Home security systems are the most effective way of keeping your home safe, discouraging potential intruders and bringing you peace of mind. With so many types of security systems on the market, offering a variety of features, the decision as to which system is right for you can be difficult. That’s where our buyer’s guide comes in. We have gathered all the information we feel you need to know, to make that decision much easier.
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A smart home security system consists of a number of devices that use Wi-Fi to connect to a central hub. The main security gadgets that are included are motion detectors, sensors, cameras and alarms.
- Entry sensors detect when someone has entered your home by breaking in through a door or window.
- Motion detection detect movement around the home.
- Security cameras capture footage, which can be provided to the police in instances of intrusion. You are able to view live footage from the cameras on your app.
Other equipment/ features that are provided as part of your security system or are offered as a separate purchase are:
- Environmental sensors, which trigger an alarm to alert you to environmental threats such as flood, smoke or carbon monoxide.
- Keypad, which is the device with which you enable and disable your alarm.
- Battery back up to allow it to continue working even during a power cut.
- Two-way communication system with which you will be able to capture audio as well as visuals on the camera recordings and to speak back.
- Medical monitor connects with medical alert devices. This can be an important feature for those wanting to keep check on elderly family members. Some also include a panic button.
- Video doorbell provides you with footage of your front door when someone approaches and usually includes two-way talk to allow you to speak to them.
- Mobile App allow you to arm and disarm the system, check your batteries, create schedules for your system and much more. You will also be notified of any alerts through the app as well as by text and you can switch off any false alarms.
- Geotracking identifies your location and whether you are close to home. With this feature, you can tell your system to disarm as you approach your property so that you do not have to rush in to disarm.
Before purchasing a smart home security system, you will also need to consider whether you want to self-monitor or have professional monitors. If you opt for professional monitoring, be aware that you will usually subscribe to a monthly payment and will need to sign a contract. Ensure you read the terms and conditions thoroughly before purchase.
We also recommend that you ensure you read the set-up instructions well as the positioning of your devices can have a significant effect on the security that is being provided.
What is a smart home security system?
A smart home security system consists of a number of security gadgets that connect to the internet. The security gadgets that are usually included in the security sets are sensors, motion detectors, cameras, door locks and alarms. The gadgets will come as a package and vary between manufacturers with the option to add additional gadgets. Most manufacturers now offer a choice of packages.
The home security systems connect to a ‘hub’. The hub then connects to an app on either your smart phone or tablet so you can monitor your home when you are not there. The app will allow you to receive alerts, photos or video footage taken by the security camera(s).
That is not all they can do! Many home security systems can offer much more than just security.
With some security systems, you can control other things in your home, such as your heating and lighting. Others have cameras that can double up as a baby monitor due to night vision and a two-way speaker. Tags that attach to keyrings, wallets or animal collars, can monitor the comings and goings of family members and pets. For example, you may want to attach one to your pet’s collar and receive a notification when they arrive home. Cameras can also be set to record footage, sensors can alert you to leaks and a smart plug can turn on a light when a certain door is opened.
How are smart home security systems fitted?
Home security systems are self-installed. The actual installation is not so difficult; however, ensuring all the gadgets in the most effective places is a little more difficult. If like most of us, you are not knowledgeable and skilled in security it is easy to make a mistake in the positioning of your gadgets.
Here are a few pointers to ensure you don’t make those mistakes.
- Ensure you read the instructions provided with your system, thoroughly.
- Security cameras should not face windows. If your camera was to capture an intruder, the image will be distorted and more than likely unrecognisable.
- Alarms/ sirens should be placed somewhere they cannot be reached and destroyed by an intruder.
- Motion detectors should be at access points.
- Sensors need to be positioned carefully to ensure there isn’t a way an intruder can elude them.
Self-monitor or professional-monitor
The choice as to whether you monitor your security yourself or pay a professional is an important one. Some give you the choice others do not.
If you decide to self-monitor, you take on the responsibility of checking your security and make the decisions as to whether you notify the relevant authorities.
Professional monitoring is offered usually through subscription with which you sign a contract. Professional monitoring usually includes 24hour monitoring by someone who will contact you if an alarm is triggered. They will also contact the police if there is a suspected break-in.
If you do opt for professional monitoring, ensure you know all the details of what you are contracting yourself too, and all the costs involved.
Equipment and features
As security systems come with a number of devices and boast various features, we have broken down some of the most common/important features to help you make a decision as to which are the most important to your needs.
Entry sensors detect when someone has entered your home by breaking in through a door or window. These are the first defence against an intruder as these are the most common entry points.
Home security systems also include a motion sensor. These should be placed in an area such as the hallway where people are moving in and out of the home. These are useful for those with elderly loved ones that can become disorientated or family members living at home with dementia, as the sensors will be triggered before they reach the door.
If you have pets, we recommend you only use the entry sensors as the motion detectors may be triggered numerous times as your pets move around the home.
Cameras that come as part of your home security system capture footage, which can be provided to the police in incidents of intrusion. They are also useful for notifying you of any false alarms, as you are able to view live footage from the cameras on your app.
There are both indoor and outdoor cameras supplied with home security systems, so ensure you know which is which before installing as indoor cameras tend not to have been designed to be waterproof.
With environmental sensors, your home security system can not only protect from intruders but also trigger an alarm to alert you to environmental threats such as flood. It can also detect smoke and carbon monoxide, which can save you the cost of purchasing separate devices.
Keypads are usually digital or full touch screen and are the device with which you enable and disable your alarm.
Most smart home security systems now have a battery back up to allow it to continue working even during a power cut. Your devices will need batteries replacing in them so ensure you read your manual as to how often this is expected to be.
Two-Way Communication System
If your home security system comes with two-way communication, you will be able to capture audio as well as visuals on the camera recordings. You will also be able to speak back out through either the keypad inside your home or the app on your phone if you are not home.
Home security systems that have a medical monitor can connect with medical alert devices. This can be an important feature for those wanting to keep check on elderly family members. Some also include a system that includes a panic button with which your loved one could call for help if they have fallen or become unwell. Systems that have this feature often contain the same features as a medical alert system and include 24 hour monitoring and the two-way talk feature.
This feature provides you with footage of your front door when someone approaches and usually includes two-way talk to allow you to speak to them. This feature is helpful not only in being additional surveillance of your front door but also helpful in allowing people in to your home and ensuring your arriving packages are safe.
Smart home security systems have a free mobile app. With this app, you are able to arm and disarm the system, check your batteries, create schedules for your system and much more. You will also be notified of any alerts through the app as well as by text and you can switch off any false alarms.
If you have smart home integration included with your security system, you will use the app to set up triggers for the smart home devices such as turning lights on when a motion sensor is activated.
If your system includes geotracking, your smartphone will be able to identify your location and whether you are close to home. With this feature, you can tell your system to disarm as you approach your property so that you do not have to rush in to disarm. You may also be able to tell your system to close your garage door as you are leaving.
Customer Service and Service Contract
It is important that you know about the customer service and service contract supplied with your smart home security. You need to be confident that you can contact customer service whenever you have a question or query and that the relevant authorities will be called in an emergency. We recommend that when you find a system you look at reviews of their customer service before purchasing.
As the company is providing a monitoring system, you may also be asked to sign a contract, which has an average contract time of 3 years. Other companies may ask you to pay a monthly subscription fee and some will simply allow you to purchase the equipment without monitoring. Therefore, ensure you read through the terms and conditions to ensure you understand if there is a contract involved and you know all the costs of owning. It is also with checking terms of cancellation, as you do not want to be stuck with a system that is not suited to your need.
A basic smart home security system can be bought for just under £200. However, a basic kit may not be suitable to cover your whole home.
The cost of a smart home security system will depend on the size of your home, you will then need to factor in any extra components you will need/want for your property.
As a guideline, for a 2-bedroom house you can expect to pay around £500 for a system relying on motion detectors. Adding a number of security cameras and door and window sensors, can significantly increase this price.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Wi-Fi range on a smart home security system varies between models. As a general guideline, a Wi-Fi range of 50 metres is recommended for a larger home.
There are pros and cons to both security systems, so the decision is ultimately yours. A smart home security system is self-installed meaning it is more likely to be installed where the devices are not most useful. Whereas, the traditional burglar alarm have to exact the manufacturer’s security standards.
Conversely, the traditional burglar alarm will simply sound if there is an intruder, meaning you must rely on a neighbour to alert you if the alarm is sounding and you are not home. A smart home security system will send you an alert and allow you to check what has happened to cause a trigger.