How to Choose a Home Security System
According to the FBI, houses that have installed a quality home security system are three times less likely to be targeted by a burglar. In order to provide the best protection to your home and family, installing some kind of security system is essential. For many homeowners, though, trying to decide what equipment is worth investing in and where it should be placed can be overwhelming.
In our years of experience, we’ve learned there are a few factors any new customer should consider when selecting the best security system for their home. Home security isn’t one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to think through individual needs and priorities to determine the most appropriate plan. We’ll help you get started on the decision-making process by discussing some of the most important home security features to look for.
Wired vs. Wireless
One of the first decisions you’ll have to make when choosing a home security system is whether you want your cameras to be wired or wireless. There are pros and cons to each choice, and it may simply come down to the layout of your home. With a wired camera system, it’s slightly more difficult to install the cameras, as a physical wire needs to run between each unit and the power source. If you’re in the process of building a home, a wired system can be a bit easier to install as you finish constructing the house. The camera’s video is typically recorded on a DVR (or “digital video recorder”), which is very user-friendly and makes it easy to find an exact video clip when scrolling through footage. A wired system will produce a high-quality video, and you won’t have to worry about any interference from nearby wireless signals.
A wireless system, on the other hand, offers cameras that are easier to move around because they don’t need to be hardwired to any devices and can communicate with the alarm system without a physical connection. They usually still need to be connected to a power source, though, and they must be in range of the wireless signal. This means the devices may need to be placed near outlets, which can limit your potential camera locations, or need special wiring in order to connect to the power source. If the cameras aren’t close enough to the wireless signal, you run the risk of interference causing false alarms and other connection issues.
Scare intruders away
Most homeowners don’t give much thought to how their home security system will be affected by its power source, but this plays an important role in how your devices function day-to-day. Many security systems still run on electric power to operate your devices. This method provides strong and consistent power, but it also means you have to place cameras near outlets, which may not always be ideal. There have also been stories reported of burglars who are able to disable systems that rely on electrical power, so it’s important to consider these risks before purchasing a system.
Battery-powered security systems are among the most popular alternatives to traditional electricity-powered cameras. These kinds of cameras can be placed more freely, and they won’t stop working if you experience a power outage. When paired together, a wireless battery-powered security system will provide the freedom to put your devices wherever you choose, regardless of outlet placements. If you do go with a battery-powered security system, be sure to keep backup batteries on hand. Batteries don’t last forever, and you don’t want your devices to sit without the ability to capture activity in a time of need.
Fixed vs. Moving Cameras
Most security cameras are simply installed in a permanent spot, where they point in one direction and catch only the action that comes into its frame. These are known as fixed cameras, and the advantage of this system is that you always know exactly what you’re going to see in the lens. However, because the fixed devices don’t move at all, one camera can’t cover as much space. You may either experience blind spots around your property, or you’ll need to purchase more cameras in order to cover the entire area.
Some security systems now offer moving cameras, which can pan, tilt or zoom to follow detected motion. These cameras can also be moved manually through access on your smartphone. This added flexibility can be really helpful in catching complete actions as they happen across your property, and you won’t need as many devices to cover the same area. Unfortunately, these options tend to be less durable than fixed cameras, which means you may need to replace them more frequently. You may also risk missing something if the camera happens to be pointed in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
Inside vs. Outside Cameras
One question many homeowners ask is whether it’s more important to have indoor or outdoor security cameras on their property. Of course, utilizing both will make your home the most secure, but depending on your family’s needs, only one kind may be necessary.
If you’re most concerned with warding off potential thieves, keeping an eye on deliveries or catching car burglars, you’ll want to prioritize outdoor cameras. These may include cameras placed on your porch, near your garage door, or in place of your traditional doorbell. Outdoor cameras can perhaps prove their worth more quickly than any other piece of home security equipment. If a burglar notices you have visible outdoor security cameras, they will usually avoid your house for fear of being caught. However, in the event that an intruder does come into your home, outdoor cameras won’t catch any of their activity once they make it inside.
With indoor cameras placed throughout your home, you can catch all of the activity of any intruders. This footage is critical when working with police and first responders, as it provides hard evidence of the intruder’s movements and may make it easier for them to be found. Nevertheless, indoor cameras can’t provide the same deterrence factor as outdoor cameras, because they’re not visible from outside the house.
Indoor cameras are able to provide a valuable look inside your home anytime you are away and offer benefits outside of monitoring an intruder. An indoor camera can allow you to keep an eye on your pets when you aren’t home. Parents can certainly appreciate an indoor camera’s ability to provide evidence when settling a sibling dispute or determining if the “wind” really was responsible for the broken vase.
Number & Placement of Cameras
Once you decide what your priorities are for your home security cameras, you’ll need to determine where exactly the devices should be placed and how many you will need. If you’re installing outdoor cameras, most homeowners start by placing units near all entries to the house, such as the front door, back door and garage door. For indoor systems, common camera locations include any area an intruder will pass through to reach other rooms, such as hallways, entryways and the main living area.
Most burglars head to the master bedroom first to look for valuables, so it’s a good idea to place a camera here as well. If placing a camera inside the bedroom makes you hesitant, consider locations just outside the entrance to the room. People who want to use their cameras to monitor kids or elderly people at home will also want to place devices in the other bedrooms and playrooms. As you adjust your cameras, be sure to aim it so that people will be forced to walk right past the lens, as their movements will set off the motion detectors that prompt the recording to begin.
Door & Window Sensors
Though cameras are typically the most popular devices customers want to discuss for home security, individual motion sensors are important items to consider when building your system. Sensors placed on your windows or entry doors will automatically emit an alarm if they’re opened after your system has been armed. You may think if you already have cameras installed, sensors are unnecessary, but you shouldn’t underestimate how effective it can be to have a second sensor triggering a loud alarm sound through the house when an unwanted visitor is attempting to come in. You’ll be alerted instantly to the situation, and the intruder will know they’ve been caught already and will likely take off before they can cause any further damage.
If you’ve already placed outdoor cameras at your front and back doors, it may be most beneficial to use sensors at each window on your first story. These devices can protect against intruders avoiding the cameras at the main doors and make sure that the smaller entries are still properly protected. If you don’t yet have outdoor cameras installed, door sensors on all main entryways are a good choice to start with to make sure no one will come into your home undetected.
Additional Features to Consider
As we briefly discussed earlier, one of the most beneficial features to look for in security cameras is motion activation. Motion-activated cameras will only begin recording when they detect movement, which prevents you from having to scroll through hours of footage to find a clip of the action. These systems can also notify you through their mobile app when any motion is detected, so you can immediately check in on the camera to see what’s going on and decide what action to take next.
Another helpful feature motion-activated cameras typically offer is active deterrence. When motion crosses the camera’s field, the devices can emit a loud chime and bright light, notifying the trespasser and others in your area that someone is on the property. This feature alone may be all it takes to scare off burglars for fear of being caught.
If you’re interested in accessing your cameras when you’re away from home, you’ll also want to make sure any security system you purchase offers remote access. Through their mobile app, some systems will allow you to check the live view of your camera, see past video clips, or turn on active deterrence from any location at any time. These systems may also have two-way speakers installed in their cameras, allowing you to speak to any visitors or intruders through your smartphone, even when you’re miles away.
Both indoor and outdoor cameras are much more effective when they offer night vision capabilities. Without night vision, it will be very hard to see anything on camera once it gets dark. This feature allows the cameras to capture any and all suspicious activity, keeping you protected at all hours of the day or night. Check for night vision features on any security cameras you consider and be sure to note the maximum distance it can cover. Some cameras can see up to 15 feet at night, while others reach 65 feet or more.
Is A Monitored System Necessary?
Although many home security systems come with the option to add monitored surveillance, some options do not require monitoring in order to use the equipment. Since many cameras can send footage directly to mobile apps, homeowners can oversee their property and receive alerts through their smartphone without paying a monthly fee for professional monitoring. However, there are certainly still benefits to having a monitored system. If you were to miss an important security alert on your phone, an intruder could come in and out of your home with your valuables long before you have the chance to contact police. With a monitoring system, any suspicious activity will be sent straight to your security company so they can contact the police, fire department or ambulance to respond to the emergency as soon as possible. The monitoring center will also contact you directly by telephone to inform you that your alarm is going off.
If you choose to go with monitored devices, your system will typically include a wide range of security features, including motion detectors, automated door locks, video security cameras and window sensors. In addition to burglaries and criminal activity, monitored alarm systems can be used to detect smoke and carbon monoxide, keeping your home safe from an array of dangers.
For homeowners that struggle with mobility, hearing or other medical issues, monitored alarm systems can be especially beneficial. Having a security center closely watch the house adds an extra layer of protection and observation that you may not get otherwise. Monitored systems also usually include a “panic button” that is preset to contact police and paramedics, providing yet another opportunity for instant help in any emergency.
Consider the Cost
It should come as no surprise that in the world of home security, the more you spend, the more protection you will get. However, it’s important for you to choose a system that will work best for your own family and budget. Depending on the size of your property and the level of security you need, you can receive plenty of protection with a few simple additions, such as a video doorbell or strategically placed outdoor cameras.
For homeowners who have a larger property to cover, there may be a greater need for motion-activated cameras in order to keep an eye on all the corners of your lot. If you live in an area with higher crime rates, you may also need a more complete security system to suit your needs best. In these cases, a monitored system can prove particularly helpful in receiving an immediate response in the event of a break-in or other property damage.
Before you make a final decision on your home security system, remember to check customer reviews on a number of sites to be sure other consumers are happy with the company. These testimonials can provide valuable insight into the reality of working with the brand and prepare you for any headaches you may face down the road. Start with sources like the Better Business Bureau, home improvement sites, Trustpilot, and even your own contacts to build your confidence in the decision you’ve made.
Vivint offers all of these home security features and more with their professionally installed monitored alarm system. Vivint’s system provides 24/7 protection to your home, and you can also check the live video feed from your home’s security cameras at any time through the Vivint App. For more information on Vivint’s monitored home security system, call 855-848-4681 for a free quote.