The Cost of Smart Home Security

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Expert Verified By: Steve Olshansky, M.S.

Whether you’ve decided to get a home security system or not, cost is probably a huge factor in your decision. What is necessary to spend on a home security system, and how do I know that I’m not being ripped off? This is a question that can only be answered by a security expert, which, fortunately, I am.

This article will discuss the average loss of a home invasion (which has to be factored in as well), plus the costs of different security systems. Of course, there are costs other than the equipment itself like professional monitoring, installation, cellular backup, and even storage— but we’ll cover those as well. Finally, I’ll round the article out with some ways to save on your home security, if you choose to get it. Is home security worth the cost? Read on to find out.

Average Loss of Home Invasion

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Cost of Home Invasion

Before we discuss the costs of the home security systems available today, I want to remind you what’s at stake. Of course, this number will vary based on what items you have, but according to a report from the FBI, the average loss of a home invasion is $2,316. Keep in mind that the FBI hasn’t done this report since 2015, so this is a low estimate and hasn’t been adjusted for 2019 inflation.

Aside from losing money and property, burglaries also take an emotional toll on their victims. Dr. Billie Corder, a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina’s school of medicine, said in an interview with Psychology Today,

“The majority of victims say they will never have the same feeling of security and inviolability that they had in the past.”

In a study of 68 burglary victims, Dr. Corder found that half of the victims said the burglary felt like “a violent or rape.” Similarly, about a third of the victims questioned said that anxiety and the inability to sleep lingered for months after the initial burglary. The effects are even worse for kids, Dr. Corder found.

Not only does burglary affect you financially, but it also affects you emotionally, no matter how tough you are. Now, let’s see what you could be spending on a home security system.

Basic Overview of Smart Home Security Costs

Home Security
Home Security

Aside from the actual equipment of a security system, which may include cameras, sensors, panic buttons, key fobs, and other components, there are some other costs that you may or may not be responsible for, such as:

  • Installation: Although most systems on the market today offer DIY installation, some, like Vivint, require that you pay for professional installation. Of course, you may opt to have a third party install your system for you rather than do it yourself.
  • Professional Monitoring: Some security systems include 24/7 professional monitoring, which can be paid on a yearly or monthly basis. On the other hand, some companies give you the option to self-monitor your system for free.
  • Cellular Backup: Similarly, cellular backup, which keeps your system on in a power outage, may be included with the system for monthly or yearly installments, included for free, or not included at all.
  • Storage: If your system has a security camera, you may or may not have to pay monthly or yearly fees for cloud and/ or local storage.

I’ll expand on these categories more in a bit, but I just wanted to give you a basic overview of what you can expect in terms of payment. But let’s take a step back and talk about your options.

The Three Kinds of Security Companies

I’ve reviewed a ton of home security systems in my day, and what I’ve noticed is that the majority of them can be placed in three distinct categories.

Wholesale Home Security Companies

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Swann Box

If you’ve ever been to a Costco or Sam’s Club, you’ve probably noticed the security systems available— those stores truly have everything! From brands like Swann, Lorex, and Night Owl, the security systems available tend to include security cameras and external hard drives, missing sensors, key fobs, and all that good stuff.

lorex-vs-night-owl-vs-swann-security-system-review
Lorex vs. Night Owl vs. Swann System Components

These systems don’t include the option of professional monitoring, professional installation, or cellular backup. The storage is local through the included hard drive, so you won’t have to pay for that either. Basically, if you want a basic system with no extra fees after the equipment, a system from these brands is the way to go.

Traditional Home Security Companies

frontpoint-yard-sign
Frontpoint Yard Sign

Companies like Frontpoint, Vivint, Protect America and ADT (the oldest security company in the country) take a much more expansive approach to home security. These companies, aside from Vivint, include 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup with their equipment, requiring monthly or yearly fees and long-term contracts.

However, the majority offer DIY installation, aside from Vivint, along with cloud storage included. There’s no doubt, out of the three categories I propose these systems have the highest equipment and monitoring costs. Check out these prices for professional monitoring and cellular backup. 

That’s on top of the money you’re paying for equipment, which ranges from $358 with Protect America to $844 with Vivint— yikes. Of course, with more established companies, it can be argued that they’re inherently more trustworthy than a startup security company, which brings me to my next point.

Disruptive Home Security Companies

abode-security-system-review
abode Box

The last category that I want to talk about are the disruptors, startup companies that give the customer more affordable and flexible options like SimpliSafe, Nest Secure and Ring Alarm. None of these systems require 24/7 professional monitoring or cellular backup, and the prices tend to be lower than companies like ADT or Frontpoint.

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Ring vs. Nest vs. SimpliSafe Monitoring Pricing

All of these companies offer DIY installation, but cloud storage prices vary pretty wildly. However, with equipment prices at $399 for Nest Secure, $239 for the Ring Alarm Security Kit, and $559 for the SimpliSafe Summerfort System, you’ll definitely pay less overall than more traditional companies. The disadvantage? As these companies were formed more recently, you may not have the assurance of say, ADT, which has been in business for over 145 years.

Cost of Equipment

simplisafe-security-system-review
SimpliSafe Summerfort System

Now let’s talk equipment. With most security companies, you can either buy packages or individual components, including:

  • Security camera
  • Motion sensor
  • Glass break sensor
  • Entry sensor
  • Siren
  • Keypad
  • Key fob
  • Panic button
  • Base station

and more. Of course, not every company has the same components available. Kangaroo, for example, only has motion and entry sensors as of writing, while some systems have over 12 components. In this chart, I map out exactly how much the packages I bought from each company cost (not including any add-ons that I may have purchased from the company). Of course, you can always add or switch around components, which may change the cost, but this can still give you a basic overview of what to expect in terms of pricing.

Home Security Systems Under $200

Security System Equipment Costs $200 and Under
Security System Equipment Costs $200 and Under

Believe it or not, you can spend less than $200 on your security equipment! There are many options available, most of which have five or fewer components. Really, as long as you have a motion sensor, an entry sensor to see when doors or windows have been opened or closed, and an indoor camera, you’re off to a great start.

Home Security Systems $201 to $400

Security System Equipment Costs $201- $400
Security System Equipment Costs $201- $400

The majority of the security systems that I’ve reviewed fall between $201 to $400 for the equipment. As you can see, these packages come with more components than the least expensive category, which makes total sense.

Home Security Systems Over $400

Home Security System Equipment Costs $400 and Up
Home Security System Equipment Costs $400 and Up

The majority of the most expensive security systems tend to be from the more traditional security companies, as I said above. Of course, your system components will completely depend on  your home’s needs; its size, location, and more. That being said, with such a wide range of prices available, it isn’t hard to get started with a home security system, even if it’s just two sensors. Also, keep in mind that all of these systems are less than half the cost of the average burglary at $2,316.

Cost of Installation

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Installing the Cove Entry Sensor

Although most of the security systems that I’ve reviewed have easy, DIY installation, you might want to pay money to not have to do it yourself. However, only Vivint and abode offer professional installation option, at $129 and $99 and up, respectively. With any of the other systems, you’re going to need to call in a third party company.

Of course, the cost of third party installation is going to vary greatly on the size of your system, whether it’s wired or wireless, and where you live, but according to an article from HomeAdvisor, it should cost anywhere from $120 to $600. If you want to save money, installing your own security system is a great place to start. Especially if it’s wireless, installation may not be too complicated.

Cost of Professional Monitoring and Cellular Backup

Professional Monitoring
Professional Monitoring

For those of you not super familiar with home security, you can either self monitor your system yourself, or pay a monthly or yearly fee for 24/7 professional monitoring.

In the latter case, you won’t be the only one responsible for your home’s security. If any of your alarms go off, you’ll still be notified, of course, but so will the monitoring team. If you aren’t responsive, it’s the monitoring team that will verify the emergency and contact the right people, be it the police, the fire department, or even the hospital.

Cellular Backup
Cellular Backup

Cellular backup, on the other hand, makes sure that your system stays on all the time, even in the event of a power outage. While some security systems include both professional monitoring and cellular backup with their systems, some don’t offer it at all. Let’s start with those.

Self Monitoring Only

Home Security Systems with Self-Monitoring Only
Home Security Systems with Self-Monitoring Only

As you can see, these companies don’t offer any monitoring, and only iSmartSafe includes cellular backup for free with its system. If you’re looking to avoid monthly or yearly fees, these companies are an option. However, some companies give you both options, but for a wide variety of prices, which brings me to my next point…

Professional Monitoring and Cellular Backup Under $20/ Month

Home Security Monitoring Prices Under $20/ Month
Home Security Monitoring Prices Under $20/ Month

Hear ye, hear ye! Professional monitoring and cellular backup are available for $20 and under monthly, or at the lowest, $8.95 a month with the Fortress security system. Some companies offer a discount if you sign up for a year, while some companies require that you sign long-term contracts. I personally prefer flexible, month-to-month pricing. And as you can see, only Cove forces you to pay for professional monitoring, so the others on this list can also be self-monitored.

Professional Monitoring and Cellular Backup Over $20/ Month

Cost of Home Security Monitoring Over $20 A Month
Cost of Home Security Monitoring Over $20 A Month

Like I said before, these more traditional companies have expensive professional monitoring and cellular backup along with more long-term contracts. While I wouldn’t say these prices are a dealbreaker, if you’re trying to save money, I would focus on the $20 a month and under category.

Cost of Storage

Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage
Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage

Now let’s talk storage. If your security system has a camera, you may or not have to pay for local and/ or cloud storage. I recommend getting both so you can back up your footage in two ways (redundancy is key). As far as pricing goes, local storage is usually free in the form of a slot for a micro-SD card, and cloud storage can be free or paid. Let’s get into specifics.

Security Cameras Without Cloud Storage

Security Systems With No Cloud Storage
Security Systems With No Cloud Storage

Typically, the only thing you’ll be paying for storage-wise is cloud storage, so these cameras won’t require you to pay for storage of any kind, as they only offer local. Keep in mind that you can always back up your local footage onto a cloud server like Dropbox or Google Drive, but it won’t happen automatically with your security app.

Security Cameras With Free Options For More Than A Day of Cloud Storage

Cameras Without Free Cloud Storage More Than One Day
Cameras Without Free Cloud Storage More Than One Day

While most companies offer at least a few hours of cloud storage for free, these companies offer cloud storage for over 24 hours, completely free. If you wish to upgrade, there are paid options as well.

Security Cameras Without Free Options For More Than A Day of Cloud Storage

Cameras Without Free Cloud Storage More Than One Day
Cameras Without Free Cloud Storage More Than One Day

If you’re looking to save money, I’d avoid cameras from the companies that do not include cloud and local storage with the monitoring plans, like Nest Secure and Lifeshield. Remember that some monitoring plans include storage along with other features like discounts on the company’s website, specialized notifications, and more. The point is, before you buy a security system, make sure to research it individually first.

Ways to Save on Smart Home Security

If you haven’t figured it out by now, there are a ton of different ways to do home security, some more affordable than others. But if you’re really looking to save money, there are a few simple things you can do to minimize costs, like:

  • Long-term contracts: Some companies will give you a discount on professional monitoring, cellular backup and/ or cloud storage if you sign a contract for a longer term.
  • DIY installation: Most of these systems are designed to be easy to install, completely demolishing that cost.
  • Self-monitoring: If you feel that you have the time, self-monitoring your system yourself is a great way to avoid monthly and yearly fees.
  • Home insurance discounts: Many home insurance companies give discounts for people that buy home security systems, so make sure to check in with your insurance agent before making a purchase.

Got any more ways to save money on your home security system? Leave them in the comments— we’d love to hear from you.

Is Smart Home Security Worth The Cost?

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Cost of Smart Home Security

As you can see, there’s a huge variety of choices when it comes to your smart home security. You can spend as little as $30 on equipment with no other fees, to literally thousands of dollars of equipment to up to $70 a month for professional monitoring, and everything in between. But it’s only worth the money if you think a security system will actually protect you from burglars. So, just how effective is home security?

Well, according to a five-year long study from Rutgers University, the answer is that home security systems are very effective. Using crime data from the Newark Police Department, it was showed that the number of alarm systems correlated with a decrease in burglaries, according to Dr. Seungmug Lee, the study’s author. He said,

“Neighborhoods in which burglar alarms were densely installed have fewer incidents of residential burglaries than the neighborhoods with fewer burglar alarms.”

So even if your neighbor has an alarm system, that’ll still make your home safer— that’s how effective they are. As always, leave any comments or questions below and we hope to hear from you soon.

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.

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