ADT Security System Review

ADT is a giant in the home security industry. They’ve been around for over 140 years, making them the oldest security company in the U.S- pretty impressive. Fun fact: did you know that ADT stands for American District Telegraphs? That’s because they used telegraphs in their original security system. But don’t worry- they’ve made technological advances since then.

Today we’re going to talk about all things ADT: what’s in their security system, how well it works, and how easy it was to set up. I’ll also explain your professional monitoring options, how customer service works, and all things related to the app.

What You Get

I purchased the key pad, motion, entry, and glass break sensors, a key ring remote, a smart lock, an alarm, a deadbolt, an indoor camera and finally a video doorbell. Let’s see how all the pieces work.

Keypad

The keypad is what controls the entire security system. Unlike other keypads, this one has actual buttons, which are probably easier to use if we’re being honest. Your keypad is what connects all of your home security and automation hardware. From there, you’ll be able to adjust connected devices, arm or disarm your system, and call for emergency help.

I love that the numbers are backlit, making it easy to find the right buttons even in the dark. Another nice feature is that the keypad gives you reminder tones as you’re entering or exiting your house to make sure that you arm/disarm your system. I can see this being really useful, especially in the morning rush out the door. You can put the keypad on a wall or any flat surface.

Glass Break Sensors

I was particularly impressed by the glass break sensors. Not surprisingly, they can detect when glass breaks. Once the sensor detects the sound of glass breaking, two things will happen: one, you’ll receive a mobile notification and two, the professional monitoring team will be on it immediately. They’ll assess the situation and decide whether or not to call the police for you.

I love that the glass break sensors have a 25-foot range, meaning you don’t need them in every window- anything that saves me money I’m all about. You can also adjust the sensors’ sensitivity between four settings, a feature I haven’t seen from any other security company. Now that I think about it, this feature could be super helpful if your house is loud in general (meaning: you have boys).

Motion Sensors

The motion sensors can detect motion in an area up to 35 by 40 feet. I don’t know about you, but that is more than enough space for my tiny New York apartment.

You’ll receive notifications if the sensor goes off, of course, but the motion sensors work a bit differently. Say your sensor detects motion while your system is armed. You’ll receive not only an alert, but a video clip of what’s happening. From there, you can decide whether or not you are having a true emergency.

Got dogs or cats? ADT allows you to customize the sensor’s sensitivity so it can differentiate between people and animals. As much as you love him, there’s no reason to be interrupted every five minutes with a video of your dog running around.

You can also connect your sensor and lights. If the motion sensor is triggered at night, you can have the lights turn on automatically. Imagine sneaking around someone’s house at night, thinking that you’ve got this in the bag, then all of the lights turn on. I don’t know about you, but I’d run out faster than a teenager trying to make curfew.

Design-wise, you can either choose from wireless or plug in sensors. If you go wireless, the batteries have a life of seven years, and they’ll alert you when they’re running low. All in all, I’m loving these motion sensors. They have a lot more capabilities than most, and trust me- I spend hours a week on this topic alone.

Entry Sensors

In a nutshell, entry sensors can tell when windows and doors are opened or closed. They are installed next to magnets. When a sensor gets further from its magnet, it will trigger your sensor to send a message to your key panel and subsequently, your smartphone or tablet.

Key Chain Remote

Your car has a key, so why shouldn’t your security system? ADT’s key fob allows you to arm or disarm your system with the touch of a button- no numerical codes needed here. Once your system has been armed or disarmed, the remote will light up as confirmation. There’s also a panic button if you’re in danger. Click it and ADT monitoring center will be alerted automatically. The remote has lithium batteries with a life of up to five years. Just like the motion sensors, they’ll alert you when it’s time for a replacement.

Smart Lock

Locking yourself out of your house is just one of life’s many inevitabilities, right? Not anymore. With smart locks, you can’t get locked out because you don’t need keys. Either use a numerical passcode on backlit buttons or unlock your door from your mobile app. You can also get alerts when the door is unlocked or locked, so you can see who’s coming and going. The lock is available in three colors- polished brass, satin nickel, and venetian bronze (or in English, gold, light gray, and dark gray).

Indoor Security Camera

Video quality

I must say that I’m disappointed with the indoor camera’s video quality. It only has 720p HD, much lower than the industry standard of 1080p HD. Plus, it can’t pan/ zoom, a very useful feature when it comes to identifying criminals. Finally, its field of view is only 90 degrees, meaning you’d need four cameras to cover one room completely. I think it’s fair to say that it’s time for an update, ADT.

Audio

Fortunately, the camera redeems itself with two-way audio. Two-way audio means that you can speak to whoever is in the area that the camera is recording. See an intruder? Tell them to beat it! More often then not, they’ll follow your instructions.

Storage

Unfortunately, the camera has no local storage. However, it does give you 30 days of cloud storage on the house, which is pretty generous. I like having both cloud and local storage options because it allows you to back up your footage in two different ways. Local storage in particular makes it easy to control your footage. If local storage is a must for you, this might not be the camera for you.

Smart Platform Integration/ Artificial Intelligence

While the ADT security system as a whole integrates with Amazon Alexa, the camera has no smart platform integrations. In the same vein, it lacks any artificial intelligence capabilities, meaning it can’t differentiate between types of moving objects. Get prepared to see footage of your cat walking by, or a car driving in front of your house.

Video Doorbell Camera

Remember when I told you to say goodbye to getting locked out of the house? Now you can add “wondering who’s at the door” to your list of never-agains. With the video doorbell camera, you’ll see exactly who’s at your door in 720p HD. While it’s not exactly the industry standard of 1080p HD, I think it’s sufficient for a doorbell camera. It’s 180 degree field of view doesn’t hurt either, nor does its night vision.

The video doorbell camera also has two-way audio, enabling you to speak directly to your visitors through the ADT app. The motion sensors will detect your visitor immediately, even before they ring the doorbell. Immediately, you’ll receive an alert on  your phone, and can decide to talk to them, let them in, or tell them to take a hike.

The website claims that the doorbell has built-in technology that can differentiate between important events and not so important events. Obviously, you don’t need to be notified every time your elderly neighbor goes on her daily walk down her driveway, or when a car whizzes by.

Finally, the video doorbell operates from negative four to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, which should cover basically everywhere. And if it doesn’t, then you might want to consider moving.

Aside from home security, ADT also handles what they call “Fire, Home & Life Safety”. They have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, flood sensors, and a panic button. I didn’t personally buy any of the environmental monitoring products, but I still wanted to give you some helpful info.

Smoke Detector

Half of all fire-related deaths result from fires reported between 11 PM and seven AM, according to the National Fire Protection Association. That’s why it’s so important to have a smart smoke detector.

ADT’s smoke detector doesn’t just beep. If there’s smoke, the sensor will automatically alert the monitoring center who can then communicate with the fire department. Of course, you’ll also be notified as well, and can use the ADT app to unlock all exit doors and turn off the air in your home to delay the smoke’s spread.

On a design note, the smoke detector can either be installed wirelessly or through hardwire, which gives you some nice flexibility on placement.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

Over 400 Americans die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. In the same time frame, this colorless, odorless gas sends an additional 20,000 Americans to the E.R, according to the Center for Disease Control. Luckily, carbon monoxide poisoning is completely preventable- that is, if you have a good detector.

ADT’s carbon monoxide detector uses electrochemical sensing technology to detect low levels of carbon monoxide, or CO for short. Like the smoke alarm, it can be wired or wireless, depending on where you want to put it. It’s also tamper resistant, meaning that if someone removes the detector from its base, the control panel will be alerted. Professional monitoring-wise, it works the exact same way as the smoke detector. If dangerous carbon monoxide levels are detected, the monitoring team will be alerted, and you’ll receive a mobile notification. On top of that, the detector itself will sound an alarm so everyone in the house can be aware. Basically, you can count yourself out from CO poisoning.

Flood Sensor

Did you know that most water damage is completely preventable? All you need is a flood detector. If it detects a leak, you’ll immediately receive a mobile notification. The sensors are wireless so you can put them in hard to reach places near dishwashers, dryers, or anywhere flooding could occur. Given that the average cost of water damage is thousands of dollars, it’s definitely in your best interest to invest in a flood sensor.

Panic Button

For even more coverage, there’s a remote panic button. You can wear it as a necklace, bracelet, or clip it anywhere on your clothes. I love that’s there are separate buttons for law enforcement, the fire department, and the hospital- this may seem like an obvious feature, but this is actually the first panic button I’ve seen with separate buttons. Once you push the panic button, the monitoring center will be alerted immediately and can get you the help you need.

The panic button works both in and out of your house. You can even use it in the shower- it’s completely water resistant. Like the key fob, you can also use the panic button to arm or disarm your system.

Professional Monitoring

So you’ve got your ADT system set up, and you’re feeling pretty secure. Well, I’m here to tell you that you aren’t.

Okay, maybe you are- for the time being. But what about when you go on vacation, or are tied up at work? Are you really going to be able to handle every single security issue that comes your way?

That’s why I recommend 24/7 professional monitoring for anyone purchasing a security system. But how does professional monitoring work with ADT? I’ve taken the liberty of finding that out for you. You can thank me later.

How monitoring works

Let’s say you’re on a business trip. Your system is armed, obviously, and one of your windows opens. Immediately, your entry sensor will detect motion and alert your key panel. You’ll be alerted through the ADT Pulse app, plus, the professional monitoring team will be on it as quickly as possible. They can look into the situation and call emergency services, if necessary.

All ADT equipment includes 24/7 professional monitoring. That means that you’ll be required to pay an additional monthly fee on top of what you paid for the hardware.

Options

The cost of your professional monitoring is based on the amount of equipment you’re getting and the services you’re receiving- there’s burglary intrusion, video monitoring, flood/ fire monitoring, etc. The good news is that all systems come with 24/7 professional monitoring. Traditional security monitoring starts at $28.99 a month. For life safety monitoring, which includes two door/window sensors, two smoke detectors, and one carbon sensor, the cost rises to $35.99 a month. If you want to add one indoor camera and one outdoor camera, the cost is $57.99 a month. Unfortunately, ADT is not the most transparent about its pricing, so I can’t be as specific as I’d like- you’ll have to speak with a sales person to get a quote.

For cellular backup, if you don’t have a landline, you can sign up for Safewatch Cellguard, no additional contract required.

Contract Rules

ADT requires that you sign a three year contract. You must pay out the entire length of your contract– there’s no way to get out of it. However, if you’re not happy within the first six months, you can return your equipment for a refund.

Customer Support

A business that’s been around for 140 years has to have good customer support…right?

In my experience, the customer support was a mixed bag. I spoke to four separate people before finding out how many infrared LED lights the indoor camera had, and I didn’t appreciate their lack of transparency regarding the monthly subscription fee. However, I did enjoy the live chat feature- it was convenient and informative.

We’ll take a look at how ADT’S customer support works and what customers (aside from me) think of it.

How It Works

I’m pleased to say that ADT has quite a few options when it comes to customer support. You can either live chat or speak on the phone with a representative, and get this- you can even FaceTime someone on the ADT website. I’ve never seen this level of support, and honestly, I’m not sure if it falls into a caring or creepy category. There’s also a large online help center with articles on topics ranging from billing to the ADT Pulse app.

Customer Reviews

We might scoff at our society’s need to constantly rate everything, but when it comes to choosing a security system, you’re not going to rely on a company’s website alone. That’s why I looked at customer reviews from Google and the Better Business Bureau.

Google

ADT has a 2.6 out of five star rating on Google. Granted, there are only 24 reviews, so it’s not the biggest sample size, but I’m still a bit surprised at how low the rating is. Many of the reviews were about billing- it seems like there was a lot of confusing about cancellation and moving policies. Unfortunately, all of the reviews mentioning customer service were negative.

Better Business Bureau

As they have multiple locations, ADT has multiple ratings from the Better Business Bureau (or BBB for short). I looked at the page for ADT’S headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida.

As a BBB-accredited business since 2013, ADT has an overall rating of A+, which is excellent. Unfortunately, ADT’s customers did not share this opinion. They have a customer rating only slightly above one star and over 3400 customer complaints. Unfortunately, most of the complaint details were unavailable, but I did notice that the complaint types were pretty evenly spread out between problems with products and services, billing/collections, and advertising/sales. Unfortunately, problems with products and services did take the lead with over half the reviews.

The amount of reviews, while much higher than other security companies, does make sense, as ADT is one of the largest security companies around. However, it seems like a lot of customers weren’t satisfied with the company.

App

If you can think of it, there’s an app for it. Your ADT security system is no exception. Although I can’t explain why it’s called “Pulse,” the ADT Pulse app is where you’ll control your security system when you’re feeling especially lazy (or if you’re simply away from home).

Features

From the ADT Pulse app, you can arm or disarm your system, control any connected devices, livestream footage, and receive push notifications.

Reviews

You know the drill. I’m looking for big data to find out if people liked the ADT Pulse app. Is it as happening as the name implies?

Apple Store

I’m happy to see that the ADT app has a 4.8 out of five star rating- this has got to be one of the highest app ratings I’ve seen from a security company. Plus, there’s about 290K ratings, which says a lot about ADT. If I was at a Beatnik poetry reading, I’d snap my fingers in celebration.

Google Store

Oddly, ADT Pulse only received a 3.9 rating on the Google Play Store. This is a good rating, but not what I was expecting after the rave reviews from Apple. Still, the majority of the reviews were five stars, so I think it’s safe to say that this app is pretty good.

Recap

Is ADT the right security system for you? If the following tickle your fantasy, then the answer might be yes:

  • Adjustable glass break sensors
  • Motion-activated video clip notifications
  • Two-way audio
  • Free cloud storage for up to 30 days
  • Great mobile app 

However, ADT isn’t perfect. Among its faults include:

  • Three year binding contracts
  • Poor customer support 
  • The indoor camera
    • 720p
    • No zoom option
    • Field of view of only 90 degrees
    • No local storage
    • No artificial intelligence
    • No smart platform integration
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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