November 01, 2019 Technology

How to Choose and Set Up Home Security

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Burglaries can happen to anyone, at any time. If you’ve been the victim of a theft or intrusion, the feeling of vulnerability could last for months or years.

A home burglary happens every 13 seconds. That means 4 burglaries a minute, 240 an hour, and nearly 6,000 a day. There are many reasons to have a home security system; some systems can prevent break-ins while others can call emergency responders if something happens to you.

Whether or not misfortune has happened to you, there are systems you can put in place to feel more secure at home and less vulnerable when you’re away. Here, we go over some of those systems.

SimpliSafe

This company puts it all out in the name. It’s designed to be a simple security system to keep you and your loved ones safe if you’re in the market for a simple, no-contract home security system.

Consider the SimpliSafe Essentials system, which retails for $259. It includes the base, a wireless keypad, one motion sensor, and three entry sensors. You can purchase additional sensors and items to expand the system and customize it for your needs.

The base looks like a futuristic flower vase. The entry systems are designed to attach to a door or window. The motion sensor attaches to a corner of a room you choose. You’ll want to give some consideration to where you place it, especially if you have a pet that may set it off. Motion sensors don’t typically go off for smaller objects of less than 45 pounds, but if you have larger pets in the home, you may want to set the sensor up higher—not too high, though, in case an intruder is crawling around in the home.

One additional sensor we’d recommend you purchase along with this system is the glassbreak sensor for $34.99. It essentially “listens” for glass breaking. It does this by picking up on the sound frequency when glass breaks and can distinguish that sound from, say, a plate breaking. It’s especially useful in a room with lots of windows or sliding glass doors.

You can have further peace of mind and security by adding the SimpliCam for $99. It’s a basic web camera, though, which at $99 seems excessive. However, it works with the rest of the SimpliSafe system. You could probably set up a different webcam system with higher clarity and resolution for the same price if you don’t mind juggling between two systems.

Another useful add-on to deter intruders is the 105dB Siren, priced at $59.99. It sets off a 105dB alarm if there’s an intrusion. You can place it inside or outside your home. It’ll likely scare the pants off your intruders and notify your neighbors of the break-in. It’s loud—really, really loud.

Another add-on you may want to consider, purely for convenience, is the key fob. This allows you to arm and disarm the system at a press of the button, similar to the key fob for a car alarm.

Once you have the system set up the way you like it, monitoring ranges from $15-$25 per month, depending on the monitoring features you desire.

Abode

Like SimpliSafe, the not-so-humble Abode Security System is a readily customizable self-install system. The key difference between the two is that Abode allows for free self-monitoring, or you can choose to pay a monthly fee for professional monitoring.

While both systems can be installed in your home by you, Abode does have an arrangement with a company called HelloTech that’ll come install Abode’s system in your home for around $99. The Basic Abode security system starts at $199 and goes up to $299 if you’d like to add one year of cellular back up and 24/7 professional monitoring.

The kit itself includes a gateway (similar to SimpliSafe’s base), a mini door sensor, a motion sensor, and a key fob. Don’t let the lower base price fool you; you’ll likely need to add on a few items to fully cover your home.

Another feather in the Abode system’s cap is its integration ability with other smart home systems. SimpliSafe can integrate with Amazon and Google digital assistants and Apple Homekit. Abode can integrate with Google and Amazon digital assistants, the Nest smart home thermostat, Phillips Hue, Ecobee, Lifx, Kwikset, and more.

As mentioned above, you can monitor the security system yourself at no cost. Professional monitoring runs around $30 per month. One interesting feature to Abode is that you sign up for just three days of monitoring for only $8 or seven days of monitoring for $15. Similar to SimpliSafe, Abode’s professional monitoring is a no-contract service, so you can add the professional monitoring while you’re on vacation and even pay less if you’ll be gone only a few days. If you need more than seven days, you can cancel after you return to save money.

If you’re comfortable with self-monitoring, you can save a lot with the Abode Home Security system. If you like the comfort and security of having professional monitoring, SimpliSafe is arguably the better bet, with similar costs to set up and a lower monthly fee.

The Ring Video Doorbell

This system, which retails for $99.99, is a very popular WiFi-enabled video doorbell. You may be asking yourself, “Why do I need a video doorbell when I’m perfectly capable of answering the door myself?” A video doorbell allows you to answer the door from anywhere.

It’s also the first line of defense in home security. The camera built into this doorbell allows you to see and speak with the person outside as well as record footage of visitors who approach your door while you’re away or unable to answer. It detects motion and sends you a notification.

It connects to your doorbell wiring and has an option to run off the battery. Running on battery alone isn’t recommended though, since dead batteries while you’re on vacation would render the doorbell useless. The Ring doorbell also allows for two-way communication, so when you get a notification on your smartphone that someone is at your door, you can answer over the speaker.

Installation isn’t too complicated. When you unbox the hardware, before physically installing it, you’ll want to download the Ring app and connect to the device. Once the app is downloaded, it takes you step by step through the setup, connecting to your WiFi and even adding family or friends you want to have access to the device and video feeds (this is optional; if you want to be the only one with access, you can skip this step). After the app is set up and your device is connected, it has a video tutorial it can play to guide you through the physical installation of the doorbell.

Bay Alarm Medical Alert System

Anyone at risk of falls or a medical emergency may want to check out a medical alert system like the Bay Alarm Medical Alert System. It offers in-home and on-the-go protection with wall buttons and personal devices you can wear to have help anywhere at the push of a button. Outside the home, a portable GPS unit can connect you to the call center in case of emergency, and it helps first responders find your location (although it’s worth noting that, unlike the other devices, the GPS needs to be recharged every 72 hours).

The system runs $20–$30 a month depending on the services you choose. This includes the equipment, but you don’t own the equipment—it’s just a lease. Some customers have complained that it’s difficult to return once you don’t need it anymore. It’s an extra $10 per month if you want to add fall detection to your services. For fall detection, Bay Alarm Medical offers a necklace with a waterproof pendant.

These are a few of the many solutions out there that can help you and your loved ones feel more secure at home or on the road—a feeling that’s worth its weight in gold.

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Jeffrey Allen

Jeffrey Allen is the principal at Graves & Allen in Oakland, Calif., where he has practiced since 1973. He’s active in the ABA, the California State Bar Association, and the Alameda County Bar Association.

Ashley Hallene

Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Macpherson Energy in Bakersfield, Calif. She practices oil and gas law, title examination, due diligence, acquisitions, and oil and gas leasing. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs.