent years and often compares favorably to equipment that comes with a professionally installed system. However, he believes a DIY system might not be sufficient for more complex security requirements. "If your needs are very simple, like a small condo with a few doors and windows, DIY can be fine," he says. "If you have specialized needs, you probably would be better served by a professional company.”

For the DIY buyer who wants to save money by taking a hands-on approach, the specific home security system selection requires some planning. You should do a walk-through of your home to assess the security risks. “You have to put yourself in the mindset of trying to break into your house,” says Roberts from Scout Alarm. “What are the possible entry points? Certainly the first floor and any living floor. And to the extent that there's a basement below-ground floor that has doors that are accessible, you want to cover those as well.”

How many door/window sensors, motion detectors, and indoor and outdoor cameras do you need? What about add-in devices like an external siren, smoke alarms or glass-break sensors? With answers to these questions, you can order components a la carte instead of buying a prepackaged kit that might not meet your needs.

With your list of desired components in hand, you can get an exact quote for the specific equipment package you have in mind, and then compare different systems on an apples-to-apples basis. You'll also learn if a specific company doesn’t offer all of your desired devices. Many of the best alarm company websites offer live web chat to help you get answers and specific prices.

For years, consumers had a single option for home security: hire a dedicated alarm company to run wires through your home and install a keypad-based control panel near the door. Traditional home security companies, which have mostly shifted to wireless systems, continue to offer expertise and technical capabilities to consumers who want a full-service solution. These companies have also expanded to offer a wide range of home-automation products, like smart locks and app-controlled lighting and thermostats. If you prefer to work with an experienced installer – and are willing to commit to a multiyear contract for monitoring – then take a look at our guide to the Best Professionally Installed Home Security Systems.

Top Pro Installed systems

Best full-service home security and automation solution Highlights
Starts at $29.99 Price
View Plans »
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and services Highlights
Starts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connection Price
View Plans »
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option Highlights
Starts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoring Price
View Plans »
Best for integration with home internet and cable TV Highlights
Starts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording service Price
View Plans »

System

Highlights

Price

Learn more

Best full-service home security and automation solutionStarts at $29.99View Plans »
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and servicesStarts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connectionView Plans »
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY optionStarts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoringView Plans »
Best for integration with home internet and cable TVStarts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording serviceView Plans »

Vivint Smart Home

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$599
Monthly Fees
$29.99 and up
Plan Lock
60-month financing contract
more details

Vivint Smart Home: Best full-service home security and automation solution

Vivint Home Security Pros and Cons: Vivint is a complete solution. The company has an extensive list of equipment, plus it helps you outfit an entire smart home by offering devices like cameras, locks, and thermostats that are integrated and managed via the control panel or your smartphone app. Vivint also offers a free, in-home consultation to help design your security system.

Vivint Home Security Costs

Base Price: You’ll pay $599 for the Vivint Starter Kit that includes a touch-screen Vivint Smart Hub, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, one water sensor and $100 toward additional sensors.

Monthly Fees: Vivint's Smart Security Service plan costs $29.99 per month. The company charges $39.99 plus $5 per camera per month for its Smart Home plan, which provides 24/7 professional monitoring of home security components. That’s essentially identical to what its main competitors charge. However, the cost of its control panel, sensors and other equipment are slightly higher.

Other Details About Vivint Home Security

Plan Lock-in: Vivint uniquely separates and itemizes the cost of the gear from the monitoring service. If you pay for the equipment upfront, you can become a month-to-month customer. Otherwise, you have to agree to a 60-month contract that includes monitoring and optional zero-percent equipment financing. After you pay off the financing for the equipment, you can go to a month-to-month service subscription. Although Vivint’s monthly fees might be higher than some other companies’, it could be worth it. “The difference between $15 and $50 a month is not going to make a difference in the average person's life,” says Jeffrey Zwirn, president of IDS Research and Development, which has conducted security surveys of thousands of residential, commercial and industrial properties. “What's going to make a difference is if, for example, the fire alarm gets you up in time.”

Equipment: Vivint offers a good selection of cameras, including doorbell cameras, indoor cameras, and cameras that are built into motion detectors. All Vivint equipment is fully warranted for the first 120 days after installation. After 120 days, there is a charge for service calls, after which the equipment is warranted for 30 days.

Return Policy: You can return the system for a full refund within three days. Individual product components can be returned within 30 days after installation.

ADT Security

360 Overall Rating

3.8 out of 5

Base Price
Cost bundled with contract
Monthly Fees
$28.99 and up
Plan Lock
36-month contract
more details

ADT Security: Best for experience, dealer network and selection of equipment and services

ADT Home Security Pros and Cons: ADT has a long history of providing home alarm systems and has a large nationwide network of authorized dealers, as well as the nation’s largest network of monitoring centers. ADT’s scale is helpful for consumers because the company has local representatives who can visit your home to help you determine the setup that’s best for your security needs.

But remember that bigger isn’t always better. “A bigger alarm company doesn't necessarily make for better monitoring services, better equipment, or better customer service,” says Jordan Frankel, founder of Global Security Experts, which conducts home security inspections and invents products to prevent home invasions. However, if you feel more confident about getting security from the company with the most customers and a larger network of redundant monitoring centers, then consider ADT.

ADT Home Security Costs

Base price: No upfront cost for equipment. Most dealers charge a $99 installation fee, although it could be higher if you choose a system with numerous sensors and cameras. ADT, like Vivint, will send an adviser to your home to help create a security plan with the appropriate number of sensors and cameras. They both offer state-of-the-art equipment and comparably priced monitoring plans.

It’s important to understand the difference between working directly with ADT at the corporate level versus having one of its local authorized dealers manage the installation. Home security experts we interviewed believe that some ADT dealers don’t necessarily provide value or follow the company’s guidelines while adding to the cost. If you contact ADT via its website to initiate the sales process, you'll be working with the corporate entity.

Monthly fees: Approximately between $30 and $60 a month, depending on the equipment package, which is customized for every home. Prices could vary based on purchases made through ADT Corporate versus authorized dealers.

Other Details About ADT Home Security

Plan Lock-in: 36-month contract.

Equipment Warranty: Like many aspects of ADT pricing, the company’s warranty policy is not entirely clear, and is based on terms established at the time of installation. Many dealers cover repairs (including service visits) for about 90 days. After that period, service visits usually carry a cost. ADT offers an Extended Limited Warranty/Quality Service Plan (QSP) for $7 a month. The plan covers “repair or replacement due to ordinary wear and tear or malfunction, excluding batteries.”

Return Policy: You can cancel in the first six months and receive a refund for installation and monitoring fees. Returning the system does not necessarily reimburse all your costs.

Brinks Home Security

360 Overall Rating

3.7 out of 5

Base Price
$499 and up
Monthly Fees
$29 and up
Plan Lock
36-month contract
more details

Brinks Home Security: Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option

Brinks Home Security Pros and Cons: With Brinks, you’ll get equipment that costs less than that offered by some other companies, along with a reputable home security firm that has a well-established network of monitoring centers.

A major distinction between Brinks and the other companies is that Brinks doesn’t necessarily send an adviser to your home. This can be arranged via a local authorized dealer, but most likely the company will have a phone consultation with you to determine which equipment you need and whether you can install it yourself. According to Zwirn, this isn’t the best approach. “The most important thing is making sure the system is adequate in the context of the environment,” he says. “Trying to do that on the phone is inferior to somebody that comes out and surveys the site. They ask the customers what they want rather than telling them based on a security survey and a methodology. The customer then makes a decision that is blind.”

But if you feel comfortable with doing the research and planning on your own, and then having a technician arrive at your home for the first time to install the equipment, then Brinks could be the right choice for you.

Brinks Home Security Costs

Base Price: When you sign up for the $29 a month Brinks Home Complete plan, you’ll pay $499 for a starter kit that includes one control panel, three door/window sensors and one motion detector. If you choose the $599 Brinks Home Complete With Video plan for $39 a month, Brinks adds an indoor camera and a video doorbell. Both plans include professional monitoring. Brinks says that its authorized dealers might charge different prices for other packages.

Brinks uses equipment from Alarm.com, a major supplier to several companies, rather than its own proprietary equipment. However, some security experts say there are only minor distinctions between custom gear such as that manufactured by Vivint and the third-party equipment that Brinks uses. “Alarm equipment is alarm equipment,” says Lee Walters, a former FBI security specialist. “It’s not like [Brinks’] equipment is any better or worse.”

Monthly Fees: Brinks Home Complete costs $29 a month. It includes smartphone control, LiveVoice Assist (two-way communications with the monitoring center), home automation features, and protection against an intruder entering your home and quickly destroying or disabling the control panel. With the Brinks Home Complete With Video plan, for $39 per month, you add an indoor camera and storage of up to 1,000 clips per month from multiple cameras.

Other Details About Brinks Home Security

Plan Lock-in: Three years.

Equipment Warranty: Two years.

Return Policy: 30 days.

Many people are familiar with setting up a broadband router and connecting computers, phones and other devices to a home Wi-Fi network. It can be an easy task for tech-savvy consumers to take it one step further by adding entry sensors, motion detectors and webcams. Do-it-yourself alarm companies aid the process by providing clear instructions, online tutorials and phone-based customer support. DIY Home Security Systems typically are user-friendly and often include high-quality equipment, and most of them don't lock you into a long-term contract unless you want professional monitoring. If your system is professionally monitored, you'll get the same response times from police and other emergency services that you would with a professionally installed and monitored system.

However, a DIY home security system isn't for everyone. People who aren't technically inclined or who aren't able to spend a few hours or days installing hardware and setting up wireless connections probably would be better off with a professionally installed system. And remember that if your DIY system isn't professionally monitored, you'll have to monitor it yourself via a mobile app and call the authorities if there's a problem, unless you notice the alert immediately and call the authorities.

Top DIY Home Security Systems

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components Highlights
Starts at $44.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoring Price
View Prices »
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees Highlights
Starts at $7/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $20/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
See Options on Amazon »
Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extras Highlights
Starts at $14.99/mo for optional standard cellular monitoring and goes up to $24.99/mo for interactive monitoring Price
See Options on Amazon »
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contract Highlights
Starts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoring Price
View Plans »
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option Highlights
Starts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoring Price
View Plans »
Best for inexpensive landline monitoring Highlights
Starts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverage Price
View Plans »
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security plan Highlights
Starts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
View Prices »
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installation Highlights
Starts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoring Price
See Options on Amazon »
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capability Highlights
Starts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks. Price
View Prices »

System

Highlights

Price

Learn more

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality componentsStarts at $44.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoringView Prices »
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly feesStarts at $7/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $20/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring.See Options on Amazon »
Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extrasStarts at $14.99/mo for optional standard cellular monitoring and goes up to $24.99/mo for interactive monitoringSee Options on Amazon »
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contractStarts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoringView Plans »
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY optionStarts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoringView Plans »
Best for inexpensive landline monitoringStarts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverageView Plans »
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security planStarts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring.View Prices »
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installationStarts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoringSee Options on Amazon »
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capabilityStarts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks.View Prices »

Frontpoint

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$99 and up
Monthly Fees
$44.99 and up
Plan Lock
Month-to-month
more details

Frontpoint: Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components

Frontpoint Home Security Pros and Cons: Frontpoint offers high-quality security equipment that’s quick and easy to install by yourself. Its base Safe Home Starter package is competitively priced at $99, considering that it includes one hub and keypad, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, one yard sign, a set of five window decals and one door sticker. Frontpoint offers five different packages with prices as high as $479.90.

Frontpoint’s strength is in its vast selection of devices, like a garage door sensor and app-controlled dimmable light bulb. Those items are available because Frontpoint relies on Alarm.com equipment, the same gear that’s available to independent security providers and used by Brinks Home Security.

Do you want access to the same equipment that pro installers use but with the ability to install it yourself? That’s what Frontpoint provides with a monthly fee that’s similar to the fee professionally installed systems charge. In that sense, Frontpoint is more similar to ADT and Brinks Home Security than DIY solutions like Abode, Nest, Ring and Scout. Frontpoint is strictly a DIY solution, whereas Brinks offers a choice of DIY or professional installation.

Frontpoint Home Security Costs

Base price: $99 for one hub and keypad, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, one yard sign, a set of five window decals and one door sticker.

Monthly fees: All new Frontpoint customers go month to month with no contract. You’ll pay $44.99 a month for the Interactive plan costs, or step up to Frontline’s Ultimate plan to add video for $49.99 a month.

Other Details About Frontpoint Home Security

Plan lock-in: Month-to-month.

Equipment warranty: Three years.

Return policy: 30 days for a full refund.

Abode

360 Overall Rating

4 out of 5

Base Price
$229 and up
Monthly Fees
$7 and up
Plan Lock
No
more details

Abode: Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees

Adobe Home Security Pros and Cons: Abode checks all the boxes for what experts say is essential in a DIY home alarm system. It offers the vital security components, and the system is easy to install. The company also offers one of the best no-cost, full-featured security systems that can be self-monitored, giving you the option of avoiding any recurring monthly fee.

Abode Home Security Costs

Base price: The Essentials Starter Kit - Basic sells for $189 when bundled with the free Basic plan. The kit includes one Gateway hub device, one Mini door/window sensor, one motion sensor one key fob and one Secured By Abode sticker.

Abode designed its system as an open platform for home automation. As such, it supports a long list of third-party integrated devices, such as locks, thermostats and lights, via its “Works with Abode” program. (The company does not yet offer a compatible video doorbell.) Abode’s alarm and notification features are highly configurable so you can customize them to suit your needs.

Monthly fees: You’ll pay $17 a month for Abode’s Secure Plan, which includes professional monitoring, cellular backup and 90 days of media storage. (It’s $200 if you pay upfront for a year.) Abode also offers a Connect plan with self-monitoring, cellular backup, 14 days of timeline and media storage and phone and email support for $7 a month or $80 a year. You can avoid fees by self-monitoring without cellular backup with Abode’s free Basic plan.

Other Details About Abode Home Security

Plan lock-in: No.

Equipment warranty: One year.

Return policy: Full refund if you return the equipment within 30 days.

SimpliSafe

360 Overall Rating

3.9 out of 5

Base Price
$229 and up
Monthly Fees
$14.99 and up
Plan Lock
No
more details

SimpliSafe: Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extras

SimpliSafe Home Security Pros and Cons: SimpliSafe’s list of branded sensors and security cameras is more extensive than what most of its competitors offer. Its pricing is also competitive. One important distinction with SimpliSafe is that it uses a “walled garden” approach; the company makes all its own equipment to ensure that the devices work as a seamless, integrated system.

The drawback to that approach is that SimpliSafe is not compatible with Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols, the low-power radio communications that create a local network to connect various home automation devices. With SimpliSafe, you don’t have access to third-party components like smart door locks from Yale and Kwikset, controllable light bulbs from GE and Hue, or a garage door opener from Linear. SimpliSafe is compatible with a few devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and August Smart Lock. In short, the company’s focus is on security rather than home automation.

SimpliSafe Home Security Costs

Base price: The $229 package called The Foundation includes one base station, one wireless keypad, one entry sensor and one motion sensor. The company offers five different packages ranging from the Foundation package to a $489 package called The Haven, which includes one base station, one keypad, one key fob, four entry sensors, two motion sensors, one siren, one panic button, one freeze sensor, one water sensor and one smoke detector. Packages can also be customized.

Monthly fees: If you’re looking to self-monitor to avoid paying a monthly fee, SimpliSafe is not the best choice. You’ll pay $14.99 for the Standard plan, which includes 24/7 professional alarm and environmental monitoring, a cellular connection and live feeds for up to 10 cameras, but no remote features. Otherwise, it’s $24.99 a month for SimpliSafe’s Interactive plan that includes 24/7 professional alarm and environmental monitoring, a cellular connection, remote arming and disarming through the mobile app, app alerts, secret alerts, video alarm verification, recordings from up to 10 cameras and smart home integration.

Other Details About SimpliSafe Home Security

Plan lock-in: No, but a plan is required, and the system can’t be easily switched to other monitoring companies.

Equipment warranty: Three years.

Return policy: 60 days for a full refund of equipment but not necessarily the service fees.

Cameras are increasingly popular in home security systems. In our August 2018 survey of more than 600 American consumers, we asked which features were most important to them if they were purchasing a home security system. The top answer was an outdoor camera, with 58.3% of respondents wanting a way to visually monitor their outdoor property from a distance.

Some research shows that cameras can be effective. The Urban Institute reported that public surveillance cameras can reduce crime and aid prosecutions in areas where the cameras are concentrated and monitored sufficiently. Another study by the Campbell Collaboration, an international research network, determined that surveillance cameras had a "modest impact" on crime in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and Sweden, and that the effect was greater in areas where there were more cameras.

But Silva warns that cameras aren't a panacea. “They're useful if you understand what their purpose is – to tell you a story after something has happened," he says. However, the images might not be of sufficient quality to identify the perpetrator, and even if they are, there's no guarantee that resource-strapped police departments will follow up. “They’re not going to do a CSI on your footage," he says. "It’s not a magic bullet." Silva says there is value in video doorbells, which are relatively inexpensive and allow you to see who’s at the door without opening it.

Privacy is another consideration when installing cameras, although this issue can be overblown. While it's technically possible for a home security company to view camera footage without the customer's permission, Huey notes that in practice this would be extremely bad for business if the company got caught, and he has never heard of it happening. And although a third party could hack into your home Wi-Fi system to which your cameras are connected, the hacker probably wouldn’t be anywhere nearby and thus wouldn't pose an actual security threat. However, they would be able to monitor your activities, which presents obvious concerns about privacy and safety. To avoid hacks, use strong passwords consisting of long strings of random uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols, preferably created by a password generator like 1Password. Don't reuse passwords that you've used previously. Finally, enable two-factor authentication so that you get a text or email alert when someone tries to log into one of your accounts.

All in all, cameras are nice to have but aren't necessary for a robust security system. “If someone can afford anything they want, there’s no reason not to put in cameras," Huey says. "But I’ve found that people think they’re going to use them all the time, and a month after they’re installed, they’re not looking at them anymore.”

Executives from home security companies told us that they commonly include multiple cameras when they install an alarm system. Many camera units are multifaceted, including such components as motion-triggered lights, two-way audio, sirens and even the ability to detect human faces. Given these capabilities and the strong demand for cameras, including video doorbells, we created a guide to the Best Home Security Systems with Cameras.

Top Home Security Systems with Cameras

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components Highlights
Starts at $44.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoring Price
View Prices »
Best full-service home security and automation solution Highlights
Starts at $29.99 Price
View Plans »
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees Highlights
Starts at $7/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $20/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
See Options on Amazon »
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contract Highlights
Starts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoring Price
View Plans »
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and services Highlights
Starts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connection Price
View Plans »
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option Highlights
Starts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoring Price
View Plans »
Best for inexpensive landline monitoring Highlights
Starts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverage Price
View Plans »
Best for integration with home internet and cable TV Highlights
Starts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording service Price
View Plans »
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security plan Highlights
Starts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
View Prices »
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installation Highlights
Starts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoring Price
See Options on Amazon »
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capability Highlights
Starts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks. Price
View Prices »

System

Highlights

Price

Learn more

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality componentsStarts at $44.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoringView Prices »
Best full-service home security and automation solutionStarts at $29.99View Plans »
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly feesStarts at $7/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $20/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring.See Options on Amazon »
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contractStarts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoringView Plans »
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and servicesStarts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connectionView Plans »
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY optionStarts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoringView Plans »
Best for inexpensive landline monitoringStarts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverageView Plans »
Best for integration with home internet and cable TVStarts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording serviceView Plans »
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security planStarts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring.View Prices »
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installationStarts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoringSee Options on Amazon »
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capabilityStarts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks.View Prices »

Frontpoint

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$99 and up
Monthly Fees
$44.99 and up
Plan Lock
Month-to-month
more details

Frontpoint: Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components

Frontpoint has a large selection of competitively priced, high-quality equipment, including cameras.

Frontpoint sells four cameras, including two indoor, one outdoor and a doorbell camera. The $99.99 basic indoor camera features night vision up to 20 feet and two-way audio. The $193.99 premium indoor camera adds a Bluetooth speaker, an echo-cancelling microphone, advanced pan and tilt features, and the ability to initiate an audio call via the mobile app. Frontpoint's $167.50 outdoor camera has double the night vision range of the indoor cameras at up to 40 feet. Finally, the $149.99 doorbell camera provides a live feed day and night, as well as the option to hear and speak to visitors with two-way audio. It also sends alerts if there is activity around the door, even if no one presses the doorbell. All four cameras are Wi-Fi-enabled and motion- and alarm-activated. The indoor and outdoor cameras are sourced from Alarm.com, and SkyBell provides the doorbell camera.

Up to 1,000 video clips of 15 seconds each can be stored for an unlimited amount of time, unlike many other home security companies that only let you store video for 15 or 30 days regardless of whether you've hit your storage limit. All cameras automatically record clips simultaneously when an alarm is triggered.

Cameras are only available with Frontpoint's Ultimate Plan at $49.99/month, which includes live video streaming to a mobile app with a Wi-Fi connection, customizable notifications and video and image history.

Vivint Smart Home

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$599
Monthly Fees
$29.99 and up
Plan Lock
60-month financing contract
more details

Vivint Smart Home: Best full-service home security and automation solution

Whether or not you add cameras to your alarm system, Vivint is a highly rated security solution, based on our analysis. The company offers an extensive list of equipment, as well as free, in-home consultation to help you design your system, including the selection of cameras and their ideal placement. Vivint is generally more expensive than most competitors but comes with professional installation, which is useful considering that outdoor and doorbell cameras often require wiring.

Vivint offers three different cameras. The company’s $249 doorbell camera has features like visitor detection, which responds to people but not passing cars. You can see who’s at the door via the control panel or mobile app and conduct a two-way conversation. The company’s indoor HD Ping Camera, for $199, supports event-triggered recording and can initiate two-way communication using a call button. That feature could be used by kids wanting to contact their parents. The $299 Vivint outdoor camera looks like a traditional surveillance camera. It has motion detection and roughly 40-foot night-vision range.

With a monitoring plan and Wi-Fi connection, you can view live feeds via the control panel or mobile app. The standalone cameras have motion detectors that trigger the recording of clips. The doorbell has a wide range of customized settings for recording a clip based on motion, when somebody rings the doorbell, or when the door is opened, as well as an on-demand setting.

Each additional camera is $5 a month. You can buy a $249 one-terabyte digital video recorder for safe local storage. The playback function creates an event marker whenever motion is detected, a door is unlocked, a window is opened, or another activity occurs.

Abode

360 Overall Rating

4 out of 5

Base Price
$229 and up
Monthly Fees
$7 and up
Plan Lock
No
more details

Abode: Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees

Adobe offers a complete home security system that you can easily install by yourself. Its monthly monitoring plans are affordable – and, because a contract is not required, it can be canceled at any time without penalty. The appeal of an Abode system extends to its use of cameras, albeit with some compromises.

Abode’s indoor cameras provide live streaming video via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. The Abode Cam offers two-way audio via the mobile app. However, the video feed is not continuously recorded. Instead, it grabs still shots when an event occurs, such as when the system is disarmed or a door is opened. A clip is recorded only when there’s an alarm event or upon request via the app or online dashboard. Those clips can be immediately transmitted to the Abode web portal or shared with the monitoring agent if you subscribe to professional remote monitoring. Abode also sells a Wide Angle Motion Camera, which takes three low-resolution photos and sends them to your phone when your system is in Home or Away mode and the device detects motion.

To see what’s going on outside your home, you can install an outdoor Wi-Fi camera offered by Nest, the only third-party provider of cameras indicated by Abode. (An Abode-branded outdoor camera is not available.) Abode does not currently offer a video doorbell.

Without paying a monthly fee, a timeline of events with still shots can be accessed for the previous three days. To add cellular backup of communications, which is highly recommended, you can subscribe to the $8 a month (or $80 paid upfront for a year) Connect plan, which also adds 14 days of timeline records, as well as phone and email support. Upgrade to the Secure plan for $20 a month (or $200 paid upfront for a year) to add professional monitoring, and increase the timeline with media storage to 90 days for up to six cameras. Images are also stored to a tabletop hub device called the Gateway, which has a built-in 4 gigabyte micro SD card and supports up to six cameras.

  1. Decide how much protection you need. How much protection you need depends largely on crime in your area, and the parts of your home you want to monitor or protect. Decide if you want protection just while you're away or also while you're home, particularly at night. Silva says for more security just while you're away, you probably only need a couple of door sensors and motion detectors, along with fire alarms. But if you're concerned about someone breaking in while you're home, you'll want a more comprehensive system that covers all possible points of entry with a full suite of door sensors, glass-break sensors, motion detectors and possibly cameras. Huey notes that the back of the house is usually less visible and thus more vulnerable than the front, so protect those doors and windows first, followed by the other first-floor doors and windows. Sliding glass doors are made of tempered glass and thus are particularly attractive to burglars because they're safer to break; if you have one, be sure to put a glass-break sensor on it. Fire alarms should be next, Huey says, followed by motion detectors, cameras, smart locks and other devices.
  2. Determine your budget. Adding more sensors and cameras to a basic home security package can quickly increase your final bill. Still, prices for both professional and DIY home security systems have come down significantly. Silva says that while protecting a 3,000-square-foot house might have cost around $5,000 several years ago, today it's closer to $1,500 because equipment is less expensive and can be connected wirelessly, which cuts professional installation fees.
  3. Choose DIY or professional installation. This decision comes down to your budget, as you can avoid installation costs with a DIY system; time available; and level of comfort with electronic equipment. “Who buys a traditional system?" asks Dan Roberts, chief executive and co-founder of Scout Alarm. "It’s typically somebody with higher disposable income. They view their time as more important than the extra cost. They don't want the cognitive load of figuring out what to buy. They don't want to take the time to install it.”
  4. Schedule an in-home consultation. If you want to have your system professionally installed, consider scheduling a representative from the security company to visit your home for a consultation and prepare a proposal. Vivint, ADT and Xfinity Home provide this service for free, while Brinks (and the DIY companies) strictly consult over the phone. Nest offers professional installers after you make a purchase but not help with developing a plan for the appropriate number of sensors or their effective location. The advantages of an in-home consultation are to assess your specific security concerns and address any technology constraints (e.g., spotty Wi-Fi service in your home). The risk with a home visit is that most security advisers also serve as commission-based sales representatives, who might push a system that is larger than necessary. Regardless, it’s strongly recommended that you get two to three custom quotes that clearly indicate all the expenses and terms of a contract. You should request nearly identical systems from the competing companies so you can make a fair comparison. The contract’s terms (including the fine print) and the professionalism of the company during the home visit and bidding process should inform your final decision.


COMPANY BASE COST MONTHLY FEES INSTALLATION FEES
ADT N/A $28.99 and up

varies

SimpliSafe $229.96 and up $15 and up $79
Vivint $599.99 $29.99 and up $49 -$99
FrontPoint $99 and up $44.99 and up N/A
Abode $229 and up $7 and up N/A
Brinks $499 and up $29 and up varies
Xfinity HomeSecure $360 and up $39.95 and up $60
Nest Secure $399 and up $5 and up N/A
Link Interactive N/A $30.99 and up N/A
Ring Alarm $199 and up $3 and up N/A
Scout $299 and up $9.99 and up N/A
ProtectAmerica $156.99 and up $19.99 and up N/A


One of the biggest challenges with providing guidance about buying a home security system is cost. Nearly every company publishes a price for a base set of equipment. But the number of components included in that starter package is well below what most consumers install, so the published base price is a lowball figure.

“There are so many permutations of what you can get that it would be impossible to publish all that information,” says Jefferson Lyman, chief technology officer for Vivint Smart Home. Lyman says the base price is an attempt to provide “a sense of the ballpark figure.” He says the average cart size of a Vivint package is about $1,500, compared to the company’s base equipment price, which is listed at $540 for a touch-screen panel, two door/window sensors and a motion detector. You can expect a similar discrepancy for other pro-installed systems. The difference between the published starter price will be smaller if your house or apartment is small and, obviously, bigger for a larger home with an arsenal of sensors and cameras.

Regarding the monthly monitoring fee, $40 is a typical figure based on our interviews with security company executives and our consumer surveys. Professional monitoring, cellular backup and a multicamera timeline can start as low as $10 a month with Ring Alarm, the Amazon-owned creator of the popular video doorbell, and climb to nearly $100 a month with a large pro-installed system that’s bundled with a financing plan for the equipment.

Again, for multiyear contracts, it’s critical to read the fine print before signing because some companies give you the choice of paying for equipment upfront or financing it over the contract period. Other companies, such as ADT, Brinks and Frontpoint, bundle the cost of the starter package either with an installation fee or with the monthly payments while asking you to pay upfront only for add-on sensors and cameras. The price for a security system from Xfinity Home is often based on temporary special deals for adding alarm equipment to your Xfinity television, internet and phone services. Remember that most of the terms of these contracts are negotiable except perhaps for the three-year duration of the first term of service.

The cost for DIY systems is less complicated. Prices for individual components and monthly fees are clearly listed on DIY system websites. The monthly fees commonly range from about $10 to $30 a month. If you’re dissatisfied after a few months, you can cancel at will.

Is a Home Security System Worth the Money?

Whether a home security system is worth a substantial investment in equipment, installation and monitoring fees will come down to individual preferences and circumstances. What's the crime rate in your area? Do you generally feel safe in your home, or are you concerned about intruders? Do you have valuables that would be attractive to thieves? Do you live with children or other vulnerable people who could use extra protection?

Although there's some value in a security system placing an automated call to the police station or fire department in an emergency, realize that at least where the police are concerned, a home security system might not provide the protection you expect. Especially in large urban areas, police are often flooded with calls from security systems, many of which are false alarms. That means they might not respond for a while, if at all. "In smaller cities where police call volumes are more reasonable, they're likely to respond much quicker," Silva says.

On the plus side, several studies indicate that home security systems do deter crime. For example, the University of North Carolina – Charlotte found that of 422 randomly selected, incarcerated burglars in North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio, about 83% said they would look for an alarm system before commencing a burglary, 60% said they would choose another target if they found an alarm system, 50% said they would definitely leave the premises if they discovered one during a burglary, and 31% said they would sometimes leave. Along similar lines, a Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice study based on crime data from 2001 to 2005 in Newark, New Jersey, determined that home security systems were one factor that decreased both burglaries and the city's overall crime rate during that period.

Silva says his experience from four decades in the security business backs up this research. For example, two of his clients who live in a relatively expensive home in Southern California were upstairs sleeping when a burglar pried open a sliding glass door on the first floor. Fortunately, the alarm sounded and the would-be intruder fled before entering the house. The owners later found a discarded crowbar and other tools where the person had dropped them.

Do You Need Professional Monitoring?

Jeffrey Zwirn, president of security consultancy IDS Research and Development, and author of “The Alarm Science Manual,” warns against trying to self-monitor a system, which is impossible when you’re sleeping. “I understand that people think they can do it, but I think it’s very dangerous.” He says that a home alarm system is “worth every penny if it can prevent a burglary or save one life.”

Jordan Frankel, founder of Global Security Experts, which conducts home security inspections and invents products to prevent home invasions, agrees. “I am an advocate for having monitoring because it works not only for security but also for health and safety,” he says. “Most of these systems have a wireless panic button, and God forbid if you're having a heart attack or some type of illness that requires immediate attention, you can press a button and it will dial the proper authorities.”

Walters, the former FBI security specialist, says that professional monitoring becomes even more valuable if you are frequently away from home during the day.

On another note, a home security system is only worth it if it’s used on a daily basis. Experts repeatedly told us that the vast majority of home security system customers use their systems on a sporadic basis. “We know that 90 to 95% of people don't use their alarm system every day,” says Chris McGoey, who has developed effective security plans for homes and business properties for nearly five decades. “We also know that it's up in the 90th percentile for those who invest in a system and after a while just stop using it altogether.”

Think of this as the same thing that happens when you join a gym in January. You have the best intentions to use the membership all the time, only to revert to occasional use by March. If you’re not fully committed to using a home security system every single day, then it’s best not to invest in the equipment or, at the least, not to sign a multiyear contract.

Can You Have a Home Security System Without a Landline?

Many of today's home security systems don't require landlines, but instead can use nearby cellular towers for wireless monitoring. Some systems, like those offered by Frontpoint, are entirely monitored by a cellular signal. Cellular monitoring has a few advantages. First, some families have chosen to forgo a landline in favor of cellphones. Second, cellular monitoring is arguably more secure than a landline because it doesn't need an Internet connection, isn't affected by a power outage at your home and can't be cut. Plus, connecting your cellphone to your security system allows you to receive text alerts, access your system remotely and control internet-enabled home automation devices.

ogy and Trends: What’s Coming Next?

Sales of home security systems in the U.S. is expected to grow from about $41 billion in 2017 to nearly $75 billion by 2023, according to Markets and Markets, a global research firm. The growth is mostly attributed to the emergence of the app-enabled home devices and wireless technologies, as well as the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in home security systems.

Today’s providers are primarily composed of traditional alarm companies, such as ADT and Brinks, and startup DIY players like Abode and Scout. However, you can expect other companies that already have a footprint in your home to begin offering security solutions. For example, Xfinity and AT&T provide home security products.

Also, electronics manufacturers such as Honeywell (with its “Honeywell Home” brand) and Samsung (with its “SmartThings” brand) are creating direct-to-consumer products. It’s part of the smart home trend. Software startups, like Wink Labs, are also joining the fray.

Insurance companies are beginning to offer products that have a single function: to monitor your home. For example, Travelers offers its puck-sized sensor to California customers as a means to mitigate threats such as water leaks, fire damage and thefts. Abode, one of the DIY companies that we profiled, will soon launch Iota – which combines a base station, video camera, motion detector and two-way audio into a single device that’s well-suited to seniors aging in place.

Some of these connected, app-controlled devices could be viewed as toys by some. “Gadgets are fun but not as your core security plan,” says McGoey. But the lines will likely blur between high-tech wireless gizmos for your home and robust security products.

An increasing number of sensors, cameras and locks will become more affordable to millions of consumers who previously could not afford a home alarm system. Now the challenge becomes one of education – how to understand what you need and which of the growing number of home security products can best fulfill that need.

Home Automation

Basic contact sensors and motion detectors that make up the core security products have grown into an entire ecosystem of home automation and alarm products that can protect your home – in addition to being able to control everything from ceiling fans and window blinds to sound systems and lawn irrigation. Collectively, these are known as home automation or smart home systems that allow devices throughout a home to be monitored, activated and programmed remotely.

Some smart home devices have both convenience and security features. For example, smart light bulbs can be programmed on a smartphone, allowing the homeowner to ensure that the lights are on when they come home and to simulate the presence of people when they're away. Similarly, smart door locks made by Kwikset and other companies can be integrated with many home security systems, programmed to lock automatically when you leave the house and unlocked with a smartphone.

Many of these devices can be voice controlled by personal assistants produced by tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google. In addition to products such as Amazon Echo, Apple Home Pod and Google Home, these tech companies are acquiring firms that make home security products, such as Ring (owned by Amazon) and Nest (owned by Google).

Of course, the more smart home devices you have in your home, the more vulnerable you are to hacking, which arguably can negate whatever security advantages those devices confer. If security is your primary objective, be cautious about how many home automation devices you install and educate yourself thoroughly about the potential security risks they present.

All of the home security systems we rated are compatible with and can control a wide range of home automation devices. However, security systems vary in terms of exactly which home automation devices they can incorporate; whether the home automation devices are made by the security companies themselves, a third party like alarm.com, or both; and how easily the home automation devices can be incorporated into the overall security system.

The purpose of 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report is to evaluate products and services from multiple, diverse vantage points. We make recommendations based on an assessment of what matters to consumers, experts, and the community of professional reviewers. We convey what’s most important about a home security system based on an unbiased evaluation of products commonly in the consideration set. Our overarching goal is to empower consumers with the information and tools needed to make their own informed decisions.

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing home security systems to provide guidance to prospective buyers.

1. We asked consumers themselves.

U.S. News ran two nationwide surveys through Google Surveys in August 2018 to understand consumer sentiment and expectations about home security systems:

  • Home Security Owners survey: We sought the opinions of consumers who currently have a home security system installed in their home.
  • Home Security Prospective Customer survey: We sought the opinions of consumers who do not currently own a home security system but indicated they might buy one in the future.

Each survey reached hundreds of respondents, and each yielded at least 100 respondents who met the survey qualifications. The survey results are published as part of the U.S. News home security online guides.

The survey results show what matters most to home security shoppers and owners today. Our research – including interviews with independent experts and home security companies – was guided in part by what we learned from consumers through these surveys.

2. We asked independent experts.

Home security systems are unlike other consumer tech products in one important regard: Lives and property depend on these systems. As a result, we interviewed independent security experts who have seen first-hand how a property’s vulnerabilities can be catastrophic. The professionals we interviewed don’t sell the systems that we profile in our guides. Their work is to consult with corporate and private clients who want the highest level of security. These experts have backgrounds that include lecturing on security topics, writing books on the subject and serving as expert forensic witnesses in legal cases.

Jordan Frankel is a nationally recognized spokesperson about residential security, as well as the personal and financial consequences associated with home invasions. He founded Global Security Experts in 1996 as a producer of anti-burglary glass protection and then created different types of blocks and barricades to help businesses and homeowners prevent break-ins.

Chris McGoey has been a security consultant and expert witness for 48 years. He provides education and training services. Throughout his career, McGoey developed effective security plans for business properties of all sizes and types. He is recognized as an expert on the subjects of retail loss prevention and violence waged against businesses.

Lee Walters, a retired FBI agent, worked for more than a dozen years. He was trained on the use of alarms, cameras, hidden microphones and tracking devices. In the last five years of his FBI service, he worked in tactical operations, traveling across the United States making court-ordered entries into residences and businesses. Walters worked specifically on the team in charge of overriding and disarming alarm systems.

Jeffrey D. Zwirn is the president of IDS Research and Development and the author of “The Alarm Science Manual.” Zwirn has conducted such services as security surveys, needs analyses, system recommendations, design, installation, and programming of more than 3,000 thousand security and life safety systems for residential, commercial, industrial and governmental applications.

3. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on analysis of third-party reviews.

U.S. News created the 360 Overall Ratings for home security systems based on an unbiased scoring methodology based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on the personal opinions, tests or experiences of U.S. News.

Here is how the ratings are calculated:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party reviews and ratings.:

· Professional Ratings and Reviews. Many independent third-party reviewers have published their professional assessments of home security systems on the web. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contrast with one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are taken together and analyzed with an objective, consensus-based methodology.

· Consumer Ratings and Reviews. U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of home security systems. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer reviews ratings were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Some sources were therefore excluded from our model, and we would urge caution to consumers when relying on individual sources of ratings and recommendations on the Iinternet.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The data we collected from each of the third-party review sources came in a variety of forms including ratings, recommendations and accolades. Before including each third-party data point into our scoring equation, we had to standardize it so that it could be compared on an apples-to-apples basis with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5.0 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each security system that a source rated was scored in comparison to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

  • Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point's relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it's above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it's equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a home security system, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all home security systems evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the mean from the the system’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to produce the Z-Score.
  • Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.
  • Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5.0 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted-average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each security system, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

4. We interviewed the home security companies to fact-check.

The ultimate burden of producing, distributing and maintaining reliable and effective home security products rests with the companies selling systems to consumers. As a result, we reached out to all the companies profiled in our recommendations. Our interviews with these executives enabled us to gain a deeper understanding of their specific products, –- and to confirm the features available with their systems.

  • Chris Carney, Co-Founder and CEO at Abode Systems
  • Brent Franks, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Abode Systems
  • Mike Harris, President of Ring Solutions
  • Chad Laurens, Co-Founder and CEO at SimpliSafe
  • Jefferson Lyman, Chief Product Officer at Vivint
  • Dennis Mathews, Head of Xfinity Home
  • Dan Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO at Scout Alarm
  • Al Yarbrough, Co-Founder and Vice-President of Hardware Security at Abode Systems

At this time, we have not spoken with representatives from Brinks and Frontpoint. ADT spoke with us for background purposes only. Nest, which is owned by Google, provided short answers to our questions via email.

All information was accurate as of Sept. 16, 2019.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.