Do I need a home security system? Here are 5 ways to know

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Are you on the fence about upgrading your home security? That’s understandable — signing up for services with a home security company sometimes comes with a multi-year contract, which is a big commitment. But not having such a system can lead to big regrets. As in, really big.

“Arguably anyone can benefit from having a home security system,” says Tim Reinemo, security professional and co-founder of Security Guards Only. “It is just one of those things where it is always better to have it and end up not needing it than not to have it and end up needing it.”

Reinemo was one of several experts we spoke to about home security systems. We spoke with several experts to get a definitive list of signs every homeowner should keep in mind when it comes to home security: Tim Reinemo; realtor, investor, and CEO of Eazy House Sale Isabella Griffin; and executive security expert Toney Greer. Greer is the founder and CEO of the Royal Society of the United States. 

When speaking with CBS Essentials, each source provided a list of things to pay attention to in your everyday — red flags that mean it’s time to invest in home security. We compiled the top five common answers and listed them below. 

But how do you know when it’s time to beef up your home security? Below, we lay out the most reliable home security companies — plus, we dig into the signs that indicate it may be time to take steps to protect your home. 

What is the best home security company of 2024?

Shop home security service plans below from some of the leading brand names in home security today.

Whether you’re ready to batten down the hatches for a long-term contract commitment or browse contract-free or DIY solutions, we have an expert-recommended company below to meet your home security needs.

Best long-term: ADT

ADT logo

ADT


If the idea of signing up for a multi-year contract doesn’t faze you, than ADT is our pick for your home security needs. This well-established company has high marks for supportive customer services when you need it. Plus, ADT has one of the largest professional monitoring networks thanks to nine centers spread across the United States.  

All ADT plans require you to sign up for a 36-month contract. While there is no trial period, the good news is that ADT does offer a six-month moneyback guarantee, which gives homeowners some time to make sure they’re happy with their new home security system.

Prices for equipment and installation start at $600 for the secure home package. For a step above this basic option, you can choose the smart home package (starting at $920) or a video and smart home package (starting at $1,050) instead. All plans come with a digital touchscreen control panel, motion detector, and three door or window alarms. 24/7 alarm monitoring services are also available for an additional monthly charge which ranges from $46 to $58 per month.

Pros

  • Large nationwide monitoring network means prompt customer service and uninterrupted live monitoring service (in the event one center goes offline for any reason).
  • Six-month moneyback guarantee softens the blow of a 36-month contract.
  • Company boasts more than 140 years of home security experience.

Cons

  • Higher than average prices for equipment, installation, and additional services.
  • Additional fees can be frustrating: Early cancellation fees equal to 75% of your remaining contract balance and activation fees for moving are worth noting.

No contract needed: SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe logo

SimpliSafe


If flexibility and customizability are important to you when it comes to home security, SimpliSafe is our pick for the best home security solution. SimpliSafe services come with no contracts, no professional installation (unless you want it), and even the option for zero monthly fees. That last one is a free alternative to professional monitoring services, making it ideal if alarm and security camera alerts are more than enough for your security needs. 

In terms of pricing, SimpliSafe offers a number of options. If you’d like, you can build your home security system piecemeal and pick up devices like a wireless outdoor camera ($190) or motion sensors ($30 apiece) and build your system from the ground up. 

There are also packages for anyone interested in an all-in-one purchase. Base package costs range from $200 (the Foundation) to $568 (the Beacon). All packages are currently 20%, so don’t miss out. Professional installation is available starting at $99.

Pros

  • Pick your devices and services or choose from a number of bundle packages to find the perfect security system for your home.
  • No contract requirements.
  • A 20% discount off of any hardware package for customers who also sign up for an interactive monitoring service.

Cons

  • Remote monitoring and smart home integration features do require a monitoring plan subscription.
  • Limited selection of cameras.

Best DIY system: Scout Alarm

Scout Alarm logo

Scout


If you prefer to handle everything yourself (and avoid high prices or long-term contracts), than Scout Alarm is what you need. 

Invest in devices like the door panel sensor ($50), motion detector ($30), indoor camera ($99), or video doorbell ($99) as you see fit. Each device can be paired with a central security hub ($120) and Scout Alarm supports Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa devices. 

With bundle packages starting at $230, Scout Alarm offers more affordable DIY solutions than other companies. Called Scout Packs, bundles come with a security hub and yard sign, but you can nab additional devices like motion sensors and a smart lock with larger packages. Optional monitoring plans start at $10 per month.

Pros

  • No long-term contracts required.
  • Budget-friendly price points for devices and bundles make it easy to get the home setup you want without paying an arm and a leg.

Cons

  • No free self-monitoring options. Live monitoring services start at $10 per month.
  • No dedicated outdoor camera makes Scout Alarm best for those who are satisfied with indoor monitoring services.

Five signs you need a home security system

The fact is, the security of your family and the protection of your home are two very big deals. This is one area where being prepared ahead of time is critical — rather than waiting until after a situation where added home security would have saved the day. If you relate to one or more of these signs, don’t delay — home security is one issue where time is of the essence. 

1. You have safety concerns for you or your family

“While many people think of home security as a luxury, it’s actually an essential part of keeping your family safe from threats,” Griffin says. “If you are concerned about the safety of your loved ones, it may be time to look into installing a security system.”

The first and most pressing question is this: Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? The best home security system won’t just alert you in the event of a breach of parameter. It might also also deter burglars from coming around at all. 

One study — led by researcher Joseph Kuhns from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at University of North Carolina — surveyed more than 400 incarcerated burglars… and found that more than 40% of break-ins were “spur-of-the-moment,” as opposed to planned. 

This study also found that more than 80% of intruders would check for signs of a home alarm system first. This shows that paying for visible equipment like outdoor cameras, keypads, and security signs from a home security company can go a long way toward reducing the risk of a potential break-in.

2. You frequently travel

“Whether you travel often or simply work long shifts, having a security system that can keep an eye on your home while you’re away is crucial to keeping it protected,” Griffin says. “Investing in a quality system can help you feel secure that your house is safe even when you’re not there.”

If you’re frequently away from home for long periods of time, you may sleep better knowing there’s a system in place for keeping an eye on it whether or not you’re around. No, we’re not talking about the “Home Alone” method either: Rigging cardboard cutouts to move around like there’s a roaring house party going on while you’re away only works in the movies.

Instead, consider home security systems that offer 24/7 live monitoring services such as ADT Home Security. If you’d prefer a DIY solution, you can invest in quality outdoor cameras like the Google Nest Cam, which offers up to three hours of free event video history (or 60 days with a Nest Aware subscription). 

And for travelers, security doesn’t have to end at your doorstep. The best smart trackers like the Apple AirTag (the gold standard for smart trackers if we’re being honest) can help you keep an eye on important items like your wallet, keys, or luggage.

3. You have valuable possessions to protect

“You want to protect valuable items in your home,” Griffin says. “Home security systems provide layers of protection from burglars, and they are an excellent tool for safeguarding your valuable items. If you have expensive jewelry, electronics, or other items worth protecting, a home security system is the perfect investment.”

If you have valuable, rare, or otherwise important possessions sitting comfortably in your home, a home security solution can go a long way toward bringing you peace of mind. 

Whether it’s luxury clothing worth more than a year’s worth of rent, a family heirloom that you couldn’t bear to lose, an emergency fund stashed under your mattress, or the world’s biggest collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, consider protecting your valuables with the help from a reliable home security company. 

4. You live in an isolated area

Owning a home that’s not crowded by neighbors or businesses on all sides has its perks. Living at the edge of a cul-de-sac can be rewarding if you love being close to nature, for example. Perhaps your street is quiet and peaceful throughout the day since your closest neighbor is a 10-minute drive away. 

While the idea of never having to fight for street parking or deal with nosy neighbors can be great, living in an isolated area like this has its tradeoff: Your home easily stands out as a potential target to burglars. Balance an isolated living situation by protecting your loved ones with the best home security system for a rural area: Vivint, SimpliSafe, and Cove are all great picks for home security in an isolated region.

5. You want to keep an eye on children, elderly family members, or pets

You don’t always need to wait for the most dire or extreme reason to invest in something like a home security system. If you have children and want to keep an eye on them while they play outside, for example, a home security system can help you keep tabs on your family from any location. 

The same goes for elderly relatives or pets. Indoor and outdoor cameras can be your second pair of eyes and make life easier, especially if you’re a primary caregiver for anyone with special needs (people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia, for example). 

Another less-talked-about benefit to home security is the protection that comes from devices like smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Unlike your typical sensors that sound an alarm if some or carbon monoxide is detected, some devices from home security companies like ADT can also send you an app alert. That is worthwhile protection for you and your loved ones. 

How we compared the best home security companies

When you know you need a new home security system, you don’t want to waste time comparing companies. That’s why we did most of the work for you by researching the best home security companies. For a better idea of how we review products, here are the main things we prioritized while putting together our list on home security companies:

  • Company reputation: We looked for established companies that were supported by positive customer reviews and a long track record of keeping families safe and secure.
  • Expert recommendations: We spoke with professionals in home security and real estate to get a better understanding of the best solution to your security needs.
  • Device options: We looked for home security systems, bundles, and service plans that offered a variety of devices. From cameras and keypads to optional sensors and monitoring devices, we built a list with something for everyone.
  • Your needs: Whether you’re looking for professionally installed home security systems or DIY alternatives, we have you covered with various budget-friendly and customizable packages.

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