10 Simple Things to Look For in a Home Security System

The other day, your neighbor got a new home security system. You asked about it and found that they liked it. So you thought to yourself, I should do the same. But which one should you get? There are so many options out there to choose from, and choosing the right home security system can be a difficult task.

I get a lot of questions about what to look for in a home security system and how to choose one, and the answer is never easy.

There are a lot of caveats and different things that one should consider and look for when picking a home security system, depending on their personal needs. Well, we’re here to make things easier for you. So, let’s take a look.

What to Look For in a Home Security System

Look For Reviews by Other Clients and Work History

Before engaging with a company, check to see what people are saying about it.

Look for up-to-date comments, opinions, reviews, and information provided by independent experts in the field and regular customers.

What to look for:

  • Trusted websites (like this one!) where experts and customers review or discuss companies.
  • Forums where people can share and ask for honest opinions and advice.


Check the Equipment and Its Capabilities

The first step is always to decide what you want your home security system to be capable of doing.

This can be difficult if you are not up-to-date with the current trends and the latest features in home security equipment.

This is why it is recommended to shop around and compare the different types of equipment on the market before making a purchasing decision.

Check the most popular home security providers, check their equipment and what it is capable of offering.

Not all home security equipment offers the same features, capabilities, levels of integration, etc. So check both cheaper and more expensive home security systems to ensure you are not missing out on something.

What to look for:

  • Check how the different security cameras, sensors, and devices work. Ensure you understand what each unit is capable of doing and its limitations.
  • Check if there is a proprietary app that allows you to control and monitor the security system from your smartphone or other devices.
  • If you have other smart home devices in your home, check if you can integrate your home security system with them.
  • Although not completely necessary, home automation capabilities like lighting control, smart speaker integration, entry, and environmental control can be a good addition to your home security system. Other features you can look for are voice control, E911 capabilities, facial recognition, duress codes, and video streaming and recording.

When considering your home security system, there are some questions that you may want to find the answers to like:

  • Can the security cameras record high-definition video?
  • Do the cameras have low light and night modes?
  • Is the video quality good?
  • What is the range at which the camera works?
  • How long can the security camera or video doorbell record and keep the footage for?
  • Where is the footage kept?
  • Is there cloud storage, or do you have to provide your own storage?
  • What features do the smart locks and smart doorbells have?
  • Can the security system notify you in real-time if anything happens?
  • Do the video doorbells or security cameras allow for two-way talk even if you are not at home?
  • Can the window and door sensors detect if a door or window has not been fully closed?
  • Is there a detailed log history, and can the sensors notify you in real-time of the status of your door and windows?


Monitoring and Emergency Response

Home security systems can be categorized as self-monitored and professionally monitored.

A self-monitored system leaves everything to the owner, who is responsible for keeping an eye on the security system and alerting the emergency responders when necessary.

The downside is that often self-monitored home security systems have limited capabilities. However, the advantage is that the monthly costs are often on the lower end of the spectrum, or sometimes the self-monitoring can be completely free.

Professionally monitored systems are connected to a security center that keeps an eye on the systems 24/7. This allows for greater peace of mind that the necessary emergency responders can still be notified even if the owner is not available during an emergency. However, this also involves paying monthly monitoring fees.

What to look for:

  • Find out what your home security provider offers in terms of monitoring plans. Often multiple plans are available, offering different features and capabilities. Make sure to find out what each monitoring plan offers and if it meets your needs.
  • Inquire about what happens during an emergency in case you go with a professional monitoring plan. It is recommended to understand the procedures in case of an emergency if you choose a professionally monitored plan. Usually, security companies try to contact the account owner to establish if this is a real emergency or not before contacting the emergency responders, but procedures may vary between security companies.

Some companies provide on-demand professional monitoring. This is a great way to save money using a cheaper self-monitoring plan and only to switch to a professional monitoring plan when needed.


Pricing and Monthly Costs

You need to know what you will be paying.

The competition in this market niche is relentless. You will find that the monthly costs can vary wildly between different home security companies, but a lower or a higher price may not always be a good thing.

Usually, home security companies offer either monthly subscription-based services or a contract that lasts a certain period of time.

Most people prefer Subscription-based services because they do not lock you into a long-term contract. Subscription-based services are paid either monthly or yearly and allow customers to cancel at any time.

Some home security companies require their customers to sign a long-term contract, which is typically between 1 to 3 years. Getting out of such a contract can be difficult or nearly impossible without paying substantial cancellation fees. The advantage here is that such companies usually offer home security equipment at no upfront costs or at a significant discount.

This is the part where you need to make sure you understand everything written in your contract very thoroughly.

What to look for:

  • Check if a contract is required.
  • If there is a contract, ensure you understand everything, including the contract length, automatic renewals, equipment discounts and ownership, freebies, monthly fees, cancellation policies, and termination fees.
  • If you are dealing with a subscription-based home security service, check their monthly fees, cancellation, and refund policies. Check if there are other additional fees and paywalls, whether you are offered discounts if you pay in advance, and what happens if they decide to change their pricing in the future.
  • Often companies try to upsell additional services, check to see what exactly is offered. Some home security systems may be cheaper but not offer essential features. Additional services may or may not be worth it, depending on what is being offered.
  • Check to see if there are activation fees.
  • Look for information about moving fees.
  • Check what happens in case of false alarms and whether the company will cover any false alarm fees you may be charged.


Confirm What Is Included

Establish exactly what you will receive when purchasing your home security system.

Security systems do not always include or come with the same equipment, devices, sensors, or cameras.

In fact, some home security systems may consist only of a few home security cameras or a few door and window sensors, while others can include many different devices.

Often manufacturers offer options to purchase pre-built packages or design your own home security system, allowing you to pick the devices and cameras you want.

Now is also the time to answer what you want to be monitoring. Are you worried about burglaries, environmental damage, personal security, or do you want everything in one package?

What to look for:

  • There are a lot of different devices you can get like: touch screen control panels or base stations, security cameras, video doorbells, smart locks, baby cameras, floodlights, panic buttons or pendants, thermostats, window and door sensors, windows break sensors, motion sensors, sirens, smoke and CO sensors, flood sensors, freeze sensors, key fobs or tags, garage door openers, WiFi range extenders, and more.
  • Always double-check the number of devices, cameras, and sensors offered.
  • Ensure that everything you will get with your home security system order will be enough to offer complete coverage of your home. Manufacturers usually offer enough detailed information about the effective range of their home security devices and systems.



Many home security systems can use your existing wireless internet connection in your home to communicate, send notifications, and work. Others may use your landline instead.

What to look for:

  • Make sure you understand how the security system works. A wireless home security system is more versatile and does not require a landline connection, but it can be affected if your internet goes out. A landline home security system is not affected by internet outages but can be disabled by cutting the landline wires and is not as versatile.
  • Find out what happens if your WiFi network or landline goes down and whether there is a cellular backup in these cases. A cellular backup is well worth having as this ensures your home security system will continue to function as long as there is cellular network coverage.
  • Find out what happens if there is low or no cellular coverage.


How the System Is Powered

Most home security systems today are usually battery-powered. This means that you have to keep an eye on all units, devices, and cameras and ensure they are not running out of battery power.

There are also hardwired security systems, but they also should have a battery backup in case of an outage.

Some devices may also be solar-powered.

What to look for:

  • Ensure you understand how the security system is powered. Ensure there is a battery backup that can keep the security system running in case of a blackout.
  • Find out what happens during a blackout and how long the system can continue to work if there is no power. Some home security systems will usually be able to stay on for a limited amount of time if there is no electricity.
  • Check to see if the home security system can notify you if there is a power issue and how you will be notified.


Installation and Set Up

Usually, home security systems are either professionally-installed or DIY style. With DIY home security systems, the owner is responsible for installing and setting up the home security system. DIY home security systems are typically wireless and very easy to set up.

Traditional wired or landline home security systems have to be installed by a certified technician. This can involve some drilling and running wires as well as paying additional labor costs.

What to look for:

  • Find out if there is information on how to install your home security system and how easy it is. Homeowners can make mistakes when setting up their home security system, which can be avoided with a good installation manual. Look for information about whether you will need specific tools to install the security system.
  • On professionally installed home security systems, look for installation costs. Do not forget to inquire about what happens if you move away and you want to take the security system with you. This may or may not be possible in certain instances or may involve additional removal and installation fees.

With professionally installed home security systems, it is recommended to go with a company that has in-house technicians and does not use independent and third-party contractors.


Check the Warranty

The warranty can often be overlooked due to the sheer amount of information most people have to go through when choosing a home security system.

What to look for:

  • Check what the warranty covers. Also, be careful about how the warranty is worded. Make sure you understand what actions and events may lead to the warranty being voided.
  • Check what happens if a successful burglary occurs.


Certifications and Licensing

If you go with any of the bigger names in the home security industry, the odds are they are a legit company and already own all the necessary certifications and expertise.

However, if you are choosing to go with a smaller or less known home security provider, make sure to inquire about their certifications and licensing.


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Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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