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Monitored vs. Self-Monitored Home Security Systems: What You Should Know

Aug 09, 2022|

If you worry about your home’s security, you’re not alone. A home security system is an extremely common investment among homeowners. Having an effective system in place can go a long way toward keeping the people in your life and your valuables safe.

There are many things to decide when getting home security system. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is whether you need professional monitoring from a security company.

This guide aims to make it easier for you to choose between a monitored or self-monitored home security system. We’ll tell you how each type of system works and provide helpful information so you can make an informed choice.

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How does a monitored home security system work?

When you have a professionally monitored system, you pay a monthly fee for a security company to respond to potential emergencies. The security company will try to contact you whenever a safety or security device is triggered. If you can’t be reached, they’ll automatically call emergency services, like the police or fire department, to visit your home.

Monitored systems are fully automated. They keep an eye on your home so you have peace of mind around the clock. A monitored system can protect your home in a number of different emergencies, from break-ins to fires to carbon monoxide leaks.

Here’s an example of how the system works: An intruder shatters your window, activating your glass-break sensors. Your home alarm system is activated and sends an alert to your security company’s call center. After a short waiting period, your provider contacts you to see if you’re OK. If you don’t answer, the company automatically calls the police department so they can investigate your home.

But what happens if there’s not a break-in? Let’s say your dog is running around your living room at night and triggers your motion sensors. When your monitoring team calls to make sure you’re alright, you give them your security code to stop them from calling the authorities. You disarm your alarm and go back to bed.

Sometimes, however, you may not be able to answer your phone. Let’s say your kids set off your smoke detector while they’re trying to cook French toast for your birthday breakfast. By the time the smoke alarm wakes you up, your monitoring service has already called the fire department.

While monitored systems offer the most dependable and convenient protection available, they may increase the likelihood that false alarms will cause emergency services to be dispatched to your home. But your monitored system will be there for you and your home at all times, keeping you safe and giving you peace of mind while you go about your everyday life.

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How does a self-monitored home security system work?

When you have a self-monitored system, it’s up to you to call emergency services if there’s ever a crisis in your home. Generally, your security system will alert you of any activity by sending notifications to your smartphone or through a central hub.

You need a wireless home security system to receive notifications. With a wireless security system, smart home devices use Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee technology to communicate with each other. This type of system will also use a wireless connection to send alerts to your phone.

Some self-monitored systems are wired. A wired system consists of a series of security cameras and motion detectors that are connected to a central recording device through coaxial cables. These systems can’t send alerts to your cellphone. If a break-in occurs while you’re away and you have a self-monitored wired system, you may not know anything has happened until you come home.

Even the best self-monitored home security systems require your attention and effort to keep your home safe. The upside to a self-monitored system is that it can save you money in professional monitoring fees.

Monitored vs. self-monitored security system: choosing the best for you

If you’re still on the fence about which system will work best for your needs, we break down some of the main differences between the two in the next few sections.


Monitored and self-monitored systems can come at various price points. The upfront cost for any security system depends on the security devices in that system, the size of your home, and what you need the system to monitor.

For example, a large house may need multiple outdoor cameras, indoor cameras, video doorbells, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, and various door and window sensors. On the other hand, a small condo may only need one or two security cameras.

In addition to device costs, security companies generally charge a monthly fee for monitoring. Some providers may also make you sign short- or long-term contracts for a professional monitoring plan. Consider monitoring costs and any other service costs when budgeting for your security system.


While professional monitoring is the main feature that separates monitored and self-monitored systems, security systems can come with an assortment of high-tech features. Here are a few of the top features your security equipment might have.

  • Motion detection: Home security cameras and sensors use heat detection, light, or ultrasonic sound waves to detect motion on your property. Some devices even use AI to distinguish between human movement and movement from an animal or a random object.
  • Night vision: Some camera options can shoot ultra-clear black and white video at night. Other cameras might rely on an add-on, like a floodlight or spotlight, that illuminates the space when motion is detected. This lets the camera record clearly.
  • Two-way audio: This feature is common in doorbell cameras. It lets you speak to and view whoever is on the other end of your camera.
  • Cloud storage: When you save video clips from your security cameras to an external server on the cloud, you can access and share them from anywhere.
  • Cellular backup: Your system won’t be able to use Wi-Fi to function if your internet goes down during a power outage. Some systems can use a cellular network to operate when there’s no wireless internet available.
  • Smart home integration: A smart security system can be programmed to operate with the other smart devices in your home. For example, you could program your smart lights to turn off and your smart locks to lock automatically when you leave for work.
  • Central control panel: A central control panel lets you monitor all your smart devices, like your security cameras, smart thermostat, and smart locks, from a touch-screen base station.
  • Remote control: Many providers give you the option to access and control your smart security system using your smartphone or another mobile device through a mobile app.
  • Voice control: Some security systems have compatibility with systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home that let you control your system using voice commands.
  • Extended warranty: Some quality security systems offer an extended warranty so you’re covered if your system ever stops working.
  • Client support: A great support team from a reliable security company can help you troubleshoot your system if it ever malfunctions.


Some home security systems are designed for professional installation, while others are designed for DIY installation. It’s generally easier to DIY install a wireless system because installing a wired system involves drilling into your walls and accessing your home’s existing electrical network.

Monitored systems are always wireless. A monitoring center needs a wireless connection to keep tabs on your security system.

Self-monitored systems can be wireless or wired. If your self-monitored system is wireless, you’ll be able to monitor it remotely using your smartphone.

While DIY home security systems can be viable options for some people (like renters), professional installation can help you get the best functionality from any system. A professional installer will know the best places to mount your sensors and how to connect your smart security equipment.

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Discover the best Vivint home security solution for you

If you want ultimate, worry-free protection from a security package, you should go with a monitored system. With professional monitoring, your home is taken care of whether you’re working, watching your kid’s softball game, or visiting family during the holidays.

On the other hand, if you feel comfortable doing your own surveillance and sacrificing the peace of mind that comes from having someone watching out for your home even while you are away, you can save a few bucks a month by getting a self-monitored system.

No matter what you’re looking for in a home security system, Vivint can help you find it. Our home safety experts can analyze your home to show you the best devices to suit your needs. And if you’ve always dreamed of having an interconnected smart home, our professionals have the knowledge and skills to help you design and implement your ideal home automation setup. Call us at 855.822.1220 for a free consultation today.

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