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Everything You Need to Know About Home Security Systems

Oct 08, 2020|

When it comes to your home and family, if you're like most people, keeping them safe is your first priority.

About one-quarter of households in the United States rely on a home security system for home protection, and for good reason–security systems both proactively protect your home from threats and decrease response times in an emergency.

If you're thinking about investing in a home security system, choosing the best one for your needs can be a daunting task. But don't worry. This guide will help you find out everything you need to know—from different devices to types of monitoring to costs—to help you find the best system for your home and family.

vivint home security
This guide will help you choose the right home security system for you and your family.

Securing the home and deterring burglars

Doing your due diligence to find the right home security system can take some time. Until then, you can take basic steps today to keep your home safe.

Knowing how burglars select homes to target, as well as the most common ways they enter a home, is a good place to start.

Burglars want to get in and out of a home with as much loot as they can as quickly as possible, so they’ll look for homes that make it easy. This includes:

  • Signs that the owner is out of town or away, such as mail or packages piled up on the porch or overgrown grass
  • Little or no lighting inside or outside the home
  • Shrubs or bushes that allow them to peek or climb into windows unnoticed

You can take steps to better secure your home today with these simple home security tips:

  • Always keep your doors and windows locked. What’s the most common way a burglar enters a home? Through the front door! 34% of break-ins are accessed via the front door, while 23% are via a first-floor window. Simply locking up is easy and effective.
  • Keep your home well-lit. Burglars don’t want to be seen, so make sure you have a porch light or other exterior lighting. You may even want to consider a motion light.
  • Don’t forget about the back door. Although most burglars enter through the front door, 22% opt for a back door. Keep patio doors locked, and consider reinforcing sliding glass doors with a security bar or top lock.
  • Don’t make it obvious you’re away. If you’re going to be out of town, ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your home. You can also have the post office hold your mail and packages and make arrangements for someone to mow your grass or shovel snow, if necessary.

These are good habits to practice even after your home security system is installed. A security system combined with these effective home security tips will keep your home even more secure.

vivint smart hub
Smart habits plus the best home security equipment make for the safest possible space for you and your family.

Types of security systems

The term security system actually includes a wide range of options. They can be narrowed by the type of building they protect, installation type, and monitoring method.

Home security

Home alarm systems are designed to protect the inside and outside of your home through various components and devices (more on that in a minute).

Apartment security

Can you get a security system if you rent or live in an apartment? Of course! (Just check with your leasing office first). Even if your building doesn't allow an actual security system, you can still keep your home protected with different smart home devices that don't require drilling or can easily be replaced when you leave, such as a smart lock or doorbell camera.

Business security

A business or commercial security system will have the same products as a home security system, such as motion sensors and indoor cameras, but they usually have a different allocation of devices. For example, you may only need one indoor camera in your home, but a warehouse may need a dozen.

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DIY vs. professional installation

Security systems can be further narrowed down to do-it-yourself and professional. Both the installation and the monitoring can either be done yourself, or they can be handled professionally.

DIY installation involves installing each component of the security system yourself. This includes:

  • Wiring, if necessary
  • Placement and mounting of sensors and devices
  • Connecting devices to Wi-Fi
  • Testing and troubleshooting to ensure everything works as expected

A DIY home security system typically includes some sort of cost savings, unless the cost of installation is included in a professional system. And some people just like the satisfaction that comes from self-installation.

With a professionally installed system, the security company sends out a technician to do all of the above. A huge benefit of professional installation is knowing that your security system components will all function properly.

Testing and troubleshooting will also occur on-site with a professional, so you know your system will be up and running properly before they leave.

vivint smart home pro installation
With professional installation, you can rest easy knowing all of your devices are installed correctly.

And the truth is that installing your own security system is a hassle. There's often a steep learning curve as you're placing products and integrating them with one another. With professional installation, you can say goodbye to all of this headache, saving you time and preventing future issues down the road.

Self-monitored vs. professionally monitored

Monitoring is also something you can opt to do yourself, or have it done professionally. Self-monitored systems do not include a recurring monitoring fee, while professionally monitored systems require a monthly fee.

Self-monitored security

A self-monitored system is just like it sounds—it's monitored by you and your family. So if an alarm is tripped, it's up to you to contact the proper authorities or emergency personnel. There are cost savings associated with self-monitoring, and since most devices have apps, monitoring is as simple as checking your phone.

There are some downsides to be aware of as well, including:

  • Not as fast as professional monitoring. If you don't have your phone with you or you are not home when an alarm goes off, there could be a delay in getting help.
  • Your attention might be elsewhere in an emergency. If, for example, a fire alarm goes off, you'll likely be focused on getting yourself and your family to safety before you can call 911.
  • You might miss potential risks. If you're monitoring your property yourself, there's a high likelihood you will miss potential risks that a professionally monitored system would catch. It's impossible to have an eye on your camera feeds, front doorstep, smoke alarms, and window sensors all the time, especially while asleep or out of town.

Professionally monitored security

Professional monitoring, on the other hand, means your security system is monitored 24/7 by a monitoring company. In the event an alarm in your home is tripped, the monitoring company will verify with you that the alarm wasn't set off by accident.

If they can't get reach you, they will automatically contact authorities on your behalf. This service is typically associated with a monthly cost.

Security system components

In addition to the types of security systems, there are also dozens of components, devices, and features to choose from.

A comprehensive home security system should include sensors and devices that protect the inside and outside of your home, including:

  • Burglary detection. When your security system is armed, motion sensors inside the home will detect a person’s presence, sounding an alarm as a result.
  • Glass break detectors. Sometimes, burglars will break a window to get into a home. A system with a glass break detector will immediately sound an alarm if a window is broken.
  • Door and window sensors. Many systems include sensors that activate the alarm by simply opening a window or door, even if it's unlocked. This is useful when you may forget to lock windows that have been open throughout the day.
  • Smart locks. Front doors with smart locks make it easy to keep your front door secure by automatically locking. They also eliminate the need for physical keys, including hide-a-keys that could get into the wrong hands.
  • Garage door control. It’s easy to forget to close the garage door when you’re in a rush. But this leaves your home vulnerable to intruders. Remote garage door control is a popular home security feature that can help ensure your garage stays secure.
  • Protection from disasters. Break-ins aren’t the only threats a home faces. Fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and flooding can be damaging or even deadly, so make sure your security system includes a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and a water sensor.

In addition to these security system components, most home security companies also offer yard signs and window stickers to let people know your home is protected by a security company. Make sure you display these—they’re powerful deterrents that will make a burglar think twice before trying to break in.

Wired vs. wireless alarm systems

The smart devices and components that make up your home alarm system can either be wired or wireless:

  • Wired devices are typically connected via cords to a power source and an internet connection.
  • Wireless devices can either be powered by battery or power cord, but connect to other devices in the home via WiFi. Data, photos, and recordings are then uploaded to the cloud or a local storage drive.

Most systems combine both wired elements with wireless, but in some cases, you can choose whether you want your device to be wireless or not.

vivint outdoor camera pro
Wired vs. wireless products is another important consideration to make as you choose your system.

Wireless security system advantages

Some of the advantages of wireless security systems over wired include:

  • Cordless devices can easily be moved to various places if needed.
  • Because there are fewer or no cords, wireless devices are more aesthetically pleasing without the hassle of trying to hide them.

Wired security system advantages

Wired systems have advantages too, including:

  • Because they are hard-wired, connections are often considered more reliable than a WiFi signal, which may drop or be unavailable in rural areas.
  • They can be a great choice for security cameras if continuous recording is a priority for you

If you opt for wired devices or systems, it's helpful to get professional installation. This will ensure the devices are mounted in the best places for wiring and that cords are expertly hidden.

Smart home security systems

The technology behind security systems has come a long way in recent years, and now many homes combine smart home technology with security systems.

A smart home is equipped with technology that allows you to remotely control or automate various systems around your home. This can include:

  • Surveillance cameras
  • Lighting
  • Temperature control
  • Door locks
  • Home security

With a smart home, you can do things like turn off your lights with your phone, set your front door to lock automatically after a certain period of time, use a voice assistant to adjust the temperature, or answer your front door from your phone, to name just a few.

vivint smart home app
Control your home from anywhere with the Vivint app.

Smart home technology often works hand in hand with home security, allowing you to automate many of the processes that keep your home safe and secure. With a smart home security system, you can:

  • Arm your security system with your phone
  • Set your doors to lock automatically when you arm your security system
  • Check out surveillance camera feeds remotely via your phone

Combining smart homes with security systems offers dozens of options for taking your home security to the next level, or just making various tasks around the house a little more convenient.

Other considerations

There are other things you’ll want to consider as you shop around for a home security system.

Security cost 

One of the first things most people want to know when looking for a home security system is, “How much is this going to cost?” The cost of a home security system can typically be broken down into two main costs: 

  • Equipment. First, you will have to pay for the equipment you use. The prices will vary depending on things like brand and features. This is an upfront cost, although many home security companies will also let you finance the cost of your equipment over time. This will make the cost more manageable.
  • Monitoring. Your security system will also likely include a monthly monitoring fee if you decide to go with professional monitoring. 

Each security company varies in price and promotions, but for the most part, you can expect to pay these costs regardless of who you go with.

vivint smart home app
Like with many products and services, you get what you pay for when it comes to home security.

Think of it like your monthly cell phone bill—you can pay for your phone upfront, or you can make monthly payments over a period of a few years until it’s paid off. In addition, you also have a monthly fee for the plan you choose. Home security costs follow a similar model but are often cheaper than your monthly cell phone bill. 

Another cost you might incur is installation. However, many security companies will include this as a promotion, so it’s worth shopping around or negotiating for professional installation. 

Questions to ask:

  • Is there an additional charge for financing equipment?
  • If I move, can I bring my equipment with me?
  • What is each device's guarantee?
  • How much is the monthly bill?


Some home security systems may also have contracts associated with them. These typically range from 3-5 years and sometimes have costly penalties for canceling. 

Other systems have month-to-month service and require only a standard 30-day notice to cancel your service. 

As always, make sure you find out what you’re agreeing to before you sign any contract. 

Questions to ask:

  • Is this contract month-to-month or fixed?
  • What is the penalty for ending the contract early?
  • Can I bring my system with me when I move?
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Recommendations from friends and family are one of the best ways to learn about a specific product or service. Online reviews can also be very helpful when choosing a system. 

As you research various alarm systems, make sure you look at home security system reviews with a realistic approach and move forward carefully with companies that have extremes. For example, a company with thousands and thousands of 5-star reviews may be a red flag that the alarm reviews are fraudulent or that negative reviews are hidden. At the same time, a company with nothing but 1-star home security system reviews could also be cause for concern. 

Realistically, no company will have a perfect rating. Try to get recommendations from friends and family as well as reading online reviews. Together, this should give you a pretty good idea of what people think of their security systems and equipment. 

Questions to ask:

  • Are you happy with your security system?
  • Is the monitoring service responsive?
  • What devices are must-haves?

Customer service 

A company’s customer service department is also an important thing to consider when researching home security systems. When you invest in something as important as the safety and security of your home, you should be able to reach customer service in the event you have any questions about how your system works.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you have a dedicated customer service department?
  • Who should I call if I have technical questions?
vivint smart home
Any time you have a question or concern, our Smart Home Specialists are ready to assist you.

Vivint: the best of both worlds

As you research various home security companies, keep Vivint at the top of your list. A smart home security system from Vivint can transform your home into a more convenient, comfortable, and safer place for your entire family.

A Vivint smart home security system combines smart home technology with innovative home security, bringing you the best of both worlds.

With a Vivint system, you can:

  • Control your home wherever you are. Simply log in to your Vivint app for complete control of your entire home no matter where you are, so you can do things like unlocking the front door for your kids while you’re at work or arming your security system from the comfort of your bed.
  • Get help when you need it. The Vivint Smart Hub is the heart of your smart home and, like the Vivint app, lets you control everything from a single location. If an emergency ever occurs, it features one-touch panic buttons to put you in touch with our monitoring center.
  • Proactively protect your home. Vivint is the only security company to offer Smart Sentry. This feature, found on both the Outdoor Camera Pro and the Doorbell Camera Pro, identifies lurkers on your property. Then, by playing a warning tone and illuminating the LED light around the camera lens, it lets lurkers know they’ve been spotted and are being recorded.
  • Adjust and automate your lighting. What if you’re working late and all the lights are off at home? No problem. Adjust your lighting right from your phone, or set rules to have specific lights or room groups, such as “downstairs lights” or “bedroom” to automatically turn on or off at a specific time.
  • Answer your front door from anywhere. The Doorbell Camera Pro is a home security must-have. It lets you answer your front door whether you’re home or not, allowing you to see and speak to your visitors from your phone or Smart Hub. It also proactively protects your front porch, preventing package theft.
  • Use voice control around the house. Voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Home takes convenience and accessibility to a new level. When integrated with a Vivint, you can turn lights on and off, arm your security system, or adjust your temperature with your voice.
  • Automate your home’s temperature. Using the Vivint Smart Thermostat, you can ensure your home’s temperature is exactly the way you like it while conserving energy and saving money at the same time. Best of all, these smart thermostats learn your habits and automatically adjust for you, so you don’t even have to think about it.
  • Check on the family from anywhere. With the indoor Indoor Camera, you can check on your kids, pets, or elderly family members. The camera even has two-way talk and a one-touch callout feature, so you’re always accessible.
  • Keep your home safe and sound. Vivint’s home security system integrates perfectly with your smart home and includes the latest technology for keeping your home and family safe. From burglary detection to glass break and door sensors to state-of-the art security cameras, you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your home is protected by the best.
  • Round the clock surveillance. Vivint’s 24/7 monitoring company monitors your home around the clock. So whether an alarm is tripped in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, the monitoring professionals will immediately contact you to check in and send help to your home if needed.
vivint smart home products
Innovative home security + the best in home security = complete protection and control of your home.

In addition to smart home devices that are second to none, with a Vivint security system you also get professional installation, so your devices are correctly installed and all work together perfectly from day one.

When it comes to the security of your home and the safety of your family, a home security system not only protects your home from threats, but brings you priceless peace of mind.

Using this information as your guide, you can make an informed decision about the best security system for you and your family.

Protect your home with Vivint

Find out how Vivint can help make your home safer and more convenient for your entire family. Contact our Smart Home Pros today at 800.646.1469 for a free quote.

Get a free quote today.

A Vivint Smart Home Pro will contact you within 24 hours. Or skip the form and call now: 844.481.8630.

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*Offer Details

Qualifying system purchase requires minimum $599.99 equipment purchase, professional installation and applicable services agreement. Click here for monthly service plan prices. DIY system purchases and reactivations of previously-installed systems not eligible for offer. Offer not available in all states or provinces. Equipment purchase may be financed separately subject to an agreement with one of Vivint’s third-party financing partners. Monthly $1.48 cellular network maintenance fee applies. Taxes and local permit fees may apply. New Vivint Customers only.

Third-Party Financing Options Available

Financing eligibility and terms subject to credit approval by one of Vivint’s third-party financing partners. Qualified customers may finance equipment purchase at 0% APR for up to 60 months. Month-to-month service agreement available when equipment is purchased upfront.

Vivint Systems & Services

System supports up to six cameras subject to sufficient WiFi speeds. Without a Vivint services plan, product and system functionality is limited (including loss of remote connectivity). Speak to a Vivint representative at the phone number in this offer for complete equipment, services, and package details, including pricing and financing details. Products and services in Louisiana provided by Vivint Louisiana Commercial Certificate #58280. See Vivint license numbers here.