Why Buy Home Security Monitoring Services?
Editor's note: On May 2, 2016, ADT announced the completion of a merger with Protection 1. Although the two companies currently operate independently, both will eventually operate exclusively under the ADT brand. When ADT and Protection 1 complete this brand integration, we will update our home security reviews to reflect that information.
The top performers in our review are LiveWatch, the Gold Award winner; ADT, the Silver Award winner; and Protect America, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 11 systems.
In this review, which addresses home security monitoring, we dive deep into contracts and monitoring plans in particular, putting less emphasis on equipment. In our home security systems review, equipment plays a bigger role in our scores to better highlight what you get for your money. The data is the same, but we reach different conclusions to suit different needs and hope that you can find value in either or both of these comparisons.
When you leave your home, you make sure that the lights are off, the windows closed and the doors locked. Of course, you have every expectation that when you return home, you will find everything in its place and your sanctuary safe and secure. However, burglars may have an eye on your home, waiting for the best time to strike, and when they do illegally enter your dwelling, rifle through your possessions and steal valuables, they leave you feeling vulnerable and violated.
Even worse than that are robbers who break in when you or someone you love is actually at home. Robbery is a true game changer, far different from burglary because it dramatically heightens the risk from simply losing valuable things to encountering physical danger or even death.
In the past, often the best protection anyone could hope for was to lock the door, perhaps own a dog that barks loudly, and if you were going away, ask neighbors to keep an eye on things. These are certainly sensible things to do, but often they are not enough to foil would-be burglars or robbers from breaking into what should be the place you deserve to feel – and be – safe.
Luckily, unlike in past eras, we now have electronic tools to protect our houses. One of the best choices is a home security monitoring system that watches for break-ins as well as other safety hazards and alerts you and emergency responders if any threat raises its ugly head.
Aside from being alerted to the dangers posed by criminals, you might also appreciate the abundance of other options for home security services that are available today. Modern services and equipment can alert you to dramatic changes in temperature, flooding, carbon monoxide, power failures, natural gas leaks, and smoke and fire. You can receive this information through a text, email, phone call or alert from a mobile app.
Smoke detectors are terrific, but getting alerts on your cell phone when you are away from home – or even at home on another floor in your house – can add another potent layer of safety to protect lives and property. The National Fire Protection Association's statistics for 2014 show that a fire department in the United States responded to a home structure fire every 86 seconds during that year, with one civilian fire injury every 33 minutes and one civilian fire death taking place every 2 hours and 41 minutes.
The best home security monitoring companies offer extensive alerts you can receive that not only let you know when there is a problem, but can also summon emergency services for you, which saves precious time. With the top home security monitoring companies, you need to specify which alerts you want in your system so the company can give you an accurate written quote for the equipment associated with these alerts.
We undertook home security systems comparisons to determine which are most qualified to protect your home and family, and we arrived at the 11 best home security monitoring companies with top-notch services, equipment, alerts and customer service. For more information, we also have useful smart home articles to show you other steps you can take toward your home's safety, energy efficiency and convenience.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What We Evaluated, What We Found
All of the home monitoring systems we examined offer basic plans for security monitoring, but many provide additional options if you want to pay for certain extra safety services. The best home security companies can help you protect your home, loved ones and possessions by offering different types of monitoring services, a wide variety of security equipment choices, and prompt and responsive customer support. To determine the best home monitoring service, we studied different factors such as costs, monitoring plans, equipment, customer service availability and how much coverage you get.
When you are looking for the best home monitoring system for your house, consider what you want most in a security system. For many people, a home monitoring company that makes things overly complicated is a headache. We employed our testing protocols to rate companies on how easy they are to work with in non-emergency situations.
We also checked costs when we examined companies, since these services involve monthly costs, expenses for equipment and, in some cases, a fee for equipment installation. For example, the monthly fees vary from a low of around $25 to about $65. Most firms have charges for starting costs such as equipment, activation and installation, and these are around $100 on average. Depending on what you are looking for in a service, these costs might influence which company you choose. A number of home alarm monitoring firms offer equipment you own and can install by yourself – which makes monthly monitoring fees easier on your bank balance, though you usually pay upfront for the equipment.
We also looked at the length of any contract you need to sign to get service from individual companies. Most home security companies have three-year contracts, but some companies offer contracts that range from one year to five years.
What Kinds of Monitoring Services Do You Need?
When you compare home security systems, see if wireless alarm monitoring is available. You do not need a phone line to ensure that a wireless security system works correctly, and the wireless capability keeps your house safe even if an intruder cuts wires in your home. Wireless systems also work on powerful batteries that last for three to five years, and they continue to monitor your home during power outages.
Every home security monitoring service we reviewed provides reliable security systems along with real-time monitoring. With this remarkable technology, you can see what is happening inside and outside your home if you have security cameras as part of your plan. You can see who is at the front door, whether you are home or not, and decide if you want to open it. You can also make sure your children got safely home from school or after-school activities. In addition, you can observe your pets to ensure their well-being. In all, the security devices and equipment of the best companies let you see if anything is amiss within your home, garage and yard.
Home monitoring services should be available 24 hours a day so there is never a moment when your home is somehow unprotected. The best firms offer medical pendants that can prove vital to elderly, disabled or ill family members who might otherwise be unable to contact emergency services if something goes wrong.
The best security monitoring services provide cellular or internet monitoring and a mobile app that lets you adjust your thermostat and turn lights on or off, as well as lock your doors with your phone. Though these features usually require an upgrade, some monitoring services include them with their standard security plans.
After you choose a service, of course you want to know what has been going on as far as monitoring your house. Good-quality home security monitoring systems give you online accounts so you can check both the status and history of the system.
Home Monitoring Services: Devices to Look For
Available security devices include door and window sensors, sirens, panic buttons, personal key fobs, motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and sensors that allow your pets to move freely around the house without setting off a false alarm. The more security devices you have installed, the better protected your home is. While most security systems come with a starter kit, no system offers every type of security device in the initial package, but several, including our top-ranked services, have a large selection to meet your individual needs. You may need to pay extra for additional security devices.
What Customer Help Can a Home Monitoring Firm Offer?
Being able to connect quickly with your monitoring company is crucial. The best home monitoring companies not only provide easy access to support personnel through email, telephone and live chat, but also respond quickly to threats your system detects on its own.
Another important factor to look into is how long the equipment is under warranty and whether you can easily take the system hardware with you if you move. Some companies can monitor through systems you have purchased and installed yourself, while others require installation professionals to place and activate your system.
Home Security Companies: Buyer Beware
Take Your Time
When you sign up for what you expect is the best home security services for your house, you are signing a legal document promising to pay monthly for the assistance you get from the company. However, this is more than a simple business deal. What you are considering is something that affects your physical safety, as well as that of your loved ones and your home. Take your time.
Get written estimates from several companies. Call the city hall or the non-emergency number for law enforcement in your area to see whether you have to register your system and whether there are any policies regarding false alarms and potential fines if they occur. Otherwise, you might end up paying police or fire departments for those false alarms. Most important of all, be sure to read the contract carefully and note any details that seem confusing, then get answers before you agree to sign. Make a copy of the contract and keep it with your records.
Watch Out for the Hard Sell
Whenever you meet with a salesperson, insist on getting identification from that individual and do not take no for an answer. Be sure to write down the person's name, contact information, the name of the company and anything else that seems important to make certain that he or she is a valid company representative. Legitimate salespeople are proud of their work and not afraid to let you know who they are and what company they represent.
No matter how cheerful and charming the sales representative is, do not put up with non-identification or delaying tactics such as the salesperson asking for a glass of water or use of the restroom before launching into a rapid-fire monologue about a bewildering assortment of plans and costs. You are considering an important business deal, so the person presenting this information should behave professionally. If not, send that individual on his or her way with a firm goodbye.
Insist on Paper Documents
Today, much of what we read and keep for records is online, but when it comes to entering into a contract with a home security monitoring company, you need a written estimate. With that in hand, you can do some comparison shopping with other companies and get written estimates from them as well. After that, you have plenty of information in writing to compare companies and make an informed decision.
This is an important choice, both financially and for the security of your home and loved ones, so get everything in writing. Consider anyone who resists this as a non-starter. With written estimates, you can see exactly what equipment you will get, what you need to pay, the cost of upgrades and more.
Get Written Cancellation Policies & Auto Renewals
The home security industry has repeatedly come under fire for automatic contract renewals that customers claim they did not know about when they signed the original contract. You need written information in the estimate and contract before you sign it about anything regarding the company's renewal policy. That way, you know if a renewal simply kicks in automatically and what you have to do if you want to discontinue service or even cancel service before the contract ends.
It is not uncommon to have to pay a fee if you want to end a contract before its end date, and you should know the exact cost. You also need to know the process to follow – whether you must inform the company in writing, if other costs are involved and other details.
Show Them the Door If You Suspect a Scam
Unfortunately for the most responsible and best home security monitoring companies, there are hustlers out there who pose as salespeople with phony home security plans. Once again, take your time before signing anything. Do the important comparison shopping and get written estimates from other firms, research reviews and customer experiences online, and ask friends and relatives if they have had any experience with a particular company. If you have any doubts about what the salesperson told you or if what they explained verbally contradicts the written contract, take your business elsewhere.
Home Security Monitoring: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Our lineup of 11 great-quality home monitoring systems gives you a healthy set of choices from which to find the best system for your needs.
Our Gold Award Winner, LiveWatch, offers a more extensive array of equipment than the other home security services we reviewed, and you can save money on professional installation fees, since you do the installation yourself. If you already have security equipment in your home, all you must pay for is the monitoring service. This company also offers an alert of its own that notifies a number of preselected contacts at once, rather than one by one. The individuals can communicate through the system via group chat to either take action or discern whether this is a false alarm.
ADT, our Silver Award winner, offers exceptionally good home security services with its equipment. You can choose from three plans that offer various types of monitoring services. All include 24-hour protection and are customizable. This home security company has a nationwide network of authorized dealers and some of the best home automation features among home monitoring services. In addition, you get 24-hour customer service and answers to any questions you have through live chat, phone and email.
Our Bronze Award winner, Protect America, provides several different types of connection as well as a mobile app that lets you employ such things as remote system control and live security camera streaming. With this home monitoring system, you do not need to spend a great deal of money at the outset, since the company gives you basic equipment, and you can always opt to pay for more. This firm also offers an intercom that is activated by an alarm if there's any sign of trouble, and with this, you can speak directly to the home security monitoring station. If you do not reply, the company contacts emergency services.
Whether you choose to install your own home security monitoring system or have one professionally installed, the most important aspect of an alarm system is the quality of the service that monitors your home. Our reviews of the top alarm monitoring services can help you choose the best home monitoring company to keep your family and home safe.
Contributing Reviewer: Linda Thomson