It’s 3 am and your spouse startles you awake with the dreaded question, “Did you just hear that?” You reach for your phone, pull up a live feed of your garage, and discover it’s only a snooping possum. In less than 10 seconds, you’ve gone from, “We’re being robbed,” to, “I guess I need to call animal control” — this is the modern security system.
Our Picks for Best Home
No longer is your alarm just a digital watchdog that growls at intruders. The latest and greatest devices give you the power to turn off your bathroom light with your phone (you know, the one your 5-year-old keeps neglecting). You can even unlock your front door for a neighbor or family member while you’re out of town.
You owe it to yourself to carefully consider the security options that fit your needs. After all, prices have never been more affordable, and there are all kinds of exciting technologies just waiting to transform your abode. And the best part is that fierce competition has driven prices down significantly, so you don’t have to make six figures and drive a Lexus to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a smart, secure home.
Home Security 101
When shopping for home security, expect to be inundated with options and price points that are all over the map. Don’t let that discourage you, though. The core of every system works like this:
There are a bunch of sensors attached to windows and doors, and you have the option to add things like motion-activated cameras and many other devices (including numerous home-automation options). These are all connected via physical wires, WiFi, or Bluetooth. When a sensor is tripped, the alarm will go off. And depending on what type of monitoring setup you have, it will be up to either you or your system’s call center to notify first responders.
Home security systems are typically sold in one of two ways: custom-built kits or upgradeable bundles. If you choose the custom route, expect to go through a pretty intensive quote process up front to get pricing. Then, a professional will visit you in person to assess the exact details of your home and install the system. Most bundles, however, give you the option to install them yourself. But you can also ask a representative to come out and get things going for you.
The benefit of going with a completely customized system is that these companies (usually your local, mom-and-pop businesses) are able to offer no-contract monitoring agreements. If you aren’t sure how long you’ll continue living in the same area, that’s a pretty great offer. (If you needed to move in the middle of a contract, you’d be required to transfer your alarm system and probably pay for a second installation out of pocket.) On the flip side, bundled systems offer much more clarity it terms of pricing. You know exactly what hardware you’ll be getting up front, and can easily compare between companies — but that often comes at the cost of a 36-month monitoring agreement.
It’s also worth mentioning that almost every piece of home security equipment out there is manufactured by the same few companies (likely Honeywell, GE, or 2GIG) — that’s regardless of what label or plastic housing has been slapped on them. So outside of things like streaming camera specs, alarm decibel level, and certain home automation features, you’re going to get almost the same service no matter which company you choose. That’s why customer support and pricing are such key factors while you’re on the hunt.
A Few Things to Think About
Before you actually pull the trigger on your new system, consider these two questions:
- What is going to make me feel the safest? The biggest, baddest system with a boatload of cameras and gadgets is not always the best. Before you get too far, make sure you spend some time thinking about what will actually bring you and your family some peace of mind. For example, having a bunch of streaming cameras in your home might actually make you paranoid. Instead of feeling safe, you could find yourself constantly having to check up on your puppies. Just like shopping for a car, the bells and whistles can lure you into a situation you may later regret, so it’s best to have a clear idea of what you are looking for before you shop.
- Is there a chance I am going to move in the next few years? If you aspire to move, a DIY system may be the cheapest and simplest solution for you in the long run. On the other hand, if you have settled into an area for a good long while, a professionally monitored system could be considered more of an investment (and possibly a good selling point later on).
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in San Antonio
Our team investigated 10 home security companies local to San Antonio. Then, through a rigorous process of comparing their reputability, customer service, and pricing, we whittled down that list to three companies that are all deserving of your careful consideration. What we discovered through this week-long process is that not all security companies are created equal, and it pays to do business with companies that will treat you right.
If you are interested in getting the very best deal with minimal fuss, you should consider national companies like Frontpoint or Protect America. If you believe DIY is a great fit, Lowe’s Iris and Piper NV are at the top of their game.
Best Bundled Options
- Frontpoint: Frontpoint’s free shipping to your door and a 30-day “risk-free” trial period have earned it a consistently high customer service rating across the nation. Its wireless devices are easy enough to install on your own, and there are three upgradable packages to choose from. The only real drawback is that you’ll need to sign a 36-month contract to get started.
- Protect America: Protect America requires a 36-month contract and offers five different packages, giving its customers plenty of options. You can also choose to install the equipment yourself or have an agent come by and do it for you. Not having to pay anything for equipment up front is also a great bonus.
- SimpliSafe: If you are looking for the most affordable rate and hate long-term contracts, SimpliSafe is the company for you. It offers four different wireless security system packages that start at just $230 (professional monitoring starts at an additional $15 a month).
San Antonio’s Best Local Home Security Companies
Dominion Design and Integration
The company was founded by Trey Hellums, a certified electrical engineer. Trey had over 10 years of automation experience in industrial chemical plants prior to founding Dominion. Now, he’s a bona fide expert with security systems, so you know are getting expert advice from the company.
With the sleekest website and great mobile apps, Dominion is the most appealing of the three companies when it comes to home automation. It also has the cheapest professional monitoring, at $25 a month.
Dominion has improved its technology options since its beginning. Its mobile security app powered by Alarm.com provides features for any situation. You can be alerted when the alarm is triggered, know when the system has been disabled, and check to see which doors on the house have been accessed.
But having home security is not just about hardware or software. Dominion’s designers and programmers also can create a lighting experience for your home that makes it look like you are home or away depending on your preferences. Dominion’s design process also allows for a project budget that can fit your plans. Sophisticated shade and drapery systems are available if you want to go a step further. Away and Vacation modes can be used to restrict the view inside your home.
Customer reviews state that Dominion employees are friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive to your needs.
While being one of the pricier options available, Law Security makes up for it with excellent customer service (you get a real person when you call, among other benefits), a great reputation, and rock-solid reliability. Cellular monitoring starts at $60 a month.
Law Security started when founder Pam Wood’s home was invaded in 1980.Wood knew she had to do something to keep that from happening to others. A year later, she established LAW Security. The company is now the largest family-run residential and commercial security systems company in San Antonio.
Law Security has taken advantage of trends in the security industry by offering more technology for its customers. The company offers you state of the art home automation and a TV and stereo system that can be controlled remotely via your smart phone.
Law Security prides itself on local service and affordable prices. A basic security package might include monitoring for three outside doors, a motion detector, a control panel with keypad, a siren, a backup power supply and a service contract. That low-end package runs at $25 a month.
Safety is a priority at LAW Security. The company has supported the establishment of an Underwriters Laboratory in San Antonio. Underwriters Laboratory is a nonprofit company that provides safety testing, certification and inspections. Many residential and commercial electrical systems and appliances and other products carry the “UL” label to show that they have undergone government approved safety testing.
Friendly Security hasn’t been around for as long as some of the other companies, but it is a very close competitor to Law Security due to its affordable equipment and $40-per-month cellular monitoring.
Friendly Security is a family owned and operated company. In 1993 Joby Gray and his wife Judy both left their full time jobs in order to start their own company. Combined they make a great team utilizing their talents to better serve your and other customers’ needs.
Gray has promoted the use of wireless home security systems as their signature feature.
Wireless systems don’t need a landline to work. Instead, they send a signal through the air to the alarm company if a home is broken into.
Gray has made sure Friendly Security offers an option where you can link a Videofied system to an existing burglar alarm system. The video verification upgrade allows for priority police response and greater security. Videofied delivers faster police response to an actual crime because the human operators filter out false alarms.
Since Videofied is completely wireless, installing a system requires no changes to your home. In addition to interior devices, Videofied can also protect your outdoor assets which might include external garages, backyards, and pool areas .
Home automation is available from Friendly Security through myhomecontrol.com where lights and other features can be monitored at an affordable price. Cameras can be added so you know what is going on in the front and back of your home.
A basic security system from Friendly Security starts at $249 and local monitoring approved by Underwriters Laboratory is available for $25 a month.
Best DIY Security Systems
- Lowe’s Iris: The Lowe’s Iris is really the picture of next-generation home automation. The huge list of available features includes devices like remote-controlled doggy doors, WiFi-connected thermostats, and wirelessly controllable lighting — there are even smart light bulbs that work with Iris. Plus, it’s also compatible with professional monitoring if you so choose.
- Piper NV: Piper NV is a great option for small apartments and dorm rooms as it is a self-contained security tower about the size of a mason jar. Replete with a streaming camera and wireless motion sensors, this security system is an elegant, simple solution for those who need to keep their security systems small and mobile. One bonus is the option to add accessories at will with the built-in Z-Wave compatibility.
Local Companies That Didn’t Make the Cut
- TriStar Security Systems
- Network Security Services
- Hawk Security Services
- Central Security
- True Protection
- Allied Security Links
- Smith Monitoring
Preventing False Alarms
False alarms are a huge problem nationally and San Antonio is no exception. According to the city’s online hub, over 90 percent of all burglary alarm calls in San Antonio each year are false. Obviously, this is a major issue that impacts not only city budgets, but also your own tax rates. Officers have to respond to all of these false alarms as if they were real, and that means those same officers are not out responding to valid alarm calls and protecting San Antonio.
To help prevent the situation from getting any worse, the City of San Antonio has implemented some increasingly hefty fines for false alarms. (All of which are measured within a 12-month permit cycle.) Here’s how it breaks down:
- For burglary alarms there is no fee for the first three false alarms.
- The fourth and fifth false alarm will cost you $50.
- The sixth and seventh each cost $75.
- The eighth and successive false alarms will all cost $100.
Don’t let those numbers scare you away from a security system, though. Preventing a false alarm can often be as simple as changing the batteries in your equipment. Making sure that your doors and windows are properly secured before arming your system is also a great habit to get into. No one wants to be the reason that officers are busy responding to false alarms instead of responding to an actual emergency, so it’s imperative that we all do our part to keep ourselves from being a statistic in the city’s 90 percent false alarm rate — which is actually quite low compared to national averages. Here are some practical steps you can take to keep false alarms in your home to a minimum.
How to Register Your Alarm System in San Antonio
The City of San Antonio requires an annual $40 registration fee to be paid upon activation of an alarm system. However, if you are a senior citizen (65 or older) the city cuts you a $10 break for a total annual cost of $30. You must renew your registration yearly, and thankfully, the city will send you a notice 30 days before your registration expires. The easiest way to register is by downloading a registration form here, but you can also visit the Police Department Alarm Investigations Office during business hours and fill out a form there.
If you are caught with a home alarm system that isn’t registered, you will be forced to cough up $75 dollars, and may be slapped with an additional $300 to $500 for “noncompliance.”
Is a home security system a good investment?
Many people think that because they aren’t wealthy, or don’t own a sports car, they don’t need a home security system. We’re here to tell you that’s not true.
First off, even if you don’t live in a swanky neighborhood with lots of fancy stuff, your home has the same risk of being burglarized (if not more). According to a report prepared by the US Department of Justice, anyone living under a roof is at risk. On the other hand, don’t think that just living in a “good” neighborhood makes your home less of a target than others.
Secondly, they are absolutely effective in the heat of the moment. According to a study done by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, 50 percent of all criminals will immediately leave after an alarm is triggered, and 80 percent won’t even try to disable it. Of course, no alarm system is a 100 percent guarantee against break-ins, but it’s always better to play the odds, especially when it comes to the security of your belongings and the safety of your family.
While contemplating the risk of burglary may be sobering, there are some great benefits to investing in a security system that also take your home to the next level. Home automation features can help you save money on energy usage, and just owning a system might qualify you for a break on your taxes and home insurance.
Is there anything I can do to lower my home’s risk of being targeted?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were ways you could help prevent your home from becoming a burglary target in the first place? Actually, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to lower your home’s risk.
What is a DIY security system?
To clarify, DIY doesn’t necessarily mean that you install it yourself. What it’s really referring to is whether your security system will be monitored by you or a professional call center. Having a professionally monitored system means that when your alarm goes off, the police or fire department will be notified automatically. You will also probably get a call from your monitoring station to check up on you and see if you’re OK. With a DIY system, however, you and you alone are responsible for keeping tabs on tripped alarms, whether you are home or not.
The Bottom Line
No matter your situation or budget, home security systems can provide a much-needed sense of security and some truly amazing tools that simplify your life. Take a look at our top picks, and make a proactive decision that meets your needs.