It’s easy to get obsessed with stylish new decor for your living room. But home security? Is that really anything to get excited about? Actually, yes. It’s not just beige boxes by the back door beeping at you anymore. Home security is now an affordable commodity that goes far beyond burglar alarms and smoke detectors. We’re talking about getting to see your living room from your smartphone while you’re sipping a piña colada in the Bahamas.
Our Picks for Best Home
Want to check in on the kids from the grocery store? There are streaming-ready surveillance cameras for that. Need to unlock your front door for a neighbor while you’re in a meeting at work? There are WiFi-connected deadbolts for that, too. There are even sensors that check for water leaks and motorized doggy doors that open and close on a schedule. It’s not just gizmos and gadgets, either. This technology can keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe.
We’re here to tell you that the smart home is a bona fide reality and whether you’re a homeowner, renter, or student, you should definitely think about upping your “home automation” game. You, your abode, and all its glorious furnishings are worth protecting with the best home security system possible.
Home Security Basics
Here’s the gist: Your home is protected by a bunch of different sensors and devices that are all interconnected via physical wires, WiFi, or Bluetooth. If one of them trips, say in the event of a fire or broken window, a siren in your home would go off.
If your system is professionally monitored by a call center, first responders will be immediately notified, and you’ll probably get a phone call to inquire about your well-being. (Some systems even have the ability to text or message you with an update via your home WiFi.) Professional monitoring requires a cellular, landline, or broadband connection and a monthly fee of anywhere from $15 to $50 per month depending upon the company.
If you have what’s called a DIY (Do It Yourself) system, that means you probably aren’t connected to a professional call center — you are completely responsible for monitoring your home. The primary benefit to doing it yourself is that it doesn’t require a monthly fee to run your system once it’s set up. After you purchase the hardware, all you need is an internet connection, and boom, you’re hooked up. However, if your power or internet goes out, you’re down the creek without a paddle.
Some DIY systems, like SimpliSafe and Canary, are compatible with professional monitoring. But if you can’t afford a monthly payment, they’re a great alternative, if only for the audible alarm.
Shopping for a System
Home security systems are sold in one of two ways: bundles or custom-built systems. Companies like Protect America and SimpliSafe offer multiple upgradeable packages. Other providers like ADT and many (if not all) of your local mom-and-pop companies design systems around the specific needs of your home. The benefit to buying a bundled system is the transparency in pricing — more often than not, monitoring and equipment are offered at a flat rate. For custom systems, it’s impossible to get a price without going through the quote process, and sometimes that means an agent will need to visit your home. The trade-off for up-front pricing, however, is that many of the bundling companies require a minimum 36-month contract, whereas companies providing customized systems generally offer month-to-month service agreements.
You should also know that, with the exception of home automation software, you’re going to get the same performance regardless of the company that you choose to buy into. (Frontpoint’s door sensors are going to work just as well as the door sensors from ADT.) Almost all companies offer cellular, broadband, and landline monitoring. They also offer roughly the same lineup of devices — and most of them are just rebranded devices from a handful of manufacturers (Honeywell, GE, 2GIG, et cetera). That leaves pricing as the primary determining factor in your hunt for the best home security system.
What to Ask Yourself
Before you pull the trigger on a system — even before you start shopping — you need to think about what type of system works best for your lifestyle.
If you’re a student, renter, or someone who plans to move in the next couple of years, it would behoove you to think about getting a DIY system. They don’t require a lot of setup and aren’t hardwired into your home, which means they’re easy to relocate and won’t break any lease or rental agreements you have with your landlord. And since you don’t have to sign a contract, they wind up being far cheaper too. However, if you’re living in your forever home, contracts and hard-wired systems might not scare you away.
Also consider what it would take to make you feel safe. Do you really need a surveillance camera in every room? Or would that make you feel overly paranoid? We recommend at least going with door sensors, window sensors, and an audible alarm. Anything outside of the basics should add to your overall sense of security, not detract from it.
In order to make a recommendation for the best home security option in Atlanta, we evaluated the bundled options, the best local and à la carte options, and the best DIY sets. We considered all sorts of variables like transparency of pricing, whether we were greeted with a real person on the other end of the phone, Angie’s List scores, and the tone of customer reviews. Then, we compared them against all of Freshome’s top recommendations. What we found is that two home security companies in Atlanta stood much taller than the rest. And when we say “much taller,” we mean much taller. Most of the companies we reviewed were difficult to get on the phone and had seriously vague pricing information.
In Atlanta, you’re better off going with Frontpoint or Protect America unless you simply prefer the intimacy of local customer service. If you want a home automation experience that provides the most fluid mobile apps and the sleekest devices on the market, that’s another good reason to go with the big names. Of the local companies, EMC Security and Ackerman Home Security scored well in our customer service and reputability tests, but offer a dated home automation experience that can’t compete with the national brands. And if you’re a student at Georgia State University, you’re obviously better off with a cheaper, simpler DIY system like SimpliSafe or Piper NV.
Atlanta’s Best Local Home Security Companies
EMC Security has been securing Georgia homes since 1998. The company has more than 100,000 residential and business customers, and offers a range of security products, including security system monitoring, home automation, remote access, and more.
Whether you need monitoring service for an existing system, new infrastructure for a new home or business, or medical alarm support, EMC has you covered, starting at $24 per month. Plus, EMC has some of the coolest technology platforms in the state. The company actually developed its own app to allow you to manage your home security, home automation, and more in one place. If you go on vacation, you can lock and unlock your doors on demand, control your lighting and energy settings from your phone, and view a live video feed on any web-connected device.
The EMC app platform also sends notifications when someone enters your home. If the entrance is unexpected, you can check the live video feed immediately and see if the event was a break in, or just a false alarm. This feature is especially helpful if you are home during a break in, so you can notify the authorities immediately, and have time to protect yourself.
EMC is a great option for the local Atlanta resident who wants an affordable home security provider, but doesn’t want to skimp on technology. EMC also allows its customers to establish service on a month-to-month basis for home monitoring service, so you can get the service you need, no strings attached.
Ackerman Security has been around since 1967, so you know the company is doing something right. The business is well known for its custom home security systems that are tailored to the unique vulnerabilities of each home or office, so clients can be sure their security systems will stand strong against intruders.
The company offers solutions for both residential and business clients. Residential services include home automation, alarm system monitoring, and custom security systems with remote access. Its portfolio of business solutions includes security systems, fire and life protection solutions for compliance, and security camera installations and monitoring.
When creating custom solutions for your home, the company will work with you to get inside the mind of a burglar to expose your home’s weak points. If, for example, your home has older windows, it might be a better choice to go with a motion sensor-triggered alarm than a glass-break alarm, as an intruder might enter your home by jimmying the window lock, rather than breaking the glass. An Ackerman Security specialist can work with you to determine how an intruder would break into your home, and offer solutions to protect against those vulnerabilities.
Another nice benefit of going with Ackerman is the ability to make your own security package, so you’re not overpaying for service you won’t use, and you aren’t going without security features you need to secure your home, as you might with standard security packages. Pay for what you want, and skip the stuff you don’t.
It also offers both landline and digital security solutions, so you have the option to choose what works best for you. We recommend digital solutions to most users, as it is generally more affordable and secure. Landlines can get cut, so cellular monitoring gives you the most secure connection, although stability may waiver during times of inclement weather.
Ackerman Security is a great solution for the client who wants to prioritize safety and build their security system from the ground up. Whether you’re a homeowner or small business owner, the company will work with you to create a custom solution that best fits your needs.
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers three upgradable packages that require a minimum 36-month monitoring contract, but you’ll need to get a quote for pricing. All the equipment is wireless, shipped directly to your door, and does not require professional installation.
Protect America: Protect America offers five upgradable packages (unlike many bundled options, you’ll need to get a quote for pricing). A 36-month monitoring commitment is required, but you won’t have to pay anything up front for equipment. And like Frontpoint, you can install its wireless systems yourself.
SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe offers the most affordable standalone security kits in the business, starting at just $230 (professional monitoring is $15 a month). There are four basic packages to choose from and all the equipment is wireless. Plus, you won’t have to sign any contracts.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: The Iris is a DIY home security system that is also compatible with professional monitoring. It’s the most full-blown DIY option on the market, and features support for a plethora of connected accessories like an outdoor spigot accessory, remote-controlled doggy door, and LED lighting.
Piper NV: The Piper NV is a standalone, all-in-one security tower that is perfect for a dorm or small apartment. It’s about the size of a large jar, and is equipped with a streaming-ready camera, a variety of sensors, and compatibility with Z-Wave-powered accessories.
Local Companies That Didn’t Make the Cut
We considered these local companies during our research, but they didn’t make the cut. Some never returned our calls; others had confusing contract stipulations. A few even had consistently bad reviews regardless of where we looked.
- Alarm Monitoring Service of Atlanta
- Northstar Security Inc.
- Andrews Security
- SafePath Security
- Frontline Solutions
- System 5 Electronics
- Security One Services
Preventing False Alarms
After you’ve picked a system and installed it, there are a few things you should do to prevent false alarms. In 2012, the Atlanta Police Department responded to a ton of emergency calls (roughly 65,000) and an overwhelming percentage of them turned out to be false alarms. Each one of those false calls took about 20 to 30 minutes and involved at least eight full-time police officers. In fact, 95 percent of all emergency calls from automated alarm systems in Atlanta that year wound up being duds.
If you crunch the numbers, it’s safe to assume that the Atlanta Police Department spent over 20,000 hours — and who knows how much fuel — investigating false alarms; time and money that could have been spent on actual emergencies. Obviously, that’s a huge problem.
“Nationally, we know that about 99 percent of all alarms are false. It is an enormous problem for police.” — Dan Flynn, chair of the alarm management committee for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP)
In 2013, the city initiated a program in an attempt to help reduce the amount of false alarms. Now, residents are required to register their alarm systems and “crying wolf” can result in a series of increasingly steep penalties:
- The second instance of a false alarm results in a $50 fee.
- The third instance results in a $100 fee.
- The fourth through sixth instances result in a $200 fee.
- For seven false alarms and on, you’ll pay $500 apiece.
In other areas, like the rest of Fulton County, for instance, punishments aren’t quite as hefty. The countywide ordinance gives folks one more chance than Atlanta does to get things straight before receiving a ticket: “The third and each subsequent false alarm that occurs at the same premises within any calendar year” will result in a fine of $50.
Preventing false alarms doesn’t take that much effort, fortunately. In some cases, it’s as simple as routinely installing fresh batteries in your equipment. Even checking that your doors and windows are fully shut before arming your system can prevent your sensors from being triggered by a little wind. There’s really no good reason not to take action, especially considering that you could end up diverting officers from a legitimate emergency. Take a look at our guide below for a complete list of things you can do to help keep your house free of false alarms.
Fulton County requires that owners of residential and business alarm systems register for a permit in the city where the system is located. It doesn’t cost a dime to apply for a permit, but if you’re caught without one, you’ll be subject to a $150 non-registration fee. And don’t forget to renew your permit each year either. Otherwise, you’ll face a $100 late renewal penalty.
To get your permit for the city of Atlanta, or renew an existing permit, visit the Atlanta False Alarm Reduction Program. The entire process can be completed online and only takes about five to 10 minutes.
Is a home security system worth it?
Yes, home security systems are worth it. According to a study by The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, 50 percent of burglars leave immediately after an alarm is discovered and 80 percent don’t attempt to disable it. There’s no “100 percent guarantee” that the alarm will be effective, but on the off chance that someone does enter your abode, those odds are pretty favorable.
“Yes, they are totally worth it. I’ve seen people deterred just because of a sign in the yard.” — Sheryl McCollum, Pulitzer Prize-nominated Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute in Atlanta
What makes the absolute best home security system?
If you were to investigate some stats, you’d find that Atlanta residents have a one in 16 chance of becoming a victim of property crime (that’s almost twice the national average). Here’s the thing though: When it comes to home security, stats don’t matter. Burglary is a crime of opportunity. Yes, some areas might present more opportunity than others, but the fact of the matter remains: No matter where you live, you’re a potential victim of theft. You’re also a potential victim of fires, carbon monoxide, and leaky pipes. Those don’t target victims based on income or location, and all three can do a significant amount of damage.
We recommend that, at the very least, you install an audible alarm and sensors on each of your doors and windows. That way, if a thief does manage to enter your home, you’ll be alerted. You’ll have time to handle the situation, and the sound itself will probably send the burglar packing. According to the Electronic Security Association’s “Home Safety Fast Facts,” nine out of 10 burglars said they would not engage a home with a security system or visible alarm.
What can I do to keep my home from being targeted?
Home security systems are first and foremost designed to be a deterrent for burglary; to stop thieves before they act. But they don’t create an impenetrable fortress. If someone wants to break in bad enough, they’ll find a way in — it isn’t very hard to break a window or jimmy a door. So regardless of where you live or what type of security system you have, here are some common sense steps you can take to help prevent your home from being marked as an easy target in the first place. Preventative action is the best action.
Are cellular systems better than landline systems?
Yes, and here are two reasons why.
First off, cellular systems aren’t restricted to certain locations or ISPs (internet service providers). So regardless of where you live, or what your home is wired for, you can get a cellular security system — as long as you have 3G (or higher) service, of course. If cellular service isn’t available, a landline connection is obviously your best choice since it’s your only choice.
Secondly, a cellular connection is much more reliable. Wires can be cut, and broadband services go down when your internet connection drops. So unless you’re dealing with a pretty serious criminal who has access to a cellular jamming device (that’s highly unlikely), there’s no way to interrupt cellular communication between your home and the call center.
All things considered, the best home security system possible involves a landline connection with cellular backup. That way, if the power goes out or a falling tree severs your phone line during a storm, you still maintain a connection.
What if I’m a renter, or live in a small apartment?
Some home security systems don’t have wireless devices, and require custom wiring to install. Even some of the wirelessly connected systems require some work to mount cameras, sensors, and control panels in your home. If you’re renting, your landlord might not be too keen on that type of thing (it might even be grounds for eviction). And if you’re a college student, screwing something into the wall might not even be an option. Fortunately, there are quite a few minimally invasive systems that are pretty easy to relocate.
The Bottom Line
Home security systems are an awesome tool that can bring a lot of peace of mind and comfort to you and your family. So in the words of Sheryl McCollum, founder of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute, “take the reins” and “don’t be lazy.” Regardless of who you are or where you live, there’s a system that’s right for your lifestyle and your budget. Consider all our top picks below and take your first steps toward a next-level home.