Published Jun. 3, 2021

By The PopSci Commerce Team

There is nothing better than feeling safe in your home. Unfortunately, a simple bolted door doesn’t always deliver the peace of mind it should, and you need to bolster your defenses. The best home security systems are considerably simpler to set up now than just a few years ago, with easy-to-install DIY cameras, monitors, and other accessories. You can even customize them without ever hiring a professional installer.

We took a look at some of the most popular home security cameras and systems available, for those in small spaces and palatial homes alike. Featuring simple, user-friendly setups and control interfaces, these devices make it easier to relax knowing you’ve taken your home security system to the next level.

Before You Buy a Home Security System

Investing in a technological upgrade should always start with a quick assessment of your own needs and environment. You may want, for example, a doorbell cam, but perhaps you live in an apartment building and the landlord forbids any door-lock replacements. On the other hand, a motion-sensitive camera or light system could get pretty annoying if you live in a rural area where critters run around outside. Get to know your space, what you’re looking to accomplish (extra lighting? Visual information? A way to store data?), then find the system that works for you.

Types of Home Security Systems

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Your Eyes All Around

Keep your home safe.

Like many product categories, “Home Security System” can mean a lot of different things. From a networked series of sensors and lights to simple doorbell cameras, anything that adds that extra level of protection can qualify. Before you invest, however, it’s important to understand the types of home security systems at your disposal and what some of the technical names for each product subset actually refer to. That way, you don’t end up like Goldilocks: stuck with a surveillance system that’s inadequate or one that’s way too advanced. Here’s a quick look at some of the variations you may encounter on your search.

Monitored Surveillance Systems

Monitored surveillance systems refer to systems that are actively monitored by a professional home security company. When the system detects a break-in, fire, or another emergency, it notifies the security team and, in some cases, emergency responders. These systems provide around-the-clock coverage, but they often require a monthly fee to retain the service.

Unmonitored Security Systems

Unmonitored security systems refer to those which you can install yourself (or have professionally installed) and do not have an outside monitor. Though they vary, these systems can consist of a control panel, motion sensors, door and window sensors, glass-break sensors, smoke detectors, and sirens. They provide less security than monitored systems, but they are the generally cheaper option.

Wired Home Alarm Systems

A Wired Home Alarm System is one that is hardwired to a number of sensors throughout the home that are connected to a control panel via a network of wires that run inside the walls and under the floors. Wired alarm systems tend to be more reliable than wireless ones, but they are also more tedious to install and may not be able to reach every area you’d like.

Wireless Security Alarm Systems

A Wireless Security Alarm System also features a central control panel, but the sensors connect to and communicate with the control panel wirelessly via Bluetooth or WiFi. Wireless systems are ideal for homes that don’t have a pre-installed system, or for rented apartments that don’t allow you to drill into the walls. But, just like your Google Doc might get lost when your WiFi cuts out, wireless security systems that rely on internet connection may face interference from time to time.

What to Look for When Buying Home Security Systems

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Consider Connectivity

Most systems today connect to your smartphone.

Not all home security systems are created equal, and you might not necessarily need all the bells and whistles. Familiarize yourself with what’s out there and what’s even possible, then make the case for it being a “must-have” versus a “can live without.” That will help narrow your choices and better your odds of getting the best home security system that delivers what you need.

Smart Home Automation

The way we control our appliances, lights, garage doors, and entertainment systems has changed with the advent of smart home technology, so it stands to reason that home security systems would, too. Finding a surveillance system that is compatible with your other smart devices can help you monitor and control from afar, for example setting timers, collecting data, and even customizing with systems that integrate with Amazon Echo or Google Home devices.

Professional Monitoring

While some surveillance equipment systems are meant to put the control entirely in your hands, others offer connection to outside, professional monitoring services. These can alert you if there is a potential break-in or another incident, and in some cases can even contact local emergency services. The one caveat here is that these systems will likely require additional fees for their services.

Mobile App

Most of the smart home-enabled security systems have some kind of app functionality, which allows you to remotely control your cameras, lights, and sensors through your smartphone. It’s not only convenient, but the instant connection can also make signing up for an outside monitoring service (which carries monthly or yearly subscription fees) unnecessary. So it can be a cost-saving measure as well.

Expandability

Many home security systems bill themselves as “starter kits,” which usually implies that they can be added to or expanded depending on your needs. This is important if you are dipping your toes into home security for the first time: You simply may not know fully what you need at first. Setting up a base unit and test driving it for a bit—with the understanding that you can add elements later—is an efficient way to approach the initial install.

Design

Security is the main concern here, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to settle for clunky, intimidating, or intrusive devices. As the category grows, more and more companies are investing in sleek, modern styling. Brands like SimpliSafe, Cove, and eufy feature devices meant to blend in and accent your home decor.

Our best home security system picks

Taking into consideration all of the above, we’ve spotlighted some security systems and devices that provide the best services, easiest installations, and most customizable features. Get to know some of the leading brands in this product category, and some possibly lesser-known companies that provide unique new options in the space. Regardless, you are bound to find a system here that will make you feel a lot better about your personal security.

Best overall home security system: SimpliSafe 9 Piece Wireless Home Security System

Great All-In-One Package

Flexible, adaptable, and user-friendly. Amazon

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Best for homes with multiple floors, the SimpliSafe 9 Piece Wireless Home Security System is one of the best mixtures of great design, simple integration, and efficient performance. Featuring a base station (which can scream out a 95 dB siren), a password keypad, 4 entry sensors, 2 motion sensors, and a camera, the SimpliSafe is powered by an app, and has Smart Motion Detection, so you can get alerts instantly. Additional sensors can be added on for a more customized security system.

Best home security system under $100: BOIFUN WiFi Video Doorbell Camera

Two-Way Voice Messaging

Inexpensive and limited in range, it still delivers extra protection and functionality. Amazon

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A simple replacement for your standard doorbell, the BOIFUN doorbell camera is battery-powered and delivers full 1080p HD video. It syncs with your smartphone (where you can store videos), has a 166-degree visual range, and can even tell the difference between humans and other animals. It’s also weatherproof and provides a 2-way intercom. The WiFi camera can last for up to two to four months after a full charge, and the front door camera offers both cloud and Micro SD card storage.

Best smart home security system: Cove 8 Piece Wireless Home Security System

Easy Installation

Voice control through existing smart home devices sets the Cove system apart. Amazon

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One of the best out-of-the-box choices thanks to its easy DIY installation (no tools are required, and its proprietary install Wizard makes WiFi configuration simple), the Cove security system syncs well with smart homes. Allowing for voice control through Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, it is user-friendly and easily integrates into a larger home-control system.

Best basic home security system: Blue by ADT Doorbell Camera

For The Front Door

No-frills doorbell camera offers good features without complicated system installation. Amazon

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As easy to install as “place over your existing doorbell and connect to your WiFi,” the Blue by ADT offers two-way intercom and motion detection but ups the ante with night vision and facial recognition. It connects through your smartphone, where you can watch and monitor video. Nothing fancy, but it brings some peace of mind to the front door.

Best DIY home security system: Blue by ADT Starter Plus System

Serious System

Blue by ADT Starter Plus System Amazon

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Easier to install than a speaker system, the ADT Starter Plus provides a small, designed-to-be-inconspicuous control hub that acts as a modem for 4 door or window sensors and 2 motion sensors. Place them wherever you want, and connect them to the hub via WiFi. That’s it. You can easily move them around or add modules to the system as you see fit. You are in complete control. Check out some tips on learning to install a DIY home security system.

The Advantages of Owning a Home Security System

Peace of mind is the biggest gift a home security system will bring you, and that comes in many forms. Here are some of the reasons to beef up your current home-protection system or install one for the very first time.

  • Burglary and trespass deterrence: The most obvious reason for investing in a home security system is to keep you and your family safe. Even if you don’t live in a high-crime area, a little extra protection goes a long way.
  • savings: A solid security system may reduce the need to, say, keep lights on when you’re not home, saving you money.
  • Reduced home insurance premiums: Taking extra steps now to secure your home can have positive financial repercussions later.

FAQs About Your New Home Security System

When looking to install or upgrade the best home security system, it’s important to have a clear idea of what, exactly, you need. An interconnected series of cameras may be overkill if you live in a small space, while a simple doorbell camera might not cover enough ground for you if your property is somewhat larger. Either way, knowing the limitations of your space, your personal expertise, and how much customization or personalization you require will help narrow down your options. Also, bracing for eventualities—for example, do you live someplace where power outages are frequent?—will also help you find a system that keeps you secure no matter what. Consider these questions before you buy.

How does my home security system work during outages?

To determine this, check all of the ways your security system connects to its main monitoring center. If it can connect over standard phone lines or via cellular connection, it will likely be OK during an outage. If it’s solely WiFi connected, it won’t work during an outage.

Does a home security system increase property value?

The short answer is yes. A home security system can make your home more desirable, especially among millennials, 47% of whom own some sort of smart home products.

Who invented the first home security system?

In 1966, a nurse from Queens, N.Y., named Maria Van Brittan Brown invented a closed-circuit security system that could monitor people approaching her door and transmit the images back to a small television.

Final tips for buying and using the best home security systems

Now that you’re more familiar with what’s available and possible, here is a handy checklist to help you hone in even more precisely on the right tool for your particular job. It can save you a lot of running around and frantic phone calls to installation experts or IT departments.

  • Home and Property Size: Understanding how much space you need to cover will help you hone in on a particular system
  • Your Family’s Routine: You don’t want something that requires, say, frequent password entry if your home is a high-traffic area for lots of people
  • Your Security Needs: Do you need extra light? Or motion-sensitive cameras? Consider what you are most concerned with, whether it be trespassing, burglary, or other emergencies.
  • The Installation Process: Do you want something that’s plug-and-play out of the box, or are you willing to hire a pro to set things up (with additional costs)?

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