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Everything You Need to Know About Home Security Systems

Jan 09, 2024|

When it comes to your home and family, keeping them safe is a top priority.

About half of all 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.

House with a Vivint yard sign out front.

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:

  • No homeowner activity. Signs that the owner is out of town or away, such as mail or packages piled up on the porch or overgrown grass.
  • Low lighting. Little or no lighting inside or outside the home.
  • Coverage from landscaping. Such as 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.

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 detectors 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.
Woman arming her Vivint System on the Smart Hub.

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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 installation fee is included in a professional system.

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.

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

Security 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:

  • It's 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.
  • Smart home automation. Integrating smart home automation with your security system can offer additional convenience and control. This can include features like smart lighting, thermostat control, video doorbells, surveillance cameras, voice control integration, and smart home scenes.
  • 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.

Wired security systems also have their perks. They're often seen as more reliable because they're hard-wired, meaning you won't have to worry about a WiFi signal dropping out, which can be a real issue in rural areas. Plus, if you're big on continuous recording, especially with security cameras, wired systems are the way to go.

And here's a tip: if you decide on a wired setup, consider getting it professionally installed. That way, you ensure optimal placement for wiring, plus those cords and cables get tucked away out of sight.

Wireless security systems offer notable advantages over their wired counterparts, primarily due to their flexibility and aesthetic appeal. The cordless design of these systems allows for easy relocation of devices to different areas as needed.

Additionally, the absence of cumbersome cords enhances the aesthetic aspect of these systems, eliminating the need to conceal wires and contributing to a cleaner, more streamlined look in your home.

Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro.

Smart home security systems are all the rage these days, blending the latest in smart technology with top-notch security measures to keep your home safe and your life convenient.

Picture this: You're cozy in bed and realize you forgot to lock the doors — no problem. With the Vivint Smart Home app, you can lock up right from your phone. Even better, you can arm your security system the same way. The app can also send you notifications when your security system is triggered in any way.

And it's not just about locking doors. Imagine being able to peek at your front porch anytime, day or night, thanks to the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro's crisp night vision.

Or maybe you want to keep an eye on the backyard? The Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro has you covered. These home security cameras are your eyes and ears when you're not around, and you can check in on them anytime, anywhere through the mobile app.

You're not just limited to security features. You can integrate your system with Amazon Echo or Google Assistant. Just use your voice to control lighting, adjust your home's temperature, or even answer your door—all without lifting a finger.

In a nutshell, the best home security today means having a smart system that doesn’t just protect your home—it makes your daily life easier and more connected. With gadgets like the Vivint Smart Drive, you're not just getting a security system. You're upgrading to a smart, streamlined way of living.

amazon echo in kitchen

Other considerations

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

Security 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.

Closeup of the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro.

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. 

For example, you can read some reviews from Vivint customers to get an idea of how they feel about Vivint home security.

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 yard sign at night.

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.

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.

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*Offer Details

Qualifying system purchase requires minimum $599.99 expenditure on equipment after all discounts have been applied, professional installation, and execution of Vivint monitoring 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.

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.